Tag Archives: Yellow Creek

Milkman’s Lane

Sunday January 3, 2016

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.  It has been given various names over the years and when it took on the name Milkman’s Lane is unknown, as is the reason behind the unusual name. The 1890 Goads Fire Map below is available in the Toronto Archives but the city was nice enough to add the red arrow on their parks page where this map can be found.  South Drive and Milkman’s Lane were known as Beau Street at the time.  I parked at the corner of Beau and Elm on the map below.

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The fire map shows the large property on the south side of Milkman’s Lane as Craigleigh and belonging to E. B. Osler.  Edmund Boyd Osler was born in 1845 and as a teenager began to work as a clerk at the Bank of Upper Canada which was featured in Toronto’s First Post Office. By 1901 he was president of the Dominion Bank as well as being in the fifth of his 21 years as MP for Toronto West.  Osler had a major impact on the city having helped fund Toronto General Hospital, he was also a trustee at the Hospital For Sick Children.  After a trip to Egypt in 1906 Osler became a founder of the Royal Ontario Musem.  Craigleigh was his family home from 1877 until 1924.  After his death his children donated the property to the city for a park.  The ornate gates to the park have the date 1903 in the metal work on either side of the centre.

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Milkman’s lane ran down the side of Osler’s property and carried traffic into the Rosedale Park Reserve.  Park Drive made it’s 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. Horses and wagons, and possibly the milkman, once climbed the steep ravine side along the 300 metre lane. Today it is used by hikers, joggers and dogs walking their owners.

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Some time prior to 1875 Edgar Jarvis bought the property.  In 1854 at the age of 19 Edgar submitted what was known as plan #104, called “Plan of Rose Park”, to the city to subdivide Rosedale Estates.  He bought up land in the area through the 1860’s and 1870’s in support of this plan.  He had been living with his wife Charlotte and their 12 children in Glen Hurst, their home which still stands behind the stone gates of Branksome Hall.  Edgar built the first two high level bridges across the ravine and planted the trees that give Maple and Elm Avenue their names.  He also likely named Beau Street after his son.  In 1880 he built the home on the other side of Milkman’s Lane from Osler’s Craigleigh property.  Jarvis named his home Sylvan Towers and it can be seen on the map as well.  For awhile Yellow Creek was known as Sylvan Creek.  At the bottom of Milkman’s Lane runs Yellow Creek.  It lies buried for much of it’s 12 kilometers but in 1915 it had a bridge at the bottom of the hill.  The picture below is from the Toronto Archives and the road is labeled as Milkman’s Road.

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In 1880 the right of passage for the land known as Milkman’s Lane was granted to The Scottish Ontario and Manitoba Land Company.  Today you are greeted at the bottom of the ravine with a place where the Yellow Creek is forced underground as it makes it’s way toward the Don River.  Near the bottom of Milkman’s Lane stand a pair of stone gate posts that now enter onto a tennis court.  In years gone by they led to the estate at the top of the hill on the other side, likely 4A on Beaumont Street. They are featured in the cover shot.

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The bridge over the ravine on Glen Road took on the name The Iron Bridge.  It was later replaced with the bridge shown below that is built in the typical City of Toronto style.  This type of architecture was promoted by Roland Caldwell Harris when he was city engineer.  He designed the R. C. Harris Filtration plant and commissioned the Prince Edward Viaduct on Bloor Street. That famous concrete and steel arch bridge style would be repeated many times in the city, including here.

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The picture below is from Wikipedia and shows the bridge on the lower end of Glen Road.  It was built by Jarvis and now serves as a foot bridge over Rosedale Valley Road.

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Yellow Creek flows partly underground and partly above.  As you follow the trail toward Mount Pleasant Road you come to the place where the creek emerges from the underground pipe. Notice the concrete squares at the mouth of the pipe.  They are designed to dissipate the water’s energy before it is released into the channel.

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Partial walls and other concrete structures stand high on the hillside near Mount Pleasant Road. A couple of years ago I found an intact glass milk bottle here from City Dairy.  I didn’t realize at the time how fitting this was, so close to Milkman’s Lane.  On the other side of Mount Pleasant Road the trail continues into The Vale Of Avoca.

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Following the trail south again and back past Milkman’s Lane will bring you to a link with the Don River trail system.  Just south of the Don Valley Brick Works there is a patch of new pavement on Bayview Avenue.  It marks the former crossing for a side spur that carried rail cars to the brick factory for shipping purposes.  Hidden in the trees along the trail are a few exposed sections of the former rail line.

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The trail leads up the old right of way for The Belt Line Railway which looks down upon the structures of the former Don Valley Brick Works.  The straight line above the roofs in the picture below is the now abandoned rail bridge known as the Half Mile Bridge.

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Google Maps link:  http://www.google.ca/maps/@43.6780187,-79.3733876,16z

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The Vale Of Avoca

Saturday Sept. 5th, 2015

In need of a shorter hike this week we set off to visit The Vale Of Avoca.  We investigated the collapsed ruins of an old saw mill, the eastern abutments of an old bridge and a 90 year old example of recycling as we explored a section of Yellow Creek.  It was 21 degrees early in the morning and quite comfortable, except for the unending mosquito attacks.  Only the female mosquito bites after which they live off the blood while 100-200 eggs develop.  They normally live for up to two weeks or until they land on me, which ever comes first.

