Toronto Feature: Philosopher's Walk

This article is from our Toronto Feature series. Features from past programs are not updated.

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McCaul's Pond at Taddle Creek, circa 1880s (public domain).
Taddle Creek
Taddle Creek in 2012 (photo by James Marsh).
University Grounds
McCaul's Pond and Taddle Creek, looking east toward University College, circa 1876 (public domain).

Toronto Feature: Philosopher's Walk

"Buried Creek's Revenge"

Toronto has a bad habit of burying its rivers and creeks. After Garrison Creek, the best-known casualty would be Taddle Creek. It could have been otherwise. In the 19th century, the University of Toronto could have promoted Taddle Creek as a major selling point. A student would have been able to wander south along it from Bloor Street and then enjoy a break at McCaul's Pond near Queen's Park. Back then, there were those who had visions of landscaping the creek throughout the campus with gardens and other pastoral touches.

Instead, largely as a result of damming the creek to create the picturesque McCaul's Pond, both creek and pond became increasingly polluted. The university's newspaper, the Varsity, noted that "The stench arising from the Taddle is very pronounced. The prevalence of so much fever in the city is surely a good reason for the prompt abatement of this long-standing nuisance." As sections of the creek north and south of campus had already vanished, it was not surprising that contracts to bury the remainder were issued in 1884. Its main legacy on campus is the winding, hilly path of Philosopher's Walk, which was once a creek ravine. The only part of the creek still above ground today lies in the pond in Wychwood Park north of Davenport Road.

Not that Taddle Creek has not sought occasional revenge. For a time after it opened, uneven settling of its foundations caused the Park Plaza Hotel at Avenue Road and Bloor to tilt by about 15 centimetres. When the Metro Police headquarters building was built on College Street in 1985, Taddle Creek surged up from below in protest, demanding a new plan and the construction of a shallower basement.