Today Wed Thu
It is forecast to be Rain at 11:00 PM EDT on July 29, 2014
Rain
22°/14°
It is forecast to be Chance of a Thunderstorm at 11:00 PM EDT on July 30, 2014
Chance of a Thunderstorm
22°/15°
It is forecast to be Chance of Rain at 11:00 PM EDT on July 31, 2014
Chance of Rain
23°/16°

14 Comments

news

Oakmount Road’s Mysterious Fork

20101028oakmountroad1.jpg
Photo by Stephen Michalowicz/Torontoist.


Welcome to the corner of Oakmount Road, Oakmount Road, and well…Oakmount Road. Unlike boring ol’ run-of-the-mill streets, with their logical linear paths, Oakmount forks, going in three directions, creating what might be one of the oddest intersections in the city.


20101028oakmountroad2.jpg
For most of its length, Oakmount runs parallel to Keele Street, just north of Bloor Street West. It only splits near its northern end. Afterwards, the western part of the street continues until Pacific Avenue, while the eastern part merges with Medland Crescent.
Why the fork exists isn’t entirely clear. According to City records, Oakmount, which used to be known as Uttley Street, was created in 1884 by the Village of West Toronto Junction. It was later changed to Oakmount in 1911 by the City of Toronto (the City merged with the Junction in 1909). City maps from the period reveal that Oakmount’s eastern spoke was built sometime after the rest of the street, between 1910 and 1915, while City records indicate that Medland was laid down in 1911.
If the eastern spoke of Oakmount was constructed before Medland, it might explain why the street forks. Perhaps planners felt that it was unnecessary to create a whole new street for such a small expansion. But if Medland was constructed first, or at the same time, then logically, it should extend all the way up to the intersection. (Even Google Maps mistakenly agrees.)

20101028oakmountroad3.jpg
The road outlined in yellow is Uttley Street, before it became Oakmount Road. Plan of the City of Toronto, 1908.


To find answers, we contacted Kerry Ferguson, titles and status supervisor at the City’s Surveys and Mapping department, and Neil Ross, a historian with the West Toronto Junction Historical Society. But unfortunately, they could only offer us theories.
“Street configurations often reflect natural topography,” says Ferguson. “I suspect Oakmount and Medland are the way they are partially because of the topography. Also, the developer has to maximize the number of lots on the raw parcel of land that he owns. And so he has to design his subdivision so that he gets the maximum number of saleable lots all serviced by the minimum number of roads. Lots mean money, roads do not. Hence the twists and turns.”
Ross, on the other hand, suspects that the “system of creeks and rivers” that run through the area might have played a role in shaping the street’s odd path.
“The streets are all laid out there on the basis of the original creek beds, and a lot of them are funneled into pipes that run underneath the street system there,” Ross told us. “So, I would expect that that would be the original impetus for the street forking like that.”
Of course, Oakmount isn’t entirely unique. Toronto’s twisty, windy suburbs contain dozens of streets that loop around and intersect with themselves, like Hearst Circle, Valecrest Drive, and Decarie Circle. There are also plenty of streets that undergo random name changes for no apparent reason. The worst is probably Blackthorn Avenue, which turns into Haverson Boulevard, restarts somewhere else, abruptly ends, then restarts again. Or maybe Oak Street, which turns into Gary Drive, then PELMO Crescent, and then Woodward Avenue.
Oakmount’s confusing intersection could probably be fixed by extending Medland and eliminating the eastern part of Oakmount Road—though residents probably wouldn’t appreciate having their addresses changed. And as we’ve learned from other surveying snafus, it’s probably easier to bulldoze and start again than to effect a street name change.

Comments

  • http://www.newmindspace.com Kevin Bracken

    Excellent research. I like cute minutiae like this.

  • http://undefined PSC-TO

    Staged construction is a reasonable excuse. So what’s the excuse for Bartley Bull in Brampton?

  • http://undefined thelemur

    I can’t tell from Google Maps what the signs say as you approach Medland/Oakmount from Hillsview.
    That map from 1908, on the other hand, is a trip. Proposed New Station Site? More streets on the island than there are now? Names that got eradicated possibly due to WW1/WW2 (Hamburg Ave > Salem Ave)? Cool.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    That looks much more recent. I can only imagine it was meant as a parkway encircling the Peel Village Park development.
    But who or what was (a) Bartley Bull?

  • Mark Ostler

    Entire municipalities met with a similar fate. Kitchener was originally the Town of Berlin, and then the City of Berlin until 1916.

  • http://undefined sushishoshie

    The three-way intersection of St. Regis, St. Regis, and St. Regis near Keele and Finch has a signpost much like the one for Oakmount, with three signs (partially visible here) that are all labelled identically.

  • http://undefined ega1

    Thanks for this. I would add that the quirkiness wasn’t so obvious until a couple of months ago when a seemingly amused city employee spent a morning installing new the new signs seen in the photograph.
    I made sure that I thanked him profusely for his work!

  • http://undefined the_yellow_dart

    Brantford has a similarly forking street.
    http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=brantford+on&sll=28.459033,-66.621094&sspn=54.377056,78.837891&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Brantford,+Brant+County,+Ontario&ll=43.169317,-80.244516&spn=0,0.009624&z=17&layer=c&cbll=43.170177,-80.245445&panoid=6xibj_ffwkc_3dC9IjthBQ&cbp=12,27.19,,3,0.85
    Edmundson used to be a simple, nearly straight street (the southern portion of the southern fork). Then Park Rd. N. was upgraded and turned into Wayne Gretzky Parkway, and the alignment moved. The old alignment of that road was added to Edmundson. It is the section running north-south. Edmundson was also extended at the same time to loop back onto West as well as going to the new alignment of Wayne Gretzky. Why nobody thought to come up with a new street name for one of these branches is beyond me.

  • http://undefined the_yellow_dart

    As for the Weston example (Oak/Gary/Pelmo/Woodward), the construction of the southern leg of Highway 400 is largely to blame. I have no idea why Oak and Gary have different names, but the presence of Pelmo and Woodward as the “same road” are explained by the 400. Pelmo was a separate road until the 400 chopped up the neighbourhood. It just made the most sense to connect the chopped streets of Gary and Pelmo together. Pelmo and Woodward both once intersected with Jane, and were cut back at the same time, as they were too close to the end of the new Jane exit of the 400.

  • thelemur

    I thought what Gretzky did to Peter St was bad enough …

  • thelemur

    I know – I’d just never seen the effects of it in Toronto until now.

  • http://undefined PSC-TO

    Bartley Bull = Bartholomew Hill Bull.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    That would be a nice bit of information for street signs to disclose in smaller type, as they do in some places that aren’t so secretive about historical information.

  • thelemur

    That’s a really good explanation, thanks. I’ve noticed from older maps of Toronto that in many cases streets were definitively severed (and then sometimes renamed) where railway crossings were eliminated or when a major arterial was created or extended: Castle Frank Crescent stopped being a looping crescent with the extension of Bloor to meet the Danforth (and the presence of Rosedale Heights Secondary), while the extension of Jarvis to Mount Pleasant, slicing through Rosedale, created two halves of Summerhill and accounts for the proto-woonerf, semi-dead-end nature of Clifton Rd and Glenrose Ave.