The college was established during the formation of Ontario’s community college system in 1967. Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology were established on May 21, 1965. The college is named after George Brown, who was an important 19th century politician and newspaper publisher (he founded the Toronto Globe, forerunner to The Globe and Mail) and was one of the Fathers of Confederation.
The college’s predecessor, the Provincial Institute of Trades (PIT), was founded in 1951 to offer apprentice training on behalf of the provincial Department of Labour. In 1952, began operation at 21 Nassau Street in Toronto’s Kensington Market and, after expanding with the construction of two additional buildings on the site, was offering programs in lathing and structural steel, barbering, diesel mechanics, jewellery arts, watchmaking and welding by 1961. In 1962 the province opened the Provincial Institute of Trades and Occupations (PITO), a sister training institute, at 555 Davenport Road near Casa Loma.
When George Brown College was formed in 1967, it absorbed both the PIT and PITO and opened its Kensington and Casa Loma campuses at the two institutes’ former facilities. George Brown College also went on to absorb, in 1969, four former Toronto Board of Education Adult Education Centres in a third campus at 507 College Street and, in 1973, five Toronto-area Schools of Nursing in 1973, including: St. Joseph’s, St. Michael’s, Toronto General, Atkinson (Toronto Western) and Nightingale.
In 1973, a new expanded Casa Loma campus was opened. In 1976, the St. James Campus opened at 200 King Street East in buildings formerly belonging to Christie Bakery and Hallmark Cards.
The Hospitality building (300 Adelaide E.) opened at St. James Campus in 1987, the same year that the College Street Campus closed. Kensington Campus closed in 1994.