Monthly Archives: December 2019

QEW’s Heritage Bridge

Saturday, December 21, 2019

When the completed Queen Elizabeth Way opened in 1939 it had the distinction of being the first super-highway in Canada and the also first one to be fully illuminated at night.  (Although that was delayed until war-time electricity restrictions were lifted in 1945.)  Several bridges were built over the major ravines and the one over the Credit River in Mississauga has been given an historic designation. In April 2019 the Provincial Government announced funding to rehabilitate the bridge and build a second one directly to the north to allow for increased traffic flow.  By November they had decided to demolish the bridge and build two new ones in a modern box design.  Public outcry has resulted in the recent announcement that the government will only seek tenders that include the preservation and restoration of the historic bridge.

IMG_8753

I decided to stop by and see what the bridge looked like and get some pictures in case the ongoing flip-flop continues and we end up without this structure.  It can be most easily seen from Stavebank Road north.  The bridge was built in 1934 and was partially financed under the New Deal that was a government spending program intended to spur the economy during the Great Depression.  The bridge is 840 feet long with seven spans and is historic for its Art Deco design.  Also significant is the fact that the highway was commissioned by the king and queen during the first ever visit to Canada by a reigning monarch.

IMG_8755

The bridge, along with the highway, was officially opened on June 7, 1939 by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  Initially conceived in 1931, the highway was simple and intended to relieve congestion on Dundas Street and Lakeshore Road.  The new road would run between the two and be known as Middle Road for that reason.  This early version of the highway contains the historically significant Middle Road Bridge.  With the election of Mitch Hepburn’s Liberals in 1934 the plans were altered significantly in favour of a superhighway like the autobahns being built in Germany.  This resulted in the first cloverleaf in Canada being built for the interchange with Hurontario (Highway 10).  The Middle Road section of the highway opened in 1937 and was the 39 kilometres between Highway 27 and Burlington which included this bridge.  This picture features the view downstream.

IMG_8761

The view looking north up The Credit River from under the bridge.  Much of the eastern side of the river is wetland and marsh through this reach.

IMG_8763

There is a steel structure that has been installed between the main arches of the bridge and dates to the 1960 addition of two extra lanes in the middle of the bridge.  This allowed the highway to expand from four lanes to six.

IMG_8772

The bridge has been maintained several times including 1977, 1987 and 2014 but the weather and road salt is getting at it in several places again.  This looks like another opportunity for some patching of the decay.  There’s  few cavities but no root canal or extraction appears to be warranted.

IMG_8767

Part of the restoration will include replacing the road deck which is starting to rust in a few places.

IMG_8808

This Ministry of Transportation image shows the twin box design bridges that we almost got at this site.  It would seem that the new bridge on the north side of the existing one may use this design as it is a current favourite with the government.

QEW Bridges

The architecture of the bridge is interesting in that the supports for the arches have their own arches included.  No such Art Deco design elements would be included in a replacement bridge.

IMG_8807

The bridge features some interesting lamp posts with the letters “ER” in the iron work.  This is Latin for Elizabeth Regina, or Queen Elizabeth.  It would be easy to conclude that this refers to Queen Elizabeth II, our current monarch.  However, she was only a 13-year old princess when and it was opened.  It was actually named for King George VI’s wife whose name was Elizabeth.  She was later known as the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II is her daughter.  The government plan for the demolition of the bridge would have seen the ornate lamp posts preserved and re-installed somehow in the new structure.  Fortunately they can be preserved in their current position on the rehabilitated bridge.

IMG_8803

Each day over 165,000 vehicles pass over this bridge but apart from the lamp posts most of them will never see the architecture of the bridge.  So, why care about a design that only a few fishermen and local residents will ever see?  The issue has far reaching implications because once heritage structures start to be demolished for economic reasons the entire designation system will become powerless to protect our remaining history.

