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Nesbitt Park

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

Surface: wood chips.

Governor’s Bridge is a tiny corner of the city that you’ve probably never been to unless a) you live there, b) you got lost in Rosedale one time, or c) you’re some kind of Toronto nerd trying to visit as many playgrounds as possible.

The teeny neighbourhood, once a part of East York, comprises barely over 100 homes and is split into two sections: the older section, connected to Rosedale by a bridge over Mud Creek, and the newer section, which was only developed in the 1990s, in the form of a batch of fairly hideous McMansion-style homes. Actually, that wasn’t the first time it had been developed…but let’s talk about the playground first, before we get into that.

Nesbitt Park is at the corner of Nesbitt Drive and True Davidson Drive, right at the spot where the two sections of the neighbourhood meet. It’s a cute little park with a cute little playground. The equipment is gently used, and there’s a neat circular path around the climbers that is a perfect racetrack for the Little Tikes push cars that were there on our visit.

The climbers aren’t going to win any awards, but they’re good; one is even shaped like a train, probably a nod to the fact that Governor’s Bridge is bordered by a functioning CN railway line, and bisected by a disused rail line that used to carry bricks from the nearby Don Valley Brick Works. The abandoned track now makes a nice walking trail, and a popular jogging spot for locals.

It’s a bit unfortunate that there isn’t a splash pad here, or just a bit more variety of equipment, because part of me really wants to designate this one as a hidden gem. It’s hidden for sure, but not quite strong enough to be a gem.

And now I’d like to tell you about the Bayview Ghost.

In 1953, developers bought the land that is now the McMansionized southern part of Governor’s Bridge. Their plan was to build an apartment called Hampton Court, but residents of the ‘original’ Governor’s Bridge neighbourhood caught a serious case of Nimbyism. They protested, and the municipal government refused a building permit.

Then things got weird. I’ll let the New York Times take it from here:

The Hampton development appeared dead. But several months later, on a holiday when the council was adjourned, a building inspector granted the permit. Within hours, construction was under way at a furious pace.

At the prospect of a huge development in their backyard, a local group of taxpayers began protesting. The borough canceled the construction permit. But the building continued.

The borough refused sewage rights. The building continued. Then it denied water rights. The building continued. And then the borough denied a right-of-way to the site, meaning residents would have to use helicopters. Construction halted.

Lawsuits flew back and forth between the borough and the developers, while the partially-built white structure, seven stories tall, sat there rotting. If you know the area, you know that a rotting structure of that size on top of the hill by the Bayview Extension is not exactly inconspicuous. It was an eyesore, and a haven for trespassers of every possible type.

Finally, twenty-two years after construction halted, a judge ruled that it would be demolished, and that East York would pay for it, because the original permit had been legal. The developers cut a clever deal though: they would pay for demolition if they could build 66 luxury homes on the site. Hence the McMansions.

To celebrate their win, the developers named one of the streets in the new subdivision “Hampton Park Crescent,” a tribute to the Bayview Ghost and its generation-long stay on the edge of the valley.

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