Old Major Mackenzie Drive

Sunday April 22, 2018

The Humber River in Vaughan Township has three historic concrete bowstring bridges, all designed by Frank Barber. All three are closed to vehicles and are in varying states of disrepair. Having previously featured both the Kirby Road Bridge and the Old Langstaff Road Bridge it seemed fitting to make a brief excursion to the third one as well.  The oldest of these three bridges is the one on Old Major Mackenzie as it was built in 1914.  The other two were built in 1923.

Frank Barber was born in Milton on Dec. 27, 1875.  In November 1908 Barber was appointed consulting engineer for the County of York.  He was later made engineer for York, Scarborough, Amaranth, Etobicoke, King and Vaughan.  He is best known as a bridge designer having built the bridge at The Old Mill as well as Middle Road Bridge.  One of Frank’s onnovations was the introduction of concrete into the construction of bridges.  This increased their lifespan dramatically compared to 20 years for a wooden bridge and is the primary reason we still have some of his work around 100 years later.

The north side of the bridge is in an advanced state of deterioration.  This gives a pretty clear idea of the wire skeleton inside the bridge.  I noticed that the reinforcing rods are not bound together either through welding or wire ties.

After crossing the bridge, Old Major Mackenzie Road climbed the side of the ravine on an angle.  The outline of the road can still be discerned just above the yellow line on the picture below.  A camera is mounted on the pole just below Vaughan – No Trespassing sign.  Rats, I’ll bet that old roadway would be an interesting climb.  Since the road has been closed the short access to the bridge and a couple of houses has been renamed Humber Bridge Trail.


A little side excursion brought me to John Lawrie’s house.  This house was built in 1855 of field stone and is being preserved in spite of the large distribution centres being built in the former corn fields behind the house.


Google Maps Link: Humber Bridge Trail

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8 thoughts on “Old Major Mackenzie Drive

  1. garfordorta@gmailcom

    The Old Major Mackenzie Drive Bridge looks very similar to the Bewdley Heritage Sackville Bridge, it was built W.C. Gibson of Port Hope, Ontario. It has a National Heritage significance rating on a scale of 1-10 of 7. See 2oldguyswalking post: Bewdley’s Heritage Sackville Bridge, August/2016.

  2. Barefoot Hiker

    Regarding the tailback… you didn’t miss much. The first time I was out at the bridge was just before Christmas in 2007. The last time I was there was in August of 2013, when I finally decided to see about tackling the old road. It is IMMENSELY overgrown. It’s astonishing, frankly, how quickly almost any trace of the road disappears, aside from the 15-20′ gap in the trees on the southbound lower leg. But once you get to the curve… which, as I recall, astounded me with its brevity… a full, sudden 180 degrees through a circumference that impressed me as about about 40’… you could have almost DROPPED a rock from the upper course out the passenger window onto the lower course… once you turn onto the northbound leg, it’s full-on growth. Maybe a dozen yards up the slope it became impassible. A large old tree had fallen across the road, lying at a height equally inimical to being crawled under or climbed over. I abandoned the attempt at that point, which I’d say was about 60% of the journey.

    The tailback really made an impression on me. No one in their right mind would have taken it at anything much about walking speed, especially with no idea if you’d be meeting another car coming the other way. I can’t believe this thing was part of the road network into the 1970s, and just off a main route like Hwy 27, too. It also really surprised me just how fully nature has recovered it in about 40 years, when a lot of Pottery Road is still far more discernible despite its closure in the 1950s.

    Anyway, I put a couple dozen shots and a short video up on OneDrive so you can see what you didn’t miss out on. The photos are geotagged, IIRC, so you might be able to plot where each was taken. If you play the AVI in VLC, it might balk at you, but that’s because the file is actually 3D. If you select “play as is” (I think), it’ll run as a conventional video, showing just one side. I’ll keep the files up for a month or so, or till I see something here indicating you’ve have a chance to see them.


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  6. Patches Rips

    Aug. 31, 2020 And for what it’s worth, this bridge is gone now. Support-scaffolded below, It was cut into four major major sections (the arches, two deck plates) and apparently hauled out during the past week. This Saturday I was there and found the bridge stacked on the northwest side of the crossing, presumably to be further disposed of. From what I understand, there are no plans to replace it with anything; there’s really no place to go on the far side anymore, since the house was demolished early this month. What puzzles me is the large amount of equipment, including a small front-end loader, they’ve left stranded on the far side. I’ll be curious to see in the next several weeks what their scheme is for getting all that back to the west side.

  7. mrdan8530

    Apparently York Region weighted a few options, and in the end found it was more cost-effective to purchase the property/house on the far end and demolish the old bridge, instead of restoring it or replacing it with a new one.

    The similar decaying bridge around Langstaff may be headed for demolition next, as options for expanding the trail south from Boyd Park along the Humber River are being explored, and the only mention of that bridge is demolition in favour of a replacement for a side path to access Islington/Langstaff.


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