Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Royal Oak Of Speyside

Saturday Sept. 26, 2015

Speyside is a ghost town.  Of the once thriving village only the corner store remains, and the closed building is starting to decay.  Many such communities dot rural Ontario but what makes Speyside different is it’s Royal Oak tree.  Fall started in a glorious way with sunshine and the early morning temperature of 12 degrees rising quickly.  It made for a perfect morning to go and check it out.

There were five one room schools in the area of Speyside.   These School Sections (SS) were SS #5 Waterloo, SS #8 Dublin, SS #10 Dufferin, SS #12 Lorne and SS #16 Stone.  In 1960 these 5 schools were replaced with the Speyside Public School.  This served until 1986 when it was closed and the students were dispersed between four other local schools.  The building now sits abandoned and is for sale.  The picture below from 1967 was supplied by Marion Frank-Rice who attended the school and can be found along with other memorabilia at

Speyside 1967

The school as it stands today with the addition of extra rooms and wire mesh on the windows.


The story of the Royal Oak of Speyside actually starts in England in 1651.  England was near the end of their civil war and King Charles II was trying to escape with his life after the battle of Worcester.  He later reported that he had hid in an English Oak tree all day while parliamentarian patrols searched for him.  This tree became known as the Royal Oak tree and the English Oak got a new nick name.  May 29th was celebrated as Royal Oak Day for centuries in England to mark the restoration of the monarchy.  In 1937, to celebrate the coronation of King George VI on May 12th, acorns from Windsor Park in England were sent all across the commonwealth.  A one room school stood on 22 side road north of Speyside and a 1944 picture of the school is seen in the cover photo.  Students at SS #8 Dublin planted their acorn in a special evening ceremony in that year.  Marion’s father was among the group of students involved. When the school closed in 1960 they raised the money to have tree surgeons move the 20 foot high oak tree.  They planted it beside the gym at the new school where it continues to grow.  When the school closed in 1986 acorns were brought from England to plant “cousin” oak trees at Brookville, Limehouse, Pineview and Stewarttown where the Speyside students were transferred.  The Royal Oak of Speyside received an heritage designation in 2007 for it’s cultural significance.  The tree is expected to live for up to 500 years and the owner of this property is required to maintain it during it’s lifetime.


Speyside grew into a considerable community as the street plan in the 1877 Halton County Atlas shows.


The village had two hotels, two general stores, a tannery, a large stone quarry and a village hall. The picture below shows the only remaining building from the original Speyside.  Newer homes have been added over the years.  This structure operated as a store under many names and was even moved back from the road 17 feet in 1942 when the highway was paved.  Today it is closed and a few modern homes provide the only hint of the former life of Speyside.  Directly across the street from the store stood the original log cabin that served as a post office from 1873 until 1914.  The first postmaster is rumored to have been illiterate and relied on the school children from SS #10 to help him sort the mail.The post office closed in 1914 when rural mail delivery made it obsolete.


We parked off 15 Sideroad in the Bruce Trail parking lot and went for a walk in the Speyside Resource Management Area.  Not far from the parking lot stand the remains of two kilns. These were used by Alexander Livingstone to dry the hops he grew when this was a farm.


There is a pond along the trail which has a small sluice gate maintaining the water level.  It has been created by damming the tributary of the Sixteen Mile Creek that passes through town.


Puff balls are one of several genera of fungi that do not have open caps or external gills to distribute their spores.  They form their spores in the centre of the fruit body.  When the fruit dries out it turns brown and the skin ruptures releasing a puff of spores from the ball.  When harvested around this time of year then sliced thinly and fried in butter and garlic they become quite tasty.  This one was too small to be bothered with but they can get to be nearly the size of a soccer ball.


Along the side of the trail a series of hoses run between trees and end in this shed where maple sap is collected and boiled down to make maple syrup.


Butter and Eggs flowers, also known as yellow toadflax, are related to the snapdragon. The flowers are often added to arrangements because they last for a long time after cutting. This plant has been used for an herbal remedy in teas for both diuretic and laxative effects.  This little flower has the power to make you go.