Google Maps Link:  QEW Bridge

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Look for us on Instagram

 

 

 

 

Streetsville – Timothy Street

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The founder of Streetsville was born in New York in 1777 and emigrated to Upper Canada in 1801 after marrying Abigail Smith.  They lived near Niagara for twenty years and in 1818-1819 Timothy financed the survey of Toronto Township and was compensated with 4500 acres of land that would become the town of Streetville.  We decided to go and explore some of the legacy he left behind.  We parked on Mill Street beside his historic home.  The county atlas below shows how large Streetsville had become by 1877 when it was released.

Streetsville (2)

Timothy founded a milling empire and in 1825 built the house that still stands at the end of Mill Street near his mills.  He first built a grist mill around 1822 and soon added a lumber and saw mill.  He continued to expand by adding a tannery, distillery and clothing mill.  The brick house he constructed is considered to be the first brick house to be built in Peel County and remains the oldest one.  It is a story and a half and has been added to at least twice partly to accommodate the 12 children he raised along with Abigail.

IMG_8641

Timothy needed water to power his mills and so he built a dam across the Credit River just north of the mills.  He found a narrow place where an earthen berm could be built to retain the mill pond.  Originally the dam would have consisted of a wooden crib across the river that was filled with stones.  This type of dam required constant repairs, some of which could be quite dangerous.  Many millers lost their lives trying to save their mill dams from being washed away in the raging spring waters.

IMG_8645

In 1824 Timothy Street deeded an acre of his land to the Presbyterian Church for the purposes of establishing a Protestant cemetery.  Five of his own children would die in their youth and be buried in this cemetery.

IMG_8660

Timothy Street died an January 31, 1848 and was buried in the cemetery where his children were interred.

IMG_8661

From the pioneer cemetery the silos of the Barbertown mills can be seen.  The milling community of Barbertown was located at the Credit River and Eglinton Avenue.  It included what was the largest woolen mill in Ontario during the middle of the 1800’s.

IMG_8664

The trails along the sides of the Credit River through Streetsville form part of the Culham Trail and will eventually be part of the Credit Valley Trail.

IMG_8656

By 1890 the pioneer cemetery was reaching capacity and land for a new cemetery was donated to the town by Timothy Street’s daughter.

IMG_8650

A new study has found that squirrels use the local birds to help them determine if it is safe to go outside their nests.  Squirrels will listen to the tweets of birds in the area to help them understand if there could be red-tailed hawks near by.  When the birds are chattering away in normal fashion the squirrels go about their usual business of gathering nuts.  When the birds go silent the squirrels interpret this to mean danger and they take cover.

IMG_8654

The first high school in Peel county as built in Streetsville in 1851.  It was enlarged in 1877 when the two rooms in the front were added along with the Italianate tower.  It served as the school for 115 years before being converted to the town hall in 1966.  By 1974 it had been converted to be the local police station before its present tenant, the Kinsmen Senior Citizens Centre.

IMG_8667

Streetsville is one of the truly unique places where the city has surrounded a small town but failed to absorb it.  As a result Streetsville still has a lot of its small town charm and we have visited several times.

Further reading about Streetsville: Alpha Mills, Streetsville’s Forgotten Foundations, Hyde Mill, Barbertown

Google Maps Link: Mill Street Streetsville

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also look for us on Instagram

Donalda Farm

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The property of the current Donalda Golf Club contains some of the oldest farm buildings remaining in the city of Toronto as well as one of the earliest surviving grist mills.  The property was deeded to William and Alexander Gray in 1825.  They quickly built a small milling empire along the sides of the Don River.  The County Atlas from 1877 shows the grist mill on one side of the river and the saw mill on the other.  The saw mill vanished when the timber industry ran out of local wood to use.  The grist mill was incorporated into later structures and the old lane way to the grist mill survives today as an access road.

Donalda

The lane way has been recognized for its historical significance and is now protected under the heritage act.  It served as an access road to allow farmers to bring their grain to the mill to sell it or have it ground for flour.  It served as a given road between the modern day Don Mills Road and Victoria Park Avenue.  The eastern half of this given road has been closed and serves the golf course.

