The St. Lawrence Starch Company was established in 1890 after the factory site land was purchased in 1889, by Archibald Hutchinson. The 10 acres purchased by Hutchinson was part of the Cotton Estate; located on the eastern edge of Port Credit Village. The company had 4 founding partners. John Gray and Archibald Hutchinson were Scottish Natives that had previous knowledge in starch manufacturing both in Scotland and Canada. Robert and Joseph Kilgour who had owned a paper bag manufacturing plant in Toronto provided financial support. Archie Hutchinson excelled in sales and marketing while John Gray established himself within the starch production. The title of St. Lawrence had already been a known entity for Canada, and was not specifically associated with any region or province.
Production focused on corn wet milling and processes consisted of grinding steeps of corn, drying the starch and transporting by horse and wagon. The location provided a close proximity to the main East West line of Grand Trunk Railway. Access to Lake Ontario also gave the company fresh and clean water resources. Even though the Credit River was never used it gave the possibility for transporting goods. Layout consisted of a factory building and an adjoining boiler room with 2 iron stacks. Electricity was introduced in 1907. Allowing the company to be self-sufficient from the surrounding community by producing their own electricity and drew fresh water from Lake Ontario.
By 1911 the company added a new power plant and began construction on the new factory building. However; due to the World War 1 outbreak and economic slowdown the construction was discontinued. When telephone services were available in Port Credit St. Lawrence starch was the first business to have this service. For many years the phone number had simply been ‘1’.
On July 4 1918 the old wooden factory building had been destroyed by a fire. However; due to the construction of the new building the fire was not a complete loss for the company. The new building was finished to handle partial production at the end of the year. In 1971 Environmental concerns advanced upgrading for feed drying and the process water complex, to reduce the environmental impact.
St Lawrence Starch Company, Port Credit, 1952
St Lawrence Starch Company Port Credit 1935
The company quickly became known as ‘The Starch Works’ by the community and provided a large capacity of employment. In 1900 more than 100 men and boys had been employed, often employing several generations of a single family. The company provided the largest employment within southern peel. With the great depression W. T Gray came up with innovative programs to avoid laying off employees. The company also provided housing and sponsored community charities, sports teams and organizations. When the economy dropped the company shifted their contribution towards a service for the people instead of supplying products.
Production continued until March 1990, leaving vacant buildings until 1993 when they were demolished making space for current residential and parkland occupancy. Though the St. Lawrence Starch facility closed the Gray family is involved with St. Lawrence Grains and Farm supply.