The Glencairn Golf Club is just south of Speyside near the old school.  The concrete remains of a kiln can be seen from the roadside.


Near the 1873 school was a quarry which came to be known as Scotch Block.  Stone from this quarry was used in several local bridges for piers and abutments.  In 1868 the Presbyterians used this stone to build their Boston Church on the 3rd line.


There are plenty of nice weekend days left this year to get out and enjoy.  Fifteen of the top hikes are listed here.

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Rattray Marsh

Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, and Monday, Sept. 11, 2017

Rattray Marsh contains fossils that help form it, abundant wildlife and 100-year-old abandoned structures. And that’s just in the corner we explored.  We set out to enjoy the last Saturday of summer and decided to visit the Rattray Marsh.  There is very little parking at the marsh and so we parked at the Bradley Museum.

James Rattray was born in 1887 and after having served in WW1 he made a fortune in the mining industry.  He was friends with Percy and Ida Parker who owned the Riverwood Estate.  In 1945 he bought the Fudger mansion along with 148 acres including the mouth of Sheridan Creek.  The historical atlas shows that the creeks emptying into Lake Ontario along this stretch all had a marsh where they emptied into the lake.  Today, the marsh on Sheridan Creek is the only one left between Toronto and Burlington.  The rest of them have been filled in and when James Rattray died in 1959 developers started making plans to build homes on this one too. The Credit Valley Conservation bought the property in 1972 after local residents petitioned to have the marsh saved.  It was opened as Rattray Marsh Conservation Area in 1975.

The shoreline along this part of the lake is made up of flat stones that have been rounded through years of wave action.  They have been washed up on the beach in a wall known as a shingle bar.  This rock barrier slowed and sometimes stopped, the flow of Sheridan Creek into the lake.  The waters pooled behind this wall and silt settled on the bottom where aquatic plants took root forming the marsh over time.  The picture below shows the mouth of Sheridan Creek and the rock barrier, or shingles bar, that maintains the marsh.


The threat to the marsh actually started long before the developers made specific plans to fill it in. Without realizing it they had already initiated a slow process that would do so.  As development occurred on properties upstream the amount of sediment in the marsh increased.  Buildings, roads, and parking lots don’t absorb water like fields and forests do. Water runs off quickly and carries soil and other dirt into the creek.  The water slows down in the marsh where this silt settles and quickly buries the natural ecosystem.  To restore the marsh some of this sediment was removed to expose the native soil and allow the seeds trapped inside to germinate.  White carp have also invaded the marsh and are disturbing the sediment on the bottom through their feeding.  This has destroyed plant life and the habitat it provided. The carp have been isolated and are now kept out by fences in the marsh like the one pictured below.


We did a little beach combing looking for interesting rocks and fossils.  The wall of shingle stones along the shoreline is full of fossils.  The remains of these long-gone creatures now serve to keep the creek out of the lake and helped the marsh to form.  There were many small stones with multiple fossils of worms in them.

Along the lake shore at the creek mouth, there is a deteriorating break wall that was installed to help preserve the marsh from erosion.  A little east of here a large concrete chamber stands looking out over Lake Ontario.  The top is broken off and several small trees are taking root inside.  This was likely built in 1918 when Fudger had the house built on the property,  He was obsessed with fire protection and built his house out of concrete.  This appears to be an old pump house, perhaps part of a fire suppression system.


Turtlehead flowers grow in moist soil and bloom from late in August through to October. They get their name from the shape of their white, red or pink flowers which look like a turtle with its mouth open.  Turtlehead flowers have been used in traditional medicines for centuries.  They make an excellent remedy for skin sores as well as reportedly being used for birth control by some native tribes.  They are a favourite food for white tailed deer like the young male featured in the cover photo.


Aside from carp, Rattray Marsh has also been invaded by the emerald ash borer.  This little green insect kills 99.9% of all ash trees it comes into contact with.  Unfortunately, most of the tree cover in the marsh and surrounding area is ash.  The picture below shows trees with an orange mark on them.  These are infested with the ash borer and will be cut down and replaced with new plantings.  Trees that are not infected can be protected against the insect at a cost of about $200 per tree for an injection that must be repeated every two years.  Injected trees have a little metal tag on them.


