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Scenes From Rouge National Urban Park – Twyn Rivers Drive & Orchard Trail

Twyn Rivers Drive is a curious street in the eastern fringes of Toronto. In a larger metropolis where farms and fields have been replaced by residences and populations, Twyn Rivers Drive is slightly rural in nature and still has visible links to its past.

Twyn Rivers Drive, 2020. Source: Google Maps

Country within The City

Located in the Rouge River Valley, Twyn Rivers Drive’s rural character is very well apparent. First, it’s a two-lane street lacking any sidewalks. Motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and even wildlife all have to carefully negotiate use of the street. Like some country roads, Twyn Rivers’ route across the valley is not direct. There are slopes, curves, and two near 90 degree turns. It has to navigate what may be the most varied topography in the city. Its path starts with a winding descent from Scarborough’s Sheppard Avenue and eventually on the other side on Sheppard Avenue…in Pickering.

Twyn Rivers Drive, 2018. Source: Google Maps.

Twyn Rivers From The Pleistocene of the Toronto Region, 1932. Source: University of Toronto Map & Data Library.

A History of Twyn Rivers Drive

The historical beginnings of Twyn Rivers Drive is an obvious question, but unfortunately, it does not have an obvious answer. It is old for sure. A September 2017 City of Toronto Traffic Operations Review characterizes Twyn Rivers Drive as “a legacy road from colonial times” and speculates that it is about 200 years old. A June 2017 CBC article says Twyn Rivers Drive is “more than 100-years old” and its main purpose was to get horses to the mills in the valley. Neither report provide any historical context to back up the claims. Twyn Rivers Drive seems to first appear in a 1916 map of Toronto and its surrounding townships, so a hundred years may be accurate at the least.

Twyn Rivers from Map of the Townships, York, Scarboro, and Etobicoke, 1916. Source: University of Toronto Map & Data Library

The naming of Twyn Rivers Drive likely also goes back to its geography. It possibly derives from the Clarence Purcell’s ‘Twyn Waters’ ranch located in the Rouge Valley on what is now Twyn Rivers Drive. The twin rivers in this case are the famed Rouge River and its lesser known brother, the Little Rouge Creek. It is unknown when Twyn Rivers Drive was actually named, but the Twyn Waters ranch existed by the 1930s.

“Picnikers Enjoy Western Hospitality,” Globe and Mail, July 6, 1939. Source: Toronto Public Library and Globe and Mail Archives.

Twyn Rivers Drive in Might’s Greater Toronto city directory, 1969. Source: Toronto Public Library.

Two Rivers, Two Bridges

Twyn Rivers Drive travels over two bridges over the mentioned waterways. The first of these over the Rouge River is a single-lane, metal truss construction. It is named “Stott’s Bridge“. Few details are available about the age and origin of this bridge, but it seems to share a surname with William Stotts, who had his estate house, Glen Eagles Manor, further up the hill at the modern junction of Twyn Rivers Drive and Sheppard Avenue East. The house later became the Glen Eagles Hotel.

Stott’s Bridge, 2019. Source: Google Maps.

William Stotts from Nason’s east and west ridings of the county of York or townships of Etobicoke, Markham, Scarboro’, Vaughan & York directory, 1871. Stott’s property was located on Concession 2 (now Ellesmere Road), on north half of lot #3. He is listed as a freeholding farmer. Highland Creek likely denotes the post office Stotts used. Source: Toronto Public Library.

Twyn Rivers From Tremaine’s Map of the County of York, Canada West, 1860. Source: Old Toronto Maps.

The second causeway is a white arched bridge over the Little Rouge Creek. “Maxwell’s Bridge” is a concrete structure which accommodates two lane traffic. It is at least the second or possibly third version of a water crossing in this location. An antique wooden bridge collapsed in 1914 after a heavy vehicle passed over it. A new bridge was soon ordered to be built. In 1927, Scarboro Township Council funded the construction of a new rainbow arch bridge with a 60-foot span at a cost of $7,797. Several other arch bridges were built in the Nineteen Tens and Nineteen Twenties Kirkham’s Road over the Rouge River in 1910, Don River Boulevard over the West Don River in 1928, and Don Mills Road over the Don River in 1921.

