Author Archives: hikingthegta

Ireland Park

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Between 1845 and 1849 the Irish Potato Famine claimed 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 lives and caused a mass emigration from the country.  Many of the refugees came to Montreal and Toronto seeking free land and a chance to provide for their families.  Arriving in Toronto the ships docked at The Queen’s Pier (also known as Queen’s Wharf and today Bathurst Quay).  This was the third wharf in the city built by the military and it stood near the mouth of Garrison Creek at Fort York.  The wharf was buried in 1917 as part of a large in-filling project and is today remembered by Queen’s Wharf Road which runs where it used to extend into the lake.  The 1842 map below shows the wharf at the foot of Bathurst Street with the Garrison Hospital and the military cemetery, Victoria Square both circled.  This is what the city would have looked like when the refugees arrived.

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The idea for Ireland Park started when 7 statues were placed near the dockside in Dublin, Ireland in 1997. This was the 150th anniversary of the famine.  The Toronto park opened ten years later on June 21, 2007 with the president of Ireland doing the honours.  The Irish sculpture is known as Departure while the Toronto one is called Arrival.  The seven statues in Ireland have been reduced to five in Toronto signifying the horrible loss of life that occurred.  The first statue is a triumphant man who stands with his arms raised in thankfulness as he surveys the city of Toronto across the water.  In 1847 there were only 20,000 people in Toronto but they will handle 38,560 refugees, many of whom will pass through the hospital to the graveyard.

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A second statue is of a pregnant lady who stands looking up and clutching her belly.  She faces a new life in a new land with a new life inside her.  Like the others, she looks like she has worn the same clothes for the entire journey and that they may not have been the best to start.

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The little boy that stands to the rear of the woman appears to be unsure of what the future holds as he timidly clutches his hands before himself.  He may represent those children who arrive alone, having lost their family either on the journey or shortly after arriving.

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This individual is known as Pius Mulvey and was inspired by a character in the book Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor.

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The fifth sculpture depicts a woman lying on the ground.  She is in the last moments of life and represents the hope that was never realized for so many.  Seven departed, five arrived and only four survived to become part of the fabric of the city.

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The emigrants that fled from Ireland in 1847 were packed into crowded ships with poor hygiene for weeks during the passage.  The result was an outbreak of typhus on the ships with so many dying on board that they became known as coffin ships.  Upon arrival, the sick were taken to the Garrison Hospital.  When this facility was full they were put into fever sheds.  Within weeks of arriving 1186 of them had died and some were taken to the burial grounds at Victoria Square.  The limestone for the wall pictured below was quarried in Kilkenny, Ireland and stands in the park as a tribute to the people who perished after they arrived in Toronto.

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So far, the names of 675 of the people who died upon arrival have been recovered and engraved on the walls.  The names can be found in the narrow slots between the stones.

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The tower of glass bricks represents hope and is lit up at night.  The spaces between the sections of limestone wall where the names are carved are also lit at night to illuminate the names.  After dark, spotlights on the statues cast eerie shadows onto the abandoned silos behind. The silos represent storage facilities for grain during abundant times and stand in contrast to the poverty that the refugees were fleeing from.

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The Canada Malting Company located a set of concrete silos at the foot of Bathurst Street in 1928.  The waterfront had been used for heavy industry for decades and at one time Polson’s Shipbuilding Yards were located here.  Polson’s Pier in The Port Lands is named after this enterprise.  Storage silos had disappeared from the city because they were made of wood and had a lifespan of about ten years due to the fact that they were severe fire hazards.  The Canada Malting Company used concrete silos to store barley in before it was turned into malt.  The original silos near the lake were 120 feet tall and more storage was added in 1944 in the form of 150-foot tall silos.