On Monday, September 11, 2017, we returned to the marsh to explore the boardwalks and see what the back half of the park holds.

The Trans Canada Trail and the Waterfront Trail pass through the 90-acre park on a common boardwalk. There is a secondary trail which is 1.8 km long and a small 0.3 km loop known as the Knoll Trail.  Credit Valley Conservation has recently completed upgrades and replacements to much of the boardwalk around Sheridan Creek and they reopened on September 2, 2017.


Rattray Marsh was rather low on water and we could see where it had been several feet deeper recently.


Google Maps Link: Rattray Marsh

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Hermit Hollow – Hillsburgh

Tuesday Sept. 15, 2015

After having visited The Ghost Town Of Sixteen Hollow and Trout Hollow I wanted to complete the trilogy and visit the collapsed house in Hermit Hollow.  I parked off of Station Road where the old Credit Valley Railway station once stood.  I walked south on the old rail line then walked the length of the main street.

After the coming of the railway potato growing became an important part of the Hillsburgh economy.  In 1881 the first carload of 210 bags of potatoes was shipped from Hillsburgh to Toronto.  Before long up to 3,000 bags a day were being shipped.  For a few years the town even celebrated Potato Fest.  The cover photo shows a plastic button from the 1973 festival. Beside the railway station stood large potato sorting and storage sheds.  An underground potato storage facility near the railway station has been converted into a house.  Note the concrete storage entrance on the side of the house and the extensive berm for storage.  All of the windows have been reduced in height and bricked in and a doorway has been closed off where the propane storage tank stands.


In 1821 William Howe bought lots 22 and 23 in the seventh concession of Erin township.  He built a general store and trading post on the 7th line.  His second, larger store, blew up due to careless smoking and storage of gunpowder. A third store was then built which operated into the 1970’s.  All of the old tin advertising for Coke, Black Cat Cigarettes and the Orange Crush door handle are all gone from the store front and now it survives as an office building.


Nazareth Hill arrived a couple of years later and built a hotel on lot 25.  He surveyed his property for town lots and named the community after himself.  As Hillsburgh grew it swallowed Howville.  It was incorporated as a police village in 1899 with a population of 500.

The first school house dates to 1844 and survives today as a private residence.  A one room brick school was completed in 1864 with an addition for the juniors on the front in 1878. In 1960 six acres were purchased from the Nodwell farm and Ross R. McKay school was opened with four class rooms.  The picture below shows the old school which has served local farmers as Hillsburgh Feed since 1963.  The 1864 school room is hiding in the back beside the feed silos.


William How is buried in the pioneer cemetery near the middle of town.  After many years of neglect the stones were gathered up and placed in a central location.


William Nodwell came to Canada from Ireland in 1838 and settled on Lot 24.  His first log home burned down within a year.  Nodwell then sold half of the lot and constructed another log house and barns.  In 1868 the brick house shown below was built.  This view shows the front of the now abandoned house with it’s second story oriel window.  In 1895 the house at the corner of the lane was added for use by family members.  In 1926 Mungo Nodwell took over running the farm which was well known for the  potatoes he grew.  Today there is an open proposal to develop this farm for a subdivision and the electric fence that used to surround the school yard has been replaced with a row of trees.


A second town hall was built in 1887.  The date stone is interesting because it has no “h” on the end of the town’s name.  Notice the two maple leaves above the date and the beaver below. The Beaver was the name of the town newspaper in 1887 and cost 25 cents per year, paid in advance.


Six of Hillsburgh’s seven church buildings remain.  The first, and only missing, church was the Union Church and it stood beside the pioneer cemetery.  As each of the denominations grew they left the Union Church and got their own buildings.  From the south end of town is the Baptist Church (1862), Christian Church (1906) and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian (1869) which burned in 1965 and was rebuilt in the original walls.  Beside the river stands the United Church which was reassembled here in 1926 and the Anglican Church seen below.  It was built in the early 1890’s but closed in 1918 and served as a honey extracting plant after that.


