Centennial resident Jean Palmer stands on Lawrence Bridge today

By Kathy Rowe

The building of the Lawrence Avenue bridge over Highland Creek (between Beechgrove and Meadowvale)  was quite an event. Construction began in 1969 and the bridge was completed in December 1972.  There were at least four major construction companies and three engineer consulting firms involved. 

Centennial resident Jean Palmer remembers it well. “ I remember when they took out Colonel Danforth Trail. Colonel Danforth Trail (south end ) used to come down to where Lawrence is now and go along ( eastward) to Johns Manville ( an industrial plant that used to sit on the southwest corner of Port Union and Lawrence). 

Before the bridge was built we would drive up Colonel Danforth Trail and along to Kingston Road In order to get to the west side of Highland Creek”, recalled Jean. “The bridge certainly made if much easier for residents to get over to Morningside.“

Jean attended the unveiling of the completed bridge in on Friday December 1, 1972. “The opening was right on the bridge. It was a miserable day. I remember a horse drawn buggy on the bridge as part of the celebration. I’m not sure who was in the buggy. It could have been Robert W. White who was the Scarborough Mayor at the time.”

Fortunately Jean hung on to the construction program pamphlet that was handed out to residents at the unveiling. The program listed some interesting facts about the construction of the bridge. The bridge is supported on reinforced 55 feet high concrete piers. There are 5,700 cubic yards of steel in the six box beams that support the deck.  The west approach contains 360,000 cubic yards of fill and the east approach contains 190,000 cubic yards of fill. 

Apparently 20 acres of valley land below were cleared to accommodate creek relocation, approaches and structure.  A 4,000 ft. trunk watermain was installed across the valley. Bell Canada and Scarborough Public Utilities Commission lines cross the valley in the bridge sidewalks so that unsightly overhead wires could be removed.  

If you have ever walked down the path from Beechgrove that curls under the bridge it’s easy to see the incredible and massive bridge support structures below. It really is an impressive piece of work.

The final stages of the construction took place during the summer and fall of 1972. “ I would take my kids to watch the construction two or three times a week recalled Jean.  It was a good way to amuse three kids!”