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The birth of the Gardiner Expressway

Posted by Derek Flack / August 26, 2011

Gardiner ExpresswayThe Gardiner — it's the expressway Toronto loves to hate. Controversial from the get-go, it was initially built in stages between 1955 and 1966, completely transforming the city's waterfront. An expressway along the current route was actually proposed back in 1947 and approved by the City's Works Committee before being voted down by council later that year.

The plan was subsequently abandoned until 1953, when Executive Committee chair Fredrick Gardiner brought it back to life just prior to the foundation of Metropolitan Toronto. Although the planning went somewhat more smoothly this time around, the route was revised a number of times due to local opposition, the most notable of which related to a plan to take the expressway right across the Fort York site.

When completed in 1966, the Gardiner extended from west of the Humber River to Leslie Street. Since then there have been more than a few calls to demolish the highway, replace it with a tunnel, and to turn it into a park. None of those have come to pass — although the section between the Don Valley to Leslie Street was knocked down in 2001.

Here are photos of the birth of the Gardiner.

Gardiner ExpresswayFrom the Toronto Daily Star in 1947

gardiner-humber-1955-s0065_fl0141_it0005.jpgAcross the Humber, 1956

2011826-GARDINER-pre-con-19509-s0065_fl0037_id0012.jpgJameson to York Street section prior to construction, Ca. 1959

2011826-gardiner-1959-s0065_fl0037_id0007.jpgJameson to York Street early construction, 1959

2011826-gardiner-1959-s0065_fl0037_id0016.jpgSame area, later that year.

2011826-gardiner-1959-s0065_fl0037_id0013.jpgConstruction near the Ex, 1959

2011826-gardiner-con-ry-1959-s0065_fl0037_id0020.jpg1959, construction with Royal York Hotel in the distance

2011826-gardiner-59s0065_fl0037_id0001.jpgConstruction, 1959

2011829-gardiner-1959-s0065_fl0037_id0006.jpgConstruction, 1959

2011826-gardiner-dufferin-bridge-1959-s0065_fl0070_id0004.jpgDufferin Bridge, 1959

2011826-gardiner-diferin-1959-s0065_fl0037_id0015.jpgBelow Dufferin Bridge

Gardiner ExpresswayThe view from a similar angle today

2011826-gardiner-aerial-1960-s0065_fl0047_id0003.jpgAerial view, 1960 (at the Humber River where the Palace Pier Condos and Arch Bridge are located today)

2011826-gardiner-aerial-jameson-1960-s0065_fl0047_id0008.jpgAerial view, 1960 (this was the final nail in the coffin for Sunnyside Amusement Park)

2011826-gardiner-jarvis-1963-f1257_s1057_it5604.jpgConstruction near Jarvis Street, 1963

2011826-lakeshore-east-1963-f1257_s1057_it5620.jpgConstruction near Lake Shore Avenue East, 1963

Photos from the Toronto Archives. Contemporary photo by sjgardiner.

Discussion

19 Comments

Fig / August 26, 2011 at 01:06 pm
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I'll say it again - I really enjoy these posts! The photos providing the comparative views (then and now) are really cool.
Nolan / August 26, 2011 at 01:34 pm
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Keep these posts coming. These images are really cool to look at. Breaks up my work day well...haha
Lazar / August 26, 2011 at 01:52 pm
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Love these historical pics. Would really be interested to see if there are any photos of the mansions that supposedly lined the waterfront before lakeshore west was built. Or is that just an urban legend?
Rob / August 26, 2011 at 02:01 pm
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Just waiting for the "shoulda built bike lanes instead" comments...
The comment Rob was waiting for / August 26, 2011 at 02:20 pm
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I wish there were bike lanes on the gardiner. Would make it much safer for cyclists.
mike in parkdale / August 26, 2011 at 02:59 pm
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Lazar - if you're looking for pics, I'd suggest grabbing Mike Filey's book 'I Remember Sunnyside' from the library. It's got an amazing chunk of history represented in photos. One shot, where Jamieson meets the lake, shows some of the houses you might be thinking of.


or this:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-CuQuBWpjdpU/TYeOfg8ZROI/AAAAAAAACXc/jeudXl3kCY4/s1600/parkdale.jpg

^ there's the mansions you were looking for (or at least traces of their remains)
Eric Hacke / August 26, 2011 at 03:57 pm
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I seem to remember something about a study in progress to tear down the portion from Jarvis to the DVP. Is that still happening?
Eric Hacke / August 26, 2011 at 04:11 pm
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So I looked it up.

