The Bloor Viaduct: Bridging Toronto’s East and West via The Don Valley

You’ve crossed it more times than you can probably remember as you travel east and west across Toronto, spanning the slopes of the Don Valley Ravine, high over the river.

Bridging The Don: the Prince Edward Viaduct, released by City of Toronto Archives, takes a look at the history of the Prince Edward Viaduct, from its lengthy approval process to construction in 1915.

Take a quick trip through history below, and visit Toronto Archives for the full the history.

f1231_it1927 2.jpg
Temporary bridge over Don River used for Bloor Street Viaduct construction. January 16, 1915. City of Toronto Archives.

On September 16, 1901, Alderman Oliver made a motion in Council “that the City Engineer be requested to make a preliminary report as to the most feasible way and probable cost of connecting Bloor Street East with Danforth Avenue.”

Proposals to build the bridge were unsuccessfully raised to Council in 1906 and 1907. Then in 1909, after East Toronto, Riverside and Lesliveville were annexed by The City of Toronto, there was an increasing need for new east-west access.

At the time, bridges at Gerrard Street and Queen Street were the only way to cross the lower section of the Don River. Eastern suburbs were cut off from central Toronto, and a new route was needed to help move more people and give more access to the cheaper real estate in the east.

A version of the viaduct, built in a straight line on the east-west axis of Bloor and Danforth and right through the Rosedale Ravine, was put to a public referendum and defeated three times in 1910, 1911 and 1912.

Views of Rosedale: 1905-1927
A look at what the viaduct would have destroyed, this postcard depicts Rosedale ravine, circa 1905. City of Toronto Archives.

Opponents of the plan included Rosedale residents and the Guild of Civic Art, which had been established to influence Council to include aesthetic considerations in city planning decisions.


Ironically, it was a member of the Guild of Civic Art, architect John Lyle (1872-1945), who came up with a clever solution that would preserve the ravine and still get people moving.

Lyle’s plan was to create a landfill terrace, extending Bloor Street south-eastward from its then location at Sherbourne Street, connecting with Parliament Street. Earth needed for the landfill would come from the excavation for the viaduct in the Don and Rosedale sections.

The steeps slopes of the Bloor section were created with massive amounts of fill used to create the terrance that carries the westerly section of the viaduct between Parliment and Sherbourne. June 26, 1916. City of Toronto Archives.

The plan was presented to Council on January 18, 1912, approved by Mayor Geary June of 1912 and finally approved by voters in the election of January 1, 1913.


In 1912, the valley’s earth was tested for its carrying capacity, and it wasn’t good. In order to find bedrock, they had to bore down 30 to 40 feet in depth. And it some spots, as deep as 77 feet below the level of the Don Valley floor.

Eventually the four centre piers of the Don section were set on solid rock, while the rest were on footings of hard, dry clay foundations varying from 10 to 14 ft. below the ground.

Existing conditions prior to construction. October 17, 1912. City of Toronto Archives.

Other factors in the location of the viaduct included the Don River, two railways and roads. Plus, the consulting architect Edmund Burke (1850-1919) was a stickler for symmetry, wished to maintain a symmetry in the main spans.

Construction began on June 16, 1915 , and the rest is history!

Check out more photos of construction below, and for more information on it’s history, visit Toronto Archive’s special section on the Prince Edward Viaduct.

View before construction. October 18, 1912. City of Toronto Archives.
Bloor Viaduct construction looking east. June 21, 1915. City of Toronto Archives.
A full-swivel steam shovel at work doing excavation. March 11, 1915. City of Toronto Archives.
Don section. September 21, 1915. City of Toronto Archives.
Construction, Don Section, Pier A. November 12, 1915. City of Toronto archives.
Everyones chipping in. August 29, 1918. City of Toronto Archives.
Bloor Viaduct, Don Section. September 25, 1916. City of Toronto Archives.



Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s