Bruce Trail – Crawford Forestry Tract

Saturday, July 27, 2019

It promised to be a very hot summer day and so we decided to take cover on a shady section of The Bruce Trail.  The Crawford Forestry Tract is a secondary part of Crawford Lake Conservation Area and is just west of the park.  The main Bruce Trail runs through both areas and so we parked on Twiss Road where there is space for several cars at the trail crossing and set out to walk through the forestry tract.

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In part of the cedar forest we came across what appeared to be a red flower similar to a poppy.  The cup in the middle was recessed quite deep but didn’t have normal flower parts inside but rather a centre the same as the outside.

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The patterns of gills underneath reveal that it is in fact a type of mushroom.  This is most likely some kind of scarlet waxy cap that has become deformed and sunken in the middle as it starts to decay.  There is nothing in the mushroom book that looks like a poppy.   The Crawford Forestry Tract is also known as Crawford Tract II provides habitat for 14 species which are at risk.  There’s also 3 globally and 7 provincially rare habitat types in the park.

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There are wetlands throughout the forestry tract and the water lilies are in bloom.

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The Crawford Tract has some sections of trail that are typical of the escarpment where you are walking over limestone and dolomite boulders that have been broken apart by karst activity.

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Coral Spring Mycena is one of the first gilled mushrooms to appear in the spring, however it will be found from May until September.  It also goes by the name Orange Bonnet and because it is so small most people consider it to be inedible.

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Slugs and snails are related to oysters and clams in that they are all molluscs.  The front end has either two or four antenna.  If there is only two they will each have an eye on it.  If there are four the additional two will be used for sensory perceptions. This little yellow one is known as a garden slug.

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When you reach Guelph Line you have an option to continue into the Crawford Lake Conservation Area.  Once there you can explore the park, take a hike around the meromictic lake and visit the reconstructed longhouses.  We decided instead to head back because that would have added considerable distance to the hike and it was already one of those hot days when it is prudent not to push it too far.

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When you walk a trail in two directions you often see things on the return trip that you didn’t catch on the way in.  It was starting to seem that mushrooms had appeared in the time between our two passes.  A large patch of Burnt-orange Bolete mushrooms was appearing, several just breaking ground.  These mushrooms are listed as edible but apparently have a bitter taste.

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There’s never a shortage of things to see along the Bruce Trail and at this time of year the mushrooms are out in their short lived glory.  For many of them you have only one day to see them at their best before they start to fade and rot.

Google Maps Link: Crawford Forestry Tract

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Cedarvale Park

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Cedarvale Park spans the ravine which Castle Frank Brook originally ran in.  The park runs basically from Eglinton Avenue to St. Clair Avenue.  It takes its name from the neighbourhood in which it is found.  We decided to visit the park and found that parking near the south end of Glen Cedar Bridge allowed access to the ravine by a set of stairs.

The community of Cedarvale was envisioned by Sir Henry Pellat who owned Casa Loma and the 300 acre property south of Eglinton and west of Bathurst.  The plan was to build homes for the wealthy in two subdivisions with the Castle Frank Brook Ravine dividing the two.  Connaught Avenue was to be the central roadway and would cross the ravine on a grand bridge which we now know as Glen Cedar Bridge.  The historic photo of the bridge below is from the city archives and was taken in April 1915.

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The plan was very ambitious but was disrupted by the depression and only the southern section of Cedarvale was built until many years later.  The set of stairs which provides access to the trails in the ravine descends at the north end of the bridge.

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By 1973 the bridge was no longer considered safe and it was designated as a pedestrian bridge.  It continued to deteriorate and by the end of the decade the city decided to demolish it.  The picture below from Toronto Public Library is dated 1987 and shows the condition of the road bed.

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Members of the community rallied together and saved the bridge which has led to restoration as an ongoing pedestrian and bicycle bridge.

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The sides of the ravine are covered with mature trees and several of the houses have had steps built into the slopes to provide access to the park.  One of the oddities we found was this cable that has been strung between two trees that are only a few feet apart.  The original use is not readily apparent.

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Mulberry bushes grow in several places in the park.  Many people don’t realize that these berries are edible, not that we’re advocating eating the fruit in your local park.  Mulberries have a very high level of protein and iron compared to a lot of fruit.  They are also full of antioxidant and fibre as well as vitamin C.

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Even though the park was cleared through the centre in 1975 to facilitate subway construction the sides of the ravine contain a few mature trees.  The side trails are regenerating with trees that have been planted by countless volunteers over the decades.

