Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tale of the Elgin Street Century, Part I

I'm starting to catch up with my regular routine, and after sorting out my photos I can begin blogging again. Here's one that I've been meaning to compose for a while now.

Returning to the office after lunch on an afternoon late this past April, my attention was drawn to this crack in the sidewalk on Elgin, just North of Somerset. I think my foot jostled on it as I walked over it. I stopped to investigate, and instinctively took this photo:

It's hard to tell with a 2D camera, but the corner of the sidewalk is loose, and beneath the corner is a cavity. If not fixed, it's the makings of damage or injury for sure. I phoned it in to the City.

By mid-May, white arrows had been spray-painted on the affected squares of sidewalk, indicating their imminent replacement.

Of course, it was only after this that I learned that these squares of sidewalk were laid over one hundred years ago. A reliable source recalls a former neighbour square (since replaced in the '80s) bearing a plaque announcing the year of construction as 1905, not unlike this one, photographed in 1994 along Queen Elizabeth Drive near Third avenue (also since replaced):

The sidewalk can be identified by a distinctive reddish tinge in some of the aggregate making up the concrete. Here's another shot on a dry day--click to enlarge (as always). There are still some other squares along this block surviving, that you can go and see, such as the pair in front of McDonald's.

It wasn't until early this month (July 6) that the segment of concrete was turned to rubble in preparation for replacement. I doubt the workers realized they were dismantling 104-year-old concrete:

They also took out the asphalt boulevard between the sidewalk and the roadway. The next day, a concrete form was installed over the compressed gravel bed. In this shot, we can also see a number of other sidewalk varieties installed on this block over the decades (interesting aside: my great-grandfather researched concrete formulae in his lab in the Confederation building, now used to house MPs):

The following day, the sidewalk was poured, adding one more entry to the walking variety show:

And soon, the boulevard was re-paved with asphalt. Somehow I doubt it will still be there a century from today.

There is an important lesson to learn from these two humble pieces of sidewalk, which I'll discuss in Part II.

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