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The malt was sold for beer and other uses and the operation continued until 1987 when it was closed.  The city has spent the last 25 years looking for a good way to re-purpose the silos as they have a heritage designation being one of the last two remaining on the waterfront.  Some of the silos have been demolished and the remaining ones are crumbling badly but suggestions for their preservation include turning them into a luxury hotel.  It has also been suggested that they may make a good hotel for the dead in a mausoleum with room for 6,500 coffins and niches for an additional 5,000 urns.

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This immigrant statue surveys the skyline of Toronto and raises his arms at the prospects before him.  It would have looked considerably different in 1847 without the towers crowding out the shoreline.

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Ireland Park is a very small location with a very big story to tell and because it is hidden there was no one here during my visit making it perfect for contemplation of this chapter in our history.  It also looks like an interesting place for an evening visit to see the lighting.

Google maps link: Ireland Park

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Riverdale Park

Sunday, August 6, 2018

One of the first settlers in York (Toronto) was John Scadding.  He worked as secretary to Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe.  In 1794 he built a log cabin on his estate as a first home.  In 1856 the city purchased the Scadding homestead for use as a park and to give the city a place to build a new jail.  Thankfully, the early settlers of Toronto preserved some history for us and his home was moved to the CNE in 1879 to make way for the park.  I parked on Carlton Street near Riverdale Farm and went down the stairs into Riverdale Park West.  On my return trip I walked through Riverdale Farm which is also a great place to visit.

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Originally, Riverdale Park was 120 acres but it was later expanded to 162 acres.  When the Don Valley Parkway was built it split the park in two and reduced the size to the current 104 acres.  The two halves of the park are joined by a pedestrian bridge that gives access to the Lower Don Trail which leads north toward The Bloor Viaduct.  The eastern part of the park is smaller and retains the distinct shape of the old riverbed as can be seen in the picture below.

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In the 1880’s the lower portion of The Don River, the Don Narrows, was straightened out and a couple of sections were cut off from the river.  These sections of the former river now form the ponds in Riverdale Farm.

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The east half of Riverale Park was used as a landfill in the 1920’s and exhaust pipes still line the sides of the park where methane gas is allowed to escape from below.  Along with a sports track there is a swimming pool on the east side of the park.  The north end has been naturalized again and there are many mature trees along the various hiking trails.

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The Task Force To Bring Back The Don has been working on various projects in the park including several tree planting sessions.  The first one on the eastern slopes was actually the first action in the 40 Steps to a New Don River program.  They have also created a small wetland at the base of the ravine where the runoff from the embankment is collected and bulrushes now grow.  Maximilian Sunflowers are growing in a large cluster at an intersection of trails in the woodlot.  They are not native plants and this cluster was likely planted here.  They are often found in the wild as escaped garden plants.

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At the north end of the park a set of accessible ramps leads to a bridge that allows you to cross one of the on-ramps for the DVP.  This bridge makes a great place to get a look at the top end of the park.

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Purple Loosestrife was once considered to be a real threat as an invasive species with fears that it would choke out native wetland plants.  There appears to be a balance now where the plant co-exists with native plants and it may eventually be considered naturalized.  Monarch butterflies were taking advantage of the flowers and the sunshine.

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In 1881 five cannons were brought to Riverdale Park for decorations.  The one that stands near the old jail was cast in 1806 and bears the insignia of King George III who ruled from 1760 until 1820 making him the third longest serving monarch in British history.

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Riverdale Park was once the garden for the Don Jail.  Prisoners were used to tend the gardens as well as look after the buildings and animals at Riverale Zoo.  The Don Jail was built in 1864 as the third jail in the city.  It was considered to be a modern facility at the time with better accommodations than other jails of the era.  It wasn’t too long before overcrowding led to it becoming a dreadful place to spend any time.  There was an addition built in the 1950’s and the original jail was closed in 1977.  The addition has since been closed and demolished.  The remaining jail building is one of the oldest pre-confederation buildings in the city.

