By John Van Nostrand

The Estates (on Farm Lots) circa
The Estates (on Farm Lots) circa


Language: English 

Area: Downtown

Theme: Environment, History & Culture, Anthropocene Toronto

Accessibility: - Family-Friendly, Fun for Kids, Triggering Content


Departs (#1) North Toronto Station/LCBO (Scrivener Square); heading north on Yonge to Summerhill Neighbourhood, then east on Summerhill Avenue (1850-) (#2) Summerhill Garden Suburb (1924-), to Summer Hill Estate (1884), and (#3) Rosehill Reservoir (1884 - Toronto’s first Reservoir [currently under rehabilitation]); then, west on Woodlawn Avenue (to YWCA Women’s Shelter; and on to (#4) Woodlawn Estate (1840); north on Yonge Street to Gallows Hill (1837); and on to (#5) St. Clair Subway Tower Neighbourhood (1958-today ); east on Rosehill Avenue to Vale of Avoca – (#6) via St.Clair Avenue Diversion (up to 1925); south on Nature Trail to ruins of (#7) (Rosehill) Reservoir Park (1890), Yellow Creek Nature Trail (currently undergoing (#8) re-naturalization by TRCA), the (#9) Summerhill Avenue Diversion (#10) Mount Pleasant (Toronto’s first “expressway”); on to (in (#11) Rosedale Garden Suburb – circa 1890) through (#12) Chestnut Park; returning to Scrivener Square via (#13) Pricefield Park. 


This Walk (filmed on May 3, 2020) explores the history of Toronto’s urban relationship with Nature – in the form of the ancient Lake Iroquois Shoreline; at its intersection with Yonge Street, Toronto’s primary North-South Corridor (1796). Lake Iroquois was a larger, deeper version of Lake Ontario, that occupied Toronto’s footprint 12,000 years ago - to a depth of 50 metres over its current Downtown. After 225 years of urban growth, it’s no longer possible to separate the remnants of indigenous nature from those of the settler-natures that have been consciously or unconsciously recreated by human interventions – paths, streets, railways, streams (that have been channelized), bridges, railways, subways, an expressway, and manicured parks.


The Walk includes the following Stop Points:



Opened in 1916, connecting passengers with outlying towns – from Peterborough to Guelph. This grand Beaux-Arts Station, by Darling and Pearson Architect, was inspired by the Campanile di San Marco in Venice. In the meantime, numerous industrial yards and hotels had grown up along the tracks. Brewers Retail moved into the Station after its closure in 1931, and the original Station was restored and renovated throughout in 2004, as the LCBO’s largest outlet in Ontario.

Woodlawn in the 1890s.jpeg

Woodlawn Residence and Estate (Lots 21 and 22; Concession II) – located at the base of the Shoreline, the second oldest, continually occupied residence in Toronto, designed by John Howard in 1840. It remains set in a 10-acre Park, subdivided on the upper side by Woodlawn Avenue, and on the lower by Walker Avenue.


Rosedale circa 1835, Willian and Mary Ja

Rosedale and Summerhill Garden Suburbs – Rosedale was named after the abundance of wild roses that graced the hillsides of the Jarvis estate which was subdivided in 1854 to become Toronto's first "garden suburb.” The second was “Summerhill Gardens,” subdivided by 1913 on part the former 200-acre Farm Lot (running from Yonge to Bayview) - within the 75-acre former Summer Hill Estate, the Coach house of which still exists. Much of the remainder of Summerhill Neighbourhood grew up to accommodate the CPR staff and workers, from 1915 on.



Rosehill Reservoir - Toronto’s first – opened in 1874 (storing 33 million gallons) involved extensive earth-moving below and above the Shoreline (resulting in steep banks now overgrown) – again in 1948, when it was covered over; and in 1966, when it was enlarged to 53 million gallons. An original Reservoir Park was opened within the adjacent Yellow Creek Ravine. The Reservoir is currently being expanded to serve over 1 million persons, living as far north as Vaughan.

Scene in Reservoir Park - Note the Stone


Yonge and St.Clair Towers (1980).png

Subway Tower Neighbourhood – following the completion of the Subway to St. Clair in 1954, considerable speculation and land assembly accompanied the introduction of numerous high-rise residential and office towers from north of St. Clair, south to the top of the Shoreline, offering wonderful views of Toronto and Lake Ontario. Its been expanding ever since.


Vale of Avoca (Yellow Creek Ravine) – a “Nature Walk” through the local Ravine which crosses over the Shoreline, accessing it on the original St. Clair Diversion from Avoca Avenue (before the completion of the Bridge in 1925), walking south through the ruins of Reservoir Park (1980), through the most recent version of “renaturalization” of the Creek bed (which was “channelized” in the 1950s; and on down to cross the former Summerhill Avenue Diversion, to Mount Pleasant Drive, first opened to traffic in 1919 from St. Clair to the Blythwood Ravine, and extended to Jarvis in 1950, as Toronto’s first “expressway.”

Yellow Creek Ravine (looking South).JPG
Ruins of Channelization - Yellow Creek,