Recently I’ve rediscovered my passion for uncovering Toronto’s forgotten landmarks during this awkward period of social distancing. My curiosity with sewers began in high school when my geography teacher would go on and on about the issues with burying creeks and altering watersheds. She used to reference the landscape surrounding our school and explain how the elevation and direction of each street was no mistake, that everything was related to the paths of creeks that once flowed in and around the area. Between 1909 and 1941, the infrastructure in the High Park/West Junction neighbourhood really began to take shape. The two maps below illustrate how the growth of the urban landscape was tethered so intrinsically to the local watersheds.
(for more cool maps, go here: https://ocul.on.ca/topomaps/collection/
Long before the city of Toronto expanded west and amalgamated Bloor West Village, Wendigo Creek (the smaller creek which borders HP's west edge) flowed undisturbed from the heart of the Junction at Laws and Dundas, down through Clendenan Avenue into High Park. By taking note of the windy streets, tall embankments and fluctuating contours in the neighborhood, it's easy to see the many features which indicate the old path the creek once took.
After going down the rabbit hole, I found lots of interesting stories of how the creek was embedded within the community, and how that legacy remains in subtle ways. In the mid 1800s, David Kennedy had dammed sections of the creek, creating small ponds where salmon would collect for recreational fishing. These were located on the present day Oakview Avenue and Birchview Crescent (on the map above, it can be seen by the two fingers of water sticking up north of bloor).
The third finger of water which branches out to the east eventually became the site of the High Park Mineral Baths, or "The Minnies". These were built by Dr. William J. McCormick and his wife in 1913 along with the estate they purchased and turned into the High Park Sanitarium in 1907. The estate still exists today.
Eventually, around 1910 the decision was made to fill the valley between High Park and Runnymede with dirt, allowing the streetcar tracks to be expanded and paving the way for extensive residential development. To get an idea of how much material was needed to complete the project, included in the gallery is an image which shows the height of the sewer shaft which would eventually find itself buried. Also included are images of the drain being built and buried for the first time (circa, 1913).
Historical photo dump. All images of Bloor under construction are facing west, looking towards the uphill near Runnymede (then called Elizabeth road). The first two show the mineral baths (again, looking southwest) and the estate of 32 Gothic Avenue overlooking HP.
Fast forward a century.
During recent rainfall, the concrete segments of the drain came lose at the outfall, triggering construction. Which the hefty grate gone, it was now possible for me to enter and explore this historic site. The first section only stretches about 30 meters before you find yourself at the bottom of an extremely tall shaft. A series of wet ladders bring you up to the top of a waterfall, where the drain continues as a small RCP under Clendenan and then Glenlake avenues for what seems like a long time.
According to an entry by Angels of the Underground, “after a long, long trip north you reach fairly large storage tanks.” My friend and I endured this very long trip in the back breaker hoping that we’d come across treasure, but at the end of the rainbow we just found some washed up drain scraps in a rusty grate. Devastated, once we saw daylight again, we hopped on our bikes and went searching for the manhole which marked the end of the drain, and eventually found it at the corner of Glenlake and Glendonwynne.
These leaves me with three possibilities: a) the drain in this entry is completely different to the one I stuck my head in (despite the outfall looking, I swear to god, identical) http://aotu.ca/dra...rk-west/index.html
, b) construction was done to the storage tanks since the 2000s, although I can't find any evidence online for this, or c) I was supposed to squeeze myself through dog sized pipes which came up at one or two junctions along the way. Anyways, if anyone knows some of the guys who used to post on AOTU, getting into contact with them would be super cool. Need to find out where I went wrong.
Jeez, sorry for the word dump, and the lack of pics
Kinda rushed through this post, but looking forward to making similar entries of better quality in the future! Below are the sources:
High Park Mineral Baths and Sanitarium: https://losttoront...ark-mineral-baths/
Wendigo and Spring Creeks: https://www.highpa...plore.WendigoCreek
Clendenan construction: https://wtjhs.ca/j...%20are%20for%20the