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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Is this the oldest catch basin grate in the city?

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Down at Fort York, amongst the War of 1812 buildings and the construction site of the new visitors centre, lies a grate for a catch basin that may be the oldest in the city.

The clues to the grate’s age are embossed into the metal. The letters “TWB” (the T is slightly hidden by a grass blade) indicate the agency responsible for this piece of infrastructure is the Toronto Board of Water, a 19th century department of the City of Toronto. Also embedded is “88”, which we can assume is for 1888 and not 1988.

You can see the grate for yourself if you enter the Fort from the parking lot (west side); it’s about 50 metres south of the main walkway before you enter through the Fort’s wooden gates.

There are very few records that can help determine the location of the oldest pieces of infrastructure in the city. If you think there is an older grate somewhere let us know in the comment section.




  1. Has anyone gone down into it? You could probably have a better idea of how old it is just by looking at how it’s structured or what kind of material was used to build it.

  2. Yes, Fort York staff have been down in to it and it certainly is from this time period.

    What we’re interested in finding out is if there are older sewer grates around the city.

  3. In my experience, the oldest City street civil record drawings are in the old parts of Toronto like Bloor, Parliament, etc; the dates on the actual manhole lids for example tend to be consistent back to 1930s, but your TWB 1888 catchbasin grate could well be the oldest for that class of asset.

  4. I think TBW is actually Toronto Board of Works (not Water). 1888 is certainly older, by a year, than the many examples from 1889 – see fun web link above. I have always wondered whether someone in 1889 ordered a vast supply of grate covers (gravy!) or whether they just used that mold for many years. As far as I know 1889 was not any kind of special year in Toronto’s history.

  5. How delightfully bike-tire friendly… and almost before it was needed! I’ll be sure to check it out next time I’m down at the Fort.