Buildings of York Prior to Toronto

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Town of York officially became a city in 1834 and changed its name to Toronto. There are still quite a few buildings that have survived from this era in spite of the ongoing redevelopment and construction that is occurring all over the city. We’ve visited many of these places over the years and the following post brings some of them together along with links to the original larger posts and the Google Maps links to find them for yourself.

The oldest surviving building from York is known as Scadding Cabin. York was founded in 1793 and this small home was built in 1794 on the east side of the Don River. In 1879 it was moved to the grounds of The Canadian National Exhibition in time for the grand opening of the Ex.

The house that we know as Elm Bank was also known as Lavinia Cottage. It was built of stone around 1802 and is one of two old stone cottages on the property. The stone was taken from the Humber River and the home was built in the former community of Thistletown.

Gibraltar Lighthouse on Toronto Islands was built in 1809 and originally stood just a few metres from the water’s edge but now is isolated in a wooded area on the island. It is the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

Several of the oldest buildings in the city are contained in Fort York. Following the War of 1812 in which Fort York was partially destroyed many of the buildings were rebuilt. In 1815 the blockhouses, barracks and the powder magazine were all replaced. At that time the fort stood near the edge of Lake Ontario and the city hadn’t been built up around it as it has today.

Black Creek Pioneer Village is also home to several of the earliest buildings from the time of York. The first one built there was the log cabin of Daniel and Elizabeth Stong which was erected in 1816. A couple of further buildings from the Stong farm have been preserved as well as a few other structures that date back to the town of York which have been moved there.

The original Gray Grist Mill dates back to 1819 and has been preserved on Donalda Farm, now part of the Donalda Golf Club.

John Bales built a log cabin in 1822 that was later expanded and covered with cement and pebbles. The balance of his farm has been converted into Earl Bales Park.

In 1822 there was a race to open the first paper mill in Upper Canada and one was built at Todmorden Mills but it came in second. Located at the same site are a couple of older houses and a brewery that date to the town of York.

In 1827 The Bank of Upper Canada opened their second building in the original ten-block part of York. The building has seen a couple of expansions and the addition of a portico over the years.

In the early years of York all the streets were muddy and the town was often called Muddy York. Eventually the roads were covered with planks and a toll was charged for using them. This cottage is where one of the Tollkeepers lived and it was built around 1827.

Montgomery’s Inn was built in 1830 by Thomas and Margaret Montgomery near the village of Islington. It sat abandoned for more than a decade but has now been restored and is operating as a museum.

On Thursday March 6, 1834 the town of York ceased to exist and was incorporated as the City of Toronto. One of the last buildings to be completed before this change took place was the fourth post office in the community. This would become Toronto’s First Post Office.

The Town of York has been gone for nearly 200 years but there’s still quite a number of the old buildings still in existence. There’s many others that are not featured in this post that might come up in future explorations.

For a listing of our top 50 posts check out Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails.

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Casa Loma

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Casa Loma stands as a testament to the lavish lifestyles of some of the wealthiest people in Toronto’s history. As the city of Toronto grew the wealthy classes looked for a place to establish their garden estates and one of the primary areas was on top of the Davenport Escarpment. Here, they built large homes amongst lavish gardens with views out over the city and Lake Ontario to the south of them. The earliest estate built here was known as Davenport and was constructed in 1797. It was followed by Spadina and Russell Hill in 1818. These homes are long gone but several others still remain to remind us of the former glory of the area. For example, Lenwill the home of prominent Toronto architect E. J. Lennox was built in 1914 and still stands just to the west of Casa Loma. An early picture of Casa Loma from the Toronto Archives is featured below.

In 1903 Sir Henry Pellatt purchased 40 acres from the Austin Estate so that he could build his mansion which he called Casa Loma. The name Casa Loma means Hill House and reflects the fact that it was built on top of the escarpment that was the shoreline of Lake Ontario after the last ice age. Henry Pellatt was born in 1859 in Kingston and was instrumental in bringing hydro-electric power to the city of Toronto. Henry was a soldier in The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada as well as a financier having worked in his fathers firm of Pellatt and Pellatt.

Casa Loma was built between 1911 and 1914 and is the largest private residence ever built in Canada. It has 98 rooms and covers 64,700 square feet of floor space. A team of 299 workers spent three years building it until construction was stopped by the start of World War 1. The home contains secret passages and a swimming pool. There were plans to put three bowling alleys in the basement but only one of them was ever completed. The bowling alley is now used as a gift shop.

Casa Loma is currently hosting a collection of photographs that were taken by Princess Diana’s personal photographers. These larger than life photos and the stories behind them reveal a side of Diana that hasn’t been seen by the public before now. The exhibit is open until June 26, 2022 and has an additional ticket price on top of the regular cost of exploring the castle. The car that is parked outside to advertise the exhibit is a replica of Diana’s car.