Hillsburgh didn’t have a fire hall until the church fire of 1965.  After that it had a two door building that stood beside the river.  When the arena was replaced it was moved to Station Road.  Today there is a semi-circle of concrete on the ground behind the arena to mark the tower where the fire hoses were hung to dry.


The Exchange Hotel was built in 1883 and was one of three hotel buildings that remain in town. Until recently It had stables in the back for the traveler’s horses and lettering on the arch which said “Good Stabling”.  It is the only three story building in Hillsburgh.


Church Street was home to the Methodist Church.  This was also the site of the town’s third cemetery which lies below the lawn.


The Barbour house, dated 1889, is on Orangeville Street and is one of half a dozen houses in town which are dated in the 1880’s and 90’s on a diamond shape date stone.  These were built by Alexander Hyndman whose own 1879 house stands beside the Christian Church.


On the south east corner of the 8th line and 27th side road lies one of the headwaters of the Credit River.  In 1906 this property belonged to the Caledon Trout Club and later was a fish hatchery.  From here the water flows through Hillsburgh’s three existing ponds and into the Credit River.  A little boat dropped in this trickle of water could eventually emerge in Lake Ontario at Port Credit beside the much larger ship The Ridgetown.


Leaving town on the 7th line there are two large hills.  In the hollow on lot 18 stood an old shack covered with asphalt siding.  During the early 1970’s a hermit lived in this house.  It was already in a state of decay at that time and collapsed by the middle of the decade.  Today one wall remains leaning against a tree and the rest is in advanced decay on the ground.  In good hermit fashion the property is strewn with old tin cans and empty bottles.


An old car from the 1940’s or early 1950’s lies rusting in the tall grass at the back of Hermit Hollow.


Hillsburgh retains many historical buildings and is an interesting time capsule of rural Ontario.

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Trout Hollow

Sunday September 13, 2015

Trout Hollow has been abandoned three different times and today is a ghost town.  I was on a grand tour that took me from Toronto to Orillia, over to Meaford and then back to Toronto. Down time was needed in Meaford and so one of my brothers and I set off to further explore some of the Georgian Triangle Area (GTA).  After having visited Sixteen Hollow on Saturday and now finding myself in Trout Hollow I decided I had better complete a trilogy and visit Hermit Hollow while I have a week’s hollowdays from work.

We parked on 13 sideroad off of the 7th line a little south west of Meaford.  The area we accessed as we went down the old road allowance is known as Trout Hollow.  Following the yellow side trail where it goes to the right off of the road allowance brings you past one of many 1940’s era cars that have been pushed down the hillside prior to the growth of the current forest cover.  Rainbow trout run in the Bighead River and there are often anglers in the hollow trying to catch a fish.  However, as we shall see, that is not the reason for the name of Trout Hollow.

trout car

In June of 1855 William Trout Sr. bought 200 acres of land on the Bighead River where there were good trees and plenty of water power for a saw mill.  Things were a little fishy from the beginning in that mill and property was secretly deeded to the Trout boys from the beginning. William hinted that he would leave the mill to them so that his children would take good care in helping him build and operate it.  Work was slowed when the Trout men were called away to contribute their millwright skills at a mill being raised near Inglis Falls.  The raceway, head protecting dam and flume were completed and the winter of 1856 was used to prepare the log crib that when filled with gravel would dam the creek.  A log house was constructed in 1855 for the use of the mill workers.

Wood was plentiful and there were settlers coming into Meaford making the Trout mill quite profitable.  In 1861 the census shows William H. Trout (Jr.) had an inventory of 66,000 board feet of lumber. A slight recession following the end of the Crimean War led the Trout family to convert their saw mill into a handle factory which they automated with the help of John Muir. John had previously invented an alarm clock bed that dumped the occupant at the prescribed hour.  The Trout Handle Factory produced handles for rakes, brooms and yokes.   A fire in February 1866 destroyed the buildings and all the inventory.  Trout saw mill was finished and the site abandoned.  For a brief period in the 1870’s The Pleasant Valley Grist Mill operated on this site but it soon closed and Trout Hollow lay silent for 25 years.

