Points of Interest > Bloor Street Viaduct

Designed by architect Edmund Burke and construction engineer Thomas Taylor, the Prince Edward Viaduct (also known as the Bloor Street Viaduct) was completed in 1918. The viaduct provided an important link between the city's east and west communities: although several bridges crossed the Don in the nineteenth century, there was no crossing north of Gerrard Street. Only a narrow footpath provided access across the Valley where the Bloor Viaduct now stands, and it was not suitable for heavy traffic.

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Bloor Viaduct under construction, Don Section, east approach, December 2, 1915.
Toronto Public Library, TRL, Canadian Historical Picture Collection, Bloor Viaduct Album, BV 684.

Nevertheless, the proposal to connect Danforth Avenue with downtown Toronto was controversial. Estimated construction costs were prohibitive (escalating from $759,000 in 1910 to $2,500,000 in 1913) and residents west of the Valley labelled the plans a "bridge to nowhere" because the Danforth was so sparsely populated. The construction of the bridge was defeated by two plebiscites between 1910 and 1912; plans were finally approved by Toronto residents on January 1, 1913.

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Footpath across the Don Valley, 1908
City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1257


Work began on January 7, 1915. The steel and concrete Viaduct was constructed in three parts: a bridge over Rosedale Ravine, an embankment along Bloor Street, and finally, a 1620 foot bridge over the Don Valley, linking Castle Frank with Danforth Avenue. This final section rose more than 120 feet over the banks of the Don. The bridge construction involved dangerous work and a number of men were killed during the three year building period. The bridge and the men who constructed it are featured in Micheal Ondaatje's 1987 novel In the Skin of a Lion.


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Bloor Viaduct under construction, Don Section, Pier E, September 21, 1915.
Toronto Public Library, TRL, Canadian Historical Picture Collection, Bloor Viaduct Album, BV 611.


The Bloor Street Viaduct was completed in October, 1918. The following year, Toronto City Council voted to rename the bridge in honour of Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) who had recently visited Toronto for the first time. Foresight on the part of the architect saw the inclusion of a lower deck under the roadway for future public transit vehicles, which city planners made use of when they opened the Bloor-Danforth Subway line 1966.


viaduct may 06
Photo: Jennifer Bonnell, May 2006

Sadly, the Viaduct also became a site of frequent suicides. Over 400 people leapt to their deaths between 1918 and 2003, giving the bridge a reputation for suicides second only to San Francisco's Golden Gate. In 1999, a design competition led to the construction of a suicide barrier called the Luminous Veil, designed by architect Derek Revington. Revington's steel Veil was completed in 2003. It received the Canadian Architect Award of Excellence in 1999.

Text: Jennifer Bonnell

Sources

Transit Toronto: http://transit.toronto.on.ca/

Twentieth Century Todmorden: A Community in the Don Valley, Virtual Exhibition, Virtual Museums Canada http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/CommunityMemories/ACMI/000a/Exhibits/English/index.html

Rodgers, Anastasia. "Constructing Beauty: The Photographs Documenting the Construction of the Bloor Viaduct." Archivaria 54 (Fall 2002): 72-91.

 

Jennifer Bonnell & Marcel Fortin, 2009. A member project of NiCHE in partnership
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