Casa Loma cost $3.5 million dollars which would be over $100 million dollars today. When the government decided to remove the private ownership of electricity and make it public, Henry Pellatt started to have financial troubles. After World War 1 the economy suffered a downturn and Pellatt found himself owing the bank about $20 million dollars. This, combined with the huge property tax bill, caused him to have to auction off the castle and his assets. In 1924 he moved to his country estate in King Township and today Casa Loma has become a tourist attraction. His country home was also lost to him and has been turned into Marylake, a religious retreat.

The grounds contain extensive gardens and fountains in both the front and back yards.

A private gate leads from Casa Loma to the neighbouring property where Spadina house is located. This is one of the other estates that have survived the construction of newer residences in the area.

Casa Loma has an extensive stables that were built in 1906 just a short distance north of the main castle. They were designed to look like Casa Loma and compliment the main structure.

The Hunting Lodge is also known as the Coach House and is a two story building with 4,380 feet of living space that was eventually used as servants quarters. Pellatt and his wife lived here while the main castle was being built. The stables are now used to house a classic car collection.

An underground tunnel connects the stables to the castle and it was used during World War 2 as a secret factory for the assembly of ASDIC. This was a type of sonar that was critical for the Allies to help them in the battles that were fought in the Atlantic Ocean.

This story features some of the history of Casa Loma but there are tours available which will allow you to see the inside of Toronto’s most famous castle.

Also see our feature on Spadina House and also Marylake

For a listing of our top 50 stories please check out our post Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails

Google Maps Link: Casa Loma

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Ontario Powder

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The town of Tweed is situated on the shores of Stoco Lake and business takes me there every two months. On my visit of April 24th, 2022 I had the opportunity to spend some time walking the Trans Canada Trail while I had my lunch. As I made my way along the trail I crossed the old CPR bridge, and stopped to admire the lake which was in a condition of high water.

A little further along the trail you come to a series of old ruins on the woods along the shore of the lake. They date back to 1883 when Ontario Powder was founded in town to produce dynamite.

Just two years later there was a tragic explosion when two workers were in the process of transporting dynamite from the factory to Burleigh Falls. No one is sure what happened but James Simmon and George Morton both lost their lives when a crater 70 feet across and 10 feet deep was blown in the ground. The blast could be heard as far away as Peterborough and only a few pieces of the men, their horses and the cart were recovered. It wasn’t until 2006 that a memorial plaque was placed at the site of the blast. The image below shows the remains of the water tower from the factory and is the largest remaining artifact from Ontario Powder.

By August 22, 1903 the factory was producing 750 pounds of dynamite per day but then an explosion occurred at the facility. It happened so suddenly that three workers lost their lives and others were injured because they couldn’t get away in time. Barrels of nitroglycerin were being stored on the site and they exploded causing a concussion that could be heard for 50 miles around.

The factory was rebuilt and this time additional precautions were taken. Ontario Powder purchased several neighbouring properties as well as five of the local islands in the lake. After building a tall fence around the property to contain shrapnel they planted the property with a heavy forest to help stop the effects of any future blasts.

The explosion of 1903 was expensive for the company because it cost $25,000 to rebuild and they paid $1000 in damages to the community. The rebuilt factory went back into production and in fact got even busier. Within 5 years they were producing 1500 pounds of dynamite every day. This wasn’t to last and disaster came again on the morning of February 4, 1908. Early that day the vats of nitroglycerine began to overflow onto the floor and a fire broke out. Workers in the mixing room ran out into the -35 degree weather and shouted for everyone to run for their lives. By the time they had reached the CPR bridge just down the tracks the factory blew up for a second time sending pieces of the building across the lake. The bottom of the lake is still littered with artifacts from the explosion.

All the buildings within 5 miles were rattled and windows were broken. You would think this should have been the end of Ontario Powder but they set out to rebuild the factory again. This time it was only used for storage of dynamite but public outcry meant that the trust was gone and local residents were happy when the business was bought out by a competitor. Most of the buildings were dismantled but a few were saved and relocated. The employee change house was moved to Louisa Street and converted into a residence. The office was dragged across the ice the following winter and put on an island in the middle of the lake to serve as a summer home.

The Tweed Heritage Centre has one picture of part of the Ontario Powder factory and along with the ruins featured above is all that remains of this industry in town.

Although its been gone for over a century, Ontario Powder has left its mark on the town of Tweed in the form of these crumbling ruins. Many of the older buildings in town still have structural bracing that was installed after the two explosions at the factory.