IMG_3110

Around 1840 the two brothers built brick homes that stood side by side and just across the lane way from the grist mill.  These two houses still survive on the property and unfortunately it looks like the front of one of them has been painted red.  This hides the patterned brick work that is still evident on the side.  This house has a Georgian Style, a design that was popular between 1790 and 1875.

IMG_8679

The second house lacks the patterned brick but has a more Gothic design, popular from 1830-1890.  Based on the architectural styles it would appear that this house was constructed some time after the first one.

IMG_8680

The grist mill was built in the 1830s and operated until the farm was sold in 1916.  The Grays ground their own brand of flour which they called Wee MacGregor.  It is the oldest surviving grist mill in the city that stands on the original site.  The grain elevator shaft can still be found at the rear of the old mill.

IMG_8687

One of the doors on the top floor of the old grist mill appears to have shifted in its track.

IMG_8692

In 1916 David A Dunlap and Jesse Donalda Dunlap bought the farm from the Grays with the intention of building a model farm.  They had some ideas for sanitary husbandry that were ahead of their time and they wanted to showcase them to the world.  They hired the architects Wickson & Gregg to design and build their new barn, incorporating the old barn into the structure.  The cattle enjoyed soft radio music in the barn that featured fresh air ventilation.  In the winter they had steam heating to keep them warm and comfortable.  The pigs were bathed in olive oil and washed with toilet soap.  The front side of the old grist mill can be seen in this picture on the left of the new barn.

IMG_8681

The farm expanded to include 1800 acres of land with over 40 farm buildings and 30 employees .  A lot of attention to detail and fine workmanship went into everything including something as functional as the silo where the animal feed was kept.  No boring old poured concrete for this granary but rather some rather beautiful tiles have been used.

IMG_8693

This picture shows the farm buildings and the old grist mill from the side of the river where the saw mill once stood.

IMG_8684

David Dunlap made his fortune by founding the world’s greatest silver mine followed by founding the second greatest gold mine.  Although they never lived there permanently in 1920 the Dunlaps decided to build a new home that would be used as their country retreat.  The house was given doric columns and wrought iron was used to create a classical design.  When David died in 1924 he left a 5 million dollar estate farm that his wife operated with their son until it was sold in 1952.  By 1960 it had become the Donalda Golf Club and the home was renovated to become the club house.

IMG_8678

David Dunlap left a quarter million dollars each to several schools, hospitals and churches.  His donation to Toronto General Hospital funded the Dunlap Radiological Science Department.

Google Maps Link: Donalda Golf Course

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also look for us on Instagram

 

Chedoke Ski Hill

Saturday, November 30, 2019

On January 7, 1964 Chedoke Winter Sports Park was officially opened.  Mayor Vic Copps and  head of the parks board Thomas Newlands cut the ribbon that opened the first run with its 900 foot tow rope.  Over time two more tow ropes and a chair lift would be added along with sled runs.  The park operated until 2002 when poor snow conditions caused the city of Hamilton to decide not to open it that year.  The following year it was closed permanently with the city citing an annual loss of $250,000.  The cost of upgrading the snow making equipment to be able to perform in warmer temperatures along with lift upgrades would have cost an additional $3,000,000.  Over the next few years most of the poles and lift equipment was removed guaranteeing that it would never open again.  The picture below was taken from The Hamilton Spectator and shows the ribbon cutting ceremony that opened the park.

Chedoke opening

The winter sports park added additional ski runs over the years as well as more tow lifts.  Eventually, a run would be opened from the top of the escarpment and it would be served by a chair lift.  Sled runs were also added and the park served as a winter destination for the next four decades.  Attendance declined over the years and the cost of operating the hill continued to increase until the city decided to close it permanently.

The Chedoke Rail Trail runs along the bottom of the escarpment near the Chedoke Golf Course and it has one unusual tunnel just north of the parking lot.  This tunnel allowed pedestrians to pass under the tow rope that carried skiers back to the top of the hill.  The tunnel is flanked on both sides by abandoned lamps that lit the former ski hill.