Looks like Waterfront Toronto got approval to move forward with the Environmental Assessment in 2009.

http://www.gardinerconsultation.ca/

But following that, there hasn't been any updates. My guess is that when Ford came in, they knew that any recommendations they'd be making would fall on deaf ears. Maybe they are waiting until after he's replaced before they stick their heads up and make noise about it.

Or maybe it's just been scrapped and is on indefinite hold.

BlogTO people should contact them and find out:

Liz Nield
Neutral Community Facilitator’s Office
515 Consumers Road, Suite 201
Toronto, Ontario, M2J 4Z2
Phone: 416-894-1448
Fax: 416-536-3453
Email: info@gardinerconsultation.ca
damnit / August 26, 2011 at 04:38 pm
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tear it down and replace it with bike lanes.

But seriously the bridges are over 50 year sold and concrete falling form them at alarming rates. Something is going to have to be done.
mike in parkdale / August 26, 2011 at 04:47 pm
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one possible correction - Sunnyside was demolished in 1955. By 1960 when that photo was taken, the coffin had been long since nailed shut (and buried and paved over)
W. K. Lis / August 26, 2011 at 09:15 pm
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At the time, the elevated portion of the Gardiner was designed without breakdown lanes or shoulders. Get a flat tire, or stalling engine, and everyone gets into trouble. Since Rob Ford is so over enthusiastic with cars, maybe he'll like to get shoulders installed on the elevated portions.

Personally, I would rather less it either put underground, torn down, or made into a toll road.
W. K. Lis / August 26, 2011 at 09:16 pm
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At the time, the elevated portion of the Gardiner was designed without breakdown lanes or shoulders. Get a flat tire, or stalling engine, and everyone gets into trouble. Since Rob Ford is so over enthusiastic with cars, maybe he'll like to get shoulders installed on the elevated portions.

Personally, I would rather less it either put underground, torn down, or made into a toll road.
W. K. Lis / August 26, 2011 at 09:17 pm
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At the time, the elevated portion of the Gardiner was designed without breakdown lanes or shoulders. Get a flat tire, or stalling engine, and everyone gets into trouble. Since Rob Ford is so over enthusiastic with cars, maybe he'll like to get shoulders installed on the elevated portions.

Personally, I would rather see it either put underground, torn down, or made into a toll road.
gadfly / August 27, 2011 at 08:48 am
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Okay, we get the point! Gardiner = bad. Garden path across the bottom of the city = good!

Sheesh!
Nick / August 27, 2011 at 10:37 am
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$9 million in 1947 dollars is $107,465,346.53 in today's dollars: doesn't seem like much if one considers the Fort York pedestrian bridge was slated to cost $20-odd million. Maybe that's why it's falling apart at an alarming rate.
Gerard / September 9, 2011 at 01:00 am
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Saddest memory - when they "fixed" the eastbound approach to the Humber bridge and eliminated the negative Gs you would feel. Favourite part of driving downtown to Church on Sundays in the back of a '66 Chev wagon all the way to my own '82 Mustang.
koolgreen replying to a comment from Gerard / July 6, 2012 at 12:12 am
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yeah until that imbicile in the corvette smashed his car to bits. That was the best part of the gardiner.....
Worm / December 31, 2012 at 06:36 pm
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Any idea where I could find a list of architects or engineers that work and designed the expressway? My father was one and I would love to see his name on in the credits, thank you.
Rob replying to a comment from Gerard / December 31, 2012 at 07:37 pm
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Great catch. Distinctly remember asking my Dad to speed up every time we approached that stretch (he obliged).

Wow, this article is old...

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