13 years ago
Concord Floral dates back to the early 20th century when Frederick C. Miller emigrated to Canada from Westtown, England. Frederick C. Miller established the Miller & Sons Florist Company on Lauder Avenue in Toronto.
In 1921 Miller's son, Fred H. Miller (b. Sept. 9, 1866) built a greenhouse, boiler and stack in Concord (known at the time as the hamlet of Edgeley). Upon completion of the greenhouse, the family business moved to Concord and was changed to Miller Florists Limited.
The property was situated on flat land with water supplied from the West Don River Tributary located along the eastern side of the property. A railway line provided transportation of coal for the hoppers that fed the boilers.
Fred H. Miller spent twelve years as member of York Township Council, serving four years as the Reeve of York, and also spent time as a Justice of the Peace. For 26 years he served as Chairman of the York School Board (SS No. 13). F H Miller Public School in Toronto is named after Mr. Miller who also founded the first school in York, Ontario.
When Fred H. Miller was ready to retire in 1935 at the age of 69 years old, his son Fred W. Miller took over the family business. The business name changed to the Concord Floral Company Ltd. F.W.
The Great Depression took its toll on Concord Floral. F.W. Miller spent much of his time visiting banks trying to obtain loans, taking out various IOU's and even betting on sports events so that he could pay his employees wages. With World War II the business boomed with the demand for flowers as a results of war casualties.
F.W. Miller was an innovator who made significant changes to the business. During the 1950's the boilers were upgraded to fuel. With an increase in the amount of salt used on the roads during the 1960's, the river water supply proved unsuitable for the flowers and the company switched over to the municipal water supply. During the 1970's the boilers were upgraded to operate on natural gas. During the 1980's the greenhouses were re-skinned when the old covering the greenhouses broke down over time.
Concord Floral was the first greenhouse i Canada to make use of supplemental lighting. Concord had approximately 10 acres of land and is said to have had the most acreage in all of Canada but that title was actually held by Dales in Brampton with 25 acres - until Dales closed during the 1970's.
F.W. Miller began shipping his products, primarily roses, across Canada using air freight.
Fred's cousin, Cal Miller was also in the flower business. He owned a greenhouse named Maple Garden Centre and Greenhouses located in nearby Maple, Ontario. During the 1980's, Cal's business closed when Cadillac Lumber purchased the Keele Street property. Cal then went to work for his cousin Fred.
During the 1980's the business operated 7 days per week, the regular hours being from 7 AM to 5 PM. On weekends the employees would work until noon unless they were scheduled for temperature control, a position that lasted until 5 pm. Approximately 60 people worked at the business. Stationary engineers were required to be on hand 24/7 during the winter in case of any problems with the high pressure steam.
Roses were grown in benches throughout the greenhouses where staff would walk down the rows cutting roses that were ready for delivery. Staff would wear a leather arm sheaf on one arm to hold the roses and a glove on the other hand to cut the roses. The roses were placed in a bucket at the end of each bench.
Cuts were performed twice a day, one during the morning and one during the afternoon. Between cuttings staff would groom and fertilize the plants.
F.W. Miller would visit weekly to check on his business. He could often be seen driving along the greenhouses in his Checker Marathon car.
The boiler room provided heat to the greenhouses during the evenings. A glass vent at the top of each greenhouse could be raised or lowered to change the temperature.
Large vats were placed approximately every 6 greenhouses that contained liquid fertilizers that staff mixed. The liquid would then feed into the benches.
The entrance to the greenhouses was located on the west side. Employees would pass through the main building and stamp their time on a punch clock. On the left was a packaging room where air-powered staple guns were used to assemble the boxes to ship the roses. A walk-in cooler kept the packaged roses cool until they were ready to be shipped out by panel truck.
In 1985, Frederick Rea began working at the business. He would become an important player in the flower industry.
When Fred W. Miller passed away in 1990 he left his business to the Rea family. The business was operated by Frederick Rea, son of Honora Rea who would become the President of Concord Floral. The Rea's expanded the size of the operations. Annual sales were in the millions.
The Rea's maintained Concord Floral until 2000 when the decision was made to close. The business could not complete with imports from South America while paying increased energy and labour costs.
Up until the 1970's Concord Floral was set in a primarily rural setting which made it easy to hire farmers with an agrarian background. This became more difficult as urban sprawl swept through the Vaughan area.
The land was sold to real estate developers to be used as a potential Concord GO Centre. Despite being vacant for close to a decade hydro electricity remained active on the property up until the property was demolished in April of 2012.
The property became the target of vandals and graffiti artists like so many other vacant properties. In February 0f 2012 one of the outbuildings was destroyed by fire.
In the winter of 2012 a high school play named Concord Floral took place at Theatre Passe Muraille. The play told the story about an outsider who was murdered at a party held at the abandoned greenhouses.
Written by OAP, with thanks to F. Rea and J. Connolly