We parked on Roxborough just off of Mount Pleasant.  From here the trail goes to the left and follows the creek to the lower portion of the Belt Line Trail.  We turned to the right and entered the Rosedale Ravine which we followed north to The Vale of Avoca, the name given to a section of this ravine.  As we walked north we came to the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge. This intricate concrete bridge replaces an earlier trestle bridge for which the cut stone foundations remain.

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In 1837 the Heath Family purchased the north west corner of Yonge Street and the Third Concession Road (renamed St. Clair Ave. in 1914).  They named the area Deer Park and built a hotel where patrons could feed the local deer.  Their lot was subdivided and by the 1870’s the community was well established.  Today the Heath’s are commemorated by a street name. Deer Park extended as far east as the ravine carrying the Yellow Creek, which St. Clair didn’t cross.  In 1888 John Thomas Moore began to market his community of Moore Park which would be constructed between Yellow Creek and the ravine to the east of it containing Mud Creek.  To support his community he built bridges across both ravines and also attracted the Belt Line commuter railway.  Just prior to reaching St. Clair an old abandoned bridge crosses the channelized creek in the bottom of the ravine.  This concrete bridge sits on an earlier stone foundation.

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Moore’s bridge across Yellow Creek was built of iron and didn’t follow the alignment of the third concession.  It angled slightly south west and aligned with today’s Pleasant Boulevard.  By 1922 the bridge was starting to become a safety concern and approval was given to build a replacement. It was decided to straighten the alignment of the road and provide for four lanes of traffic and two of street cars.  The new bridge was built over a period of two years and is 509 feet long and 89 feet high.  It opened in 1924 and cost the equivalent of $9M in today’s economy.  The bridge is a steel and concrete triple span bridge.  The picture below shows the steel arches under the bridge as well as three concrete arches at the other end.  The bridge and the valley they span were renamed The Vale Of Avoca in 1973. The name is taken from a poem by Thomas Moore called The Meeting of The Waters.  It is said that Thomas Moore the poet and John Thomas Moore the community builder were related.

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The Toronto Archives photo below shows the bridge looking west toward Pleasant Boulevard. Notice the lattice work iron railings on either side.

Construction photographs of St. Clair Avenue E. viaduct

When The Vale of Avoca opened in 1924 the old iron bridge was immediately removed.  The iron railings from John Thomas Moore’s bridge were cut up and recycled as fencing along the side of Avoca Avenue.  The Vale of Avoca bridge can be seen in the background.

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The archive photo below from 1925 shows the work in process of removing the old bridge.

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Just north in The Vale of Avoca lie the remains of an early sawmill. The  mill dam created a pond that stretched back upstream flooding part of what is today’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  This seems hard to believe looking at the present condition where the cemetery is on such higher ground.  The ravine that formerly held Yellow Creek through the cemetery property has been filled in with ten metres of soil that were excavated when the Yonge subway was built in the 1950’s.  The earthen works of the dam provided the first bridge across Yellow Creek at this location, prior to Moore’s bridge.  Today most of the structure of the mill has collapsed into a mess of shale on an otherwise soil covered embankment.  The horizontal tree in the middle of the picture below is resting on, and perhaps knocking over, part of one wall.  Near the left side of the picture there stands one of the other corners of the building.

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In the midst of the ruins of the collapsed mill I found the bottle pictured below.  It is embossed Buckingham Cleaner but bears no other markings.  The seam on the edge ends just below the lip suggesting a date between the late 1880’s and the introduction of the bottle machine in 1906.  Researching Buckingham Cleaner suggested to me that people in Buckingham have no excuse for dirt as you have a lot of cleaning services available.  The original product in this bottle is a little harder to find information about.

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We returned to St. Clair and crossed Yellow Creek on The Vale Of Avoca.  On the east bank of the creek just south of the bridge stand the remains of the abutments and footings for the 1888 bridge.  The original bridge abutment was made of cut stone.  A rectangular slab of concrete near the left of the picture is from a repair conducted just prior to replacement.  The cover photo also shows the former bridge abutment looking out across The Vale Of Avoca.

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The common Garter Snake lives in a wide variety of habitats and is completely harmless.   Various species of snakes either lay eggs or give live birth.  The garter snake is one of the species that gives live birth and the female can have as many as 70-80 snakes in a single littler.

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The teasel has nearly finished blooming for this year.  A few still have their purple ring of tiny flowers but these are only the ones which get less direct sunlight.  A group or cluster of tiny flowers such as these is known as an inflorescence.  The little flowers are actually specialized leaves known as bracts which bloom in a ring around the middle of the inflorescence and then progress toward the ends of the oval flower head.

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The Villa St. Clair was built in 1892 and added to Toronto’s list of heritage properties in 1984.  It has a small tower, or turret,  which looks out across The Vale Of Avoca.

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