Before you ask, we are still in Toronto. If we continue walking in this direction along the Trans Canada Trail, we will eventually arrive in Ottawa and stroll across the Ontario-Quebec border into Gatineau but that day has not yet arrived. The Gatineau hydro corridor that traverses the former municipality of Scarborough (amalgamated with Toronto in 1998) is named for the Great Gatineau Power Station that was built in Leaside in the 1920s. The electricity generated by the Chaudière Falls was transmitted to the power station along the Gatineau Hydro Corridor, the longest 220,000 volt line in Canada.
The Gatineau Hydro Corridor acts as a linear park, taking us from the industrial warehouses of Bermondsey, where we left off last week, to north of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. By this time of year, I expected the corridor to resemble a snow swept prairie but the weather remains curiously above zero. The Doctor Zhivago inspired landscape shots will have to wait for later in the season. Instead, there is browning grass and the occasional overturned shopping cart.
For our previous walks, I’ve had a good sense of where I am going but the Gatineau Hydro Corridor portion of trail meanders in and out of parks, through residential areas of 1950s bungalows that all look remarkably the same, over bridges and past deserted playgrounds. I know I’m walking vaguely northeast but there isn’t the same sense of consistent path as there was on The Lower Don Trail or Taylor Creek Park. The signage comes and goes and is often a recent history of Toronto itself, announcing both the Pan Am path established this year and “Metro Toronto,” which existed before amalgamation.
As a result of the meandering path and unfamiliar terrain, I am reluctant to go looking for interesting places off the trail as I did downtown but no historian can resist the giant sign that says “Historic Site” on St. Andrews Road. Here is one of the oldest parts of Scarborough, named by Elizabeth Simcoe in 1793 because the terrain reminded her of the town of the same name in North Yorkshire.
“The shore is extremely bold, and has the appearance of chalk cliffs, but I believe they are only white sand. They appeared so well that we talked of building a summer residence there and calling it Scarborough.” — Mrs. Simcoe’s Diary, August 4, 1793
St. Andrew’s Street is site of the Springfield farmhouse, Scarborough’s first brick house and a reminder that this busy region of Toronto was a rural area until comparatively recently. The first settlers here were David and Andrew Thompson, stonemasons and mill owners who established a community that became known as “Thompson settlement.”
Past Springfield farmhouse is St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Scarborough’s first public library, which was in operation from 1834 until 1861. James Thompson, the owner of the Springfield farmhouse (and son of original settler David Thompson) was also one of the founders of the public library. In keeping with nineteenth century ideas about libraries as places of intellectual and moral improvement, book acquisitions were strictly censored to ensure that “No book of a seditious, deistical or licentious character was to be allowed on the shelves on any pretence whatever.”
The sun is going down and soon the light will not be strong enough for photos. We’ll wrap up here for the day and start the next walk at the corner of St. Andrews and McCowan road, continuing along the eastern portion of the Gatineau Hydro Corridor to West Highland Creek.
Getting there on public transit: Subway to Warden, McCowan 16 bus northbound to St. Andrews St.
Further Reading: Leaside by Jane Pitfield
Shawn Micallef, Scarborough is wild, historic and steep, Toronto Star, March 28, 2014
Next: Highland Creek