Don River Valley Historical Mapping Project

Photo: Toronto Public Library Special Collections

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The Don Valley Historical Mapping Project is a collaborative initiative between University of Toronto doctoral candidate Jennifer Bonnell and University of Toronto GIS and Map Librarian Marcel Fortin, with support from NiCHE.

The project uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to document historical changes in the landscape of the Don River watershed in Toronto, focusing primarily on the period of intense industrialization between the 1880s and the 1930s. Working from a series of historical maps, fire insurance plans, county atlases, and city directories, the project will produce information in three broad topic areas: 1) the industrial development of the lower river valley, 1850-1950; 2) changes to the physical landscape of the river and its estuary, including the shifting course of the river and changes to the extent of forest cover over time, 1880-1930; and 3) sites of interest throughout the watershed. One of the goals of the project is to make this information freely accessible to other researchers.

Completed project materials, including a library of GIS layers and images in both vector and raster format, are currently accessible through the University of Toronto Map Library website at: All vector data layers and most raster images are downloadable and accessible in GIS software and Google Earth (KML).

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