Saturday, October 22, 2016
This hike was a return to the location of our first blog which was little more than a collection of pictures that didn’t have a story to tell. What came out of this visit was much different than the original blog which we called Humber River at Finch and Islington.
The site is formally known as lot 36 and part of lot 35 and was owned by Alex Card and Jason Carruthers at the time of the 1878 county atlas. Alex Card’s property was accessed from Kipling and his driveway is shown in white on the map below. The laneway extended past the house to a grist mill that was operated near the Humber River. In 1926 The Hospital For Sick Children was looking for a country location to build a satellite facility. They wanted to replace their John Ross Robertson Lakeside Home For Children which was on Hanlan’s Point. This small facility had been opened on Toronto Islands in 1883 but was only in service four months per year.
When they settled on lot 36 they used Card’s laneway off of Kipling and decided that an entrance off of Islington would be created with a sweeping laneway, shown in green, that would showcase the hospital. Ten acres of land were purchased off of Carruthers to allow the laneway to be extended and this short stretch is also marked in green on the map above. At this time Finch Avenue did not extend across the river and when it was extended in the late 1980’s the 10-acre corner was cut back off of the property. Due to the fact that these few acres were owned by the hospital, they escaped development when the rest of Carruthers property was sold off. Today it is known as Finch Islington Park and is a largely unused area which is returning to its forested condition. The exploration started here before making its way across Finch Avenue. Among the new growth stand rows of mature trees that once lined this entranceway. This portion of the old laneway has almost vanished but an old culvert still reveals where the road once crossed a seasonal flow of water.
The former road surface on the south side of Finch Avenue has been reclaimed by the forest. New growth trees stand out in a strip between the mature pine trees on either side of the former roadway.
It was decided that the old laneway from the mill was too steep and so only the lower portion was incorporated into the new driveway. The old laneway is still discernable but unlike the roadbed north of Finch, it isn’t paved.
Along this old laneway is a stone bridge across a small tributary to the Humber River.
The old laneway will eventually bring you to a portion of the Humber River Recreational Trail but we turned back when we came to the back of the old power plant. Another row of streetlights led us to this set of stairs. At one time this led from the back of the hospital to the laneway and then to the gardens beyond.
At the bottom of the stairs, a small footbridge crosses the same tributary that we had seen on the older laneway.
The little footbridge leads out to where the laneway curves toward the river and Islington Avenue.
The road curves where it approaches the Humber River and makes its way south toward Finch Avenue. Mature pine trees can be seen running parallel to the road which was planted for a hundred feet along either side. This was done in 1930 to compliment the 50,000 seedlings that had been planted prior to opening. Stands of pine trees had been planted around the hospital in the belief that their scent helped cure those who suffered from lung ailments like tuberculosis.
Running parallel to the river the laneway runs almost to Finch Avenue where it dead-ends just before the fence along the road allowance. Somewhere along this section of the 19th-century roadway once stood the grist mill. Today you can clearly see the pattern of alternating pine and deciduous trees that was planted along either side of the road.
Construction on the country addition to The Hospital For Sick Children was started in May 1927 and it officially opened on October 10, 1928. It was built to house 112 patients as well as the doctors and caregivers. The north face of the building is shown in the picture below. and it housed the staff. A rear section can just be seen in the picture and it housed the patients. They were taken outside daily for treatment with “sunshine and fresh air” and the rear dorms had a place to roll beds outside as well. The hospital was a long distance from the city so it incorporated a power plant, water and sewage treatment and high-pressure firefighting system.
By the 1950’s its operation had become outdated with modern treatments in downtown hospitals replacing most of them. Following power loss due to Hurricane Hazel in 1954 it was soon closed. In 1957 the hospital was purchased by the Department of Health for use as a mental health hospital for juvenile patients. In 1960 they added a centre for autistic children and in 1967 the name was changed to Thistletown Regional Centre for Children and Adolescents. These signs are new and appear all over and include a variety that claims that the area is patrolled. For this reason, I am not suggesting that people should visit this location.
Link to original blog for this location: Humber River at Finch and Islington
Google Maps Link: Finch-Islington Park
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Really enjoyed this. I didn’t know Sick Kids had a country hospital. It makes sense that the air would be better for TB patients away from the city pollution. I worked at HSC as a nurse and I love the history of the hospital. Thanks for this sort and all the others….very good reading!
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I remember as a student nurse from HSC, visiting a patient who had been sent there to convalesce after spinal surgery. This would have been around 1955. Beautiful setting!
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