History of Cedarvale

This section of the web site has been extracted from the Forest Management Plan for the Cedarvale Park by Elpidio Chavez and Janina Kowalski, Urban Forest Conservation, University of Toronto, December 2016 (see next item in this section, below).

When the Township of York (now Toronto) was created in 1850, the area around what is currently Cedarvale Park and Ravine was primarily agricultural land. As the city of Toronto expanded, the community around Cedarvale was first developed as a suburb around 1912 (Anthony 1978, 8). Henry Pellatt, the industrialist made famous through his construction of nearby Casa Loma, intended to build a community around the ravine, with tennis courts at the bottom (Skira 2010, Feb 7). This plan never came to fruition, and most development was slowed throughout World War I, with a brief increase in the 1920s, before decreasing with the Great Depression. The noted author Ernest Hemingway, while living in Toronto during the early 1920’s, lived in the neighbourhood and enjoyed walking through the ravine (Skira 2010, Feb 7). Cedarvale Ravine was a recreational area, with people walking, picnicking, skiing and swimming in the stream, with many local residents of the slopes planting gardens with ornamental and edible plants. (Anthony 1978) Some of the more unusual activities included fox hunting, and the Klondyke Motorcycle Races (Anthony 1978, 31).

After the post-war development boom, multiple expressways were planned for Toronto to connect the downtown core with the suburbs such as the Don Valley Parkway, and the ill-fated Spadina Expressway, slated to run directly through Cedarvale Ravine. By 1966 properties were expropriated to make way for the incoming expressway, and by 1970 a large portion of the trees in the ravine were clearcut (Anthony 1978,23). However, due to popular protest within Toronto, including the efforts of noted urban theorist Jane Jacobs, the Spadina Expressway project was cancelled in 1971 (Kelly 2006, Apr 29, Milligan 2011). Large sewer pipes were installed in the floor of the ravine, displacing Castle Frank Brook [see section below]. In 1972 plans were drafted to include the subway through Cedarvale Ravine. There was some restoration work in the ravine, with the exact date and company unclear. (Anthony 1978, 37).

The Castle Frank Brook, a tributary of the Don, flowed through Cedarvale Ravine, and was once strong enough to power a grist mill, and large enough to swim in (Ravine Developers 1972). Previously the portion of the park east of Bathurst was typically swampy, and supported an abundance of watercress (Nasturtium officinale) which was harvested and sold in shops along St. Clair West (Anthony 1978, 13). However, the Castle Frank Brook was diverted, and then virtually invisible by 1978. It currently is part of the Spadina Storm Trunk Sewer. (Ramsay-Brown 2013, Sep 26). Cedarvale Ravine was previously connected to the Nordheimer Ravine to the south, but a large portion north of St. Clair was filled in during the 1950s. (Anthony 1978, 1)

[For references, go to the Forest Management Plan]