Also from Tweed is our feature on Tweed’s Tiny Jailhouse

For a list of our top 50 stories check out Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails

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Old City Hall

May 29, 2022

When Toronto was incorporated as a city in 1834 it changed its name from York and it started a city hall in a temporary accommodation in the market buildings. They stayed there from 1834 until 1844 as the city continued to grow. By 1845 they were looking for a new larger space for the city council to meet. They found it in what is now St. Lawrence Market but as the city continued to expand it soon needed even more space. Toronto city architect Edward James Lennox was commissioned to design a new city hall. The building was intended to house both the Toronto City Hall and York County Court House. The design work was begun in 1883 but not completed until 1886. Construction began in 1889 and there is a date stone on the west side of the building to commemorate it.

Construction would last for ten years and along with delays there were many cost over-runs. The building of the foundations was particularly slow and delayed completion. When it opened on September 18, 1899 it was the largest municipal building in North America. The cost ran up to 2.5 million dollars which is the equivalent of 53 million dollars in 2022.

The building was constructed in the Richardsonian Romanesque Revival style which was popular for large public buildings in that era. The dominant feature of the building is the 104 metre tall clock tower. It was placed off centre so that it would be seen as central by those looking up Bay Street.

The east side of the building was identified as City Hall and the lettering can be seen among the finely carved sandstone above the doorway.

York County Court House was entered from the west side of the building and the words can be seen in the sandstone carvings above that entrance.

The building features sandstone from the Credit Valley as well as near Orangeville and as far away as New Brunswick. There’s plenty of towers and round arched openings and delicate carvings all around the façade.

The building is four storys tall and includes an attic and basement. The steeply pitched hipped roof is cut by gable dormers and the windows are often set in pairs or arcaded bands with colonettes and stone mullions.

Clock tower still has a working clock and and is set with medieval motifs.

The original gargoyles on the clock tower were in poor shape by 1938 and so they were removed to eliminate the risk that they would fall and injure someone. New ones were fashioned out of bronze in 2002 and installed on the tower bringing back some of its former glory.

The details that can be seen around all four sides include an image of the sun as well as butterflies and caricatures of some of the city councilors who gave Lennox a hard time about the delays and price increases.

It was only a few decades before the building was becoming too small for the size of city council and the courthouse. When Metropolitan Toronto was formed in 1953 the courthouse was moved to Newmarket and City Hall occupied the entire building. In spite of this, the building was destined to be replaced with a new city hall in 1965.

The building shape is known as a quadrangle and it has an inner courtyard. In its present use as a courthouse this is where the police vehicles enter with the people who are being charged with a crime and are facing the judge for trial or a bail hearing. The courtyard can be accessed from the inside of the building but is not open to casual pedestrians who merely wish to look around.

The original plan for the Eaton Centre included the demolition of the Old City Hall but a group of concerned citizens managed to save it. It became a courthouse once again and was designated as a National Historic Site in 1984. The city has built a new courthouse and the plans for the old city hall are once again up for discussion. One plan would see it used as a new city museum. There are over 150,000 historic artifacts in the city archives which are rarely put on display and this could make an excellent home for them.

Old City Hall is just as elaborate inside as it is on the outside and you used to be able to get in on any day that court was in session.

See also our post on Queens Park, another of the historic government buildings in downtown Toronto.

To see a list of our top 50 stories check out our post Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails.

Google Maps Link: Old City Hall

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Bruce Trail – Coolihans To Finnerty

Sunday, May 22, 2022

I decided to go to the Bruce Trail for a hike and to look for a natural feature called The Dingle as well as an old school house associated with it. There’s parking on Coolihans Side Road where the trail crosses and so I headed for there to begin my hike. I had the understanding that I could reach the side trail to The Dingle from the main trail, however, that wasn’t the case. At any rate, I had a good hike through to Finnerty Side Road and back. It was a beautiful afternoon and the trail was basically deserted.

The woods were full of flowers of various colours but these bright yellow ones stood out because of their size. Yellow Wood Poppies grow in shaded areas and are also known as Celandine Poppies. The can grow as a single flower or in large patches like the ones I found along the trail.

There were many patches of trilliums growing in the woods, most of them were white. A few of the white ones had a green stripe running along each petal. These are not a different type of trillium but rather one that has a disease. There is a small virus known as a mycoplasma that infects the plants and causes this discolouration. It will get worse until the plant is no longer able to flower. In some cases the streaks can show up as pink lines on the flowers.

I found a large Garter Snake sunning itself on the trail. It moved into the undergrowth when it saw me coming but I managed to get a picture before it slithered away. I don’t know if it was a male or female but other snakes would have known right away. Garter Snakes leave a pheromone scented trail that is very different for either gender. Some male snakes give of both male and female scents and this can fool other males into trying to mate with them. This isn’t very effective with the other males but it increases the snakes body heat and gets them more interaction with the females.

