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Raymore Drive – Monument to the destructive force of nature

March 2023

Raymore Drive is a peaceful residential street along the Humber River in the Toronto, Ontario, suburb of Etobicoke, one that dead-ends at Raymore Park. Looking at the area today, one could hardly tell that sixty-eight years ago, it was the site of the deadliest natural disaster in Canadian history.

On 15 October 1954, Hurricane Hazel roared through the Greater Toronto Area, dumping so much water over a short period of time that the Humber River overflowed its banks and washed away 1,201 feet of Raymore Drive, along with 14 homes, killing 35 people, many of whom were still inside those homes. The rise in the water levels was so unprecedented that many didn’t think evacuation of the area was necessary, which played a role in the high fatality count.

Many of the bodies of victims were never found, having been washed out into Lake Ontario, including two-year-old Frank and three-month-old John Edwards, who lived with their family and the Neil family at 148 Raymore Drive. All nine occupants of the house died in the storm, the worst hit home in the area.

One very distinct reminder of what happened on that long-ago fall day, can be found on the opposite bank of Humber River. A large concrete block, looking somewhat out of place, sits at around a 30 degree angle, beside a pedestrian foot bridge, on the east side of the Humber River.

This is the remains of the abutment of a former footbridge, that was thrown up on the east bank of the Humber River by the storm, after destroying the footbridge that once sat upon it. A historical plaque sits beside this cement block, telling the story of Hurricane Hazel and it’s destruction in Toronto.

Another large chunk can be found in the a little to the east, resting in the middle of the river where it was thrown. Both remain where they laid, serving as both a monument and a reminder of the destructive force of nature.

As a consequence of the unprecedented destruction, the local conservation authorities banned homes from the flood planes of all watercourses in the Greater Toronto area. Any homes that weren’t destroyed by Hurricane Hazel were expropriated and demolished, with the land being transformed into parkland and recreational trails.

The east end of Raymore Drive was removed, along with the homes that lined the road, and what was once Gilhaven Avenue is now a recreational trail running through what is now called Raymore Park, a park dedicated to the victims and survivors of Hurricane Hazel.

A new pedestrian bridge was built across the river in 1995, linking Raymore Park with Weston Lions Park.

Sources: https://hikingthegta.com/tag/raymore-drive, Raymore Drive | Hiking the GTA, Hurricane Hazel – Wikipedia, Raymore Drive – Wikipedia.

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/raymore-drive-monument-to-the-destructive-force-of-nature/

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