Taber Hill Ossuary

Saturday, April 15, 2017

On August 17, 1956, the farmland of Scarborough was being transformed into subdivisions and the 401 was being widened to accommodate the increased traffic that the expanding city was faced with.  A large mound stood in the middle of a field near Lawrence Avenue and Bellamy Road and the 60-foot tall hill was scheduled to be loaded into trucks and delivered to the site of a 401 overpass that was under construction.  After removing nearly 100 feet of the side of the hill a scoop of earth came away full of human bones.

The park isn’t very large but it is unique and worth exploring briefly.  There is free parking on Indian Mound Crescent which is an aptly named street as it wraps around the mound.  Ongwe-Oweh is the native word for Iroquois and a sign welcomes you to the park.


Work on removing the mound was stopped immediately while an examination of the find was conducted.  Initially, there wasn’t any pottery or arrow heads uncovered and the early suspicion was that the mound contained victims of a cholera epidemic from 1870.   The purple flag in the tree in this picture has the same native symbols on it that are found below the peace pipe on the park sign in the previous photograph.


Walter Kenyon was brought in from the Royal Ontario Museum who discovered that there was a second burial pit.  The site is an ossuary which is a place where the bones of people are placed after they have been removed from their initial burial plot and collected into a community of the dead.  The ossuary at Taber Hill was about 15 metres long, 2 metres wide and 0.3 metres deep.  The number of skeletons uncovered in the two pits was revised from 472 to 523.  A new burial chamber was dug five feet deep and the bones were reinterred. The 35-acre park is managed by the City of Toronto and is thought to be the only First Nations Ossuary to be protected as a cemetery in Canada.  In 1961 a stone memorial was placed on the top of the mound.  It can be seen clearly in the cover photo.


Burials at this site were conducted around 1250 AD and it is thought the ossuary may be related to two longhouse sites in the area.  The Alexandra site near Passmore Forest may have contained up to 1000 residents.  When the archaeological dig was completed the bones were buried again in a ceremony known as the Feast of the Dead.  Natives held this ceremony at the mound every year until 1966.  A group of First Nations peoples were holding a memorial ceremony on the top of the mound today and so out of respect I did not climb to the top to see the two historical markers installed there.  On one side is a Scarborough historical marker describing Taber Hill. The other side of the marker has a plaque containing an Iroquois prayer.


This post is presented with the greatest of respect for those whose remains lay buried under this mound.

Google Maps Link: Taber Hill Park

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Fallbrook – Silver Creek Conservation Area

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Silvercreek Conservation Area was, at one time, home to a village of Iroquoian longhouses. The natives hunted and farmed the area along the edge of the escarpment for generations before the arrival of Europeans in the area.  William McClure bought the land in 1854 and started to clear it for a farm. His first chore was to cut enough wood by hand to build a sawmill.  From there the log cabin, barn and grist mill soon followed.  To investigate we parked on the 10th line where there is free parking for the Bruce Trail.  The trail runs to the east into Terra Cotta Conservation Area and to the west into Silvercreek Conservation Area.  Entering the conservation area on the Bruce Trail proved a bit of a challenge due to the wet conditions. In the picture below, the trail is a flowing creek while further along, it turned into a mess of mud.  Dry footwear with good treads is as critical at this time of year as it is during the winter months.


Marsh Marigolds also go by the name of cowslip although what they have in common with the lip of a cow is unclear.  Marigolds like marshy ground but can also grow where it is wet for only a few weeks of the year.  They flower early in spring and are related to the buttercups that they resemble.  Although the whole plant is considered an irritant, the leaves can be boiled and eaten like spinach.


The Bruce Trail through Silvercreek has several side trails marked in blue which will require further exploration.  Along the way, we passed Roberts side trail which is 1.3 kilometres long and forms a 2.6-kilometre loop with the main trail.  The Irwin Quarry side trail is 1.2 kilometres long and forms a 1.4-kilometre loop.  The trail also passes a poorly defined glacial pothole that can be seen in the picture below.


The trail becomes much less muddy, but not less tricky when you reach the stone path. The limestone along here has been broken up and cut with deep fissures by karst activity.  The caution here is that some of these stones move as you step on them.


A small guardrail protects a lookout point along the ravine.  Hiker graffiti has been left on the railing.