Red trilliums are less common in this forest than the white ones but there were a few examples scattered around. It is said that ants often carry the seeds of trilliums underground and then eat only the outer part leaving the seed to germinate. Once a trillium starts it will take between 4 and 15 years to flower the first time after which it will flower annually. However, if they are picked it sets them back and they can take up to seven years before they start to flower again.

The Eastern American Toad can have a variable colouring as they adapt to their habitat and the females have a wider variety of markings. Stress and temperature as well as humidity can also play a role in the colours of these toads. The tadpoles protect themselves by the toxic chemicals in their skin which can kill a fish if it eats just one of them.

Carolina Wren are most common in the eastern United States but range into the extreme southern parts of Ontario. If the winter is severe these wrens will not venture as far north but they can have several broods during the summer. The young are often victims of the brown-headed cowbird who raid their nests. Carolina Wrens will mate for several years and live for an average of ten years. They tend to stay out of the open and rarely sit still long enough to get their pictures taken.

The Northern Flicker is a member of the woodpecker family and is medium sized. The males have a red patch on their head like many other woodpeckers in Ontario. Unlike most woodpeckers. the Northern Flicker migrates for the winter season.

Short-winged Blister Beetles are also known as Oil Beetles. They grow to be 8-10 millimetres in length and get their name from the droplets of oil they excrete from their leg joints when they are disturbed. This oil can cause blisters on the skin and is a deterrent to predators. The larva of this beetle is a parasite that attacks the larvae of bees. The one below has a hitch-hiker on its back.

There are lots of Jack-In-The-Pulpits along the trail and these plants can live for up to 100 years. They have very earthy colours and the hood that hides the flower is called a spathe. Although they are not brightly coloured like many of the other spring flowers they are one of my favourites.

At Finnerty Side Road I turned around and made my way back to the car. This trail feels like it is uphill in both directions but it makes a great hike.

Having failed to find the Dingle or the Dingle Schoolhouse it appears that another trip will be in order in the near future.

Check out our top 50 stories at this link: Back Tracks

Google Maps Link: Coolihans Side Road

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Defacing History

May 8, 2022

Many of the historic places we visit have been the victim of graffiti, most often in the form of spray painted tags and images. The cover photo shows the Hyde Mill in Streetsville which was built in 1840. When we visited there in September of 2014 there was very little graffiti on the building. The photo shows what the mill looks like less than 8 years later. Similar activity is happening everywhere including active buildings in the city of Toronto. In the past 50 years the amount of graffiti has increased greatly in most of the western world, much to the delight of spray paint manufacturers everywhere.

Graffiti isn’t a new invention, it’s been around since at least ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. In early days it was often carved into the stonework of buildings. It was popular in the Roman Empire and many examples of it have been found in Pompei, which was buried in 79 AD after the volcano in Mount Vesuvius erupted. Examples of Latin curses and declarations of love have been uncovered on the walls of the buildings during recent excavations. There were also magic spells and insults, many of which had to do with defecation, written on the walls.

A lot of early graffiti was erotic in nature and this continues to be a theme in modern times. In Pompei there were advertisements for various prostitutes describing their talents in great detail as well as descriptions of activities that could be had a the local brothels.

During World War Two, graffiti appeared wherever the allied soldiers were stationed in the form of a bald head with a big nose peering over the top of a wall. The inscription “Kilroy Was Here” was included and became famous. There were even reports that it had been found already on the beaches where the allies landed. It is generally accepted that modern graffiti got started in the subways of New York City with a particular person who identified himself as Taki 183. Around the same time in Philadelphia it began with a young juvenile offender who went my the moniker of Cornbread. Graffiti quickly spread and has gone through several stylistic changes over recent years.

In Ontario it has shown up on all sorts of buildings including a lot of our historically designated structures. The Merritton Tunnel is an abandoned railway tunnel underneath the third Welland Canal. It has been the subject of graffiti on the boards that close the north end of the tunnel as well as inside on the limestone blocks.

Graffiti is considered vandalism in Canada and can lead to a charge of mischief over or under $5,000 depending on the location and size of the markings. Toronto and several other large cities have laws to control this type of vandalism but they place the responsibility for cleaning it up on the property owner. So, it’s not bad enough that your property has been defaced but you have to pay for the removal. In some locations the property owners have had to clean their buildings multiple times, resulting in financial hardships. If they don’t clean it up they can be fined, so there’s no winning either way.

In Milton, the former Robertson Screw factory sits abandoned and has been the subject of multiple tags. A tag is usually a quick, one colour graffiti that identifies a person or a gang. These are often put up in many different places to mark their territory.