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The front entrance to the jail was very ornate with Father Time looking down on all the inmates as they entered the building that would be their new home for the duration of their sentence.  The cover photo shows the front of the building with all of the artwork that decorates it.  The Latin phrase meaning Abandon Hope All Who Enter used to adorn the lintle above the door.  With the old jail now serving as part of a rehab hospital it was considered inappropriate and has been removed.  The inside of the old jail has been renovated but it used to be similar to the Owen Sound Jail we featured earlier this year.  Seventy people were executed at the jail, the last two in 1962.  Unclaimed bodies were buried on the property under what would become a parking lot.  Recent demolition and construction on the site revealed several skeletons.

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Starting in the 1860’s the south corner of Riverdale Park was used for healthcare facilities, originally known as the House of Refuge.  A small pox epidemic in 1875 saw the facility changed into the Riverdale Isolation Hospital.  Patients with contagious diseases were treated here until the late 1950’s.  By 1957 the threat of contagion was greatly reduced and the facility was given a new mandate.  They began taking care of chronic illnesses and rehabilitation.  In 1959 a new building was designed for the Riverdale Hospital.  Mushroom shaped canopies were designed for the entrance to the new facility.  With the construction of the new 10-story Bridgepoint building the mushroom canopies have been preserved as part of the architectural heritage of the site.

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The new healthcare facility also has become a place of public artwork.  The Max Tanenbaum Sculpture Garden contains twenty life-sized sculptures made of metal strips.  They celebrate life through a display of dance and sport themes.

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Riverdale Park has a long history and has seen many changes over the years but remains an interesting place to explore.

Google Maps Link: Riverdale Park

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Palestine – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The town of Palestine was founded in 1823 by Thomas Grafton.  He took the name Palestine from the Holy Land but his community never gained influence beyond a few local farms.  The town built a log school house in 1842 and replaced it with a brick structure in 1863.  Until 1870 church services were held in the school but a separate church building was constructed adjacent to it that year.  The church was closed in 1962 and torn down in 1965.  The general store was small and the town never had a post office of their own.  Today the main intersection has been taken over by city sprawl and only a couple of early farm houses remain.  We decided to hike along Etobicoke Creek through the farms that would have been the northern edge of Palestine but today are overrun by two multi-lane highways.  Kennedy Road is brown on the map below while Heart Lake Road is yellow and Dixie Road is green.  The houses featured in the story are circled and the larger circle indicates the site of the former waste water treatment plant.

Palestine Map

Toadflax, or butter and eggs, is not native to North America but has become naturalized.  Unlike an invasive plant, this one does not take over and crowd out native plants but is found in limited clusters.  Along the trail we found a comparatively large patch growing.  The plant has been used in natural remedies for centuries and is proven to have diuretic properties and is effective in reducing fevers.

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The Etobicoke Creek was full of life with salmon spawning in it every year when the European settlers first arrived.  It wasn’t long before dams prevented fish from getting upstream and mills dumped their waste directly into the creek disturbing the local habitat.  With the growth of Brampton the creek took on a new function with raw sewage being dumped into it.  It became so polluted that something had to be done and so Brampton became home to the first municipal waste water treatment plant in Canada.  Trunk sewer lines were built down the Credit River to the Clarkson Waste Water Treatment Plant and down Etobicoke Creek to the Lakeview Waste Water Treatment Plant making the municipal plant obsolete.  It was decommissioned and removed in the early 2000’s.  Today there is just a series of roads and the outline of the plant to mark the site.

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Before the opening of the 410 in 1978, Heart Lake Road was a continuous road that provided access to the water treatment plant through the driveway on the left in the picture below.  Construction of the 407 in 1997 further divided the road and left it with several names.  This section is now known as Westcreek Boulevard.  Current Etobicoke Creek Trail improvements through the valley include the development of parking lot at the end of this piece of road to allow trail users easy access.  Sketches suggest parking for about 40 vehicles.

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The trail passes under the 407 as it follows the creek south.

