Saturday, May 16, 2009

Before and After

Lower Don Valley, 1931

Lower Don Valley, 2009

I love before and after pictures. They can graphically portray places that have undergone some changes. Usually these changes are minor such as before and after a tree planting but sometimes you can do this over a longer span of time, if the pictures are available. There is an interesting blog that I follow called Toronto Before that shows archival photos from Toronto's past and places them beside a current photo. This is not so easy to do with the Don Valley since there are not that many photos available. Of the collections available there aren't that many interesting photos.

However, I did come across a photo of the Don Valley taken in 1931. The photographer was standing at the edge of the valley just south of Pottery Road looking west across the valley towards the Don Valley Brick Works. You can clearly see three chimneys labelled "DON" "VALLEY", and "BRICK". The fourth one reading "WORKS" is not in the camera shot.

The CN rail line is visible curving under the CP bridge which is still standing. A small road travels from the Brick Works to Todmorden Mills crossing the river at a single lane bridge.

The landscape in the foreground is quite remarkable. The time of year is not available but I am guessing sometime early in the year maybe March or April. The picture may portray an early spring flood since the river has overflowed its banks in a couple of places. It's hard to tell from a black and white photo but the valley looks like a blighted landscape. Only a few scraggly trees struggle to survive interspersed with mud flats and barren fields.

Unsuccessful attempt to duplicate same viewpoint as 1931 photo

Given this intriguing photo I tried to duplicate it. I attempted to stand in the same place as the original photographer but the view is blocked by a stand of trees which are now the top edge of the Todmorden Mills forest preserve.

The best I could do was to stand on Pottery Road where I could get an unobstructed view across the valley. Today's valley is much different than the one that existed 78 years ago. In the interim, the Don Valley Parkway was constructed. In this section the river was straightened into its current channel. The meandering section that flowed south of Todmorden Mills was cutoff. This now exists as an artificially created oxbow pond. Bayview Avenue was extended after WWII replacing the dirt road. The bridge in the old photo is still standing but is now only used to access a parking lot behind Todmorden Mills.

The mudflats beside the river have been replaced by a forest. Some of the trees are so big that you might think that the forest is much older but the evidence shows that this is a more recent addition.

The bridge from the 1931 photo that crossed the Don River. Today the bridge is isolated from the river. It is in very poor shape and is scheduled to be torn down as part of a refurbishment of facilities at Todmorden Mills that will take place in the next year or two.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There was a very good series of DV photos on Urban Toronto in April, See and following. (Plus a few pages earlier of old train station at Queen St Bridge.)