Prince Edward Viaduct – The Architectural Marvel Spanning The Don

1917 - Construction on the deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west
1917 – Construction on the deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west

The Prince Edward Viaduct, more commonly known as the Bloor Viaduct, connects Bloor St East 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 of 1918, it didn’t open fully to traffic until 1919. The hinged double-decker truss arch bridge prompted the rapid growth of the area east of the Don River and had a major impact on the history of the City. 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 main 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 going 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 that are linked to each other by arches and piers that support a road or rail track over a valley or ravine?

1916 - Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, from the railway tracks
1916 – Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, from the railway tracks

The Vision of R.C. Harris

Thanks to the insistence of Roland Caldwell Harris, the bridges were built with a lower level deck to one day be used for mass transit. 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 structure was awarded a National Historic Civil Engineering Site by the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering, and in 2018, the City of Toronto commemorated the history of the viaduct 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

2020 - An evening photo of the Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west towards downtown Toronto
2020 – An evening photo of the Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west towards downtown Toronto
1917 - Construction on the deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west
1917 – Construction on the deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west
2020 - The Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west to downtown Toronto
2020 – The Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west to downtown Toronto
2020 - Looking south through the Luminous Veil rods of the Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct to the Don River, Trail and Parkway
2020 – Looking south through the Luminous Veil rods of the Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct to the Don River, Trail and Parkway
2020 - The Luminous Veil fastened to the Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct
2020 – The Luminous Veil fastened to the Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct
1972 - Prince Edward Viaduct looking east from the corner of Parliament St & Bloor St E
1972 – Prince Edward Viaduct looking east from the corner of Parliament St & Bloor St E
1920 - Prince Edward Viaduct, looking east to Broadview Ave
1920 – Prince Edward Viaduct, looking east to Broadview Ave
1919 - Traffic on the Prince Edward Viaduct, looking east
1919 – Traffic on the Prince Edward Viaduct, looking east
1918 - Traffic during the opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct in October 1918
1918 – Traffic during the opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct in October 1918
1918 - Opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct in October 1918
1918 – Opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct in October 1918
1917 - The deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct while under construction, looking west to Parliament St
1917 – The deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct while under construction, looking west to Parliament St
1918 - Construction on the Don section of track on the Prince Edward Viaduct
1918 – Construction on the Don section of track on the Prince Edward Viaduct
1917 - Prince Edward Viaduct while under construction, looking west from Canadian Pacific Railway
1917 – Prince Edward Viaduct while under construction, looking west from Canadian Pacific Railway
1916 - Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, from the railway tracks
1916 – Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, from the railway tracks
1915 - Start of construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct
1915 – Start of construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 10, Item 611
1915 - Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, looking east from the west approach
1915 – Construction on the Don section of the Prince Edward Viaduct, looking east from the west approach
1915 - Mayor Tommy Church turning the sod at Pier D of the Prince Edward Viaduct
1915 – Mayor Tommy Church turning the sod at Pier D of the Prince Edward Viaduct
2020 - An evening photo of the Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west to downtown Toronto
2020 – An evening photo of the Bloor/Prince Edward Viaduct, looking west to downtown Toronto
SOURCE