Tag Archives: Raymore Drive

Raymore Park goes Hollywood

On Tuesday, August 23rd, Northwest Folks Productions will be filming the movie, “Different Folks” in Raymore Park between 7am and 9pm. Scenes will take place ‘on the Raymore Drive area part of the trail, and on the bridge’. The movie, a comedy, will star 16 year-old American actress Bailee Madison and is being filmed under the auspices of Pinewood Toronto Studios. I don’t know if the production company is aware of all the construction going on around the park as it’s quite noisy around here these days. Hopefully they’ll be able to coordinate between various work crews to achieve some peace and quiet when needed.

Bailee Madison.

Bailee Madison.

UPDATE: Technical problems caused cancellation of the shoot for today; Kat Hidalgo from Northwest Folks Productions tells me they may be in the park tomorrow (24th August).

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Hurricane Hazel Series- 1: The deadly knock

A knock on a door sealed the fate of two families on the rainy night of October 15, 1954. They lived on Raymore Drive in an idyllic neighbourhood by the shore of the Humber River. That night, radio stations had warned of a dangerous hurricane making its way north that would dump more heavy rain onto an already saturated ground.

Autumn in Ontario is a time of transition. The province occasionally finds itself in the path of extra-tropical hurricanes that are usually shadows of their former selves by the time their energy supply of tropical air has been cut off. This hurricane, named Hazel, was different. It had wreaked havoc in many areas of the United States. Instead of becoming a rain event, Hazel managed to re-energize itself by finding and merging with a cold low pressure area and using that to squeeze out more wind and moisture.

As the evening progressed, the storm parked itself over the city and the already swollen Humber River began to rise higher than residents had ever seen it. In wintertime, ice jams would bring water and inconvenience to the doorsteps of a few homes at the lower end of Raymore Drive but this time was different as the higher water level ceased to be an annoyance and started to become a threat. The roaring water surged wildly with no sign of levelling off.

As water lapped over thresholds into homes near by the river, one family thought it wise to ask neighbours on higher ground if they could bring over furniture threatened by the rising waters. This was the fatal knock. While the two families focussed on moving furniture to the higher house, their single-minded dedication to the task may have prevented them from acting quickly when events took a sudden turn for the worse.

What neither family could see and what would end up costing the lives of 35 residents of the neighbourhood was an unpredictable turn of events. Straddling the river hung a suspension footbridge. It was then, as its replacement is today, a convenient short cut from Raymore Drive to the bustling town of Weston, a centre of commerce for miles around. It was known as the swing bridge, not because of any mechanical abilities but like any suspension bridge, it could be coaxed into swinging by rhythmic walking or jumping.

As the water continued to rise, the western abutment of the footbridge was dragged off its perch into the river a few metres downstream where it anchored itself in the position it occupies today. The cables of the bridge held and in effect, re-positioned the bridge diagonally across the river forming a barrier which, thanks to the debris washing downstream quickly became a diversionary dam. Suddenly and without warning, the river was steered directly into the path of the homes at the end of Raymore Drive engulfing our two families and taking a total of 35 lives at this location.

Today, the western abutment is still resting in the river, standing as a grim witness to that terrible night. The eastern end of the bridge remains in place and as mentioned previously, was decorated with a (now badly peeled) commemorative mural in 2002. Raymore Park itself contains no memorial to the people who lost their lives that day. Perhaps this would be a worthy project.

Looking upstream, the western abutment is still in the Humber.

Looking upstream, the western abutment can be seen below and to the left of the bridge.

Readers are invited to add their own memories or anecdotes of Hurricane Hazel.

60 years since Hurricane Hazel

This year is the 60th anniversary of Hurricane Hazel. The night of October 15th, 1954 saw a storm that hugely affected many parts of Toronto and Southern Ontario. The epicentre of the tragedy was of course Raymore Drive where 35 residents died. In order to avoid such tragedies in the future, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority was formed. This body was charged with setting aside flood-prone lands and creating the parks system that is a major feature of today’s Toronto.

To commemorate the anniversary, I’ll try and produce the occasional article on the topic until October. The first one will appear later this week.

The eastern abutment of the old footbridge connecting Weston to Raymore Drive.

The eastern abutment of the old footbridge connecting Weston to Raymore Drive. Artist Mario Noviello painted this commemorative work in 2002 but sadly the weather has not been kind to his creation showing the original suspension bridge. The western abutment remains in the river where it was dragged during Hazel’s fury.

More hints of the past

Housing was once scattered along the length of the Humber. Quite a few were built on the valley floor in present day Raymore Park. Raymore Drive used to stretch down into the present-day parking lot and Gilhaven Avenue. It must have been an idyllic location with nature close at hand, rich flood plain soil and an easy walk to the shops and transportation links in Weston. Interestingly, I was talking to long time Weston resident Douglas Tucker and he mentioned that until the mid-1960s, Weston was a shopping destination for people from as far away as Palgrave and Bolton thanks to a regular train service.

In Raymore Park, few traces remain of the houses once located here before they were either swept away during Hurricane Hazel or demolished by authorities in the aftermath. Every spring however, flowering shrubs are living reminders of the families who cultivated gardens here more than fifty years ago.

This beautiful lilac blooms faithfully every year.

This is one of two beautiful lilacs that bloom faithfully every year.

Apple blossom pokes its way through the surrounding trees.

Apple blossom pokes its way through the surrounding trees.

A beautiful American Honeysuckle towers over day lilies.

Along with the day lilies in front of it, I don’t know if this beautiful honeysuckle is a remnant or not.

This City of Toronto Archive aerial view has been labelled to show the location of some of the streets including Gilhaven Avenue which no longer exists. The present-day lilac bush and parking lot locations are marked. The Humber still follows the same approximate course.

Aerial view of Raymore and Glenhaven in 1953.

Aerial view of Raymore and Gilhaven in 1953.

Bring on the Zamboni!

A steely-grey cloud deck, fast moving clouds being pushed along by a raw east wind can only mean one thing; snow is coming. This time we’re getting off lightly with just a couple of centimetres while temperatures will rise above the zero mark for the next few days.

Above the weir, a large natural ice surface has magically appeared that (with some smoothing from a handy Zamboni or some strategic flooding) could be a fantastic outdoor rink. These two photographs were taken from the same spot.

Looking upriver towards Weston.

Looking upriver towards Weston.

Looking downriver over the weir.

Looking downriver over the weir.

Since the icy conditions have taken over and glazed the pathways, very few people are using the park as the entrance (closed to traffic for the winter) from Raymore Drive is on a steep slope. Only the die-hards with footwear designed for ice are braving these treacherous conditions. Even the extreme weather cyclists have admitted defeat. Not a square centimetre of spandex in sight!

I must admit it’s nice to have the place to yourself and no doubt wildlife prefers it too.