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The Etobicoke Creek Trail has entered into a Missing Links program which aims to build four sections of trail to link existing sections and complete the trail.  The Sherway, North and Valleywood Links each have their own timelines but the Kennedy Valley Link is currently under construction.

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The Etobicoke Creek winds through the area revealing evidence of much greater water flow at times in the past.  The ravine cliffs get taller as the creek approaches the lake with some shale banks of 30 metres being revealed downstream.  This far upstream the embankments are much more modest but they have cut as deep as the shale foundations below the topsoil and sand.

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The top of an old windmill stands above the treeline, obscured to those who are following the path to the south by a cluster of trees.  Looking north from the site of the new bridge the crumbling farm relic is easily seen.  Closer investigation reveals an open well with water inside that has no fence around it.  The pump is still down there and the tower is surprisingly solid considering the crumbling condition of the vein on the top.  I wonder how many children in the GTA are learning about alternate energy sources and could benefit from a working example in their local park.  Why not restore it and make it safe rather than demolish it to make it safe?  The story of pioneer windmills is told in greater detail in our post on The Shand Dam.

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The one house remaining in Palestine is that of William Reed.  His original house was replaced with this Edwardian style house around 1910.   The windmill above is on the back of this property.

Palestine

The Royal Grafton property was the original homestead in the community of Palestine.  By 1877 John Wedgewood had bought the west half of the lot and built the house featured below.  John was instrumental in the development of Palestine being involved in the erection of the shcool, temperance hall and church.  Recently the Poweraide Centre has been built on the lot and the future of the house is unknown although attempts to protect the roof are a hopeful sign.

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Japanese Beetles are native to Japan and appear to have found their way to North America in the early 1900’s, likely aboard ships.  They have since spread throughout the eastern parts of The United States and Canada.

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Our hike is outlined in yellow on this Google Earth capture.  The remnants of the wastewater treatment plant are circled in red.

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In the next few years the Etobicoke Creek Trail will be completed and hopefully they will put up interpretive signs for both Palestine and Mt. Charles, two of the ghost towns it will pass along the way.

Google Maps Link: Palestine.

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Escarpment Stairs

Saturday, July 28, 2018

There are currently five  sets of city built stairs climbing the escarpment in Hamilton.  In addition to the stairs in this post, there are also stairs at James, Wentworth and Kenilworth Streets.  The Chedoke Stairs and The Dundurn Stairs are close enough together to form a convenient loop using either The Bruce Trail or The Chedoke Radial Trail.  A short section of road is also needed to complete the walk.

Stairs Trail

We decided to climb the Chedoke stairs because there is a convenient parking in a lot shared with the Chedoke Golf Club and the trail of the same name.  The stairs consist of 289 steel steps with a bicycle trough on the side to make it easy to bring your bike along.  The stairs are divided with a central handrail.  The first step has been labelled “Welcome to paradise” and every few steps from there to the top has another encouraging quip.  It may be a little tongue-in-cheek as the top of the stairs is in Upper Paradise, you just need to ascend the stairs to get there.  The stairs have been numbered every so often to keep you on track as you climb.

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To the right of the stairs are two waterfalls that have not been posted as No Trespassing.  These twin tributaries of Chedoke Creek meet at the point where their respective courses drop over the Whirlpool Formation which is a harder layer of dolomite above the Queenston shale that marks the bottom of the escarpment.  Many of the escarpment waterfalls have an upper and lower falls.  The lower falls usually drop over the same layer of escarpment, a trait they share with The Devil’s Punch Bowl whose lower falls look very similar to these two falls.  Lower Cliffview and Lower Westcliff Falls have an upper falls that we did not explore on this adventure.

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Lower Westcliff Falls is the right hand of the two falls.  It drops 9 metres and has a crest width of 6 metres.  There is a small cascade at the top of the falls that must be quite impressive when the water flow is greater.

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Just to the right is the crest of Lower Cliffview Falls.  It is 4 metres high and 3 metres wide making it a little less impressive than its sister falls.  It also has an impressive shale washboard above the falls which makes another great cascade when there is more water in the creek.

