Toronto’s man-made flatness

A common complaint about Toronto concerns its flatness – there are large swathes of it with no obvious geographical traits at all. A city fo Euclidean ideality may be great for cycling (if it were not for the traffic, the lack of safe bike lanes, and the awful paving), but it also gives the impression of living in an under designed video game – hey, Grand Theft Auto has better hiking than this place! Well surprise surprise, – the flatness of Toronto is not entirely natural:

Crawford Street passes through Trinity Bellwoods Park over a graceful triple-span concrete bridge which still exists, but is now buried beneath the street. The bridge once crossed a ravine carved by Garrison Creek as it flowed from north of St. Clair Avenue into Lake Ontario near Fort York. Crawford Street was first extended over the ravine on a wooden bridge in 1884. In 1914 and 1915, R.C. Harris, Commissioner of Works, had the old bridge replaced with one made of concrete. (A visionary, Harris was responsible for the Bloor Street Viaduct, 1918.) The bridge’s spans, railings, and lampposts captured Harris’s flair for dramatic public architecture. Both Garrison Creek and the Crawford Street Bridge now lie hidden beneath this park. By the 1880s, the creek was so polluted that it was gradually channelled underground into a brick sewer, built through here in 1885. Portions of the ravine were then filled in, here with earth from subway excavation in the 1960s. The bridge was buried up to its sidewalks and roadbed, and its railing and lampposts were removed. In 2004, the original sidewalks and roadbed were entirely rebuilt, but the remainder of the bridge rests intact beneath the surface.

The Crawford street bridge fill is not a exceptional project – Vancouverites might be surprised to learn that Main Street once travelled over a substantial bridge between the Downtown Eastside and East Van (in the days when False Creek was more than twice its current size). But, unlike the false creek fill project, the filling of the Garrison creek serves no useful purpose other than to prevent people from having to wrestle with a bit of nature. And – it’s buried this lovely bridge!

Oh Toronto, why do you hate hills and pretty things so much?


2 thoughts on “Toronto’s man-made flatness

  1. There are buried streams all over Toronto. The ravine the subway runs under between Dupont and Eglinton West stations has Castlefrank Brook buried under it. It’s really depressing, though in places it’s neat to see signs of the brook. Taddle Creek is buried under Philosophers’ Walk at U of T.

    Here’s a good site about them:

    Waterloo has a buried river running right through its middle, too.

  2. Thanks for the link! Toronto is certainly not alone in its burying of rivers – Vancouver has hundreds of buried waterways. Or rather, it has replaced hundreds of waterways with sewers.

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