The Bighead River can be seen winding it’s way into the town of Meaford from the lower left corner of the shaded area in the 1877 County Atlas map below.  Tracing it back you come to the right of way for the 12/13 side road where it takes a detour down the side of the ravine to improve the angle and make it less dangerous.  The modified road allowance is seen crossing the river in Trout Hollow which has vanished by this point and is not noted on the map.  In 1858 this road accessed only the mill in Trout Hollow and did not cross the river.  There was a public uproar when it was decided to use government funds to repair the wood braced roadway down the hill side with stone.

Trout Hollow Map

In 1904 an electrical power generation plant was built that resulted in the concrete dam across the river than can be seen in the picture below.  The story of the power plant can be read in the Georgian Bay Milling and Power Company post. Today the two abutments remain with the smaller one being in the distance but actually on this side of the river.  The dam on the far side has lost the protective embankment to erosion and is leaning into the river.

Bighead Dam Meaford

The dam was damaged in a storm in 1912  but was repaired and used until the power company closed in 1923.  The crank wheels that raised and lowered the sluice gates have been ripped off of the left anchor and now dangles toward the river.  The block of concrete that holds the remaining anchor is sliding toward the river and will likely soon topple in.  The cover photo shows a look up the sluice gates and shows the extent of the collapse.


The abutments on this side of the river are little more than a short wall of concrete.


This high bank of Algonquin Beach Gravel is in constant erosion.  Where it once provided the upstream berm for the power dam it now has crept back to the point where it allows the river to run behind the dam during flood time.  This is accelerating the deterioration of the old dam and sluice gates.


Along the berm that forms the wall of Trout Lake is a second set of sluice gates.  These gates controlled the water in a narrow finger lake that fed the Georgian Bay Milling and Power Company.  The picture used below was taken in October 2014 during that exploration.


Along what is now known as Flume Trail you can still see traces of the wood from the open flume that carried the water from Trout Hollow lake to the power generating station.


The metal down tube remains on the side of the hill where it was once connected to the wooden flume.  From here the water was dropped to the settling basin where the turbine wheel was located.


The road is shown as crossing the river in the 1877 county atlas but there is no longer any sign of a bridge.  The power line shows where the road approaches the river on either side.  A few decades ago it was possible for certain high school students to drive across the river here when the water levels weren’t too high,


The failure of the industries in Trout Hollow reminds us of the hardships faced by small businesses in the Victorian era.  Lack of resources and capital often caused them to fail when the economy changed and they were frequently unable to recover from tragedies such as the fire in Trout Hollow.

Google Maps Link: Meaford

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Sixteen Hollow – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday Sept. 12, 2015

The area known as Sixteen Hollow was home to an industrial community that became a ghost town by the 1880’s.  We decided to ignore the light rain that was falling, don a light jacket for the first time in months, and go to check it out. There is free parking in the parking lot under the Sixteen Mile bridge on Dundas Street.

Dundas Street was surveyed in 1795, two years after the founding of York (Toronto), as a link to Hamilton.  The road was opened in 1806 after the Mississauga Purchase transferred the land to the British.  George Chalmers arrived in 1825 and opened a merchant shop where Dundas Street met Sixteen Mile Creek.  Next, he built a dam on the creek north of Dundas and opened both a saw and grist mill.  Sixteen Hollow was known for awhile as Chalmer’s Mills and was a thriving community with a tavern, stables, a distillery, a blacksmith shop several houses and an ashery.  In the early 1840’s Chalmers over-extended himself and became bankrupt.  He ended up selling everything to John Proudfoot and the community briefly became Proudfoot’s Hollow. The town continued to grow and a three story inn catered to stagecoach and weary traveler alike. Tailors and weavers as well as the makers of barrels, wagons and footwear all called The Hollow home. When the railroad bypassed the town, and Oakville grew, Sixteen Hollow suffered a fatal blow in the collapse of the grain market.  By the 1880’s the mill was closed and only two houses and the church remained.  The map below from the National Archives is dated 1847 with a question mark but show’s the community early in the days of John Proudfoot.


North of the bridge, in the area that was once covered by mill pond, we observed a female cross orbweaver spider.  This large specimen was riding out the rain curled up in a plant stem.  This species of spider is known to be mildly venomous with bite reactions lasting from 2 days to three weeks.  It takes it’s name from the cross shaped markings on the body near the head.


