Points of Interest > Bloor Street Viaduct
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Transit Toronto: http://transit.toronto.on.ca/
Twentieth Century Todmorden: A Community in the Don Valley, Virtual Exhibition, Virtual Museums Canada
Rodgers, Anastasia. "Constructing Beauty: The Photographs Documenting the Construction of the Bloor Viaduct." Archivaria 54 (Fall 2002): 72-91.