Several turkey vultures were circling overhead.  Turkey vultures are protected under the Protection of Migratory Birds act in Canada and similar legislation in Mexico and The United States where a fine of $15,000 and six months in jail can be levied for killing or possessing one.  This is in spite of the fact that they are considered a species of least concern because populations are stable.  A threatened species shows a decline in the population of 30% over ten years or three generations.


Examination of the logs used in the cabin shows that they were cut with a saw rather than hewn by hand.  The old growth red pine logs used for the cabin were cut from the front lawn and trimmed at McClure’s saw mill.  Using a process known as dendrochronology the growth rings on a tree can be studied to determine the years in which they grew, allowing for a reliable date when the tree was cut.  When the cabin was expanded by the McKay family in 1877 they built on the end rather than adding a second floor or extending behind the original as was common.  The addition can be identified by a vertical line beside the cedar tree on the right.  The log cabin was three rooms like the home the Stongs built that stands at the heart of Black Creek Pioneer Village.  Nine people lived in the cabin where there were two bedrooms and a kitchen/living room.  This cabin is likely the oldest surviving cabin in Esquesing township.  It has been the centre of a controversy surrounding whether it should get a heritage designation or a wrecking ball.


The farm was briefly owned by John McDonald who sold it to Donald McKay in the 1870’s.  Donald and his wife, Jessie, had come from Glasgow, Scotland in 1869 and had landed in Toronto.  After operating a horse-drawn taxi for a short while McKay bought the farm and moved his family there.  The McKays operated the farm until 1943 when it was sold to the Vaughn family who had made their wealth in the Eaton Company.  They added it to their estate holdings where it stayed until the Credit Valley Conservation Authority bought it in 1973.  The name Fallbrook has been applied to the farm and a look at the steps Silver Creek takes as it flows past the house reveals why.


One of the defining features of the farmstead is the old stone arch bridge.  The bridge was originally built in the 1870’s from stones salvaged from the sawmill downstream. The 27th sideroad was opened in 1872 and this is likely the first bridge on this site.  When the local supply of wood was exhausted the focus shifted from cutting wood to grinding grain.  The bridge allowed customers from Balinafad and the surrounding area to bring their grain to the mill.  By 2008 the bridge was suffering from mortar deterioration and stone loss.  The road deck and railings didn’t meet current safety standards and the bridge, as well as the road, was intended to be closed.  A study found that four hundred people used the bridge daily and the surrounding roads didn’t need the additional traffic and so a plan was made to restore the bridge.  The restoration was completed in 2015.


Downstream from the bridge, the creek continues to cascade over the rocks as it makes its descent.  The other side of the creek needs to be explored in a future visit because the remains of the sawmill and the grist mill are yet to be examined.  There is also the partial remains of an ice house waiting to be photographed.


Rows of stones running through the trees mark the outlines of former fields.  When the land was cleared the stones were moved into these rows so that they would need to be dragged great distances to be disposed of.  This was an annual task until the fields were allowed to regenerate into forest.


As you enter and exit the trail from the 10th line you pass this little post with a camera in it.  Don’t worry, you won’t be videotaped.  It’s only a system to count the number of trail users so that funds can be used where the most people will benefit.


Silvercreek Conservation area is definitely on the list of places that need further exploration.  The many side trails, as well as the historical remains on the site, make it a must visit.

Google Maps Link: Silver Creek Conservation Area

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Toronto’s Abandoned Roads

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Toronto has 5604 kilometres of roads and 9500 streets, according to Transportation Services.  The city covers over 630 square kilometres and within that area, there are only a few kilometres of abandoned roads.  Hiking the GTA has been able to explore over a dozen of them and in this post we provide links to the various stories.  Hopefully, you’ll be able to get out and explore one or more of them.

Indian Line

Indian Line started off as an Indian trail along the shore of the Humber river.  When the land survey was made it was part of the border between Peel County and York County. When highway 427 was extended north it became part of an off and on ramp to the highway. In 1992 when the highway was further extended it was closed off and abandoned.  Indian Line campground used to be accessed from just south of the river off of this road but is now accessed off of Finch Ave.


Pottery Road

Pottery Road likely started off as part of an east-west Indian trail that crossed the city along the present route of Davenport Road.  Today only about a third of the original Pottery Road remains.  When the Bayview extension was built in 1959 Pottery Road was cut in two and the portion that climbed the hill along the Cudmore creek was cut off and abandoned.