The first reliable bridge to replace the mill dam crossing was built in 1885 and was a steel truss bridge. It was replaced in 1921 with a concrete bridge that rose in elevation as it went westward eliminating the need for the switchback on the ravine side.  A four lane bridge was built in 1960 which replaced it.  The bridge decking was removed from the 1921 bridge but the piers were left standing.  Notice in the picture below, and the cover photo, the metal capped point of concrete on the front side of the pier.  This was on the upstream side and used to break up ice during the spring thaw to protect the bridge from damage.  It indicates that the creek flowed around this pier in the 1920’s.  Today the creek runs well to the east of here, just above the goldenrod field, and is visible in the cover photo.  in 2008 another four lane bridge was added running along the line of the 1921 bridge piers.


The historical county atlas shows the grand detour that Dundas Street took as it passed through Sixteen Hollow and crossed the creek.  The road passes across the middle of the map from the right to the left as one travels westward.  Just before the mill pond the road takes a curve and descends the hill behind the Presbyterian church (still a wood frame structure in 1877).  It crosses on or near the dam and then does a long hairpin curve south and back as it climbs the west ravine.  By 1877 there are few buildings shown on the map and only one mill, near the church.

Sixteen hollow

Fall was in the air and there are trees that are starting to change colour.  The process of changing colour actually starts in the spring.  The tree has a relatively short growing season which usually ends in about June.  At this time they already have the bud for next year’s leaf ready but dormant until the spring thaw.  Chlorophyll in the leaves is constantly being broken down by sunlight and replaced.  As the day light hours grow shorter and the nights longer the tree prepares for winter.  It starts to form a kind of scab between the leaf and the branch which cuts off the transfer of nutrients to the leaf.  When the green chlorophyll is no longer replaced the yellow, red and orange pigments in the leaves are exposed.  They too break down in UV light and eventually only the brown tannins are left as pigments.


Yellow and purple flowers paint a picture of late summer.  Black-eyed susan, also known as brown-eyed susan, are related to the sunflower and provide the yellow on the left below. New England asters like a lot of sunshine and their purple flowers colour the open areas throughout The Hollow. The yellow goldenrod plants on the right are also a member of the aster family and they are often mixed with their distant cousins.  The sumac trees in the background have not started their change to bright red yet.  This is one of the first and brightest transformations of the fall.  The word sumac comes from the ancient word used for red in several languages.


Sixteen Hollow is a quiet place today but it’s past history was much different.  Humans put a dam across the river and built an industrial community which has now vanished.  The Sixteen Mile Creek is also much shallower today than when Upper Canada was settled.  Clearing of the land led to lower water levels in Ontario.  Water levels at the end of the last ice age were much greater as can be seen in the depth of the creek bed relative to the shale embankments along the sides.


One of the central meeting places in an early community was the church.  Sixteen Hollow had a Presbyterian church on the east bank of the river by 1844 and it is the only remaining building from the historical village.  This frame structure was 40 feet long, 30 wide and 18 tall.  The building was expanded  in 1899 and given a brick veneer on the outside.  Electric lights were installed in 1943 in time for the centennial celebrations the following year.  The basement was added in 1994 for it’s 150th anniversary.


Sixteen Hollow is no longer a thriving town but there is a lot of space to hike along the Sixteen Mile Creek.  We had previously looked at a small section going north from here on Canada Day.

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The Vale Of Avoca

Saturday Sept. 5th, 2015

In need of a shorter hike this week we set off to visit The Vale Of Avoca.  We investigated the collapsed ruins of an old saw mill, the eastern abutments of an old bridge and a 90 year old example of recycling as we explored a section of Yellow Creek.  It was 21 degrees early in the morning and quite comfortable, except for the unending mosquito attacks.  Only the female mosquito bites after which they live off the blood while 100-200 eggs develop.  They normally live for up to two weeks or until they land on me, which ever comes first.