Aside from gang activity and personal tags there’s a third type of graffiti which is used by people to declare their love for the sweetheart in their life. This can be a simple phrase painted on a building such as “Jack loves Jill”. Unfortunately, graffiti can also include vandalism against trees in which a heart is sometimes cut into the bark with the couple’s initials inscribed within it. This can’t be removed so easily, and if it is too extensive it can kill the tree.

The century old Long Branch Rifle Range in Mississauga has been the target of multiple, overlapping examples of graffiti.

Some graffiti can be hate motivated! This has included painting Nazi symbols and racist comments on buildings and national monuments. Oakville briefly had a park dedicated to Taras Shevchenko, who was a Ukrainian author from the early 1800s. It was vandalized several times including the painting of graffiti on the monuments and now has been removed and the property developed for a subdivision.

The former office for the Weston Plank Road Company was built in 1846 and is the last remnant of that former wooden road. This building is described in greater detail in our story Elm Bank.

Railway cars and bridges seem to be favourite targets for graffiti. In fact, when it was just getting started in New York City the primary target was subway cars and lines. The bridge below on the lower Don River has been painted over a few times since this picture was taken in April 2015. It is from our feature story on The Don Narrows.

Toronto has an alley where graffiti is encouraged as a local tourist attraction. Some of the artwork in Graffiti Alley is really quite well done and there’s murals that take up the entire sides of buildings. We have a feature story on this location that can be found by following the link to Graffiti Alley.

In our humble opinion, there may be a place for graffiti but it isn’t on the remnants of our historic buildings.

Related stories: Graffiti Alley, Hyde Mill Streetsvile, Merritton Tunnel, Long Branch Rifle Range, Taras Shevchenko, Elm Bank, The Don Narrows

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Bowmanville Valley Trail

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Bowmanville Valley Trail roughly follows the winding course of Bowmanville Creek through the floodplain on the west side of the creek. To explore the section between King Street and Baseline Road I found free parking in the lot on Baseline Road. Beware because it is full of deep holes, so be careful as you drive in. There’s a second parking lot off of King Street which is paved and might make a better choice next time. I hadn’t got out of the parking lot when an American Goldfinch landed in a tree near me. The male is bright yellow in the spring when it is in the mating season. The females are duller in colour, as are the males in the winter.

Bowmanville Creek has its headwaters in the Oak Ridges Moraine and drains about 170 square kilometers in its watershed. The creek was clear and low on this visit but the erosion that brought this tree down suggests that it can be pretty wild at times.

The main trail is paved and fully accessible as it runs for 1.8 kilometers between the Baseline Road and King Street parking lots.

The first tent caterpillars are starting to make their nests in some of the trees along the trail. They start with a small nest and as they grow they will expand it. Tent caterpillars tend to come in cycles with every 9-16 years seeing a larger amount of them. Although they can strip a tree of its leaves they seldom do any permanent damage to the trees. Where they cause significant damage is with pregnant horses. When a horse ingests too many of them while feeding on grass they can spontaneously abort their fetuses. in the year 2001 there was a large infestation in Kentucky and horse owners reported that about one third of all foal fetuses were lost to mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS).

Side trails can be found throughout the area and tend to provide glimpses of wildlife that stays clear of the busier main trail.

There was a large Belted Kingfisher, or perhaps two of them, which refused to sit still long enough to get his picture taken. Great Blue Herons are also attracted to the creek as are sports fishermen. There is a fishing ban within 120 metres of the old dam but they’ve also provided a place where people in wheel chairs can access a good fishing hole allowing them to enjoy the sport as well.

The woods along the trail were full of Trout Lilies. These plants actually have three common names which also include Dogtooth Violet and Adder’s Tongue. The name trout lily is given because the mottled colouring on the leaves is said to resemble to speckles on a brook trout. They bloom in the spring and are one of the first green plants to form a carpet on the forest floor. When they first come up, before the leaves uncurl the bulbs can be eaten raw. They have a sweet flavour but after the leaves form the bulbs lose most of their nutrients to the growing leaves which can also be eaten raw.

In the 1920s a dam was built across Bowmanville Creek by the Goodyear plant to provide water for cooling their equipment as well as for fire suppression. The dam remains in place in spite of the plant closure in 2016 because it provides a barrier to keep lamprey eels from getting upstream. The original fish ladder provided a way for trout to get upstream to spawn but when salmon were reintroduced into the Great Lakes it proved to be restrictive to them and many of them died at the dam. The solution was to build a new fish ladder but while this was going through three levels of bureaucracy volunteers lifted fish over the dam. Finally, on December 16, 2013 the 36-metre Fish By-Pass channel was opened to allow the fish to get past the dam and reach their spawning grounds. It can be seen on the left side of the dam in the picture below.

