Tag Archives: north york

Scenes From Duncan Mills Ruins

Hearing about a couple of old abandoned structures in the middle of a ravine, I explored the Duncan Mill Ruins while on my walk of the adjacent Betty Sutherland Trail. I entered from an unmarked yet paved path on the east end of the bridge on Duncan Mill Road.

Duncan Mill Ruins (1)

I could’ve followed the path until I reached the front of the first derelict building, but in my infinite wisdom I traveled through a thick field of tall grass and logs (and bugs!). This took me to the back where I then walked around and examined it.

Duncan Mill Ruins (4)

Duncan Mill Ruins (5)

The building had the surrounding plant life growing through it, was defaced with graffiti, and was missing part of its roof. It also consists of two ‘rooms’, the main one having an industrial tank of some sort. I found a suitcase nearby which makes me wonder if someone actually camped (camps?) out there (I suggest and hope not).

Duncan Mill Ruins (6)

Duncan Mill Ruins (7)

Duncan Mill Ruins (8)

Duncan Mill Ruins (11)

West of this building (I nearly missed it) is another building. This one is smaller and more in tact. It’s certainly got a roof anyways. A look inside produces a space full of debris and garbage.

Duncan Mill Ruins (15)   Duncan Mill Ruins (16)

As for the speculation on the uses of these buildings, they are clearly industrial. Beyond that, I have none. The North York Historical Society looked into them in 2011 and offered some intriguing explanations, but the status of this report is unknown. A blogger from that same year, whose post I consulted while looking for info on the Betty Sutherland Trail (and indeed first informed me of the Duncan Mill Ruins), did a bit of digging on some of the machinery in the large structure.

I would be very intrigued to know if the NYHS does any more work, but for now, this was an intriguing find.

Update (December 3, 2015): Through some investigative work, Jason Ramsay-Brown of Toronto’s Ravines And Urban Forests speculates that they were a pumping house for Henry Rupert Bain’s Graydon House estate, located east of Don Mills Road!

Useful Links

Unknowne Landes Tumblr – Graffiti Buildings at Betty Sutherland Trail Don

Scenes From The Betty Sutherland Trail

The slogan on every Toronto Parks & Recreation sign is ‘A City Within A Park’. And indeed many of the city’s parks and trails involve the interplay of natural and urban environments.

Betty Sutherland Trail (1)

The Betty Sutherland Trail in North York is a part of Toronto network of ravines, and follows the eastern branch of the Don River from Duncan Mill Road just west of Don Mills Road to Sheppard Avenue and Leslie Street. I enter from Duncan Mill Road, noting the existence of the nearby Duncan Mill Ruins.

Betty Sutherland Trail (2)

At the bottom of the tiny slope is a plaque dedicated to the park’s namesake, Mrs Betty Sutherland, who championed parks during her political career within the former municipality of North York. I begin my exploration by going off the trail and looking out into the river.

Betty Sutherland Trail (3)       Betty Sutherland Trail (4)

The  trail itself is rather winding at times falling right beside the river while crossing it a few times. It is also well used, especially the section closer to Duncan Mill with a quite a few walkers, runners, and cyclists.

Betty Sutherland Trail (8)        Betty Sutherland Trail (5)

The trail also has rest points in various locations. Stopping at a picnic bench, I take out my copy of Amy Lavender Harris’ Imagining Toronto (@ImaginingTO). I pre-marked a specific section ‘Ravine City’ in her book which examines the portrayal of Toronto’s ravines in fiction, which I thought was very fitting considering my location. Every so often I’d stop to consider the details, such as the sometimes dark associations Toronto fiction and, by extension, Toronto writers and residents have had with these particular geological features. Before I can finish the section, I opt to continue my walk as mosquitoes begin their feast on me.

Betty Sutherland Trail (11)         Betty Sutherland Trail (13)

It was very odd experience burrowing deeper into this trail which speaks to this “City Within A Park” motto. On the one hand the riparian corridor and the quiet sounds of creek itself allow for a very serene time within this natural environment. On the other hand, if I care to listen, I can also hear the faint yet unmistakable sound of speeding traffic coming from the nearby 401. This is the strange cross section between Toronto’s natural heritage (or, at least, natural features) and the built heritage or environ around or, in this case, on top of the natural.

Betty Sutherland Trail (17)

Speaking of, I pass under the highway half-way into the trail. Or at least, I deem it halfway if only because it acts as the southern border to Henry Farm neighbourhood. A short while past the highway I encounter a fork in the path: one would lead up into the residential neighbourhood and the other continuing as I was. I opt to venture the streets out of the foreknowledge of the nearby Oriole Lodge, the estate house built by George S Henry, as well as the Henry Mulholland Cairn dedicated to his great-relatives.

Betty Sutherland Trail (18)

Betty Sutherland Trail (19)

Betty Sutherland Trail (20)

Betty Sutherland Trail (21)

George S. Henry House Oriole Lodge

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

After that detour, I get back to the trail, where I encounter several fruit trees and tributaries to the river. I’m also able to  see, poking through the trees, the far off ‘H’ of North York General Hospital. I exit at the intersection of Leslie and Sheppard, where across the street at the northwest corner I see another trail begins. For next time.

Betty Sutherland Trail (23)     Betty Sutherland Trail (25)

Betty Sutherland Trail (27)

Betty Sutherland Trail (28)

Useful Links

Ontario Trails Council – Betty Sutherland Trail

Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation – Betty Sutherland Trail Park

Henry Farm Community Interest Association – Betty Sutherland Trail

Wandering Toronto – Betty Sutherland Trail Buttplant

Toronto Ravines & Trails with Abbey – Duncan Mills Ruins and Betty Sutherland Trail

Lone Primate Flickr – Betty Sutherland Trail

Levy News Network – Exploring Toronto: Henry Mulholland Cairn in North York

Wikipedia – Henry Farm