We parked on Roxborough just off of Mount Pleasant.  From here the trail goes to the left and follows the creek to the lower portion of the Belt Line Trail.  We turned to the right and entered the Rosedale Ravine which we followed north to The Vale of Avoca, the name given to a section of this ravine.  As we walked north we came to the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge. This intricate concrete bridge replaces an earlier trestle bridge for which the cut stone foundations remain.


In 1837 the Heath Family purchased the north west corner of Yonge Street and the Third Concession Road (renamed St. Clair Ave. in 1914).  They named the area Deer Park and built a hotel where patrons could feed the local deer.  Their lot was subdivided and by the 1870’s the community was well established.  Today the Heath’s are commemorated by a street name. Deer Park extended as far east as the ravine carrying the Yellow Creek, which St. Clair didn’t cross.  In 1888 John Thomas Moore began to market his community of Moore Park which would be constructed between Yellow Creek and the ravine to the east of it containing Mud Creek.  To support his community he built bridges across both ravines and also attracted the Belt Line commuter railway.  Just prior to reaching St. Clair an old abandoned bridge crosses the channelized creek in the bottom of the ravine.  This concrete bridge sits on an earlier stone foundation.


Moore’s bridge across Yellow Creek was built of iron and didn’t follow the alignment of the third concession.  It angled slightly south west and aligned with today’s Pleasant Boulevard.  By 1922 the bridge was starting to become a safety concern and approval was given to build a replacement. It was decided to straighten the alignment of the road and provide for four lanes of traffic and two of street cars.  The new bridge was built over a period of two years and is 509 feet long and 89 feet high.  It opened in 1924 and cost the equivalent of $9M in today’s economy.  The bridge is a steel and concrete triple span bridge.  The picture below shows the steel arches under the bridge as well as three concrete arches at the other end.  The bridge and the valley they span were renamed The Vale Of Avoca in 1973. The name is taken from a poem by Thomas Moore called The Meeting of The Waters.  It is said that Thomas Moore the poet and John Thomas Moore the community builder were related.


The Toronto Archives photo below shows the bridge looking west toward Pleasant Boulevard. Notice the lattice work iron railings on either side.

Construction photographs of St. Clair Avenue E. viaduct

When The Vale of Avoca opened in 1924 the old iron bridge was immediately removed.  The iron railings from John Thomas Moore’s bridge were cut up and recycled as fencing along the side of Avoca Avenue.  The Vale of Avoca bridge can be seen in the background.


The archive photo below from 1925 shows the work in process of removing the old bridge.

Old Bridge

Just north in The Vale of Avoca lie the remains of an early sawmill. The  mill dam created a pond that stretched back upstream flooding part of what is today’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  This seems hard to believe looking at the present condition where the cemetery is on such higher ground.  The ravine that formerly held Yellow Creek through the cemetery property has been filled in with ten metres of soil that were excavated when the Yonge subway was built in the 1950’s.  The earthen works of the dam provided the first bridge across Yellow Creek at this location, prior to Moore’s bridge.  Today most of the structure of the mill has collapsed into a mess of shale on an otherwise soil covered embankment.  The horizontal tree in the middle of the picture below is resting on, and perhaps knocking over, part of one wall.  Near the left side of the picture there stands one of the other corners of the building.


In the midst of the ruins of the collapsed mill I found the bottle pictured below.  It is embossed Buckingham Cleaner but bears no other markings.  The seam on the edge ends just below the lip suggesting a date between the late 1880’s and the introduction of the bottle machine in 1906.  Researching Buckingham Cleaner suggested to me that people in Buckingham have no excuse for dirt as you have a lot of cleaning services available.  The original product in this bottle is a little harder to find information about.


We returned to St. Clair and crossed Yellow Creek on The Vale Of Avoca.  On the east bank of the creek just south of the bridge stand the remains of the abutments and footings for the 1888 bridge.  The original bridge abutment was made of cut stone.  A rectangular slab of concrete near the left of the picture is from a repair conducted just prior to replacement.  The cover photo also shows the former bridge abutment looking out across The Vale Of Avoca.


The common Garter Snake lives in a wide variety of habitats and is completely harmless.   Various species of snakes either lay eggs or give live birth.  The garter snake is one of the species that gives live birth and the female can have as many as 70-80 snakes in a single litter.