“Antique Bridge Collapses”, Toronto Daily Star, August 7, 1914. Source: Toronto Public Library and Toronto Star Archives.

“BRIDGE AT KIRKHAM’S MILLS”, Globe and Mail, September 13, 1910. Source: Toronto Public Library and Globe and Mail Archives

Maxwell’s Mill

Nearby Maxwell’s Bridge where Twyn Rivers Drive does its second bend are the ruins of a grist mill named “Maxwell’s Mill”. The site was built by a James Maxwell in the 1800s. In 1923, Maxwell sold it to Clarence Purcell who used it to raise livestock on his Twyn Waters ranch.

Twyn Rivers from Illustrated Historical Atlas of the County of York, 1878. Maxwell’s Mill is the Grist Mill labelled on his lot. Source: Old Toronto Maps.

James Maxwell from Nason’s east and west ridings of the county of York or townships of Etobicoke, Markham, Scarboro’, Vaughan & York directory, 1871. Maxwell is listed as a flour mill freeholder with a Post Office at Rouge Hill. His plot of land was located at Concession 3 (now Sheppard Avenue) on lot #2. Source: Toronto Public Library.

MEN OF TREES FAIR AT ‘TWYN WATERS’, Globe and Mail, September 24, 1941. Source: Toronto Public Library and Globe and Mail Archives.

The mill closed in 1929 after a flood weakened it and a fire in the 1970s destroyed much of what remained. Some of the foundations and walls still stand today. An image of Maxwell’s Mill is available on the Scarborough Historical Society’s website.

Mill stone at the Rouge river Twyn River Estate. Toronto, Ont., 1957. Source: Toronto Public Library

The Rouge Valley Inn & Caper Valley Ski Hill

The Rouge Valley Inn (later called the Rouge Valley Olympic Inn) was located on the south side of Twyn Rivers Drive slightly before the Scarborough-Pickering Townline. The site was a major Scarborough attraction in the twentieth century with a hotel, dining, picnicking for families, and “the largest swimming pool in Ontario.” Ambrose Small, the 20th century Ontario theatre titan who mysteriously disappeared in 1919, owned the Rouge Valley Inn for a time starting around 1900.

“Everyday Outings”, Globe and Mail, June 25, 1958. Source: Toronto Public Library and Globe and Mail Archives.

“Rouge Valley Guests” Globe and Mail, August 9, 1940. Source: Toronto Public Library and Globe and Mail Archives.

“$500 Reward,” Toronto Daily Star, January 6, 1920. Source: Toronto Public Library and Toronto Star Archives.

Across the Little Rouge Creek from the Rouge Valley Inn was the Caper Valley Ski Slope, also known as ‘Snake Hill’ for those who used to frequent it. Along with Earl Bales Park and other establishments, it was one of a handful of areas in Metro Toronto that offered the winter passtime. It was operated by Repac, whose name spelled backwards gave the ski hill its moniker. A footbridge linked the inn and the ski slope.

“School children taper at weekly ski outing”, Globe and Mail, January 6, 1972. Source: Toronto Public Library and Globe and Mail Archives.

Caper Valley Ski Hill, 1975. Source: Toronto Public Library.

Twyn Rivers Transformed

By the end of the 1970s, much of the historic landmarks of Twyn Rivers Drive disappeared from its geography. Fire claimed both the Rouge Valley Inn in 1968 and Maxwell’s Mill in 1970. The former site of the hotel is now the parking lot for the Twyn Rivers Rouge Park area. The mill’s ruins make for an interesting place for urban explores. Clarence Purcell sold his Twyn Waters ranch to the Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority in 1970, which after Hurricane Hazel in 1954 began to buy other valley and ravine properties for parkland. Today, there are very few residences located in Rouge Valley.

Twyn Rivers Drive, 1953 & 1975. Source: City of Toronto Archives.

By 1973, the Caper Valley Ski Hill was reporting financial difficulty and it too closed by the end of the decade. It now makes for challenging hike in Rouge Park’s Mast Trail. Finally, the Glen Eagles Hotel was also destroyed by fire in 1990, and is now the Glen Eagles Vista park. The site was nearly made condos. Today, most of these are owned and/or managed by Parks Canada.