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Returning to the stairs we made our way to the top into Cliffview Park.  From here we followed Scenic Drive to the left and made our way to Chedoke Falls.  The falls emerge just beside the fence and the only upper view is of the water cascading toward the crest.  There are three no trespassing signs including one banning fence climbing.  Apparently these are ineffective at keeping people out of the gorge as there was also a uniformed by-law officer standing beside me as I took the picture below.  Under close scrutiny we left and made our way to the Dundurn Stairs.

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We made a detour onto Balfour Drive thinking there might be access to the park but there isn’t.  We returned to Garth Street to access the Dundurn Stairs.  656 Garth Street is also known as the Stone Cottage and is owned by the Ontario Heritage Foundation and was rented to the city for $1,750 per month on a thirty year lease which began in 1979.  It was built in 1845 and displays quite a different architecture to the other houses that surround it.

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The Dundurn Stairs were originally built from wood but replaced in the 1990’s with 326 steel steps.  These stairs are single lane without a bicycle trough which means that a bike must be carried up or down the stairs on your shoulder.

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We took the stairs to the bottom where they meet the Chedoke Trail back to the car.  Retracing our steps brought us back to the crossing of the Bruce Trail which we used to return to the Chedoke Stairs.

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Someone has set up a tent in a hollow along the side of the trail.  While he may be hidden, it could get flooded in a hurry if a rainstorm passes through.

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With at least three unexplored waterfalls, there will likely be another trip to this neighbourhood at some point in time.

Google Maps Link: Chedoke Golf Course Parking.

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Thomson Memorial Park

 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Thomson Memorial Park sits on one of the first plots of land to be deeded in Scarborough Township and the first one to be settled.  Arhibald Thomson emigrated from Dumfriesshire in the Scottish Lowlands during the late 18th century when the English were clearing out the poor and disenfranchised that the Uprising of 1743 had left behind.  After spending some time in New York State he moved to Upper Canada when the American Revolution was raging.  Achibald had been displaced by King George III but was still loyal to the crown and so he came to Upper Canada as a United Empire Loyalist.  Even so he wasn’t keen on living too close to the Family Compact that had taken firm control of York following the Battle of York.   In 1795 he managed to convince his two younger brothers, David and Andrew, to join him in Canada they took up two adjacent lots in Scarborough Township.  These are roughly outlined in green on the 1877 county atlas below although some portions have been sold off and others deeded to different family members.  The yellow line is the lane way for St. Andrews Presbyterian Church which was built on land David Thomson gave to the church.  The three red ovals mark the site of a native village of longhouses from the 1200’s.

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The Scottish brought their faith with them and church meetings were a central gathering place for farmers scattered across the side roads.  In 1818 a Presbyterian Congregation was established that met sporadically in peoples homes.  David Thomson donated an acre of property for a church building and a kirkyard to bury their dead on a rise of land overlooking their farm.  The original wooden building was erected in 1819 and replaced with the current brick building in 1849.  The church is celebrating their 200th anniversary this year making them the oldest Presbyterian church in the city of Toronto.  Above the door is a date stone with the words Jehoveh Jireh (The Lord will provide) and the year 1849.  In 1834 the church organized the first library in Scarborough with James Thomson as librarian.  When a new building was erected in 1896 it was placed adjacent to the church.

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The original one acre of land that was given to the church contained a small cemetery and a wood frame building.  When the new church was built the old one was dismantled and the site was taken over as graveyard.  Many Thomsons are buried here with one recent interment taking place in 2013.  David and Mary lie here and have had a new monument erected in their honour.

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A church sexton was the person who was charged with taking care of the church, cemetery grounds and for digging graves.  At St. Andrews the congregation built a home for the sexton in 1883.  This story and a half house stands at the far end of the cemetery from the church.  The simple board and batten construction was typical for worker’s homes in that era.  The house opens into the cemetery as a back yard and there are reports of the cemetery and the house both being haunted.