Milkman’s Lane including Park Drive

Seen on historic maps since at least 1890, Milkman’s Lane is an abandoned roadway in Rosedale that now serves as a pathway connecting one of Toronto’s wealthiest communities with the Rosedale Ravine, the Don Valley Brick Works and the Lower Don trail system.  Milkman’s lane ran down the side of Osler’s property and carried traffic into the Rosedale Park Reserve.  Park Drive made its way through the bottom of the ravine.  The property belonged to Thomas Helliwell in the 1820’s and provided access through Park Drive to his mills at Todmorden.


Post Road

Post Road was formerly part of a series of trails that the wealthy estate owners on Bayview Avenue used for equestrian pursuits.  When the planned community of Don Mills was started in the 1950’s the crossing over Wilket Creek was removed and a section of road was abandoned.

post road

Passmore Avenue

Passmore Avenue was never opened as a continuous road but it has become even more fragmented with sections having been closed for decades.  This post hikes through those sections that were once opened but are now abandoned.  The picture below shows the former crossing over Petticoat Creek.


Middle Road

Middle Road got its name from the fact that it ran in the middle between Lakeshore Blvd and Dixie Road.  When the QEW was opened it replaced Middle Road with its narrow single lane bridge.  Middle Road Bridge can be seen in the picture below.


Lake Shore Avenue

The Toronto Islands had been home to over 8000 people in the 1950’s when the city decided to remove the residents and turn the islands into a park.  The main roadway across the island was Lakeshore Avenue and it ran the full length of the island along the lake coastline.  The road now serves as the trail through the islands and today a boardwalk has been built along part of the old roadway.

Lake Shore

Old Cummer Road

In 1819 Jacob Cummer built a saw mill on the East Don River.  To allow people to access his mill he built a road along the north edge of lot 22 from Yonge Street to Leslie Street which we call Cummer Road today.  A grist mill was built to the north on lot 23 and a woollen mill was added as well. When the surrounding farmland was developed the one-lane bridge on Cummer Road was restrictive and a new piece of road and a four-lane bridge were built.  A section of the old road was cut off and abandoned.


Old Eglinton

Until the 1970’s Eglinton Road wasn’t a continuous strip of road in spite of being the Base Line from which the townships were laid out.  When the road was extended and completed the tail end down the hill was left abandoned.  Today it is beocming grown over with small trees.

Eglinton road

Bayview Avenue

In 1929 Bayview Avenue got a new bridge over the West Don River.  The old road alignment down the ravine and across the single lane bridge was closed and forgotten.


Gore and Vaughan Plank Road

The Gore and Vaughan Plank Road Company was established in 1855 to build a plank road along Dufferin Street. Plank roads were used to improve muddy conditions and were later replaced with asphalt or crushed stone surfaces.  When Dufferin Street was straightened and widened across Dufferin Creek and through Finch Avenue the plank road was left to rot in the ravine.


South Marine Park Drive

An old roadway used to install erosion control along the Scarborough Bluffs has been turned into a linear park known as South Marine Drive Park.  It runs for several kilometres along the south edge of the bluffs.


Country Hospital Road

In 1926 The Hospital For Sick Children was looking for a country location to build a satellite facility.  They found a location at Finch and Islington.  Although this is not a public road the long laneway has become a piece of abandoned road.

country hospita;

Google Map links are provided in each of the stories.

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Abandoned Don Mills Road

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Don Mills Road, or part of it, played an important role in early York (Toronto)  and has been under constant change ever since.  The decision to make Don Mills Road a major thoroughfare led to a new alignment and the abandonment of a section in the heart of the city making it one of only a very few pieces of abandoned roadway in Toronto.  Links to the others ones that we’ve investigated will be provided at the end.  As you drive north on Don Mills Road, just north of the interchange for the Don Valley Boulevard (DVP) an unmarked road exits to the right.  This is the old alignment of Don Mills Road.  Follow it over the bridge to where there is free parking.  An old sign, just off the new Don Mills Road suggests we slow down and see what’s around us.