Glen Eagles Hotel Fire, 1990. Source: Toronto Public Library.

Twyn Rivers Today

Today, Twyn Rivers is quite the nexus for Rouge National Urban Park, being the starting and ending point of multiple trails. The first source of exploration can be enjoyed around the Rouge Park parking lot. The area is situated on the Little Rouge Creek where the foundations of a former dam still stand. A makeshift footbridge crosses the creek where one can walk in the lost tracks of skiers on Snake Hill.

The Orchard Trail

Near Maxwell’s Mill is the southern terminus of the Orchard Trail. The two-kilometre walk slinks within the forest where apple trees grow today. It also offers vistas of the Little Rouge Creek. A particularly stunning area is the ascent/descent near the north end of the trail.

References

clay70, et al. Purcell’s Mill – Twyn Rivers. www.ontarioabandonedplaces.com/Purcell’s-Mill—Twyn-Rivers-abandoned-Ontario_loc5901.html.

Hikingthegta. “Maxwell’s Mill – Rouge Park.” Hiking the GTA, 24 Nov. 2016, hikingthegta.com/2016/11/23/maxwells-mill-rouge-park/.

Noonan, Larry. “STORIES FROM ROUGE PARK: Hurricane Hazel Also Blasted Rouge Valley.” Toronto.com, Toronto.com, 7 June 2016, www.toronto.com/news-story/6709710-stories-from-rouge-park-hurricane-hazel-also-blasted-rouge-valley/.

Noonan, Larry. “STORIES FROM ROUGE PARK: Recalling the Time the Glen Eagles Lands Were Saved from Condo Developers.” Toronto.com, Toronto.com, 4 June 2015, www.toronto.com/news-story/5661631-stories-from-rouge-park-recalling-the-time-the-glen-eagles-lands-were-saved-from-condo-developers/.

Noonan, Larry. “STORIES FROM ROUGE PARK: Rouge Valley Inn’s Owner Was the Subject of Canada’s Largest Manhunt.” Toronto.com, Toronto.com, 2 July 2015, www.toronto.com/news-story/5705937-stories-from-rouge-park-rouge-valley-inn-s-owner-was-the-subject-of-canada-s-largest-manhunt/.

Noonan, Larry. “STORIES FROM ROUGE PARK: The Ruins of Maxwell’s Mill Can Still Be Seen While Driving along Twyn Rivers Drive in Scarborough.” Toronto.com, Toronto.com, 31 Dec. 2015, www.toronto.com/news-story/6214521-stories-from-rouge-park-the-ruins-of-maxwell-s-mill-can-still-be-seen-while-driving-along-twyn-rivers-drive-in-scarborough/.

Parks Canada Agency, Government of Canada. “Twyn Rivers Area.” Twyn Rivers Area – Rouge National Urban Park, 12 Apr. 2019, www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/rouge/culture/histoire-history/twyn.

“Pickering Bygone Days.” DurhamRegion.com, 5 May 2015, www.durhamregion.com/community-story/5600442-pickering-bygone-days/.

Scarborough Historical Society, scarboroughhistorical.ca/local-history/communities/hillside/.

“Toronto’s Ravines and Urban Forests.” Google Books, Google, books.google.ca/books?id=2Q37CAAAQBAJ.

“Who Should Use This 100-Year-Old Scarborough Road? Not Trucks, Says Resident | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 19 July 2017, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/twyn-rivers-drive-what-should-happen-1.4212333.

Scenes From Agincourt

Edwardian country houses, post-war bungalows, 1960s apartment buildings, East Asian businesses, modern homes, condominiums, and LRT lines. A stroll through “old” Agincourt is enough to showcase the layers of this neighbourhood’s history.

Agincourt Drive Sign

Agincourt began as 19th century farming village far from the reaches of Toronto. The Edwardian homes are beautiful and unexpected pieces of architectures. With their great verandas, colourful gardens, and sizable backyard lots, it is fun to stop and examine them.

