Passmore Avenue looking west from west of Beare Road.
If you’re familiar with Passmore Avenue in Scarborough at all, it’s probably as an unremarkable industrial street that runs in two discontinuous sections between Kennedy Road and Markham Road. But along with the rest of the concession roads in Scarborough, it long predates suburbia: it was laid out and cleared in the 1800s. On an 1878 map, Passmore (then known only as Concession Road 5) stretched 14 km clear across the township of Scarborough with only three short sections missing where the road would have crossed the Rouge River. More modern maps and aerial photos show that Passmore remained a country road crossing Scarborough well into the 1960s, when portions of it started falling to suburban development or neglect.
Although the Passmore name has virtually disappeared over the last 50 years as Scarborough grew from farming township into a suburb, most of the original route still carves its way through the former borough. West of Markham Road, the original road allowance is given over to portions of more than a dozen different suburban roads and park pathways that trace the old road, starting with Gordon Baker Road in the west and continuing to Ketchum Place near Middlefield Road. Drivers can’t follow the entire road thanks to all of the twisty-weavy suburban streets, but multi-use paths directly connect the whole route (except for one block) to allow a continuous 8 km long suburban walking or cycling tour along the old right of way from Victoria Park Avenue to beyond Markham Road. There’s no physical evidence of the original road here other than the straight route through the heart of suburbia.
East of Markham Road, Passmore was never much more than a dirt road through the countryside. Except for three very short half-blocks that still exist, most of it no longer appears on maps and has dropped off the municipal street grid. Yet the old road allowance remains largely open to intrepid hikers in this rural corner of the city. The most accessible portion of Passmore Avenue runs between Gordon Murison Lane and Beare Road, where a line of utility poles stands guard over the old dirt road as it dips into a small valley, passes farm fields on either side, and crosses a small tributary of the Rouge River before climbing back up a low hill at the other end.
A partial tour of the eastern half of Passmore and more photos are below the fold.
This picture was taken a few steps from the one at the top of the article, but facing east toward Beare Road. A small tributary of the Little Rouge River passes under the road in a culvert in the middle foreground of the picture.
Looking east from near Gordon Murison Lane. Utility poles still line at least two long stretches of the Passmore road allowance. Of all the abandoned sections, this is probably where the road is most easily identifiable as more than just a path through the woods.
Taken from roughly the same spot as the previous picture, but facing west instead of east. The road here appears to be well-used by farm vehicles accessing the adjacent fields. Just above the hill in the centre of the picture is a little half-block of Passmore at the bottom of Gordon Murison Lane. The 1878 Township of Scarborough map shows that the farm to the south (left) of the camera was owned by William Murison, while Benjamin Reesor was to the north (right). The Reesor family has farmed in this area since 1804, and still does. And here you thought that Scarborough wasn’t invented until 1953.
At Reesor Road, vehicular access to the old road is blocked by a row of rocks.
East of Reesor Road, Passmore descends into a valley in Rouge Park, where it forms a portion of one of the walking trails. The city’s maps of this spot show the park cut into three pieces by the east-west road allowance for Passmore and the north-south allowance for Gordon Murison Lane south of Passmore.
Looking east toward Littles Road, this is one of few sections of Passmore east of Markham Road that is still called “Passmore Avenue” and shows up on modern maps. This stretch west of Littles, another west of Beare Road, and Littles Road between Steeles and Passmore are the only city-maintained dirt roads that I know of in Toronto.
Passmore isn’t the only “lost road” in the picture above; maps show that an allowance for Littles Road continues for approximately 1.5 km south of Passmore. If Littles continued south from there, it would match up perfectly with Morningside Avenue. Allowances for two other roads also still exist nearby. Not too far behind the camera, an unnamed city park lurks in the middle of the woods. The stretch of road pictured above also appeared at the top of a previous Dodgeville post.
Southwest of the intersection of Littles Road and Passmore, a former horse farm is now a small part of Toronto and Region Conservation‘s land holdings in the area. Although it looks like an overgrown meadow from the ground, the oval horse track remains clearly visible on current aerial photos and Google Maps. The track was first built in 1966 and maintained until the late 80s. By 1992, it had been abandoned and looked much as it does now. The ruins of three farm buildings and a silo remained on the site until 2002.
A 1989 aerial shot of the farm, with the Passmore and Littles intersection at the top right, shows an immaculate track and manicured infield. The stand of trees in the infield still exists today and appears in all of the aerials I examined going back to 1950.
This old telephone connection box was the only evidence I could see that something more than an empty field used to be here. I’d like to go back in something other than cycling shoes next year and see if I can find the foundations of the old buildings. According to my GPS and aerial maps, I was almost right on top of them at one point. It took three cycling trips to the farthest reaches of Scarborough and one to the Toronto Archives, but exploring Passmore sure was fun.
Most of the Passmore Avenue road allowance east of Markham Road lies within the boundaries of Rouge Park and is protected from further development. It will probably continue to be eaten away by TRCA’s ongoing efforts to renaturalize more of the park.
A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.