The mills at Todmorden on the Don River were the second to open in York after The Old Mill had opened on the Humber River.  In the 1820’s a paper mill was built at Todmorden and in 1846 the Taylor Brothers added a paper mill to the saw and grist mills they owned at the Forks of The Don.  This was the third paper mill along the river that belonged to the Taylors and was known as the upper mill.  The Mill Road was built to join the mills and provide access for the public and workers.  For a long time, the road only served the mills but the farmers to the north got together and extended the road to York Mills and south to the St. Lawrence Market.  The road then became known as the Don Independent Road because it was built on land that was given by the property owners.  In 1954 it was decided that Don Mills Road would become one of the major arteries in the city and it was widened to 4 lanes.  It was given a new alignment through the Forks of the Don so that a new bridge could be built.  The picture below shows the berm that the old road used to climb from the river valley to the tablelands above.


The elevated wetlands are a familiar site to people who use the DVP to get in or out of downtown Toronto as they have stood on either side of the highway since 1998.  The three elephantine sculptures were created by Canadian Artist Noel Harding who works on large scale public art that has an environmental component. Harding, working in conjunction with the city and the Canadian Plastics Industry, created the wetlands.  They are made from recycled plastics and serve to purify the water that flows through them.  A solar panel on the rear sculpture pumps water from the river.  That water flows into the next planter and finally into the third one before falling into a natural wetland in front. The cover photo shows another view of the elevated wetlands.


The rainbow arch bridge over the West Don River was built in 1921 to replace an earlier bridge.  Toronto has several of these concrete bowstring bridges but this one is in particularly good condition with little or no restoration.


There are a couple of architectural features that make this bridge unique among the local bowstring bridges.  First, each end of the bridge has extended parapets on it that are decorated with diamond patterns.  Also, the last two panels on each end of the bridge are filled in to create a solid wall from the arch to the deck of the bridge.  Concrete railings provide protection for pedestrians on either side of the bridge.


From the arch bridge looking north, the old roadway has been well maintained and is in use as a walking trail.  There is a small parking lot on the side of the roadway, just south of where this picture was taken.  The bridge over the Canadian Pacific tracks can be seen in the distance.


When the road was closed in 1961 the original bridge over the railway was removed. A new pedestrian bridge was installed in 1972 when the Lower Don Recreational Trail system was set up.  The picture below shows the railway crossed by the pedestrian bridge with the new Don Mills Road bridge in the background.  An elevated boardwalk joins the trails in ET Seton Park with the bridge over the rail line and the Lower Don Recreational Trail.  This trail connects to a series of trails that will take you all the way to Lake Ontario.


Just north of the bridge is the old railing that was installed for safety when the road was closed.


Looking back you can see that the new bridge is not in the same alignment as the earlier one.  It ends at the same location on the southern abutment but starts slightly west of the original and runs on a different angle.


The section of the roadway north of the bridge has been overgrown in places by 50%. Grass, moss and sizeable trees sprout through the pavement on both sides of the road.


This large tree has burst through the asphalt pushing pieces of pavement up all around the tree.


The view looking south from near Gateway Boulevard.  Behind here the traces of the old road have been obliterated by an apartment building.


Google Maps Link: Don Mills Road

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Joshua Creek – The Emerald Ash Borer

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Joshua Valley Park has seen a lot of change over the course of the two centuries since Joshua Leach arrived.  Leach was just 21 when he arrived in the brand new town of York in 1897.  As a carpenter, he found plenty of work building many of the first homes in the town.  By 1822 Joshua had saved up enough money to buy 200 acres of land which he took possession of on the creek that would later bear his name.  Joshua built a home for his family and dammed the creek to power a saw mill and a thrashing mill.  These were located near where Maple Grove Arena stands today.

This hike follows Joshua Creek through three contiguous parks: Joshua Valley Park, Maple Grove Park and Dunvegan Park.  These parks run from Cornwall Road in the north all the way past Ford Drive to where we connected with the trail from last week’s story.  For convenience, we took advantage of the free parking at Maple Grove Arena which is about midway along the journey.  Cut lengths of ash tree logs were stacked in a pile at the side of the parking lot.  This was a hint of what we were about to find in the valley.  The forest is wide open now that all the ash trees have been removed.


