The Don has been continuously inhabited since the glaciers retreated from 9,000 to 11,000 years ago. More details on the pre-history of the Don are in the FAQ.
The pictorial record begins with the French and accelerates with the settlement of what became Upper Canada by the British after the American Revolution.
The French were the first Europeans
to explore the area with missionaries and fur traders. They
concentrated on the Humber as the main portage through to Lake
Simcoe. Click for details of the
first map that shows the Don as a tiny squiggle, done in 1688
by Father Rafféix.
Governor John Graves Simcoe sent Alexander Aitkin to survey the
Plan of York Harbour. These 10 square city blocks still exist
bounded by Adelaide, Parliament, Front and George Streets. The
small creek on the right is Taddle Creek (buried today) and the
large river is the Don with its immense marsh. Note the Toronto
Islands with no Eastern Gap. (23K JPEG)
built a summer house on the Don in 1795 called Castle Frank -
just south of the current subway station. This sketch is one of
many done by Elizabeth Simcoe on birch bark and is now in the
collection of the British Museum. (47K JPEG)
This is a
portion of Lt. George Philpott's plan of York from 1818. It shows
the City spreading west from the original 10 blocks laid out
above. Kingston Road appears as the only way across the Don. (96K
In 1873 Lucius
O'Brien painted this luminous view of Ashbridge's Marsh looking
back at Toronto (22K JPEG). For a current view look here(57K
In the 1880's the Don was channelised and straightened from Queen St. north past Gerrard St. The blue line shows the original channel. (58K JPEG)
here for an exciting computer-generated view of how it could
look in the future.
A Turn of the
Century Postcard describing the Don as "The Artist's Choice".
Ernest Thompson Seton , the noted writer of children's
books, lived in a cabin and wrote a number of his stories about
the Don. (60K JPEG)
The Don was a
place to play in winter as this Postcard south of Riverdale Park
shows. The Don still freezes up from the lake but the water depth
no longer allows for this type of pleasure. (83K JPEG)
|A railway bridge then (22K) and now (20K)|
Even into the
1920's the Don had a country aspect which supported enthusiastic
young fishermen. (46K JPEG)
remembered "Bare Ass Beach" (54K JPEG)
often much worse than today with ice jams causing major floods in
the spring. (46K JPEG)
Additional details on the history of the Don can be found in the FAQ.
© mark wilson 1998