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William D. Thomson was the eighth child of David and Mary and in 1848 he built a field stone house at the corner of the church lane and Brimley Road. As a result he would gain the nickname “Stonehouse Willie”.  William’s granddaughter Isabella lived in this house from 1942 to 1970 when she passed away at the age of 96.  When she graduated in medicine in 1902 Isabella was the first Scarborough woman to become a doctor.  She then served in India for 40 years before returning home.

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Just past the church is the home built by Andrew Thomson in 1840.  Andrew was a brother of David Thomson.  Across Brimley Road from the old lane way to the church was an additional parcel of land that belonged to David Thomson.  On the table lands above Highland Creek a village of longhouses stood around 1200 A.D.  Excavations revealed 17 longhouses and thousands of fragments of pottery and bone.  Many spear and arrow heads were also recovered.  Eight hundred years ago the scene would have been much different than the picture below with forests surrounding the village and the creek flowing much stronger than today.  The natives lived on simple agriculture, fishing and hunting.  They buried their dead on a hill to the east of the village.  Today we call it Taber Hill and the remains of 472 people were discovered there in two ossuaries.  Three red ovals mark the site of the longhouses on the county atlas above.

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Thomson Memorial Park sits on the homestead of David and Mary.  The park is also home to the Scarborough Historical Society which has gathered a small display of buildings and artifacts.  Both of the historical houses on the property have been reported to be haunted.  One display in the collection is the original tools  from the Hough Carriage Works that operated at Eglinton and Birchmount Road starting in 1856.  They produced carriages, wagons and bicycles for the area until the 1940’s when the buildings were demolished.  The equipment was saved and in 1984 the Scarborough Historical Society built a 1/4 scale shop in which to house them.  One of the tools on display is Hough’s 1871 manual drill press.  It was used to drill holes in wood and thin metal.

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The museum houses a Penny-Farthing bicycle that was made in the carriage works building some time in the 1880’s.  The bicycle adopted the name based on the wheel sizes.  In order to make peddling easy and high speeds achievable, the front wheel was much larger than the rear.  This design allowed the cyclist to travel a large distance relative to a short pedal stroke.  The invention of chain driven gear systems on bikes allowed the wheels to be smaller reducing the risk of falling from a height.  The name reflects the difference in size between a British penny and a farthing.

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This log cabin was built in 1830 and occupied by a lifelong bachelor named William Porteus McCowan.  It was typical of a first home for a new settler and would have been built from the first few trees cleared on the lot.  McCowan was a sheep farmer and shared the cabin with his workers who slept in the attic.  Other members of the McCowan family settled near the Scarborough Bluffs and McCowan Road is named in honour of the family.

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The Cornell house was built in 1858 and would be typical of a second house, built by an established family.  The Cornells were apple farmers and their 8 children supplied much of the labour.  The house was moved to this location in 1962 when the land it was sitting on was expropriated for a new railway bridge.  The house is furnished in the late 19th century style and has many original household items that belonged to the Cornell family.

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Thomson Memorial Park is 103 acres covering half of Scarborough’s first land grant and with all the trails, open space and historical museum it makes a great place to visit.

Google Maps Link: Thomson Memorial Park

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Ontario Place

July 15, 2018

Ontario Place was a jewel on the Toronto waterfront for 40 years before declining attendance caused the government to shut it down in October 2011 for the last time.  Plans were immediately announced that major renovations were planned and the park would re-open in time for Canada 150 in July 2017.  This didn’t happen and a change of provincial governments threatens to derail the project further.  I decided to take a walk around the park and see what is going on these days.