The emerald ash borer is a beetle that is native to Asia.  It was first seen in Ontario in June of 2002 near Windsor.  The beetle most likely entered Ontario from Detroit where it arrived in wood packaging from Asia.  The emerald ash borer is invasive as it meets both accepted criteria.  It is outside of its native habitat and threatens the environment, economy or society where it is invading.  The City of Oakville estimates that it has 45,000 ash trees and that most, if not all, will be destroyed by the beetle.  In Toronto, the situation is even worse with an estimated 860,000 ash trees in the city.  Every one of which will be destroyed if not treated with appropriate pesticides.  The picture below of an emerald ash borer was taken from Wikipedia.


All ash trees in Ontario are susceptible to the attack of the emerald ash borer.  Our ash trees are named after colours and we have black, white, red, green and blue as the primary ones.  The female beetle will lay 60 to 90 eggs, individually, in the crevices in the bark.  The larva tunnel under the bark, eating curved galleries.  These galleries girdle the tree and prevent the flow of food and water from reaching the tree.  The larvae overwinter under the bark and pupate in the spring.  The adults spend their lives on the outside and must eat the leaves in order to reach reproductive maturity.  Looking at the ash trees that have been piled up you can easily find examples that are 50 years old.  The one pictured below appears to have 47 rings.


After a tree has been assessed and found to be clean or in the early stages of infestation it can be treated in one of three ways.  Each of the pesticides is intended to target either the larva, adult or both.  The soil around a tree can be drenched with the insecticide which is carried throughout the tree by the vascular system.  This method won’t work if the tree has too much damage already and it is unable to spread water and nutrients throughout.  Another method of distributing the pesticide is to inject it into the tree.  Lastly, when the adults are newly hatched and are feeding on the leaves they can be sprayed directly, killing them before they can lay eggs. The cost of treating a tree can be estimated at about $10 per inch of diameter.  The picture below was taken last week near the mouth of Joshua Creek and shows a tree that is being treated for emerald ash borer.


Other invasive species, like the honeysuckle, will prosper now that the canopy has been opened up and they won’t have the competition.  They are already present in the understory and can be seen because they are the first shrubs that get their leaves in the spring.


A thin trail runs along the back of the houses on Duncan Road.  Old sets of stars can be found leading off of this trail and directly into a solid fence.  The row of trees that has been planted along here seems to be older than the trail which was constructed in 1983. Straight rows of trees often indicate old laneways or roads.


This section of Joshua Creek has been protected from erosion by the use of gabion baskets filled with stones.  The creek is prone to flooding and when it does it runs brown with soil being carried downstream.  In several places, the creek has overrun the gabion baskets and they are no longer serving a purpose.


At Cornwall Road we turned back, leaving the northern reaches for another time.  A small bridge crosses the creek just south of Maple Grove Arena and beyond here the ash tree removal is in full swing.  Heavy equipment stands among the trees and there are fresh piles of logs along the sides of the trail.  In many forests, these are being left behind as future habitat but they are being removed from this park system.


Crews have preceded the cutting teams and have assessed each tree and coded them. Yellow slashes or dots mark trees that are to be removed.  Orange or red dots indicate that a tree is to be pruned.


We found an area where there were a lot of clam or mussel shells.  The ones below are placed beside a golf ball to give the perspective of their size.


The wheat market fell after the Crimean War and at the same time, England removed tariffs that protected Canadain suppliers.  The area around Oakville was hit hard and many farmers turned to fruit production. Orchards of apple, plum and cherry trees took over where fields of grain once grew.  In the 1940’s the creek was dammed to create a pond for irrigation of a large orchard that stretched from Royal Windsor Road, all the way to Lakeshore.  The earth and concrete wall still forms a bridge from Devon Road to Deer Run Avenue.  There are two open spillways and a round culvert.  The culvert had a sluice gate on the front end to allow for control of the water level.  The cover photo shows the culvert from the upstream side.  Two spillways and the culvert can be seen in the picture below.  The spillways are about eight feet tall while the culvert is about ten.


The forest was alive with birds and one particular area was full of woodpeckers.  Both Hairy and the smaller look-a-like Downey woodpeckers were moving through the trees. This female Hairy woodpecker stopped on the side of the tree to do a little preening of its feathers.


The Joshua’s Creek Trail runs for 6 kilometres and is part of the Oakville Heritage Trails. The northern reaches of the creek still require exploration.

Last week we explored the mouth of Joshua Creek and that post can be found here.