The Goodyear plant operated form 1910 until it closed and now stands idle on the east bank of the creek. We’ve featured the plant in our recent post called Goodyear Plant Bowmanville.

An old pumphouse stands just to the north of the plant and after being vacant for a few years it has recently been turned into a private residence.

This trail is very popular in the spring and fall when the trout and salmon are going upstream to spawn because the fish ladder makes a great place for viewing them.

Related Stories: Goodyear Bowmanville

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Google Maps Link: Bowmanville Creek Southern Parking Lot

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Goodyear Plant Bowmanville

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Bowmanville Creek has a long history of industrial use but has lately been converted into an area full of walking trails. I parked in a small parking lot on the north side of Baseline Road West near Hunt Street to check out the newly opened Bowmanville Valley Trail Extension. While the main trail heads north along Bowmanville Creek, I took the one that follows the creek south toward the 401. I wanted to check out the new section as well as the old railway bridge from the former Goodyear Plant that carried a spur line to the Canadian National line below the highway.

Charles Goodyear discovered the process for vulcanization of rubber in 1839. This process uses sulfur to harden natural rubber into various products. As the automotive age was dawning, a company was founded in Akron, Ohio in 1898 which was called The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. By 1907 they had a contract with Henry Ford to provide tires for the Model T. In 1910 they bought a rubber company in Bowmanville and expanded their manufacturing outside of the United States for the first time. The old postcard image below shows the plant in its early days.

Goodyear built a spur line down Hunt Street to connect to the CN railway into Toronto. The line was still in use in 1982 when the abutments were replaced but by 2000 it was abandoned. The tracks were soon removed and the portion of Hunt Street where the rail lines ran has been repaved, hiding all evidence of its route. The steel bridge remained in place until the Bowmanville Valley Trail Extension was developed at which time it was removed.

Returning to Baseline Road I crossed the creek and followed the former right of way for the spur line until I came to the foundations for the bridge.

There’s not much to see from this end and looking across the creek there’s no indication of the location of the other abutment as it was removed to put the trail through. Graffiti artists have been at work on the remaining concrete and it has been painted on almost every surface.

The Bowmanville Rubber Company had started on King Street in 1898 and after changing names to the Durham Rubber Company they moved beside Bowmanville Creek in 1905. The location was chosen because it provided access to the creek to dispose of their process wastes! In those days it was believed that the solution to waste was to dilute it with running water. No wonder every water source in the area was polluted in the 19th and early 20th century.

Goodyear built additional buildings on the site and greatly expanded the business by connecting it to markets with the rail line.

The plant operated under several names over its year history of over 100 years. After Goodyear, it became Veyance Technologies and later ContiTech Continental. Under the latest name it produced conveyor belts for the mining, tar sands and coal sectors. With the downturn of operations for many of its customers, the plant closed in 2016. Today the building sits empty awaiting its destiny, most likely demolition for the construction of a subdivision.

There’s lots more to explore along Bowmanville Creek and another trip will likely happen in the near future to see what lies along the trail to the north.

For a listing of our 50 most popular stories check out Back Tracks

Google Maps link: Bowmanville Goodyear Plant

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Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails

Sunday April 24, 2022

Hiking the GTA was founded in April 2014 and this post marks our eighth anniversary and our 553rd post. To celebrate, we’re presenting our top 50 posts as determined by the number of times the story has been read. You can click on either the post title or the picture caption to be taken to the original post, each of which is about a five minute read with 10-12 pictures. Each one also has a Google Maps link so that you can find it for your own exploration. How many have you been to and how many are going on your “places to visit” list? Have a look and see.

50 – The Bloor Viaduct (Published June 23, 2018)

The story behind one of Toronto’s most iconic bridges.

49 – Coopers Falls – Ghost Towns of Ontario (Published Dec. 12, 2020)

A famous cottage country ghost town with multiple empty buildings.

48 – Culham Trail Mississauga (Published May 23, 2016)

This trail along the Credit River links a lot of historic places.

47 – Adamson Estate (Published Jan. 25, 2015)

An historic estate linked to the Cawthra family and built in 1920.

46 – La Grande Hermine (Published Sep. 19, 2016)

This ship has become a landmark along the QEW but recently had its masts removed.

45 – The Alexandria (Published Jan. 12, 2019)

The story of a steamer that sank off the Scarborough Bluffs in 1915.

44 – Ontario Place (Published Jul. 21, 2018)

The creation and abandonment of a downtown Toronto theme park.

43 – Horseshoe Curve Rail Disaster (Published Jun. 14, 2016)

Seven people were killed and 114 injured in the worst rail disaster in this part of the province.

