100th Anniversary of the Bloor Viaduct

December 12, 2018 | David

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Large bridge under construction

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Prince Edward Viaduct — known to most as the Bloor Viaduct. (A viaduct is "a long elevated roadway usually consisting of a series of short spans supported on arches, piers, or columns.") Officially opened on October 18, 1918, the bridge connects Bloor Street with Danforth Avenue over the Don River Valley.

Allan Levine's Toronto: Biography of the City includes a brief history of the ambitious project, which also happens to mention a famous literary work tied to the viaduct:

"In the years before and after the First World War... eastern extension of Bloor Street was made possible by the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct (also called Don or Bloor Viaduct), a massive $2.4-million project finally approved by Toronto ratepayers in 1913. Supervised by thirty-four-year-old Roland C. Harris, the city's newly appointed Commissioner of Public Works, and built by a small army of immigrant workers, the bridge, which wisely included a second level for the future subway, linked Bloor Street with Danforth when it was completed five years later. (Harris and the building of the viaduct figure prominently in Michael Ondaatje's 1987 novel In the Skin of a Lion.)"

An excellent, wonderfully documented history of the viaduct is Bridging the Don: The Prince Edward Viaduct, an online exhibit by City of Toronto Archives. It has three main sections: (1) Introduction, (2) Construction, (3) The Viaduct Opens.

In addition to the collections held by the City of Toronto Archives, our library's Digital Archive contains dozens of historical items related to the viaduct, spanning from its groundbreaking to the 1980s. Below are a few photographs from this collection.


Men in formal attirecircled around a men with wheelbarrow full of dirt
Mayor Thomas Langton Church (centre, holding hat) during the "turning of first sod". January 16, 1915.


Men digging in large hole of construction project
Construction workers, excavating at Pier F. June 25, 1915.


Overview of piers starting to emerge from gorund
Piers B and C under construction, looking west. October 1, 1915.


Man in overalls with tool hooke up to canister cutting holes in metal
Viaduct worker using  Oxy-acetylene to cut "shoes". June 26, 1916.


Bridge under construction with middle section missing  set in a snowy landscape
Panorama of the bridge, looking south. January 26, 1917.


An wide view of an almost completed bridge with workers
Upper deck, looking west. May 4, 1917.


Railroad and icy river leading to profile of complete viaduct
Full view of the nearly finished viaduct. February 26, 1918.


Bloor viaduct in profile  with power lines prominently visible
Viaduct, looking north. Captured by influential Toronto photographer James Victor Salmon. November, 1952.


Cars on bloor viaduct
Light traffic on the viaduct. Photograph by Yves Ameline. 1985.