Google Maps Link: Maple Grove Arena

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Joshua Creek

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Joshua Creek is the largest of Halton’s urban creeks.  These 14 watercourses run through Oakville and Burlington but have their headwaters and the entire stream confined within the city.  Joshua Creek has it’s headwaters near the 407 and runs close to the border between Mississauga and Oakville.  The creek passes through fully engineered sections with armour stone or gabion baskets while other parts flow through naturally forested areas.  The sections on the northern reaches still flow through open farmland and the creek boasts one of the best water qualities in the county.  The hike roughly covers the section of Joshua Creek highlighted in blue on the 1877 County Atlas below.  Note the rows of apple trees shown on the map between the creek and the lake.  Some of these orchards remain and can be seen as you walk along the creek.


A set of stairs descends from a trail linked to Breton Close where there is free parking.  These stairs come with a “V” channel on one side to make it a lot less bumpy if you wish to bring a bicycle onto the Joshua Creek Trail.  The section of Joshua Creek near the stairs has been plated with armour stone but much of the creek from this point to Lake Ontario has been left in a more natural channel.


American Beech is one of a half a dozen species, mostly oak, that can hold their leaves over the winter.  These beech trees can live for 300 years and tend to grow slowly, taking 20 years to reach 13 feet in height.  In Ontario they are late succession trees that form a part of the Beech – Maple climax forest.  Cleared land will progress from low bushes like sumac and hawthorn to ash and birch trees.  Maple, Beech and Oak trees are signs of a mature forest.  Beech trees can reach 100 feet tall and the canopy can spread to 70 feet wide.  Small beech trees grow in several stands along the creek.  Emerald Ash Borer is a significant problem in Joshua Creek and many of the trees have had to be removed.  This opens up the canopy and will allow the beech trees to have their moment in the sun.


Footprints leading up to this fallen tree indicate that humans and the local wildlife both use it as a bridge.  It is certainly wide enough but being wet and slippery precluded crossing on this wet morning.


The lower trail was muddy in places, unlike the main trail up on the top of the ravine which has been treated to chipped up pieces of Christmas trees.


Snowdrops are native to Europe and the Middle East.  They were brought to North America as an ornamental plant for use in gardens.  Non-native plants can be divided into two categories, those that need human intervention to survive in their new environment and those that don’t. The ones that can survive on their own can further be divided into naturalized and invasive. Naturalized plants can survive on their own and in time become part of the local flora.  Those that are invasive will crowd out native plants and often release toxins into the soils to prevent the growth of competing plants.  Snowdrops are considered to be naturalized rather than invasive because they don’t spread rampantly and they fit in with the local habitat.


Beavers once filled the rivers and streams of Ontario.  Trapping for the fur trade had virtually eliminated the beaver from Southern Ontario by the 19th century.  Beaver moving back into urban centres has become more common over the past few decades as water qualities have been improved.  New York City, for instance, saw its first beaver in over 200 years in 2007 and High Park in Toronto now has a lone beaver living in Lower Duck Pond.  Beaver can be very destructive and the trees along Joshua Creek show significant damage from the local beaver. At one point we saw a place where it appears that the beaver have built a lodge under the roots of a tree along the embankment.  Further downstream we found the place where the beaver have built their dam.  The dam has been breached by recent high water but they won’t take long to repair it.


Several foundations line the creek from the days before the estate lands were divided for smaller homes.  The cover photo shows a set of stone stairs that lead down to the edge of the ravine above the creek.  The steps suddenly end with a long drop into the water.  Whatever once stood at the end of that stairway is long gone as is the building that once stood on the foundation below.


Charles Powell Bell and his wife Kathleen Harding moved into their estate home near the mouth of the creek in 1938.  The house and garage originally stood on 60 acres and had the early name “Fusion” although it was usually known as Harding House.  It is said that the spirit of a woman can be seen regularly at the house and spirits of a boy and an angry spirit of a man have also been uncovered by paranormal investigators.  The house has been given a heritage designation in 1989 and currently is used as an event facility.  The house has been known as Holcim Waterfront Estate but t is being renamed Harding Waterfront Estate.


The mouth of Joshua Creek has had a few pieces of armour stone dropped in to create a small break wall to provide some protection.


