Imagine U of T with a river … again
JUL 24, 2013 | BY DAVID STOKES
An account recorded by a freshman on arriving at U. of T. around 1860 describes “a beautiful pond, closed in with forest trees, the eastern edge blue with some curious water flowers, and at the upper end of the still blue surface a number of ducks were swimming about.” Spring and summer found students lolling about, “picking wildflowers and chasing butterflies” and even fishing for trout, meanwhile in wintertime skating on McCaul’s Pond and tobogganing on Taddle’s banks. Seniors dunked first-year students in hazing rituals each September and youngsters sailed toy boats.
It's just a pet dream now, but I'd like to see a U of T with a river. And skinny dip in it.
Oxford has the Thames. Cambridge has the Cam. In Ontario, Western, ___: all are beside rivers. Waterways are part of the classic campus built form, a living symbol for scholarly continuity, students and ideas flowing in, knowledge flowing out.
When it was founded in 1827, U of T was located beside a river, Taddle Creek, which flowed southward through the centre of campus down to the lake. (The creek played a role in why U of T was situated where it was; for at the time, with its Victorian sensibility, no landscape was truly ‘picturesque’ without a decorative stretch of water.) It even fed a marshy pond (McCaul's Pond, named for U of T's first president) near where Hart House is now located. The Taddle still flows, but below ground: since 1884 it has been sunk beneath the ground and channelled through concrete pipeways for flood control and land-use reasons (one commentator on the Taddle's demise cites the number of editorials in the U of T Varsity that alleged that the river smelled bad and should be sunk). Evidence of Taddle Creek remains in the shape of the winding walkway known as Philosophers Walk (in Plato's 'Phaedrus', Socrates, sick of the city, goes on a walk into the countryside sits by a stream under a tree to talk about love). McCaul's Pond lives on where a triangle of concrete filled it in at Wellsely and Avenue. The pond is the reason the street curves so much; the street used to go around it. Before the University, the Taddle and other streams like it were the springtime gathering places for the Ojibway, writes John Borrows, an Ojibway lawyer who studied at U of T's law school, situated alongside where the river used to run. But now “the spirits of land and water are buried and submerged. The stream is concealed, the fish are gone: people no longer gather to this site to witness the spectacular reproduction of life once present."
U of T could bring the Taddle back; or build a ______. There is a growing body of evidence shows that proximity to water improves the emotional and physical well-being of individuals – and students are some of the ______. A walk down to the river would be a welcome break from a cram session. And think of the winter skating. Furthermore, there is the chance for the university to allow students to integrate a waterway into their studies in biology, ecology, engineering, forestry, even literature (a re-creation of the mythological crossing of the River Styx?). If the university is going to spend $12 million to replace a natural lawn with artificial turf, it would be nice to see them invest in restoration or recreation of a natural habitat that is currently absent from campus. Not an ___ challenge, waterway restorations have successfully been completed _______.
But until _____, even in the absence of natural flowing water, hydrophilic students can still enjoy the access to water at the courtyard of the Bahen Centre, which has a wonderful pool of water and a cascading waterfall. Though wedged into a ____ corner behind different buildings, the space is serene and to make you feel like you are chilling by a country pond that has gotten lost in the city. The water is chlorinated and even though the depth of the pond is slight, only around a foot of water, it is a great place to throw off your shoes and splash around. (Cool fact: the three concrete silos here are used for collecting rainwater.)
undefined Other Water Features on Campus: Munk School of Global Affairs, reflecting pool, depth: _______ Queen's Park, fountain, depth: ______
- Subtitle: A waterway would make studying easier, beautify campus, and be a part of learning