Edwardian Architecture on Lockie 2

Extended Backyards of Original Edwardian Lots
Edwardian Home on Lockie Avenue
I like to imagine the lives their original residents in the late 19th and early 20th century on streets like Agincourt Drive, Lockie Avenue, Ross Avenue, and Donalda Avenue: how they walked the same streets and went to some of the old landmarks that still exist, like Agincourt Jr Public School, built in 1914.

AgincourtPublicSchool

Agincourt Jr Public School, undated. Source: City of Toronto Archives

Agincourt Public School

But while this area is lined with historic century old structures and streets,  it’s important to note that almost along side them are houses – many of them bungalows – built in the post-WWII suburban boom.

Bungalow and Newer Home
Steps away from the Agincourt Jr Public School – ‘Little A’, as it’s locally known – is its younger ‘big’ brother Agincourt Collegiate Institute. It has the distinction of being the oldest high school in Scarborough, beginning in 1915 on the second floor of Little A, before getting its own building (known then as Agincourt Continuation and later Agincourt High School) on Midland Avenue, which was in turn demolished in the 1950s to make way for the current expansive school.

Old Agincourt Continuation School built in 1929.

Agincourt Continuation School, undated. Source: Scarborough Archives.

Agincourt Collegiate Institute
Further down the way on Midland is Knox United Church, another of the old landmarks of Old Agincourt. Although the church has had a presence here since the mid-19th century, the current building dates from 1872 when it was known as Knox Presbyterian Church.

Knox United (Presbyterian) Church 1

Knox United (Presbyterian) Church 2
Up Glen Watford is the Agincourt Recreation Centre. It’s the second of its kind as a neighbourhood gathering spot, following the old Agincourt Community Centre. There’s a neat little gate from 1951 in front which serves as a great tribute to North Scarboro (note the spelling) and Agincourt.

Agincourt Recreation Centre

North Scarboro Memorial Agincourt Recreation Centre

Also on Glen Watford, one can find the Dynasty Centre – a largely East Asian commercial centre reflective of the cultural and culinary diversity of Agincourt and Scarborough as a whole eventually came to known for. It’s home to One2 Snacks, a reputable and delicious Malaysian eatery.

Dynasty Centre 1

Dynasty Centre One2 Snacks

Midland and Sheppard is the western border of the Sheppard East Village BIA, and many Asian enterprises hold membership in it. Many of the businesses display dual languages as a result.

Chinatown Strip

Chinatown

On the southwestern corner of Midland and Sheppard is an empty, abandoned, derelict flea market. One wonders what’s to come of it.

Abandoned Flee Market

The stretch of Sheppard between Midland Ave and Kennedy Road has seen a lot of activity lately. The recently completed railway underpass project has returned traffic to non-chaotic levels. The Sheppard East LRT should run through it – eventually.

Converted homes to businesses

Sheppard East Underpass

The railway was an important marker in the village’s growth, and today there is a GO Station to move people and in and out. One can also pass by several old homes that have been (horribly) converted to commercial enterprises as well a very depleted and urbanized Highland Creek.

Agincourt Go Station 1

Agincourt Go Station 2

Highland Creek Depleted

At the corner of Kennedy and Sheppard stands Agincourt Mall. My memory recalls when Walmart was a Woolco, No Frills was a Loblaws, and the complex with Shopper’s Drug Mart and BMO did not exist. There was also a gas station on the northwest corner where the path and greenery exists.

Kennedy and Sheppard and Condos

Agincourt Mall Addition

This area also houses the Agincourt Library (on the second floor is a small exhibit on the history of the village) and an adjacent condo construction project. A selling point in the billboard lining the site is that it is “steps from the proposed LRT.”

Agincourt Public Library Exterior

                                   History of Agincourt Exhibit 2      History of Agincourt Exhibit 4      LRT Ad

Condo Construction

On the west side of Kennedy north of Bonis is a bridge with a great view over the Highland Creek. The trail it leads to offers a nice escape. It’s hard to imagine that this creek at one time might have been vital to the original residents and their crops. Today their farms are covered by the houses and businesses (including the Tam O’Shanter Golf Course) of later generations.

Highland Creek 1

Highland Creek 2

Tam O'Shanter Golf Course 2

Tam O'Shanter Golf Course 1

Related Links

Toronto Neighbourhood Walks Project – Agincourt Part II: Agincourt South