Tag Archives: Ridgetown

Imperial Oil Lands

Saturday, March 4, 2017

J. C. Saddington Park sits between Mississauga Road and the mouth of the Credit River.  To the west of Mississauga Road, south of Lakeshore, lie the 73 acres of brown space known as the Imperial Oil Lands.  There is parking on at the end of Mississauga Road at J. C. Saddington Park, as can be seen on the Google Earth map below.  Key points from today’s exploration are also marked on the map.


Thomas Nightingale opened a brickyard on the west side of the Credit River in the 1880’s. The addition of a stone crusher increased production to the point that by 1900 there wasn’t enough local labour to run the brickyards.  A series of bunkhouses were constructed and Italian workers were brought in to meet the demand.  The archive photo below shows the Port Credit Brickyards in their prime.


After the First World War, the clay was becoming exhausted and the yards started operating at a loss. By 1929 the brickyards were closed.  This brick was found on the property of the old brickyards where it was made, perhaps over 100 years ago.


In 1933 the Lloyd Refining Company purchased part of the property to build a modern refinery capable of producing 1,500 barrels a day.  The refinery changed hands a few times including 1937 and 1946.  In 1955 the property was purchased by Texaco and their Canadian subsidiary McColl-Frontenac began operating the refinery.  In 1959 the name was changed to Texaco Canada Ltd.  Petrochemicals were produced here beginning in 1978 but by 1985 it was starting to be decommissioned.  The oil tank farm was removed first and by 1987 it was fully closed.  Only one small building remains on site along with a storage shed.


The property has sat vacant for a couple of decades now and is highly contaminated from its years as an oil refinery.  As of March 2017, Imperial Oil is selling the property to a developer who plans to develop a waterfront park, mid-rise condos and affordable housing on the site.  Today the property is home to a large selection of wildlife.  Coyote scat is everywhere and rabbits and squirrels provide food for them as well as the hawks.  A white tailed deer was casually feeding just inside the fence from Mississauga Road.


Roadways and concrete pads mark the locations of the former tanks and buildings.  The property is marked as no trespassing because of the numerous hazards that exist throughout.  This story is presented to preserve the site as it exists at this moment in time.  Soon it will change forever and this chapter will be lost.  Choosing to explore here is solely your responsibility.  A large man-made pond covers a section of the property and may feature in redevelopment plans for a central park within the community.  The pond is currently full of pipes that have started to break apart over the years of abandonment.


The lower corner of the pond still has the dam and flood control devices intact.  Two sluice gates could be opened by turning handwheels.  The cover photo shows a closer look at the mechanics of the system.


Outflow from the pond was transferred to a series of settling ponds to remove solids from the water.  From here it was carried through a concrete pipe and released into the lake.


We made our way to the end of the concrete pipe that discharged the water from the pond on the Imperial Oil Lands.  The round concrete pipe has been encased in a concrete shell to protect it from the effects of the lake.


The Waterfront Trail takes the name Imperial Oil Trail as it passes along the lake side of the property.  We followed it west to where you are forced briefly to follow the road.  That wasn’t such a bad thing as we were treated to a broad-winged hawk sitting on a hydro wire.  These birds usually winter in the south and I wonder if this one was noticing the -20-celsius wind and wishing it hadn’t come back yet.


Ben Machree Park has some interesting wood carvings by Jim Menkin.  Jim has converted dead tree stumps into art with his chainsaw in many parts of Ontario including Orangeville and Mississauga.  This park features three wood carvings named “Sirens of Homer’s Odyssey”.


We returned along the Imperial Oil Trail east toward the mouth of the Credit River.  Just east of the concrete drainage pipe from the oil lands is a lengthy finger pier extending out into Lake Ontario.  This pier provides great views to the west looking toward Rattray Marsh.  To the east, you can see the Ridgetown with the city of Toronto in the background. The ship is partially sunk at the mouth of the Credit River to provide shelter for the marina.  Our post on the Ridgetown contains its fascinating history.


In the 1940’s Port Credit ended at Lake Street, of all places!  Today it extends out into the lake in the form of J. C. Saddington Park.  This park is built on a decommissioned dump that was in use from 1949 to 1970. A pond has been created for recreation and fishing and benches positioned around for relaxation. The pond has a thin layer of ice on it from the past two days of cold weather and a light dusting of snow.  A sliver of the moon can be seen above the trees in the middle of the picture.


Three historic buildings stand in the corner of the parking lot. Dating from 1922 to 1923 the Port Credit Waterworks pumping station was a major advancement in the infrastructure of Port Credit.


Swans, Canada Geese and several species of ducks were all to be seen in the lake today.  Of interest was the fact that they have gone back into pairs after spending the winter in groups.  Spring must be coming soon…

A 1973 Toronto Archive Aerial photo of the oil lands can be accessed here.

