Riverdale Precinct

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This is largely the area purchased in 1856 from the Scadding estate for a park and a jail farm. The original purchase was 119 acres (48 ha). Additional land was added later so Riverdale Park now consists of about 162 acres (65 ha). Construction of The Don Jail started in 1859 and it opened in 1865. The House of Refuge was built in 1860, to provide shelter for the “vagrant, the dissolute, and for idiots.” This later became Riverdale Isolation Hospital, which after several changes in objectives and considerable rebuilding, is now Bridgepoint Health.

To see old course of Don River and main sewers click here; double click to remove.

Riverdale Woodland The Necropolis Don Vale House Wet Meadow Riverdale Farm & Zoo Riverdale Farm Ponds West Riverdale Woodland Hospital Don Jail


When visiting this area on the east side, besides viewing the Don Jail and the Riverdale Hospital, one should see the new woodland created by The Task Force to Bring Back The Don on the slope at the north end. A similar though smaller woodland is located in West Riverdale Park south of the Riverdale Farm. These were some of the earliest tree plantings established by that group. The Task Force has several projects in this area. The Riverdale Farm is the site of Toronto’s first zoo.

The Necropolis, one of Toronto’s earliest cemeteries is also of interest. In early days, Winchester Street followed the south side of The Necropolis to the Don River, which it crossed by a bridge and went on to become Don Mills Road. The Don Vale House. A well used “watering hole” was located on Winchester just before the bridge.

For picures and notes about the bridges cossing the Don River in the Riverdale go to Ravines Bridges.

This area is mostly open parkland. The south end of Riverdale East Park has a partial tree cover reminiscent of a savannah with Silver Maple plus Austrian Pine and some small White Pine. Also note were European Alder, Scotch Pine, Linden, and Norway Maple. Trees in the new woodland include Silver and Sugar Maples, Sumac, White Cedar and some largely suppressed White Pine. Manitoba Maple and Ailanthus have seeded in in places. The nearby old woodland has White Ash, Sugar Maple and Hawthorn. The park just west of Riverdale Farm has a fair tree cover and like other small city parks is dominated by Silver and Norway Maple. There is a cluster of scrubby Scots Pine on the east side. Also observed were Honey Locust, Sugar Maple and a Catalpa.

While originally this area drained directly to the Don River, direct access is now blocked by streets, railroads and The Don Valley Parkway; so most storm water must pass through various culverts and small storm sewers to reach the river. Sanitary sewage flows to the Ashbridge’s STP via the Mid Toronto Interceptor Sewer.