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Blackish-red Russula is also known as brittlegill.  It is an edible mushroom and is said to be mild tasting compared to some of the hot Russula species.  It is best to eat this one cooked although some sites don’t recommend it at all.

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It was one of those hot summer days when the open areas in the park were uncomfortable for hiking through.  A highly controversial plan to build The Spadina Expressway would have seen the ravine and the park become an expressway.  Allen Road is a section of the Spadina Expressway that was actually built and it ends at Eglinton Avenue.  From there the highway would have run through the ravine to meet up with Spadina in a similar manner to how the Don Valley Parkway dominates that rivers ravine.

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Toward the north end of the park is a large off-leash area for dogs.  The rest of the park is considered to be on-leash although it would be impossible to tell that from the dogs running around loose.  Adjacent to the dog park is a concrete structure with a doorway that is built into the side of a hill.  This is an emergency entrance/exit to the Spadina Subway line that runs underneath the park.  With the cancellation of the exressway through the park, it became a prime candidate for the alignment of the subway which was to run under Allen Road as far as Sheppard Avenue.  In the mid-1970’s the park was completely disrupted by the construction of the subway line.  The tunnels were built using the cut and cover method which dug a trench through the park and later covered it over and replanted trees and wetlands.

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The subway tunnel follows the path of Castle Frank Brook which is also buried beneath the park.  Above ground wetlands have reformed where the creek once flowed. Butterflies, such as this red admiral can be seen throughout the park.

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This cardinal is showing signs that it is well past the mating season.  His bright red colour has faded somewhat and his crest appears to be poorly groomed.  Cardinals molt their feathers in late summer or early fall making them look a little unkempt.  It is possible to find them during the peak of the molt looking bald as they may lose all of their crest feathers at once.

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At the south end of the park a section of the ravine lies below a housing development.  The ravine continues south of St. Clair as Nordheimer Ravine.  The subway tunnel continues below the park and this is the site of the most famous accident in the history of the subway system in Toronto.  On August 11, 1995 one train had stopped on the line for a transit signal.  A second train was coming from behind and being unaware of the stopped train in front of it collided at full speed.  Three people were killed and thirty were taken to the hospital with over 100 later filing claims of injury.  The Russell Hill emergency access is located just west of the Spadina Reservoir and was used to rescue the victims and evacuate the tunnel.

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Cedarvale Park is a hidden jewel in the heart of the Forest Hill area but it is possible to forget the city moves all around and even under the park.

Google Maps Link: Cedarvale Park

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The Auto Graveyard

Sunday, May 21, 2019

The short section of Etobicoke Creek Trail that runs between the 401 and Eglinton Avenue is home to at least four dead cars.  We had previously visited a Chevy Vega  that is in the woods to the side of the trail a little south of Sismet Road.  The story of this car is told in a previous post that will be linked at the end, should you wish to further explore. The pictures for this post were taken at the end of May so should you choose to visit you may find the foliage is a little thicker now.

After you pass under Matheson Boulevard the trail will carry you across Etobicoke Creek and into the Toronto side of the park.  The Etobicoke Creek Trail doesn’t pass under the 401 at this time because of safety concerns during restoration of the highway bridges but if you get this far without seeing the old cars you have gone too far.  It appears that there are three cars in one little cluster, all of them in advanced decay.  The first one that we could identify is a 1973 Datsun 1200 coupe.  One of the key attributes that was used to make the identification was the pair of vents on the door panel.  Although the dashboard no longer has any gauges in it the layout is also clearly the same as seen in pictures of the Datsun 1200 Coupe.

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The car had an oblong cluster of three lights on each side of the rear for tail lights.  The innermost on the right has enough of the plastic left to show that it was the white section.

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The eight cylinder engine still contains some spark plugs but you’ll likely want to do a full tune-up anyway as part of any restoration.

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Like the cover photo, this picture shows the Datsun 1200 from the rear.  It’s going to take a little work to get this one back on the road.

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Here’s a picture of a new 1973 Datsun 1200.  Notice the vents on the door panel and the tail light configuration.

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Car number two is a Chrysler and it too has seen some better days.

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There’s been a few parts removed from the engine but once you replace them you can set the firing order as per the sequence on the casting.

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The code on the side of the exhaust manifold casting indicates that this is a Mopar 340 engine cast in 1971 or 1972.  Beside the part number is a date wheel indicating that the casting was done in October 1971 which means that this was likely installed in a 1972 model year vehicle.  This limits the model to one of five a Duster, Demon, Road Runner, Charger Super B or a ‘Cuda 340.