Our readers selected the top 15 stories for this special feature.

Google Maps Link: J. C. Saddington Park

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The Ridgetown – Port Credit

Saturday, May 23, 2015

It was one of those spring mornings that start off cool, at only 10 degrees, but quickly warms up.  After several recent visits along the Credit River it seemed like a good time to visit the mouth of the river.  Port Credit is an unusual town in that it didn’t grow up around a mill or a cross-roads.  It was a planned community laid out by the government to support the harbour that was being built as a back-up to the harbour in York (Toronto).  The Port Credit harbour is at the river mouth and is sheltered by a pair of break walls and The Ridgetown, a partially sunken bulk freighter which can be seen in the cover photo.  The Ridgetown was also featured in the Adamson Estate on Cooksville Creek.  There is plenty of free parking in town near the library.  We crossed Lakeshore Road where the post office sits on the corner of Stavebank Road.

The Port Credit Post Office, Customs House and Armoury was built in 1931 as part of a “make-work” program during the Depression.  The site had been reserved for government use since 1820 and when the decision was made to build a new public building in Port Credit it was ideally suited.  The Department of Public Works had specific criteria which included “good drainage, easily accessible, in a commercial district, visually prominent, and on a corner lot”.  Post Offices were also to be “fairly” close to the harbour or railway station.  31 Lakeshore Road East met all these criteria.  The building is constructed in a style known as Edwardian Classical which was popular during the reign of Edward VII (1901 – 1910).  Public works had suspended it’s building program at the start of WWII and picked it back up in 1927 with its existing building designs. This is how the Post Office building came to be 20 years out of date in its architecture.


On the west bank of the river stands the lighthouse.  The first lighthouse in Port Credit was built in 1863 but it was separated from the mainland by a flood in 1908.  By 1918 the lighthouse had closed and it stood vacant until it burned down in 1936.  The present lighthouse was built in 1991 and is a replica of the earlier one.


The Port Credit harbour has been active since 1834.  Between 1880 and 1910 the harbour was home to an industry called stone-hooking.   Large flat slabs of shale were raked up off of the bottom of the lake for use in the construction boom in Toronto.  At its peak there were 23 ships registered as stone-hookers in Port Credit.  Today the harbour is protected by two stone breakwalls as can be seen in the 1972 aerial photo below.  The Credit River empties into Lake Ontario where it’s mouth is protected by an angled line of rock.  Running straight out into the lake to the right of this is a second, longer, wall of rock.  We chose to climb out to the end of each of them.  In 1974 the ship The Ridgetown was added at 90 degrees to the end of the straight breakwall to shelter most of the open end of the marina.

Port Credit Harbour

The first breakwall runs out from the eastern bank of the Credit River.  The Ridgetown can be seen in the distance and one of many Mute Swans is watching us in the foreground.


Built for $475,000 in 1905 as a flagship for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company the William E Corey was shipwrecked within 3 months.  After $100,000 in repairs it was ready for service again.  In July 1963 it was placed into British registry and renamed Ridgetown.  Two years later it was sold to Upper Lakes Shipping Limited who operated it until 1969.  Between 1970 and 1973 it served as a temporary breakwall for the construction of the Ontario Hydro Power Plant at Nanticoke.  After this it was brought to Toronto where it spent the winter of 1973.  In June 1974 it was loaded with rocks and sunk to protect the mouth of the Port Credit Marina. The picture below shows the ship when it was the William E Corey.


As we made our way out the lengthy breakwater we got some great views of The Ridgetown.


Finally, we reached the end of the breakwater and our goal of The Ridgetown.  On the right of the ship can be seen the end of the first breakwater that we investigated.


Looking back at the Port Credit shoreline gives you an idea of how long the breakwater is.  The hike along this breakwater is challenging.  The biggest danger comes from dozens of Canada Geese and Mute Swans that have taken to nesting along its length.  They are prepared to defend their nests and several of them got into hissing at us.  On the way back it started to feel like we were running the gauntlet.


The Trumpeter Swan is the largest living bird that is native to North America.  At 28 pounds the largest of the males are also the largest birds capable of flight.  They can be distinguished from the more common Mute Swan by their black bill and feet.  Of all the swans in the mouth of the river and along the two break walls this is the only one we noticed that was a Trumpeter Swan. It was also the only one which was tagged, in this case with a bright yellow “K94”.  This is part of a project to reintroduce these swans which were near extinction.


Port Credit has a cultural heritage designation and there is plenty more to be explored in the area.  J. C. Saddington Park and the Imperial Oil Lands were explored on March 4, 2017 and can be found here.

Google Maps Link: Port Credit

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