IMG_8573

This tow rope supported one of the shorter runs and ended just a few metres above the  Bruce Trail.  The concrete pads where the upper wheel was located have been left behind.  Near this spot is an open pit that contained snow making pipes and equipment so watch where you step if you explore this area.

IMG_8537

Each of the ski runs was lit for night skiing.  Although the lift mechanisms have been removed, the light fixtures were left behind.  They will slowly be overtaken by the new forest growth and will seem somewhat out of place to future explorers after the ski hills have been forgotten.

IMG_8586

Between 2003 and 2009 most of the lift equipment was removed from the site.  All of the lift poles and tow ropes were disassembled and carted away except for the main drive unit for the chair lift.  It still stands at the bottom of the longest run, hiding in a green shed.

IMG_8567

Inside the shed the main wheel and drive assembly still stands although the lift cable has been removed.  The wheel assembly is mounted on a pit in the floor that allowed the mechanism to be pulled backward by means of a hand crank and a series of cables.  This was used to keep the tension on the main lift cable.

IMG_3029

From outside of the lift shed the view up the hill reveals how quickly the trees are creeping back onto the ski slope.  The lift towers and chairs have been removed so we had to climb to the top.  The Bruce Trail crosses the slope about half way up the picture.

IMG_8587

Three rows of PVC pipe run down the length of the longest run.  These were used for the snow making equipment.  Expensive upgrades to this system  to allow snow making in warmer temperatures were cited as part of the reason for closing the site down.  The lift poles were removed that ran along beside these pipes and yet they were left behind.  It wouldn’t have taken much more effort to cut these up and cart them away while they were at it.  Estimates suggest that these pipes will still be laying here in the year 2500 if no one collects them.

IMG_8557

From the top of the escarpment you get a nice view out across Burlington Bay.  The first part of this run is pretty steep and was the adrenaline rush that the more experienced skiers were looking for.

IMG_8593

From this location on the top of the hill you are close to the old Mountain Sanatorium where they used to treat people with tuberculosis.  The sanatorium is now abandoned and most of the buildings have been torn down.  The Cross of Lorraine still stands at the top of the escarpment to mark the old hospital and it is visible from the trail below.  The gray squirrel has an average lifespan of 6 years if they make it past heir youth.  Records show lives of up to 20 years in captivity.

IMG_8614

We followed the Robert MacLaren Side Trail along the top of the escarpment with the plan of taking the Chedoke Stairs back down to the Chedoke Rail Trail and from there to investigate a couple of local waterfalls.  From the trail you can see the top of Westcliffe Falls but the actual waterfall is hidden from view.  A little farther along you come to a spectacular view of Cliffview Falls.  The view from the top suggested that it would be worth the effort to follow the creek from the bottom of the escarpment back up to the bottom of the waterfall.

IMG_3040

The waterfalls are located at the bottom of the Chedoke Stairs.   There are two waterfalls that meet near the bottom of the ravine and share a lower falls.  The Lower Cliffview Falls are on the left and Lower Westcliffe Falls on the right.

IMG_8534

Westcliffe Falls is a 15-metre complex ribbon falls that is mostly hidden from the regular trails in the area.  However, you can climb past the lower falls and from there it is a short, easy climb to the main falls.  It is located in the ravine on the right above the combined lower falls.

IMG_8598

Cliffview Falls is 15 metres tall and is a terraced ribbon falls.  Both of these waterfalls are nice in spite of the low flow of water.  In the spring when the water is at its peak flow they are both likely to be quite spectacular, with Westcliffe being the more interesting of the two.

IMG_8603

Having climbed up the ravine to view the two sets of falls we returned to the car having fully enjoyed the day.

Further reading about local attractions near Chedoke Ski Hill:

Escarpment Stairs, Mountain Sanatorium, Chedoke Rail Trail

Google Maps Link: Chedoke Stairs 

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Follow us on Instagram