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Car number three is a GM but we were unable to come up with much more information on this relic.

 

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We can deduce that the model year was likely 1970 or earlier based on the bumper design.  The 5 MPH crash design was imposed in 1971.  This required that an impact at 5 MPH should not damage the lights and so they were removed from the bumpers and placed on the read panel of the car.  The bumpers were extended from the frame and much of the fancy tail light/bumper design was lost forever.  This rear bumper appears in two parts likely with an extended cluster of tail lights running between them.

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The side of the engine has the letters GM which at least tells us the brand of vehicle.

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A 1975 Chevy Vega sits in the woods a little farther south along the trail.  You can read more about it in our post Etobicoke Creek Trail.

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There appears to be plenty left to discover in future hikes along the Etobicoke Creek Trail.

Check out this link for our top 20 stories of all time: Back Tracks: Five Years Of Trails

Google Maps Link: Sismet Road

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Malton – Ghost Towns of The GTA

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The town of Malton had grown from humble beginnings to a community of over 900 before growth stalled and it began to decline.  The town developed around the classic four corners of a crossroads, in this case Airport Road and Derry Road.  It didn’t grow in all four directions however, only the 100 acres on the north west corner was laid out for a subdivision.  This happened a year after the Grand Trunk Railway came to town in 1854 and as a result the streets are laid out parallel to the railway and not to the four corners.  This leaves all the streets running at 45 degrees to Derry and Airport Roads.  Much of the original four corners was destroyed in a gas line explosion in 1969 and the rest was lost to road realignment and widening.  While not a true ghost town, the original community is now hidden in the original block of streets and surrounded by the airport and urban sprawl.

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In 1857 the Trinity Methodist Church was built as a wood frame structure.  Later it was given a veneer of bricks with some interesting details around the windows.  This church was used until 1953 when the congregation moved to a new church building and this one was converted into a residence.

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Compared to the beautiful brickwork in the picture above, the renovated building seen below is really awful.

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The house at 16 Burlington Street is a typical 3 bay farmhouse built in 1866 by John and Mary Bateman.  This house has a gothic arched window in the upstairs dormer.  The style is known as a story and a half because of the low headroom in the upstairs rooms.

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The house at 17 Scarboro Street is one of the oldest surviving ones in the community, having been built in 1870.  Richard and Harriet Ibson only owned the house for a few years before selling it to John Guardhouse in 1877.  It has had several additions to it over the years and is currently for sale.  The windows have been boarded over to keep vandals from destroying it and someone has taken the time to paint the boards black and put white trim on them.

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The house at 18 Scarboro Street belonged to David Tomlinson who served Toronto Gore as a councillor and a reeve in the 1860’s.  David built this house in 1884 at the same time that his brother built the house at 16 Scarboro Street.

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Joseph Tomlinson was a carpenter and the original owner of 16 Scarboro Street.  The two houses were built at the same time and likely both by Joseph.  The one at 16 Scarboro has much more interesting brickwork as illustrated in the quoins on the corners of the house.  The house also sports considerable gingerbread, unlike the house beside it.  The one thing the two houses have in common that suggests a common builder is the brickwork above the windows.

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In 1901 Queen Victoria passed away and King Edward VII took the throne.  Victorian architecture tended to involve odd shapes and many different sized windows.  Edwardian architecture moved away from the extravagant and more into the utilitarian.  Buildings tended to become more like blocks as is illustrated by this 1901 home.  I find it interesting that the upper story window has only one shutter because the wall is next to the window.

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The first school in Malton was built in 1828 and was a one room log structure.  This was replaced in 1858 with a larger brick building.  As the town grew the new school also needed to be replaced and the earlier log structure was finally torn down in 1923 and replaced with a two story school building.

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This school was in use until 1952 when a new school was built and this one was converted into apartments.

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In 1939 the neighbourhood was selected for the construction of an international airport for Toronto.  Malton Airport attracted more than just the airplanes that flew from there and before long aviation related industries were starting up.  During the Second World War a company called Victory Aircraft operated here but after the war they merged with A.V. Roe Canada.  They developed the CF-100 Canuck and the the CF-105 Avro Arrow.  A CF-100 is on display at Paul Coffey Park.

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The town of Malton has been absorbed into the urban sprawl that surrounds the airport but if you look you can still find traces of the original community.  Just west of Malton you can also visit another ghost town and read about it here: Mount Charles – Ghost Towns of the GTA. Just beyond that on the map at the start of this story is Palestine – Ghost Towns of the GTA for further exploration.

