Otis Fensom Elevator Co.
Building the North American Elevator Company

Please note this is a work in progress. Feel free to share any information or ideas in the comment section below. 

Otis Canada, Inc. previously Otis Elevator Company Limited, was until November 1949 known as Otis Fensom Elevator Company Limited. which was created by the amalgamation in 1905 of the Canadian Otis Elevator Company Limited and the Fensom Elevator Company of Toronto.

 Otis-Fensom Elevator Company Building. 50 Bay Street, circa 1914.

Otis-Fensom Elevator Company Building. 50 Bay Street, circa 1914.

The Canadian Otis Elevator Company, a subsidiary of the Otis Elevator Company of New York, started in a small factory in Hamilton, Ontario in 1902. Three years later, it merged with the sizable Fensom elevator works of Toronto to become the Otis-Fensom Elevator Company.

 Photo courtesy of www.workercity.ca (1902) Karma Candy

Photo courtesy of www.workercity.ca
(1902) Karma Candy

The new company at once embarked on years of expansion and development. Substantial properties were acquired or built in various principal cities, principally Hamilton, ON. During the next fifteen to twenty years, the Otis-Fensom Company shared the common fate of the Canadian construction industry. In 1976, Otis installed elevators in the CN Tower, Canada’s national landmark, and has continued to service those units as well as units in other buildings throughout the country.

Workers at the Hamilton plant produced all types of elevators and escalators. For many years, this was the largest elevator manufacturing facility under one roof in the world but stopped all production in Hamilton in 1987.

October 31, 1946, saw the retirement of Charles J. Fensom, youngest son of founder John Fensom and long-time consulting engineer of the Company. This marked the last active association of the Fensom family with the business, an association extending over a century. This led to the changing of the Company name on September 19th, 1949, to Otis Elevator Company Limited. This was a name change only, implying no change in ownership, policies or management of the Company.

Image Left. Otis-Fensom Elevator Company Building. 50 Bay Street, circa 1914. Urban Toronto writer Jeff Low notes the location of the fire hydrant as a reference point. Image Right. Google Street View 2018. Note the location of the fire hydrant again. Low ventures a guess that the Otis building survived until the early '70s, when this block was razed for the development of Royal Bank Plaza.

Above the Otis Fensom Elevator Factory (portion still standing). Victoria Ave, Hamilton. ON. 

1885 the new Blast Furnace “A” was fired up at Huckleberry Point, Hamilton. Over the next 50 years, much of the East End changed from farmland, fields, forests and marsh into heavy industry and workers’ housing. The colossal mills of Stelco, Dofasco and many other companies shaped Hamilton and its workforce.


Watch our Jane's Walk video


On May 5th, 2018 Joshua Nelson led a Jane's Walk through Old Toronto exploring significant buildings and their kinetic counterparts that made them possible. Walkers explored elevators and learned about their indispensable role in cities and architecture across Toronto.