The Small Arms Inspection Building is located on Mississauga’s Arsenal Lands on the eastern border of Mississauga’s waterfront. In 1940, the site became a large munitions plant manufacturing rifles and small arms for the Canadian Army through the Second World War until 1974. Small Arms Limited recruited and supported a significant number of women, who made up about two-thirds of the factory’s workforce. This was critical to changing the role of women and recognizing their significance to the workforce in Canada.
After the war ended, women hired for wartime work returned home and Small Arms Ltd. became Canadian Arsenals Ltd until 1974. It was then leased as a warehouse to several companies including Good Year Tire & Rubber Co. In 1975, the federal government turned the ownership of the building and property over to Canada Post. The manufacturing plant was used as a mail sorting station while the inspection building was used by Ontario Power Generation as a training facility for the Thermal Division (fossil fuels). A portion of the building was also used by the Cadet Organization Police School (COPS), set-up by the Royal Canadian Army as a youth training program and administered by Peel Regional Police.
In 1992, Canada Post sold the Arsenal Lands property, including the Small Arms Inspection Building to the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) with the long-term intent of expanding parkland adjacent to Marie Curtis Park. The manufacturing plant and surrounding buildings were demolished in 1996. The Small Arms Inspection Building remained intact because the TRCA retained leases with COPS and Ontario Power Generation until June, 2008.
Resident Ken Cutmore brought the Small Arms Inspection building to the attention of Heritage Mississauga in 2004 over growing concerns that it too would be demolished. In 2005, Heritage Mississauga submitted a proposal to designate the building under the Ontario Heritage Act and in 2006 through the Heritage Advisory Committee, the Small Arms Inspection Building was approved to be designated as a valuable heritage property.
In 2008 the TRCA applied for a permit to demolish the Small Arms Inspection Building. Jim Tovey, (President of the Lakeview Ratepayers Association, as resident, not yet Councillor) with resident John Danahy led the newly formed Lakeview Legacy Community Foundation (LLCF) to mobilize the community in response to the proposed demolition and were successful in having it halted. The group recognized the local and national historic importance of the site and the contributions of the men and women to the World War II war effort.
Heritage Mississauga played a significant role in gathering historical information and creating awareness. John Moyer and Liwen Chen also contributed significantly to the growing awareness of the history of the site. Eric Gibson of the Mississauga South Historical Society also raised awareness through articles and organized a reunion of former workers at the Cawthra Community Centre (now Carmen Corbasson). Representatives of the LLCF, Bob and Ken Cutmore, submitted a letter to the Heritage Advisory Committee, in support of saving the Small Arms Inspection Building and in the spring of 2009, the Small Arms Inspection Building was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
In 2014, the LLCF became the Small Arms Society, a non-profit corporation under the Ontario Corporations Act to continue to represent the community in championing the preservation and adaptive reuse of the Small Arms Inspection Building. Now operating as Creative Hub 1352, this organization supports community programming and advocacy for the adaptive re-use of the building.
Jim and Lee Tovey, were the first citizen sponsors for a Habitat for Humanity heritage restoration project of the Small Arms Inspection Building. In 2015, then Councillor Tovey hosted a sledgehammer ceremony with Habitat for Humanity to support the interior renovation of the south hall space. The City of Mississauga acquired the building in 2017 with the intention of repurposing it as a historic, multi-purpose community cultural hub. After a year of renovations, on June 23, 2018 the Small Arms Inspection Building officially opened the south portion of the building for public use.
The Small Arms Inspection Building (SAIB) is owned by the City of Mississauga and operated by the Culture Division.