42 – Barber Paper Mills Georgetown (Published Jun. 9, 2015)

The story of the famous paper mill ruins in Georgetown.

41 – Cache Lake Trestle – Algonquin Park (Published Jul. 18, 2016)

The story of a railway through Algonquin Park and the decaying trestle left behind.

40 – Kerosene Castle – Oakville (Published Aug. 18, 2015)

A home and an empire built on refining kerosene in Oakville.

39 – Joshua Creek (Published Mar. 29, 2017)

A journey from upstream to the mouth of the creek.

38 – Glenorchy – Ghost Towns of the GTA (Published Dec. 17, 2017)

A ghost town in Halton with a famous bridge collapse.

37 – Taber Hill Ossuary (Published Apr. 16, 2017)

An indigenous burial site disturbed by construction in Scarborough.

36 – David Watson House – 1859 (Published Nov. 26, 201)

This house near Orangeville recently had the rear wall collapse and may soon disappear.

35 – Milkman’s Lane (Published Jan. 7, 2016)

The story of an old roadway near downtown Toronto that is now a walking trail.

34 – Hog’s Back Park – Oakville (Published Feb. 1, 2017)

A park on Sixteen Mile Creek with interesting ruins.

33 – The Devil’s Well (Published Nov. 30, 2015)

A giant glacial pothole near Rockwood Conservation Area.

32 – The Devil’s Punch Bowl (Published Dec. 29, 2015)

One of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Hamilton area.

31 – The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (Published Apr. 6, 2019)

Actor Billy Van once owned this house which is falling over the Scarborough Bluffs.

30 – Cedarena (Published Feb. 2, 2019)

A once famous skating rink in now abandoned near Rouge Park.

29 – Spadina (Published Dec. 27, 2014)

A famous mansion beside Casa Loma.

28 – The Ridgetown – Port Credit (Published May 25, 2015)

The story of the ship at the end of the break wall in Port Credit.

27 – Raymore Drive (Published Jun. 15, 2014)

This community was washed away by hurricane Hazel.

26 – The Devil’s Pulpit (Published Jun. 12, 2015)

One of the most scenic hikes in the Caledon area.

25 – London Asylum For The Insane (Published Jun. 22, 2019)

The London Asylum for the Insane opened in November of 1870. 

24 – Mullet Creek’s Secret Waterfalls (Published Oct. 18, 2015)

This beautiful little spot in Mississauga has lately been posted as No Trespassing, a real shame.

23 – Half-Mile Bridge (Published Aug. 17, 2014)

The Don River and DVP both pass under this unused rail corridor which was opened in 1891.

22 – Cedarvale Park (Published Jul. 27, 2019)

Three people were killed and thirty taken to the hospital in 1995 in Toronto’s worst subway accident with rescue operations being conducted in this city park.

21 – The Vandalized Memorial – Taras Shevchenko Museum (Published Dec. 15, 2015)

This memorial to Ukrainian hero Taras Shevchenko was vandalized several times and now is a housing development.

20 – Palermo – Ghost Towns of the GTA (Published Nov. 29, 2017)

Palermo still has several original structures but is threatened with urban sprawl.

19 – River and Ruin Side Trail (Published Aug. 19, 2017)

Unfortunately, someone decided to knock this old stone house over and ruined the famous ruins.

18 – Country Hospital For Sick Children (Published Oct. 27, 2016)

In 1928 the Hospital For Sick Children opened a building in the country for the care of children and the building still stands amongst the abandoned grounds.

17 – Scarborough’s Most Eccentric Home (Published Nov. 13, 2021)

One man’s collection of architectural styles all mixed together makes this a very unique home.

16 – Lotten – Cawthra Estate Mississauga (Published Feb. 4, 2016)

This beautiful house stands in the forests surrounding the old Cawthra estate.

15 – Omagh – Ghost Towns of the GTA (Published Jan. 23, 2021)

Omagh is outside of Milton and seems to have escaped urban spawl up to now.

14 – Graydon Hall (Published Jan. 12, 2015)

Apartment buildings surround the mansion and its gardens.

13 – Camp 20 – Bowmanville (Published Apr. 7, 2018)

These buildings have been a school as well as a POW camp for German prisoners during WW2.

12 – The Longhouse People of Crawford Lake (Published Nov. 24, 2015)

Several longhouses have been reconstructed at Crawford lake where an indigenous village once stood.

11 – Gates Gully – Scarborough (Published May 8, 2016)

Gates Gully cuts through the Scarborough Bluffs and holds tales of hidden treasure and sunken ships.

