Prince Edward Viaduct – The Architectural Marvel Spanning The Don

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July 18, 1917 - Construction on the deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct
July 18, 1917 – Construction on the deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 479, Item 28)

The Prince Edward Viaduct, commonly known as the Bloor Viaduct, connects Bloor St E with Danforth Ave in Toronto. The bridge was named after Prince Edward, who later became King Edward VIII.

An Architectural Wonder

The building of this architectural marvel began in 1915, and while it officially opened in October 1918, it didn’t open fully to traffic until 1919. The hinged double-decker truss arch bridge prompted the area’s rapid growth east of the Don River and significantly impacted the city’s history. The cost estimate was $759,000; however, the final cost of the Prince Edward Viaduct was triple.

Edmund Burke designed the architectural features, Thomas Taylor was the construction engineer, and RC Harris was the Commissioner of Public Works.

The massive concrete and steel bridge consists of three sections:

  1. The Bloor St E section is on an embankment of the Rosedale Ravine, running from Sherbourne to Parliament Sts.
  2. The Rosedale section is 177 m or 580 ft long with one central steel arch and runs between the north end of Parliament St and the west end of the Don Valley section.
  3. The Don Valley section is 494 m or 1620 ft long, with five main steel arches over the Don River and Parkway.

The Rosedale and Don Valley sections have concrete piers and approaches with cantilevered sidewalks and red aggregate hand railings. Did you know that a viaduct is a long bridge or a series of bridges linked to each other by arches and piers supporting a road or rail track over a valley or ravine?

July 11, 1916 - Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, also known as the Bloor Viaduct
July 11, 1916 – Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, also known as the Bloor Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 40)

The Vision of R.C. Harris

Thanks to the insistence of Roland Caldwell Harris, the bridges were built with a lower-level deck to be used for mass transit one day. Adding the lower deck was controversial due to the cost. Nearly 50 years later, the lower deck on the Don Valley section saved millions of dollars when it was used for the Bloor-Danforth subway.

In 1986, the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering awarded the structure a National Historic Civil Engineering Site. In 2018, the City of Toronto commemorated the viaduct’s history with a heritage plaque.

Another major project Mr Harris oversaw was the construction of the R.C. Harris Water Filtration Plant.

The Luminous Veil at the Prince Edward Viaduct

In the late 1990s, architect Dereck Revington designed a barrier to prevent people from taking their lives. It’s called the Luminous Veil. Completed in 2003, over 9,000 steel rods were fastened to the sides of the bridge, from bank to bank and in 2015, colour-shifting LED lights were added.

Prince Edward Viaduct Photos

October  17, 1914 - Bloor Street Viaduct drawing
October 17, 1914 – Bloor Street Viaduct drawing (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 10, Item 187)
Circa 1914 – A photograph of a billboard the real estate company placed promoting the about-to-be-built Bloor Viaduct
Circa 1914 – A photograph of a billboard the real estate company placed promoting the about-to-be-built Bloor Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 1267)
January 16, 1915 - Mayor Tommy Church turns the sod at Pier D of the Prince Edward Viaduct
January 16, 1915 – Mayor Tommy Church turns the sod at Pier D of the Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 36)
June 21, 1915 - Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct
June 21, 1915 – Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 38)
September 21, 1915 - Start of construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct
September 21, 1915 – Start of construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 10, Item 611)
July 11, 1916 - Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, also known as the Bloor Viaduct
July 11, 1916 – Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, also known as the Bloor Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 40)
July 11, 1916 - Construction on the Don section of the Bloor Street Viaduct
July 11, 1916 – Construction on the Don section of the Bloor Street Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 43)
September 25, 1916 - Construction of the Bloor Viaduct
September 25, 1916 – Construction of the Bloor Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 41)
December 31, 1916 - A view of the Bloor Street Viaduct
December 31, 1916 – A view of the Bloor Street Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 13887)
December 31, 1916 - West pier of the Bloor Street Viaduct
December 31, 1916 – West pier of the Bloor Street Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 13884)
February 22, 1917 - Looking west towards the Prince Edward Viaduct while under construction
February 22, 1917 – Looking west towards the Prince Edward Viaduct while under construction (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1902)
July 18, 1917 - Construction on the deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct. The building of this architectural marvel began in 1915, and while it officially opened in October 1918, it didn’t open fully to traffic until 1919
July 18, 1917 – Construction on the deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct. The building of this architectural marvel began in 1915, and while it officially opened in October 1918, it didn’t open fully to traffic until 1919 (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 479, Item 28)
2020 – Looking west along the Prince Edward Viaduct
2020 – Looking west along the Prince Edward Viaduct
December 7, 1917 - The deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct, while under construction, looking west to Parliament St
December 7, 1917 – The deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct, while under construction, looking west to Parliament St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1891)
July 23, 1918 - Track construction on the Bloor Viaduct
July 23, 1918 – Track construction on the Bloor Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 58, Item 756)
July 31, 1918 - Construction on the Don section of track on the Prince Edward Viaduct
July 31, 1918 – Construction on the Don section of track on the Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 58, Item 575)
October 18, 1918 - Opening of the Bloor Viaduct
October 18, 1918 – Opening of the Bloor Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 10, Item 867)
October 18, 1918 - Traffic during the opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct
October 18, 1918 – Traffic during the opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 10, Item 872)
2020 - An evening photo of the Prince Edward Viaduct, also known as the Bloor Viaduct, connects Bloor St E with Danforth Ave in Toronto
2020 – An evening photo of the Prince Edward Viaduct, also known as the Bloor Viaduct, connects Bloor St E with Danforth Ave in Toronto
October 18, 1918 - Opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct
October 18, 1918 – Opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 10, Item 868)
October 18, 1918 - 0pening of Bloor Viaduct
October 18, 1918 – 0pening of Bloor Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 10, Item 870)
1919 - Bloor Street Viaduct and Don River
1919 – Bloor Street Viaduct and Don River (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7325)
January 21, 2024 -  Looking northeast along the Prince Edward Viaduct
January 21, 2024 – Looking northeast along the Prince Edward Viaduct
Circa 1920 - Looking east along Prince Edward Viaduct
Circa 1920 – Looking east along Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7083)
2020 - Looking south through the Luminous Veil rods of the Prince Edward Viaduct towards the Don River, Trail and Parkway
2020 – Looking south through the Luminous Veil rods of the Prince Edward Viaduct towards the Don River, Trail and Parkway
2020 - The Luminous Veil fastened to the Prince Edward Viaduct
2020 – The Luminous Veil fastened to the Prince Edward Viaduct
2021 -  The plaque reads:

