Old Mill

Here we are—Old Mill. My final* station! 

What a beauty.

Old Mill station above the Humber River valley. Maybe this is a stretch, but tell me you don't see most of Le Corbusier's Five Points here? The Tudor Revival structure in the background is the Old Mill Toronto hotel.
A crisp dose of Modernist formal elegance.

Much like Rosedale at the beginning of this adventure, Old Mill is a captivating, albeit infrequently-used stop, best visited during the spring or fall seasons. 

The station platform, extending over the Humber River Valley, is a demonstration of how simple lines and repeating patterns can be pleasing in architecture. From inside, the views overlooking the valley landscape below do all the talking. 

Despite its low usage, the station features not one, not two, but three works of art, each evoking a different aspect of the area’s history. The first resides at street level at the back end of the station entrance lobby. It consists of a simple print depicting the York-era warship Toronto, as painted by Charles H.J. Snider. The print was donated by maverick entrepreneur Terry Howes.

Governor Simcoe had set up a saw mill (the King's Mill) at the site of where the Old Mill would later be built. The trees were reserved for the building of Fort York and other government uses, such as the construction of this ship.  In Sept 1799 the Toronto was launched with considerable fanfare, expressly for the use of the government, designed to carry supplies, dispatches, and marine soldiers.  Timbers used in the construction of the ship came from the area, and it was built near Rousseau's landing on the east bank south of the mill.
The Toronto was wrecked in 1812 around the Toronto Islands. Its iron and timber were re-used for the Prince Regent.

Aesthetically I think this is on the borderline of what merits permanent display in a TTC station—but due to Howes’ local significance and irrepressible life, I’ll give it a pass.

The second artistic embellishment is a pictorial tribute to the early history of the Humber Valley and Kingway area.

The tribute was created in commemoration of the Centennial celebration of the Old Mill Toronto hotel. This was a collaborative project between the TTC, and the Old Mill, with support from MPP Peter Milczyn. Natalie Bauer selected the photos and drawings that make up the letters.
Window into the past.

Located at the west end of both platforms, two aluminium plaques spell out the name of the station and incorporate historic photographs and drawings that range from the 1600s, when Huron Indians made their homes on the banks of the Humber River, to the early 1900s, through the First World War and the Depression era. See if you can spot Étienne Brûlé (as drawn by C.W. Jeffries).

Lastly, we have Resurge: First Timeline, appearing on the station support pillars.

As part of the Pan Am Path Legacy Build project arising from the 2015 Pan American Games, a series of 10 murals depicting the Anishinaabe creation story was commissioned. 6 of the murals appear on the concrete pylons supporting Old Mill station (the other 4 are at the 'Waste Water Wall' of the Humber Treatment Plant down the river.).
Linking the station to the waters of the river and lake.

Created in the summer of 2017 by artist Philip Cote, with assistance from collaborator Nelly Torossian, and in partnership with graffiti artists Jarus, Kwest, and Kane, Resurge: First Timeline is described as:

Illuminating 130,000 years of Indigenous peoples history on Turtle Island across 10 time points showing their cosmology, mapping their place within the Universe and its beginnings, with light and dark showing their world linked to the Underworld (Underwater World) and Spirit World (Sky World).

6 of the work’s ‘medallions’ appear beneath Old Mill station; the other 4 are located at the Humber Treatment Plant. I have placed a full visual examination of the Old Mill medallions, including captions explaining each image, in the station photo gallery.

The fourth panel of Resurge. The 13,500 Year old Credit River Knife – with the Mega Fauna & Ice Runner. See the photo gallery for the full description of this panel (and all the others)
Vivid colours and imagery tell an ancient story.

Next time you go for a hike in King’s Mill Park, be sure to stop and inspect Resurge: First Timeline, in person, to appreciate the details. 

Tangential note, since we’re looking at them already: the support pillars for the platform, and for the track to the east over the river, were engineered to withstand a major flood, on the order of Hurricane Hazel. Let’s hope we never see it tested. In all other respects the station feels like it exists harmoniously within its physical context.

To close this entry, I have a couple other historical tidbits for the station:

On December 8, 2000 at 2 in the morning, a maintenance train used for garbage collection caught fire at Old Mill. The $2-million fire gutted the two-car work train, and caused a temporary closure of the west end of the Bloor line from Keele onwards. The incident led to the eventual re-examination and abandonment of the practice of using nightly trains to collect garbage on the system, in favour of surface collection.

Old Mill station opened May 10, 1968 as part of the Bloor line extension west to Islington (from its previous terminus, Keele). The station is named in reference to the nearby multi-storey grist-mill complex built in 1848, designed by William Tyrell for Etobicoke’s first Reeve, William Gamble. The mill burned in 1881, but the ruins stood until 2000. The Old Mill Tea Garden was established by the ruins by Robert Home Smith (who developed the Kingsway area) in 1914, and evolved over time into what is now the Old Mill Toronto Hotel.

Deep exhale. We have been on quite a trip together. Where will we ride from here? 

Black bird of prey silhouettes are intended to dissuade actual birds from smashing into the glass.
This was my last shot, notionally, on the initial journey in 2014 to all 69 stations. Took me awhile to catch up...

* That’s not quite accurate, obviously. I still have the TYSSE stations left. 

Let me explain: Back in the summer of 2014 (!) when I started Station Fixation, there were 69 stations. Over the course of several months I visited each of them in turn, taking photos and copious notes along the way. 

After a few stations, I soon realized that completing the writeups was going to take time, particularly because I had made the naive decision to assemble historical and archival photographs to complement my own images. I also wanted to contact a number of artists directly for retrospective comment on their works. 

Station Fixation ballooned in scope. I made progress, but a series of life events and personal challenges got in the way. The project stalled and sputtered for many years (just like every Toronto transit project!)—and I had to put things on the shelf. 

In the meantime, the TTC expanded to include the TYSSE stations, and, more recently, somewhat prematurely lost the Scarborough RT line. Elevators, 2nd exits, and new artwork also popped up all over the place. 

You know you’re a slowpoke, when changes to Toronto’s rapid transit system occur faster than you can write! I told myself I was subconsciously matching one of Toronto’s recurrent periods of glacially sluggish transit momentum. On a positive note, the intervening years allowed me to update past galleries and entries to account for novel artwork and station enhancements, and to generally flush out the visual coverage of station aspects that I overlooked that first time through.

I kept poking away. Uncovering forgotten or unseen archival photographs revealing bits of station and TTC history has been a constant source of gratification. Slowly but surely, I’ve managed to cross my original finish line. 

Thank you for joining me along the way (or if this is the first post you’re seeing, welcome—try starting here). 

I have a lot of people to thank.

With respect to the TYSSE stations, my approach will be looser: less rigorous, more centred on my visceral feelings than assessment (you may not be able to tell the difference). We’ll see if I get done before the Crosstown arrives.

On we go!

Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past: 

Photo gallery of the TTC's Old Mill subway station


Transfer for Old Mill station
Old Mill station transfer

More about Old Mill

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Old Mill

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