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Buried bridges of Toronto

The only visible remnant of the Harbord Street Bridge: the balustrade on the north side. Photo: Bruce Forsyth.

March 2020

Like most cities, Toronto has a spotted history of preserving buildings and structures from the past. Most times, old buildings and structures are torn down to make room for new ones, all in the name of progress.

In some cases, it’s simply too expensive to repair them, but especially in the case of buildings, far too often the old one simply doesn’t fit with the developer’s plans. At best, the fa├žade of an old building may be preserved, along with any carved ornamental elements from buildings and structures.

In the case of two bridges that once spanned over the Garrison Creek valley in south-central Toronto, they both still exist, although most wouldn’t know it. Both the Crawford Street Bridge in the Trinity-Bellwoods area and the Harbord Street Bridge in the Little Italy-Bickford Park area.

Crawford Street Bridge

The Crawford Bridge was built in 1914 to replace an earlier wooden bridge, spanning Garrison Creek. It was a triple span Arch bridge that has similar design features with the larger Prince Edward Viaduct over the Don River valley. While Garrison Creek itself had been buried as a brick sewer in 1885, there was still a substantial valley to cross and the bridge allowed residents in the new residential development along Crawford Street access to Dundas Street West.

While most of the bridges that spanned the Garrison Creek valley had been demolished prior to 1940, the Crawford Street Bridge remained until the 1960s, when the valley around and under the bridge was filled in with earth dug out during the construction of the Bloor subway. Rather that demolishing the bridge, it was effectively buried up to its deck. The newly flat land was named Trinity-Bellwoods Park.

There are no visible signs of the bridge today. A plaque commemorating the Crawford Street Bridge sits at the south side and at both ends, small concrete walls resembling partial balustrades delineate where the bridge started and ended.

Harbord Street Bridge

The Harbord Street Bridge was a single span reinforced concrete Arch Bridge, built in 1909 to allow access over the valley floor for area residents. Like at the Crawford Street Bridge, Garrison Creek had been buried for use as a sewer.

Infilling began around 1917, with the entire valley to the south being completely filled-in by 1930. This area is now known as Art Eggleton Park.

On the north side of the bridge, the area immediately abutting the bridge was filled-in, but most of the valley going north up towards Bloor Street West remained unfilled, sloping up to where the Bob Abate Community Centre now sits.

The former valley floor is now known as Bickford Park, which includes baseball diamonds and a leash-free dog park.

All that remains visible of the Harbord Street Bridge is the balustrade on the north side of the road, still running the length of the bridge. The south side balustrade remained intact for several years after the bridge was buried, but it has since been demolished.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crawford_Street_Bridge, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harbord_Street_Bridge, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_Bellwoods_Park

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/buried-bridges-of-toronto/

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