In Memory of J. A. (AL) Birney
June 30, 1930- June 18, 2006

"This plaque is dedicated to the memory of Al Birney, a man who advocated for the rights of those suffering with mental illness. His tireless efforts resulted in the construction of the Luminous Veil suicide prevention barrier on the Bloor St. viaduct in 2003. The determination shown by Mr. Birney and all those who worked to have the Veil erected shall never be forgotten."

The plaque is located on the bridge's east end on the north side
2021 – The plaque reads:

In Memory of J. A. (AL) Birney
June 30, 1930- June 18, 2006

“This plaque is dedicated to the memory of Al Birney, a man who advocated for the rights of those suffering with mental illness. His tireless efforts resulted in the construction of the Luminous Veil suicide prevention barrier on the Bloor St. viaduct in 2003. The determination shown by Mr. Birney and all those who worked to have the Veil erected shall never be forgotten.”

The plaque is located on the bridge’s east end on the north side
February 15, 1933 - Looking east along Prince Edward Viaduct
February 15, 1933 – Looking east along Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 9635)
2020 - Looking west along the Prince Edward Viaduct
2020 – Looking west along the Prince Edward Viaduct
1937 - Looking west across the Prince Edward Viaduct from Danforth Ave and Broadview Ave
1937 – Looking west across the Prince Edward Viaduct from Danforth Ave and Broadview Ave (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 4997)
January 21, 2024 -  Looking west across the Prince Edward Viaduct from Danforth Ave and Broadview Ave
January 21, 2024 – Looking west across the Prince Edward Viaduct from Danforth Ave and Broadview Ave
1972 - Looking northeast from the corner of Parliament St & Bloor St E towards Prince Edward Viaduct
1972 – Looking northeast from the corner of Parliament St & Bloor St E towards Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 31, Item 4)
2019 – The heritage plaque reads:

Prince Edward Viaduct 1918

“The opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct on October 18, 1918, was a landmark moment in Toronto’s urban development. Previously, there was no substantial road bridge over the Don River north of Gerrard Street, and the river valley was a barrier to the city expansion into the fast-growing suburbs east of the Don.

R. C. Harris, Toronto’s Public Works Commissioner and City Engineer considered various designs before selecting a steel truss arch by architect Edmund Burke and engineer Thomas Taylor.

The completed viaduct system consisted of three distinct parts: an embankment between Sherbourne and Parliament Streets, a single-span bridge over the Rosedale Ravine, and the main section over the Don Valley. It carried pedestrian, automobile, and streetcar traffic, as well as water and electrical infrastructure.

Also known as the Bloor Street Viaduct, it was officially named for Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII, in 1919. In 1966, the subway replaced the Bloor streetcar line, and the tracks were removed. The Luminous Veil barrier was added to the parapet of the Don section in 2003 and illuminated in 2015. The Prince Edward Viaduct remains a vital link in the city’s transportation network.”

Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, 1988 
Heritage Toronto 2018
2019 – The heritage plaque reads:

Prince Edward Viaduct 1918

“The opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct on October 18, 1918, was a landmark moment in Toronto’s urban development. Previously, there was no substantial road bridge over the Don River north of Gerrard Street, and the river valley was a barrier to the city expansion into the fast-growing suburbs east of the Don.

R. C. Harris, Toronto’s Public Works Commissioner and City Engineer considered various designs before selecting a steel truss arch by architect Edmund Burke and engineer Thomas Taylor.

The completed viaduct system consisted of three distinct parts: an embankment between Sherbourne and Parliament Streets, a single-span bridge over the Rosedale Ravine, and the main section over the Don Valley. It carried pedestrian, automobile, and streetcar traffic, as well as water and electrical infrastructure.

Also known as the Bloor Street Viaduct, it was officially named for Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII, in 1919. In 1966, the subway replaced the Bloor streetcar line, and the tracks were removed. The Luminous Veil barrier was added to the parapet of the Don section in 2003 and illuminated in 2015. The Prince Edward Viaduct remains a vital link in the city’s transportation network.”

Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, 1988
Heritage Toronto 2018
2021 -  The plaques are located on both ends of the Prince Edward Viaduct
2021 – The plaques are located on both ends of the Prince Edward Viaduct
2021 -  The plaque reads: 

National Historic Civil Engineering Site - Prince Edward Viaduct - Toronto 
Commissioner R. C. HARRIS - Engineer THOMAS TAYLOR 
Constructed 1915-1919 
Canadian Society for Civil Engineering - 1986
2021 – The plaque reads:

National Historic Civil Engineering Site – Prince Edward Viaduct – Toronto
Commissioner R. C. HARRIS – Engineer THOMAS TAYLOR
Constructed 1915-1919
Canadian Society for Civil Engineering – 1986
SOURCE

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