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Ontario Place was designed by Toronto architect Eberhard Zeidler.  A large part of the concept for Ontario Place came from the idea to have large display pods built over the water.  The idea likely was inspired by Expo 67 where Pods were built over the Saint Lawrence River in Montreal.  Three artificial islands were created in the harbour that are connected to the mainland by three bridges.  The central bridge connects to the set of pods which make up the middle island.  The five elevated pods are interconnected as they stand above Lake Ontario.  Each pod is a three story structure that encloses 743 square metres of space.  Originally used for multimedia exhibitions, they were intended to be flexible and accommodate other uses over the years.

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This is the seventh season that Ontario Place has been largely abandoned although it does appear to be open as I was not challenged by the staff I passed on the bridge.  The entire time that I spent walking through the park I met less than twenty other people.  It truly felt like walking through a ghost town.

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In the 1980’s over 3 million people per year visited the park but by 2010 the number was down to only 10% of that.  The log fume on the west island was always sure to soak the riders, a welcome treat on a hot day.

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The park was in a continual state of development with new attractions being added as the years went by.  The original pods were not the raving success that was envisioned but the idea of showcasing the northern part of the province was seen as a way of potentially attracting professionals to relocate north where there was a shortage of people.  In 1980 silos were constructed that resemble farm silos that stand across rural Ontario.  The wildlife displays didn’t do as well as expected and the silos were eventually converted into additional rides.

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The Cinesphere showcased the world’s first permanent IMAX projector on a screen that was 24 metres wide and 18 metres high.  The dome is 35 metres wide and when it opened in 1971 it became the icon of Ontario Place.  It was so successful that there was a regular line-up to get in.  On a school trip we saw a movie called Snow Day in which it felt like we were in a school bus running out of control on snowy roads.  A good choice for kids who had arrived via school bus.  Cinesphere was closed in 2012 along with the rest of the park but in 2014 the dome was given a cultural heritage designation.  As of 2017 the theater is open again on a full time basis with state of the art equipment.

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March of 1969 saw the first activity in the building of Ontario Place and it opened just over two years later on May 22, 1971.  Construction of the Cinesphere and the pods is seen in this 1970 photograph from the Toronto Archives.

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The design called for display pods suspended over the water to display the scientific and technological wonders of Ontario.  Constructing the pods over open water became an engineering problem and the costs mounted to the point of consuming the budget.  To reduce the costs a protective break wall was designed using three obsolete lake freighters.  They were sunk and filled with concrete to create a safe harbour for a marina.  The ships can be walked out to the end where one of the bridges is open for exploration.  The three ships anchors are also preserved on the third ship.  The picture below shows the outline of two of the ships where they meet.

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The 1970 photo below shows the three ships, reported to be the The Shaw, The Houghton and The Victorious in their positions with the west island being formed out of lake fill.

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The pods are now underutilized and the iconic sets of stairs on the outside are peeling and no longer ring with the sounds of crowds filled with laughter.

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The water park covered much of the east island and went under the name Soak City.  A series of coloured water slides was installed in the 1990’s and was a popular attraction until the park closed.  The slides remained in place until May of 2016 when they were disassembled to prevent a potential injury to people who insisted on climbing up and even rollerblading down them.  Today the central support tower is all that’s left except for a few abutments to mark the site of the water park.

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Trillium Park, containing the William G.  Davis Trail is the first part of Ontario Place to get a completely new lease on life.  This area was formerly a 7.5 acre parking lot.  Today it has been converted into a lush green space with a 1.3 kilometre trail named after Bill Davis who was premier on Ontario in 1971 when Ontario Place first opened.  The trail passes through an artificial ravine and contains the Moccasin Marker.  The carvings on either side of the ravine are intended to remind us of those who were here before us.

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I picked a good time to visit as the Indy was on and parts of Lakeshore Avenue were closed for the race.  I decided to park at Budapest Park and walk part of the Martin Goodman Trail to reach Ontario Place.  I used the Bruce Trail App to track my walk which came out to 10.4 kilometres.  By parking at Ontario Place you can explore the area with three or four kilometres worth of walking.   Be sure to make the walk along along the three sunken ships that is represented by the tail extending out into the lake on the map below.

