My city – Toronto – has gone from 200 foot tall pine trees to 200 foot tall condominium towers in less than 200 years. Not many places in the entire planet have seen so much change in such a brief time.
I grew up in the extreme west end of Toronto on the banks of the Etobicoke Creek. As a child/teenager/young adult, I gave little thought to what my stomping grounds looked like in days of old.
In the 1960’s our family home was on Mill Road. What a quaint name the developer of the subdivision gave our street, I thought to myself. Little did I realize that it was called Mill Road because a saw and grist mill had been built next to the Creek in 1811 and the road was put in so lumberjacks and farmers could get to it.
I went to a highschool on Mill Road – Silverthorn Collegiate. A nice-sounding name indeed. How very bucolic a term for the people at the school board to have dreamed up I thought. In my adult years I learned that it was John Silverthorn who had owned the 400 acres where I grew up and was in fact the builder/owner/operator of that saw mill.
This connection was a sort of ‘aha’ moment when I realized a lot had gone on in the fields and forests I frequented as a kid, before all of Etobicoke was developed into houses and strip malls. So I dug a little further into this Silverthorn family. Found out that three of John’s sons had fought on the British side in the War of 1812. That his great grandson, Charles, had been Reeve of Etobicoke (similar to Mayor these days). That the Silverthorns lived continuously on the property until 1958 when developers started making offers too good to refuse.
I spoke to a neighbour about all this and was told about Heritage Toronto. A look at their website revealed:
Heritage Toronto is a charitable organization and agency of the City that works with the citizens of Toronto to advocate for, preserve, and promote a greater appreciation for our city's rich heritage. Through partnerships with local community groups and volunteers, Heritage Toronto works to heighten awareness of our shared history by providing city-wide programs and services.
The staff at Heritage Toronto saw that a story was waiting to be told about the Silverthorns and the best way to do this was with a historical plaque. The local ratepayers association agreed to pay the cost of the plaque and the rest, as they say, is history. On October 29, 2012 local dignitaries will unveil the plaque at a public meeting.
It will be placed on the south west corner of Bloor and Mill Road, right next to a McDonald’s. Now the kids that frequent the place will know that logs from virgin forest were hauled down that road, just a few meters from where they sit, enjoying a Big Mac.