Google Maps Link: Malton

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John Robinson House – 1877

Sunday, July 7, 2019

 

My brother had observed a house on Derry Road in Mississauga that he believes should be included in our post of surviving homes from the town of Mount Charles – Ghost Towns of The GTA.  Having been in the area checking out the historic town of Malton, it seemed like a good idea to visit this home as well.

Below is the county atlas for 1877 which shows the house as belonging to John Robinson, one lot east of the community of Mount Charles.  Formally known as lot 10, Con 4 East Half Side it was a 100 acre lot.  The dots between the house and Derry Road indicate the orchard that once grew there.

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The house was built in 1877 and replaced an earlier log structure on the property.  It stayed in the Robinson family until 1902 when the farm was sold to Fred Clarke.  The Clarke family continued to farm here until the 1960’s.

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The house is listed on the heritage register as Victorian Gothic Revival.  The north side of the home has the pointed arch window in the upper floor that is traditional for the gothic revival.  The three windows on the first floor have more of a rounded arch typical of the Italianate style that had been popular since the 1840’s.  Victorian homes often mix styles and pay little attention to symmetry.  Notice the three windows on the lower floor are not spaced equally.

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The gingerbread is falling off but at one time the house was decorously trimmed.  Each of the windows has a small row of brick cut in opposing angles running across the top and extending a couple of inches beyond the face of the wall.

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Someone has taken the time to paint the window boarding black with white trim to simulate the windows behind and make the house look a little more appealing.  The windows at the rear of the house have not been painted in the same manner.

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The front of the house had two doors, one facing east and one facing north.  The wall above the east facing door has cracked and shifted considerably.  The bricks were laid in a stretcher bond where the long side of each brick is exposed.  The outer layer is starting to fall away revealing the inner one beside the top of the door.  A large front porch was removed from the house but its outline is still clearly visible.

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The rear of the house had an addition at some point in which a kitchen was added as well as a drive shed.  The rear opening would have allowed the tack to be brought into the building.  Above the door the theme of extended stonework above the lintel is continued but it has not been done above the drive shed opening.  The mix of architectural styles is interesting.

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There is a single window at the back of the drive shed portion of the house.

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The north elevation of the house shows a door into the kitchen area of the extension.  A metal post is bolted to the wall on both sides of the building.  This looks to be beside the section of the extension that represents the drive shed.  These type of metal plates suggest that the structure had to be supported and strengthened.  It makes me wonder if the house was moved from a location deeper on the property.

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The difference in construction between the original house and the extension can be seen in the brickwork above the windows.  While the original windows were quite ornate and the quoins on the corners were made of lighter bricks.  The dichromate brick colouring appears to have been abandoned for the extension except for the east side in which it was carried on.

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The house was built on a foundation of field stones collected on the farm.  The county atlas appears to show it farther from the road but that may just be a reflection of the fact that the road was only two lanes as wide back in 1877 instead of the six lanes it carries today.

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The picture below was taken in 1989 before the two large warehouses were erected on either side of the house.  Even 30 years ago this house was abandoned and the roof was starting to cave in.  Notice that there is a bell cote on the top of the drive shed that is missing the bell.  The bell cote has been removed from the house and a few minor repairs have been made to the roof to keep the house from deteriorating further.

Robinson House 1989

The house is listed on the heritage register for Mississauga but it is unclear what the future holds for this historic house from the community of Mount Charles.

Google Maps Link: Mount Charles

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Corktown Common

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Located at the foot of Bayview Avenue, Corktown Common is an 18 acre park that sits on reclaimed industrial lands.  These former brownfields were once home to the William Davis hog abattoir which later became Canada Packers.  The large number of pigs that passed through this downtown facility were partially responsible for the nickname “Hogtown” that Toronto took on.  By the 1990’s all the buildings on the site had been demolished.  Corktown Common was built in 2013 as part of the West Don Lands developments.  In order to protect the new Canary District developments from flooding from the Don River a large berm was built to retain a the river during a 1-in-100-year flooding event.  When you enter the Commons off of Front Street it brings you into the large central lawn.

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Native plants have been cultivated in groupings to create as many habitat features as possible to attract wildlife to the park.  A pair of painted turtles can be seen in the cover photo.  They live in one of the wetland ponds.

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Nearly all of the water used on the site in splash pads, irrigation and storm water collection systems is fed into the urban marsh.  There is an irrigation cistern that can hold 150,000 gallons of water.  This is enough to irrigate the park for a week.