10 – Ringwood – Ghost Towns of the GTA (Published Feb 3, 2018)

Ringwood is near Markham but still has much of its small town architecture intact.

9 – Camp Calydor – Gravenhurst German POW Camp Published Aug. 6, 2015)

Little remains of the German POW camp in Gravenhurst as most of it lies under a subdivision now.

8 – Mimico Branch Asylum (Published Jan. 2, 2017)

Many of Toronto’s mental patients were housed here between 1890 and 1979.

7 – Toronto’s Abandoned Roads Published Apr. 9, 2017)

There are several abandoned roads within Toronto and this post shows you where to find them.

6 – Moccasin Trail Park (Published May 7, 2018)

This park features the famous Rainbow Tunnel that can be seen from the Don Valley Parkway.

5 – Merriton Tunnel (Blue Ghost Tunnel) (Published Feb. 28, 2018)

This abandoned railway tunnel was built under the third Welland Canal.

4 – Bond Lake (Published Sep. 13, 2016)

Bond lake once hosted a theme park and an electric railway station.

3 – The Gap (Published Nov. 16, 2016)

A gap in the escarpment is crossed by the Bruce Tail.

2 – Rice Lake’s Sunken Railway (Published Jul 26, 2016)

A railway used to run straight across Rice Lake and is still just below the surface.

1 – Newmarket Ghost Canal (Published Jun. 25, 2015)

The remains of a failed attempt to build a canal from Lake Simcoe to New Market

So, which one is first on you list now? Have fun and stay safe.

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Chisholm Mills – Roslin

Sunday, April 17, 2022

One of the most scenic mills in Southern Ontario is the Chisholm Mill in Roslin. As my work now carries me into this part of the province on a regular basis I look forward to exploring some of the local sights and sharing them with everyone. Perhaps, over time, we’ll be able to provide a little more content for those who live “around the GTA”.

The original mills on the Moira River in Roslin were known as Shipman’s Flour and Saw Mill and were purchased in 1857 by William Fraser Chisholm. They have been in operation ever since and carry on today as Chisholm Lumber. The archive picture below was likely taken in the 1920s or 1930s based on the fact that the old truss bridge is in still place and the original frame mill buildings are present.

Six generations of the Chisholm family have operated the mill since it was renamed after them. Originally, the saw mill was kept in operation cutting logs from the Chisholm forests upstream. They would cut logs on their own property and then float them down the Moira River to the saw mill.

A fire broke out in the feed mill in 1944 which destroyed the building. The mill and the dam were both rebuilt with the feed mill getting a small grain elevator. The archive photo below shows the work crew standing on the old iron truss bridge that was built in the 1920s. Framing is in place for the dam and the foundations for the replacement mill are seen on the left of the picture.

The dam and the bridge have each been upgraded several times. The first dam would have been made of an earthen berm and a wooden crib. The crib would have stretched across the river and been filled with rocks and would have needed repairs annually. Some time after 1900 the dam was replaced with a concrete one that requires much less maintenance and repairs. Earlier bridges were replaced with an iron bowstring arch bridge around 1900. A steel truss bridge was built in the 1920s which lasted for about 60 years. In the 1980s a concrete bridge was constructed and it continues to serve the mill and community. The picture below shows how the walls of the feed mill form part of the dam structure.

The feed mill has closed but an active lumber mill continues to operate on the site covering several acres behind the buildings pictured below.

The Moira River was in flood mode the day I stopped for these pictures and its easy to see how it could be quite dangerous in the Spring and after major rain storms.

The Chisholm family has preserved many antique pieces of equipment as well as hundreds of paintings and photographs dating back to around 1900. The three archive photos in this story were taken from their website where many others can be found. The image below is fairly recent but was taken at at time when the mill pond was drained and the back side of the dam was exposed.

The feed mill building is starting to show signs of weather damage and some holes are appearing in the roof of the building. The Chisholms are proud of their heritage and it’s possible that they will do what is necessary to keep the buildings from falling into complete disrepair so that they don’t become lost.

A series of old metal signs on the side of the building have been preserved as a record of the history of grinding and blending feed for the use of the local farming community. The Chisholm family has preserved the inner workings of the mill and part of the turbine system can be seen through the opening in the wall. The concrete wall of the building is showing the results of nearly 80 years of water and ice damage.

There is another sign on the building, this one warning swimmers to stay away. I notice that it has been moved since 2017 and it can be seen on the side of the mill in the archive picture above where the mill pond is drained. It is actually no longer beside the dam but the message is just as important.

This historic mill makes a great place to take a picture or sit and paint one, and it’s a beautiful scene in all four seasons.

While you’re in the area you can check out the Tiny Tweed Jail, which they claim as the smallest in Canada.

Google Maps Link: Chisholm Mills

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