Ontario Place

Having visited the park in 1972 or 1973 with my aunt and uncle, both of whom have passed on, I have fond memories of an Ontario Place that was vibrant and full of people.  It’s sad to see what has become of our waterfront park especially when there is no clear timeline for completion of the renovations.

As a parting thought, would you have wanted this job building the Cinesphere?

Cinesphere

Google Maps Link: Ontario Place

For additional places to explore visit our recent Greatest Treks 3 post.

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The Great Esker

July 7, 2018

This week I bought the Bruce Trail App for my phone and so it got it’s first workout.  After identifying a section we hadn’t been on before we set out for the parking area on the map (8th line north of 22 Side road, north of Georgetown).  There are several places that you can pull off and park that are not on the map including where the main trail crosses the road a little farther north.  With the tracking feature turned on it marked our trail as we progressed and created a record of the hike that can be saved toward earning trail badges.

Great Esker

We entered on the Eight Line Side Trail and made our way to The Great Esker Side Trail.  Along the way we identified the remains of an old car in the woods.  It has clearly been there for decades as it has no motor and is surrounded by mature trees. It is in a very advanced state of decay.  The front bumpers and grill pattern were quite unique in the various car models of the 1940’s.  Having looked through hundreds of online picyures, positive identification wasn’t possible but the closest candidate was a 1946 Chevy Stylemaster.  That particular car was a sedan and this model was most likely a truck.

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Flowering Raspberries grow along the trail in many places.  Their flowers are quite large for the raspberry family and have a long period of blooms which also makes them of special interest to honey bees.  The fruit looks like a large flat raspberry and is used by mammals and birds.

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Eskers are glacial deposits that run in nearly straight lines and rise above the surrounding landscapes.  They are formed during the melting phase of the ice age when water is rushing in a river either over or under the ice.  The formation of eskers is described in greater detail in our earlier post The Brampton Esker.  The Great Esker Side Trail runs, in part, along the top of an esker.  It stands about 30 metres above the surrounding terrain but is much shorter than the one in Brampton.  As far as eskers go, the Great Esker isn’t so great.  The Thelon Esker is almost 800 kilomtres long.  The trail leads directly up the esker.

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The escarpment is made up of limestone and harder layers of dolostone.  Scattered throughout the landscape are large granite boulders that appear to be out of place.  They have been carried by the glacier and deposited across the province by the retreating ice sheet.  Rocks that are different sizes or minerals than the ones common to where they are found are known as glacial erratics.

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Old stone fences run through the trees marking off the earlier fields.  More recently some guide wires have been put in some places along the trail.  These are growing into the trees in several spots.

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Most of the mayapples, or mandrakes, have been harvested by the local wildlife but a couple large ones remained that are still green.  When they start to turn yellow they will put off a pungent odor that attracts raccoons. It is suggested to remove the seeds if you do happen to harvest some of this native fruit.  You’ll have to be lucky because the raccoons check daily for the newly ripening fruit.

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Butterflies abound along the trial and this Appalachian Brown was one of several flittering among the plants.

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The poison ivy doing very well along the sides of the trails.  Urushiol oil in the leaves and stem causes an allergic reaction in 85% of people.  It is white when the stem is broken but turns black upon exposure to oxygen.  The oil is highly concentrated and a drop the size of a pin head can cause an allergic reaction in 500 people.  In the United States about 350,000 people a year get a rash that can last for up to 3 weeks.

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One of the truly interesting boardwalks is this one that takes advantage of this tree and the massive root system to carry the trail.

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Snow’s Creek Falls are located at the intersection of 27th side road and the 8th line so we made a detour to see how much water was there at this time.

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It was certainly cool to check out the Great Esker Side Trail and take the Bruce Trail App for a test run.  It likely means more hikes on the Bruce in the near future.

Google Maps Link: The Great Esker Side Trail

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