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This baby mallard duck was feeding in one of the wetland ponds.  It has a life expectancy of 5-10 years in the wild but should have no lack of food if it remains in the wetlands.

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Trails wind through the park as they make their way up the hill towards a large playground for children.  There is a splash pad as well as a fire pit and permanent bbq pits.

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A pair of northern rough-winged swallows sit on the same branch in a tree where they were trying hard to keep their balance against a steady wind that was blowing in from the lake.

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From the top of the hill in the Commons you can see the Lower Don River with several of the abandoned bridges including these ones from the old alignment of Eastern Avenue.

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Corktown Commons has already become home to many species of birds and this Yellow Warbler was busy enjoying a worm for lunch.  The trails in the Commons also connect to the Lower Don Trail via the Bala underpass beneath the railway tracks.  This allows you to extend your walk in either direction up or down the river.

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I decided to follow Cherry Street into the Port Lands to see what is happening with the work on refurbishing this 290 hectare former industrial site.  The Port Authority is conducting some large scale lake filling operations to create some new park land at the future mouth of the Don River.

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Work has begun on digging a new channel for the Don River.  Over 120 years ago the river wound through the marshes that formed Ashbridges Bay and entered the lake through a course that is about to be restored.  The new river bed will be up to 100 metres wide and 1 kilometre long.

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After crossing the Cherry Street bridge you can see the Cherry Street Interlocking Tower.  It is one of three towers that were built as part of the Union Station line in 1931.  Together they controlled the track switching that keeps trains from crashing in the busy rail corridor where over 235 trains pass each weekday.

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Once you pass the Cherry Street tower you come to the entrance to the famous Distillery District.  This is an area that will need to be investigated sometime.

Google Maps Link: Corktown Common

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Toronto Historic Places

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Every year we are encouraged to get out and visit one of the historic places in our area to appreciate the fact that every place has a story to tell.  They are often our opportunity to travel back in time to see how previous generations in lived in our city.  This year Historic Places Day falls on Saturday, July 6, 2019.  We have been to many of the ones in the GTA and present the review below to give an overview of some of the places we have available to us.  Each one contains a link to an extended article with additional pictures and a Google Maps link for the location.  We hope you enjoy the presentation and will be motivated to check out one or more of the sites.

Fort York is the oldest historic site in Toronto as it stems from the original settlement of York in 1793.  The fort was partially destroyed in the War of 1812.  Link: Fort York

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Spadina House and Casa Loma are adjacent to each other and provide an opportunity to see what life was like in the 1920s.  Spadina House is featured in the cover photo while Casa Loma is seen below.  Link: Spadina

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Colborne Lodge was built in 1837 and is open to the public in High Park.  It features original furniture as well as many of John Howards’ original paintings.  Link: Colborne Lodge

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The Scarborough Museum is located in Thomson Memorial Park and houses a wide range of pioneer exhibits from the area.  Admission is free.  Link: Scarborough Museum

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Black Creek Pioneer Village lets you step back to the log-house beginnings of the Stong Family in North York.  Link: Black Creek Pioneer Village

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Mackenzie House was the home of William Lyon Mackenzie who was the leader of the Rebellion of 1837 in Toronto.  The home provides the opportunity to see a 19th century print shop in action.  Link: Mackenzie House

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Also related to the Rebellion of 1837 is Gibson House in North York.  The original Gibson property was burned and this home was built in 1851 when David returned from exile in the USA.  Link: Gibson House

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Todmorden Mills reflects a milling community of the 19th century and boasts the second oldest mill building and the first of three paper mills in the area.  Link: Todmorden Mills

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The Evergreen Brickworks is housed in the buildings where the bricks for many early Toronto buildings were made.  Link: Don Valley Brick Works

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Our early railway history is preserved at Roundhouse Park near the base of the CN Tower.  The John Street Roundhouse was built in 1929 and had 32 bays.  Link: Roundhouse Park

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When the people of the town of York changed their name to Toronto in 1834 this building was the post office.  It now serves as a postal museum where you can see the way the post office looked nearly 200 years ago.  Link: Toronto’s First Post Office

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The Legislative Buildings at Queens Park represent the history of the Government of Ontario.  There are many historic statues on the ground of the park.  Link: Queens Park

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Right on the waterfront is a small park which commemorates one chapter in the history of immigration to the city.  Ireland Park has several statues that depict the plight of the Irish who landed near there.  Link: Ireland Park

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There are hundreds of historic places across Canada that you could visit.  You can look for one near you at this link.  https://historicplacesday.ca/places/

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