The Gypsy of the Waterfront – TBI’s Brig House

The Brig House

Toronto Brigantine has operated our “Brig House” out of the Toronto Waterfront for 50 years. The Brig House is so important to Toronto Brigantine’s program because that is where our Officers and other volunteers do the maintenance work on the boats and meet up for their training programs.  The Brig House is the work shop and home to the officers during the winter program training and activities. It is filled to over flowing during the Winter for storage of the riggings.  But during the Summer the boats are out and about the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay with new trainees – leaving the Brig House a bit deserted!

Toronto Brigantine has been known as the Gypsy of the waterfront, we have “camped” in so many sites along the waterfront.

In 1962, our brig house was on Pier 6.  It was housed in the shed at Pier 6 at the foot of York Street. At that time, the remains of the commercial piers were still lined along the shore, and long wooden shed ran the length of the pier. The RCYC launch sailed from their City Station at the head of the slip, with the Pathfinder moored on the adjacent wall.   From there, Pathfinder, had to navigate with skill around the Kwasind and the Hiawatha.

For a while, Haida was our neighbour as shown in this picture of Pier 6 on Oct 19, 1965.  You can see Pathfinder in front of Haida. And in the background, you see TD Centre being built and you can still see the Royal York.

[PC 14/8661 “York Street Slip, Destroyer HMCS Haida in the foreground, at its bow the Toronto Brigantine Inc vessel, Pathfinder.” October 19, 1965. Photograph provided by the Toronto Port Authority Archives.]

Then until 1968, Brigantine House moved to 40 Stadium Road, courtesy of Toronto Harbour Commission.  That was at a site in between the original National Yacht Club and Alexandra Yacht Club, right near the J.J Taylor Boatworks.  From there, the brigs had to manage sailing in and out of the NYC basin.  [There is an aerial view of our space in the Toronto Port Authority Archives].

An OPEN SHIP was hosted on Sunday Jun 22, 1969 with Pathfinder and Trident with an art show by Claus Heinecke. [Invitation provided by William Mewes, Oct 28, 2012]

Toronto Brigantine operated out of Toronto Harbour’s Pier 5 until the mid 1970s.    We moved from there when the Amsterdam Bridge was built across at Simcoe Street Slip from York Quay to Rees Street Slip. [The Amsterdam Bridge commemorates the twinning of Toronto and Amsterdam in 1974. Thre is also a bridge that crosses the Amstel river in Amsterdam that was renamed Torontobrug.]

In 1974, the Harbourfront Centre was built and we moved the Brig House there, and the room is still called the Brigantine Room there. Pam Juryn, was Board Secretary at the time, remembers moving in there.

Then we were on Pier 4 for a time … where Pier 4 Restaurant is now.

In 1980, we moved from where Pier 4 to the  Maple Leaf Mills on the eastern portion of Maple Leaf Quay.

Maple Leaf Mills Silos   were demolished in  1983, the demolition took a year, and it was late summer 1982, that the Brig House temporarily located to an old house on Queens Quay which, I think was the yellow “house”  in the picture above which was the  Maple Leaf Mills corporate offices.   In 1983, there was a fire in the Brig House.

In 1984, the Brig House was erected on Maple Leaf Quay. The “house” was in fact two trailers, with a veranda roof in between to create additional storage space.   Here are some pictures.  For a time we had our offices at 283 Queen’s Quay West.

[Shown here: Jim Barry, Paul Klaassen, Mike Burns and Kati Drdla at the Brig House, 1984. Picture provided by Chris Dowson, TBI alumnus.]

In 2004, we were moved out (or were kicked out yet again) of Maple Leaf Quay. That was when HTO the “urban beach park” was being built. Construction of the beach started in 2004 and the beach was opened in 2007.

And that was when, in 2004, that TBI’s Brig House relocated to our current “temporary” home in parking lot at Marina Quay West.  Many volunteers helped to contruct this new Brig House including John Vanderkop, parent of a TBI alumnus. And it was Rona that donated much of the construction materials. We rent this location from the Harbourfront Centre.

In some ways it is an ideal location in that we have all the space that we need during the Winter, when car traffic to the waterfront is light and it is right by the dock space for easy access to the boats.

And no matter where the Brig House is along the waterfront,  the Toronto Harbourfront is our home and has been for 50 years.  The boats have been witness to the changing skyline of Toronto … witnessing the construction of the TD Tower, then the CN Tower and all the condos! And soon we will see the Trump Tower sprouting out from behind all the other buildings and the  Royal York Hotel doesn’t make it into the skyline much anymore.

[Photo by Andrew Rivett]

Toronto Brigantine Inc

413-215 Spadina Ave, Toronto ON M5T 2C7

tel: 416-596-7117 e-mail : website:

Registered Canadian Charity 11926 5924 RR0001


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