Looking to the east from the mouth of the creek you can see the Petro Canada refinery dock that extends 700 metres out into the lake.  Equipment towers stand on the end of the dock to transfer oil from tankers.  To the west, there is a brief shingle beach revealing the natural shoreline along this part of the lake. The point in the distance marks the beginning of the armour stone that has been applied to the shore in an attempt to slow down erosion.  The lake was crashing into the chunks of limestone and sending spray high above them.


Taking the upper trail on the return trip leads past the Oakville South East Waste Water Treatment Plant.


The creek runs north from Breton Close as well, and hopefully, we’ll return next week and see what lies in that direction.

Google Maps Link: Joshua Creek

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Bayview Transformer House

Sunday. March 26, 2016

Electricity generated at Niagara Falls is delivered across Ontario in high voltage lines strung between tall steel towers.  The power was then sent to various electrical substations where transformers converted it to a medium power of between 2 kV and 35 kV. Distribution Transformers near the consumer convert the power to 110 V for household use.  The distribution transformers are either pole mounted (large grey cylinders) or pad mounted (large green steel boxes). Starting in the 1930’s the Hydro Electric Power Commission started to hide its transformer substations in what was known as transformer homes. They were designed to hide among the neighbouring homes and altogether around 250 of them were built.  Six basic designs were used but other custom ones were implemented where needed.  Many, like the one at 386 Eglinton Avenue east, imitated the simple wartime housing of the 1940’s and 1950’s.   Today there are still 79 active ones but the one at 386 Eglinton was recently demolished because it had become conspicuous among the highrise towers.

386 Eglinton

Gardens and trees were planted and the driveway was paved.  Someone came around and tended the lawns each week and many people were fooled by them.  In the 1950’s the area around Sunnybrook Hospital was still home to several large estates for the wealthy.  One such estate sat on the table lands just north of the Burke Brook ravine, on the west side of Bayview Avenue.  In 1958 the property was divided into lots for development and Sunnydene  Crescent was laid out.  There is no parking here except after 6:30 so I parked for free on Blyth Hill Road where a walkway connects to Sunnnydene Crescent.  A power substation was required and it was decided to put it on Bayview near Sunnybrook Hospital. To hide near the hospital this transformer house took on the appearance of an institutional building.  The Toronto Archives aerial photo below shows the transformer house in 1961.


This is the view looking back up the laneway toward Bayview Avenue.


As you make your way down the short driveway you see the front door which has been left open.  The front section contains a single room.  The roof on the front corner is rotting and the windows have been broken out.  Cedar trees hide the building from Bayview Avenue.


The rear or eastern elevation of the building showing the walls protecting the transformers.  Here the high voltage electricity was converted to the household current that was suitable for use with appliances.


This 1924 photo from the Toronto Archives shows the rear view of the substation on Eglinton Avenue.  The Bayview station may have been quite similar only larger and appears to have had no roof over the transformer.

Eglinton Substation

The entire compound has been fenced off but the original structure had a fence around the electrical apparatus.  The sign on the reads “Danger.  Keep Out.  Electrical Apparatus. Admission By Authority Only.  The Hydro Electric Power Commission Of Ontario was renamed Ontario Hydro in 1974 making this sign older than that.


The mounting pads for the tranformers remain in the fenced-off section of the compound. Several trees are growing between the three pads and some of them are several inches in diameter.


The power substation has two doors from the main room to the transformer bay.  They are both well disguised by graffiti.


Someone left the front door open and the graffiti artists have been inside.  A series of breaker boards and voltage dials is likely all that would have been housed inside this room. Many transformer houses had a washroom for visiting technicians.


Inside, the bare room has nothing left but a pair of electric light sockets and a light switch. The ceiling has been deteriorating for the past few years and now has several large holes in it. None of the original windows have escaped the years of vandalism.


The east end of the building is flanked by a pair of walls that isolated the transformers.


Staghorn Sumac have started to regenerate and now hide the southern side of the building.  In the summer it is well hidden from the motorists who pass by on Bayview Avenue.


Large underground vaults house newer transformers.  Many of these buildings have been made obsolete by technological improvements and most of those have been demolished.  It is unclear how long this one may last before it finds a similar fate but since it is technically on parkland the developers may not be so interested in removing it.

Google Maps Link: Sunnybrook Hospital

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