Bob Gibson and the Skilevich cow on Port Union (1956).
Lawson Road looking east toward Port Union Road (1952).
Dead end at Lawson Road (1948)
Johns-Manville asbestos plant seen from Lawson Road
Past and present views from Lawson Road
By Janice Bennink
As survey crews begin work on Port Union Road, our community prepares for another stage in its evolution. For long-time Centennial homeowners Gayle and June Gibson, it’s one more snapshot seen from the corner house at Lawson and Port Union.
In the 1940’s, June’s parents purchased building lots on Lawson Road from farmer William Brumwell, who had a home on the east side of Port Union. June’s mother came from a closely-knit family, and five of her six sisters built homes and cottages on the properties which had no municipal water or sewers. Water came from a well owned by one of June’s uncles.
In 1951, Gayle and June began to build their home on the corner lot. They accessed electricity from June’s aunt, and built a backhouse during construction, moving into their partially built home late in 1951. Mail was delivered to a box in Highland Creek Village. The Gibsons did not have access to municipal water until 1954, and sewers finally arrived in 1976.
Originally, Lawson Road was known as the Service Road and was built and paved to serve north/south routes along Highway 2A. It ended at Port Union with a dead end and a checkerboard sign. When the Gibsons first built their home, Port Union Road was known as the Scarborough/Pickering Town Line, and it was unpaved. The Pickering land between Port Union and the Rouge River did not become West Rouge, a part of Scarborough, until 1974.
Gayle remembers when the only public transportation was a Grey Coach bus from the Bay Street terminal. It travelled along Bloor to Danforth and Kingston Roads, then east to Oshawa. “A ride could be hailed along the route and tickets could be purchased from the bus driver”, he recalls. TTC and GO Transit did not reach Centennial until the late 1960s and 70s.
In 1968, the Scotiabank plaza was built. Gayle urged his son Bob, then 15, to be first in line to open an account, and he was rewarded with a gold half sovereign for his early patronage. North of the plaza was an apple orchard owned by the Skilevich family. Gayle remembers seeing their Holstein cow walked to and from pasture further south on the Town Line.
The three-acre Skilevich property was sold to developers in the early 2000s, and 16 houses were built, eight of them facing Port Union Road. Gayle spoke against this subdivision at Council, feeling that Port Union was far too busy for accessible driveways. Eventually, the Gibsons sold 17 feet of their original lot to the City of Toronto, and had to “dedicate” (hand over) 10 more feet on Lawson Road.
The Gibsons have witnessed many changes that development brought to their former farm community. Years ago, “when we heard a car, we thought we had a visitor”, Gayle laughs. “Now it’s like living in the middle of Mosport”.
With the scheduled widening of Port Union Road in 2018, the view from the Gibsons’ corner house will change and another page added to its story.