A Saturday morning walk to the Don Valley Brick Works

With a long week of work heading into the first few days of summer over, I was determined to spend my Saturday morning regenerating. People regenerate in different ways — some sleep in, some read a book. On this day, I decided to head out for a walk to the ravines.

Living in the northeast part of downtown, around Jarvis and Bloor Streets, is interesting because just south of me is dense urban fabric, and just north is an expansive ravine system that winds through Rosedale, and connects to the Don Valley. On Saturday I chose to go to the Don Valley Brick Works, off the Moore Park Ravine system in the Don River Valley, to spend some time in the old quarry.

There are lots of ways to get there, but yesterday I crossed over the northern tip of St. James Town at Howard Street, turned right on Glen Road, and went north past the back of the Sherbourne TTC subway station through a mural-lined concrete tunnel that took me beneath Bloor Street. As soon as I came through to the other side, the bucolic refreshment that I was looking for started to surround me. I crossed the Glen Road pedestrian bridge, over Rosedale Valley Road below, taking in the variant shades of green in the canopy of old trees.

On the other side of the bridge, I continued north, staying on Glen Road even after it jogs at Maple Avenue. Beyond another Glen Road bridge (though this one is a vehicular bridge as well), I turned right onto Roxborough Drive, walked through Chorley Park, and headed down into the valley where the Don Valley Brick Works is located.

The Don Valley Brick Works is an interesting place for many reasons — from 1889 to 1984, it was one of Canada’s pre-eminent brickyard’s, manufacturing the bricks for many local and national landmarks such as Casa Loma and Massey Hall. After a period of dereliction that ended in the mid-1990s, the site is now in the midst of a massive redevelopment that will see the old industrial buildings preserved, and the site converted into an environmentally-based community center (known as Evergreen Brick Works).

The redevelopment initiative is being led by Evergreen, a not-for-profit whose mandate is to bring together communities and nature. The site is owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and is managed by the City of Toronto, Culture Department. In addition, the Brick Works has had support from many different partners and donors, as listed on the Evergreen Brick Works web-site.

Although many of the buildings are not scheduled for completion until 2009, the Brick Works is a very active place, especially on a summer Saturday like yesterday. As well as a weekly bustling farmers market, where I did my share of sampling and buying food, there were different activities for families and children to enjoy, including a live singer, a strawberry hulling competition, and ice cream making for children. Yesterday was also Summer Solstice Wildflower Day, with a butterfly and gardening workshop, a picnic lunch, and a wildflower planting. There was also a workshop on solar power being presented by Go Solar, a program of the Clean Air Foundation.

There are lots of different ways to get there in addition to the walk that I described (including many variations on that walk). On Saturdays, the TTC runs a bus (28A Davisville) to the Brick Works from Davisville subway station from 7:30 AM to apprximately 2:30 PM. Evergreen also operates a free shuttle from Broadview subway station on Saturdays. For those who cycle or drive, there are bike racks and surface parking.

The Don Valley Brick Works is easy to enjoy both actively and passively, particularly in the quarry. The quarry has been converted into a dynamic wetland, with ponds, wildflower meadows, a small forest, and walking paths. Contained within an arc of steeply sloped walls, the quarry is a quiet enclave where the stresses of the city are buffered. The fact that it used to be a brick yard is sometimes hard to believe thanks to the picturesque qualities of the landscape and abundance of wildlife, but tracks of crushed brick poke up through the walking paths as a reminder.

Yesterday I walked up such a path to reach the top of the north wall, an international site of geological interest because of the history of climate change contained within its layers of sediment. I looked back over the old brick yard, beyond to the odd tower poking above the trees and the busy Prince Edward Viaduct straddling the Don Valley. Just off the path I found a perch to sit on, and I stayed there for a long time, staring out of focus, not thinking of anything in particular, just appreciating the arrival of summer and smiling absently at the odd jogger or dog walker that happened to be on the same path I was.


  1. Thanks for the information on the progress of this site – it is great to see it coming along.

  2. I was there on Saturday too! Your photographs are wonderful, thanks for sharing. I’ll be posting about my visit to Brick Works as part of a longer post about my first trip to Toronto.

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