The Don River And Earth Day


Ever since I moved to Toronto I dreamed of skating and canoeing on the Don River. It is almost inconceivable to imagine that people used to skate on our fine river. This archival photo from 1920 shows how recently we were able to skate on the Don River Valley. The river no longer freezes due to all the pollution. There are three main challenges facing the river clean up. These are a large population, sewage overflow and lack of forest and wetlands around the river area. Every winter chloride and salt form the cars and roads drains and travels to the river. Diversity of fish is compromised except for the white sucker, fathead minnow and blacknose dace who all have adapted to low oxygen in order to survive in the river.

Watercolour of Curling Competition on the Don River 1836. (possibly by John Howard)

Somethings never change. This is a house, on the riverside in 1930, of one of my peeps formerly called "hobos" now commonly called "the homeless". Today on the Don River you will see all kinds of shanty houses and camps where people are living and trying not to be caught and kicked out. I feel so much for these people...they are true revolutionaries, knowingly or not!

Another hobo house, 1930.

Statue of Hermes in front of Hart House, by Staples.

Farmers by Staples.

Convocation Hall by Staples.
One of Toronto's leading artists of the early twentieth century, Owen Staples emigrated to Canada at the age of four. Showing an early inclination for art, Staples completed studies under both Horatio Walker and George Reid at the Art Students' League of Toronto before reaching the age of twenty. He then completed his artistic education under the famous American painter, Thomas Eakins, in Philadelphia (1887-1888). Staples first gained employment as an illustrator for the Toronto Evening Telegram, working there from 1885 to 1908. Thereafter he was appointed the historical painter for the John Ross Robertson Collection, as well as illustrating a number of books, executing commissioned murals, and producing a fine oeuvre of paintings, watercolours and etchings.

Owen Staples painting on the bank of the Don River, 1900.

Prince Edward viaduct under construction, 1918. I took video of this area and it will help put these photos into context, but I won't post the video until later today.
Prisoner of war camp, near the top of the photo, 1944.

Todmorden Mills, 1915.


Todmorden Mills today, started out as a lumber mill in the late 18th century. It grew into a small industrial complex and village before becoming part of East York in the 20th century. Currently the valley site is occupied by a heritage museum, an art gallery, a theatre and a wildflower preserve.

Finally, the rivers of Toronto flow into our majestic lake. For decades many of us lobbied and protested the Gardiner Expressway. It was a highway foolishly built between the city core and the lake, both physically and psychologically separating beach culture from the urban centre. The Gardiner has been at last dismantled and now some out-of-touch business investors want to build a mall and Wal-Mart at the lake near where the Don River ends and the lake begins.

If the design of Wal-Mart stores wasn't bad enough: they take up massive space without the traditional top being designed for apartments and housing of older urban buildings...the store wants 1900 parking spots! Studies show that urban people do not usually shop in these complexes, instead suburban people drive to shop. Do we want to encourage more driving while consuming lakefront property?

Not only do large stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot not provide living spaces on top of their real estate. A parking lot would compromise wetland and natural meadows and grass specifically on this Toronto lakeshore proposal.

When will people just start enjoying the simple world around them and walk?

In fact...walk away.