The teasel has nearly finished blooming for this year.  A few still have their purple ring of tiny flowers but these are only the ones which get less direct sunlight.  A group or cluster of tiny flowers such as these is known as an inflorescence.  The little flowers are actually specialized leaves known as bracts which bloom in a ring around the middle of the inflorescence and then progress toward the ends of the oval flower head.


The Villa St. Clair was built in 1892 and added to Toronto’s list of heritage properties in 1984.  It has a small tower, or turret,  which looks out across The Vale Of Avoca.


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Old Post Road

Sunday August 30, 2015

Post Road runs through the most affluent neighbourhood in Canada and ends in it’s first planned community.  Between the two, the road is broken by Wilket Creek where there is no bridge crossing.  I had time for a short hike while my wife was sleeping off a stomach illness.

At the start of the 20th century the area of Bayview and Lawrence was becoming home to some of Toronto’s wealthiest people.  They started to build grand estates complete with horse stables for their riding pleasure.  We previously looked at some of these old homes in Bayview Estates.  In 1929 the bridge over the West Don River at Lawrence Avenue was rebuilt but the area north of it was still rolling farm land.  The area we now call The Bridle Path was marked by horse trails and was seen as a good place for an exclusive enclave of grand homes because of it’s limited road access.  In 1937 E. P. Taylor, who had designed Canada’s first planned community in Don Mills, bought a large plot of land north of the Bridle Path for his estate.  His wife named it Windfields and today it is owned by the Canadian Film Centre.  The park behind the estate is known as Windfields park.  George Black was partners with Taylor and he built the home on Park Lane Circle where he raised Conrad Black.  To keep the neighbourhood to the wealthy a North York by-law was passed requiring single family homes on a minimum two acre lot size. The streets in the neighbourhood take their names from horse racing and Post Road is the most northerly road in the Bridle Path and thus represents the post position, or starting position for the community.

Post road runs for about 700 metres east from Bayview Avenue through an area where there are only half a dozen homes.  This picture looks from where the paved portion of Post Road ends, east toward Wilket Creek.  You can park here for free.  The cover photo is taken from part way down the old roadway where a hydro line is visible passing through the new growth.


There is only a little trail left of the roadway where it descends the hill toward the creek.  As is common with many closed portions of road there is always someone who thinks they should be used as dumps.  The west end of Post Road has it’s little caches of trashes.  I found a vinegar bottle from 1958 indicating that the trash was dumped after the development of the area had been well under way.  Canada Vinegars Limited was once the largest manufacturer of vinegar in North America.  They were located at 112 Duke street (now Adelaide) not to far from Toronto’s first post office.


At the bottom of the hill there is no sign of any bridge remains.  Aerial photos from 1947 show the roadway but there was already no bridge here at that time.  This picture looks north up the creek bed.  On the left side there is a sewer access dated 1980 indicating that the overgrowth on the roadway is only 35 years old because heavy equipment was through here at that time.


With the water level very low in the creek I was able to cross onto the east side.  The trail on this side is much more open and well used.  It appears that lacking personal gyms and pools for exercise, the inhabitants of the poorer side of Post Road resort to using the park more than their rich counterparts on the other end of the road.


There are signs of former activity along Wilket Creek as you make your way north along the waterway.  There are several concrete formations that may have been related to mill dams or possibly to flood control.


The creek bed and surrounding flood plains are composed of a lot of sand and the sides of the creek are in constant erosion.  There are fallen trees all along the creek including this one which has fallen over but continues to have green leaves on it.


Goldenrod is starting to come into it’s bright golden flowers.  These flowers are essential to the bug community and you will see a wide variety of bees, beetles and assorted other insects on them.  This example is playing host to a colony of ebony bugs.


Much of the floodplain for Wilket Creek is filled with new growth trees and is a quiet area to hike where I saw very little wildlife.  The trail leads to Banbury Park and Windfields Park.


Post Road is split in the middle by Wilket Creek and there is no bridge to link the wealthiest properties on the west side with the planned community of Don Mills on the east side.  You stay on your side, and I’ll stay on mine!

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