On Hurricane Hazel’s 62nd anniversary, I remember the most devastating storm that ever hit Toronto. It struck during the overnight hours of Friday October 15, 1954, flooding the Humber and Don River Valleys, causing the authorities to declare the bridges that spanned the rivers unsafe. Toronto became an island, residents unable to travel either east or west of the city.
During the late hours of the Friday evening, I remember watching the rain pelt the windows of our home. The water gushed down the glass in torrents, the houses across the road rendered invisible. Close to midnight, when I went to bed, I had no idea what would occur throughout the city during the early-morning hours. In Toronto’s two main river valleys, flood waters rose so swiftly that many had no time to reach safety before their dwellings were either swept away or they were underwater. The worst hit was Raymore Drive, near Lawrence Avenue West and Scarlett Road, where almost 40 people perished.
The Saturday editions of the newspapers were already in print before the disastrous details of the storm were known, and in this decade, there were no Sunday newspapers. The newspapers on Monday were the first opportunities to relate the events. The following photographs are from the Toronto Daily Star of Monday, October 18, 1954.
Two houses from Raymore Drive and Gilhaven Avenue that collided, one of them demolished by the torrent of water.
Gilhaven Avenue the morning after the storm, when the flood waters had receded.
Bridge over the Don River on Bathurst Street, between Lawrence and Finch Avenues.
The devastation at Holland Marsh, near Highway 400.
A house in Holland Marsh that during the night had been surrounded by 20 feet of water.
Houses in Holland Marsh near Schomberg Creek.
Bridge over the Humber River on Lawrence Avenue West, east of Scarlett Road.
Pine Grove Park in Woodbridge Ontario.
Raymore Drive, near Scarlett Road and Lawrence Avenue West, showing the houses that were swept away by the waters.
House on Raymore Drive.
Another home on Raymore Drive.
The flooded Humber River as seen on the morning after Hurricane Hazel swept through Toronto. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series1057, Item 2001
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Books by the Blog’s Author
“Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.
To place an order for this book, published by History Press:
Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)
Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.
For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-doug–taylor–toronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…
The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear
Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:
For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com here or contact the publisher directly by the link below: