Welcome to City Builders, a website dedicated to the history of immigrant construction workers and their labour struggles in postwar Toronto. Here you will find biographies, photos, audio recordings, interactive digital maps and timelines, infographics, a series of oral history videos, and a four-part documentary about the lives of the immigrant workers who built Toronto.
Learn about the goals and methods of the City Builders’ research and public history project, the team that produced its multiple features, and the partners that supported our work. Here you will also find citations for the hundreds of photos, film footage, audio recordings, newspaper clippings, and other archival records used in our outputs.
Watch our four-part documentary about 1) the founding of LIUNA Local 183 by the Irish immigrant Gerry Gallagher and their fight for improving occupational health and safety standards; 2) the labour organization of Italian immigrant workers in the residential sector as the Brandon Union Group and their massive strikes of 1960-61; 3) the disruptive impact of new materials and technologies in Toronto’s residential construction and the ensuing inter-union battles; and 4) the infiltration of organized crime in the industry. See also our oral history video series featuring twenty-eight retired construction workers and members of LIUNA Local 183 and other Toronto construction locals.
The history of Toronto’s construction industry is filled with fascinating personal stories of bravery and foolishness, selfishness and greed, friendship and enmity, triumph and tragedy, all marked by the pursuit of individual and collective dreams. By clicking on the letters below (listed by last name), you will find biographies of some of the most notable figures in the history of this industry, and of the workers we interviewed for this project. See the full list of featured individuals here.
In our digital maps you will find nearly 100 locations of interest to the history of Toronto’s postwar construction, including places of labour solidarity and struggle, sites of fatal construction accidents, day labour pick-up spots, locations of organized criminal activity, and other important places in the mental maps of Toronto’s immigrant construction workers. Click the links below to access the maps.
In these digital timelines you will find 376 illustrated chronological entries about immigration movements and legislation; urban development, planning, and landmark building projects; labour actions, policies, and unions; construction-related deaths; and organized crime in Toronto’s construction industry (1950-1979).
Our multimedia exhibition is another window into the various digital features hosted on this website and more. Using augmented reality technology, in the form of QR codes, patrons can use their smartphones to read and listen to audio labels, watch videos, browse photos, and access our interactive maps and timelines. Our digital guide, hosted by izi.TRAVEL, can be accessed in the link below. If you are interested in hosting our travelling exhibit, please send us an email to the address at the bottom of the page.
Episode 3, titled “New Heights,” focuses on the introduction of new building techniques and materials (i.e. concrete forming, flying form and drywall) in Toronto in the 1960s… Read more “Episodes 3-4 of our documentary series & new oral history videos up on our website”
See the list of nominees here: https://www.heritagetoronto.org/what-we-do/heritage-toronto-awards/2019-public-history/
The Daily Commercial News, the leading news organ for the construction industry in Eastern Canada, has published an article on the City Builders project. See here.