Gardiner Expressway

The birth of the Gardiner Expressway

The 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 Expressway

From the Toronto Daily Star in 1947


Across the Humber, 1956


Jameson to York Street section prior to construction, Ca. 1959


Jameson to York Street early construction, 1959


Same area, later that year.


Construction near the Ex, 1959


1959, construction with Royal York Hotel in the distance


Construction, 1959


Construction, 1959


Dufferin Bridge, 1959


Below Dufferin Bridge

Gardiner Expressway

The view from a similar angle today


Aerial view, 1960 (at the Humber River where the Palace Pier Condos and Arch Bridge are located today)


Aerial view, 1960 (this was the final nail in the coffin for Sunnyside Amusement Park)


Construction near Jarvis Street, 1963


Construction near Lake Shore Avenue East, 1963

Photos from the Toronto Archives. Contemporary photo by sjgardiner.

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