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Christie

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Subway Related Properties Page

Text by James Bow

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Christie station opened on February 26, 1966 as part of the first phase of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway line. It is a modest station designed to serve the local neighbourhood, with its entrance opposite Christie Pits. The area has a dense make-up of townhouses and tightly-clustered homes, as well as low-rise buildings, and commercial stores along Bloor Street. Ridership at this station has been stable over the last decade, remains at or close to 12,000 passengers per average weekday since 2008.

Early History

It is a common misconception that Christie station is somehow named after William Mellis Christie (1829-1900), a Scottish-Canadian baker and founder of the Mr. Christie brand of cookies and biscuits. This is not true. Although Mr. Christie was a Torontonian in his adult life, he had little connection with the area. On the other hand, Peter McDougall purchased Lot 27 in the 2nd Concession in the area in 1823. His wife was named Christy and documents from the York Land Registry indicate that Christie Street was named so by 1835, in honour of her. At the time, William Christie was six years old and still living in Huntley, Scotland, so the street could not have been named after him.

The large recreational area to the west of Christie station is today referred to as Christie Pits (formerly it was known as Willowvale Park). The sharp drop in the land dates from its earlier use as a gravel pit. The area was rich in sand, gravel and clay, thanks to deposits from the last ice age, and these deposits were excavated from the late 19th century to the early 20th century to help build Toronto’s streets and public buildings. The pits were depleted by 1909, and so were turned into parkland, featuring baseball pitches and other recreational facilities used by local children.

The site was the location of an unfortunate event, the Christie Pits riot, on August 16, 1933, where a gang of Anglo-Canadian boys and men unfurled a swastika during a softball game between two teams, one of which had a large number of Jewish players. This was the second time the swastika had been unfurled in two days and violence erupted, with both parties being bolstered by supporters on both sides and curious onlookers until an unruly mob of 10,000 fought in the streets for almost six hours before order was restored. Fortunately, nobody was killed, although many were injured. As the Toronto Star reported later, “Heads were opened, eyes blackened and bodies thumped and battered as literally dozens of persons, young or old, many of them non-combatant spectators, were injured more or less seriously by a variety of ugly weapons in the hands of wild-eyed and irresponsible young hoodlums, both Jewish and Gentile”. A Historic Toronto plaque commemorating the event was installed at Christie Pits Park on the 75th anniversary in 2008.

Subway Plans

Plans for a subway station at Christie Street emerged when the TTC considered building the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway instead of the Queen line in the mid 1950s. Even though Christie Street and its south-of-Bloor partner Grace Street did not have transit service, they were significant residential streets, gateways into large residential neighbourhoods. A stop here would be halfway between Bathurst and Ossington stations, and skipping it would mean too much of a walk for local riders.

When Toronto politicians objected to the TTC’s BLOOR-DANFORTH plans, Toronto planners suggested a compromise nicknamed the “Flying U”. This line would have seen the subway operate through the downtown core beneath or near Queen Street, before turning north at Trinity Bellwoods Park in the west and Pape Avenue in the west, heading north to Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue respectively before turning out towards the suburbs and continuing to the TTC’s proposed terminals of Keele and Woodbine.

The Flying U proposal would have placed the line beneath Grace Street, and put stops at Dundas Street (called Bellwoods Park) and College (called Grace). Christie station would be located at Bloor, although there’s little explanation as to how the station would be placed as it made the turn from Grace Street onto Bloor Street West. In spite of this proposal, the TTC argument for a BLOOR-DANFORTH subway prevailed, and Christie station was planned to straddle beneath Christie Street.

Early plans for Christie station labelled the station “Willowvale” after the park now known as Christie Pits. The station and the subway tunnel was cut into the steep slope at the south side of the park, and then covered over. Initial plans called for two station exits, one on each side of Christie Street, but only the entrance on the east side of Christie was built, as the west would have been on the park itself. The work continued without major incident and Christie station opened with the rest of the BLOOR-DANFORTH line on February 26, 1966.

Station Features

The original stations of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway line were built almost as a unit, so Christie shares its 1960s modernist style with its neighbours, with long clean lines, large windows, and overhanging roofs. The station continued the line’s tile pattern, with beige background tiles and green trim, unique among the original stations of the BLOOR-DANFORTH line, and the stations that came after with the extensions to Islington and Warden. The station’s modest entrance has only one wall of windows (the side facing the street), but it still features the large windows with a red plastic and metal strip at waist height. The station’s name is above the door, backlit on red with white lettering.

Christie station has only one exit, to Christie Street itself. The entrance level is small, but a wide staircase along with an escalator takes passengers down to a small mezzanine level with further stairs and escalators leading down to the eastbound and westbound side platforms. The station is currently not wheelchair accessible, and renovations to make it accessible, or to add a second exit, is not planned until 2023.

When Christie station opened, there was no connecting bus service. At the time it opened, it was one of only four stations where this was the case (the others being Chester and Donlands on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway and Summerhill on the YONGE subway). A connecting bus service in the form of the 18 CALEDONIA arrived on August 15, 1973. This bus looped around the traffic island caused by the street’s jog to meet Grace Street further south, stopping to pick up passengers directly outside the station entrance. As buses sit out of the way of most traffic, no bus terminal was needed or built. Today, the 126 CHRISTIE bus follows the same arrangement.

Changes Since Opening

One of the odder features of Christie station is the escalator leading down from the main entrance to the mezzanine level. The escalator bottoms out a couple of feet above the mezzanine level floor, and passengers have to proceed down a short flight of four steps. This is because this escalator was added after the station opened. At this point, the escalator is directly above the subway tracks, and there is not enough space between the mezzanine floor and the platform ceiling to fit the mechanical workings of the escalator at its base. Other than that, the exterior of Christie station has not changed significantly since its opening over fifty years ago.

Arguably, what Christie station might be best known for is being the site of one of the worst fires in TTC history. On October 15, 1976, near the end of the service day, a vandal set fire to a bundle of newspapers on a train of H-1 subway cars (numbers 5388, 5389, 5390 and 5391). When the fire was detected by the crew, the train was stopped at Christie and everybody evacuated. By then, however, the fire was out of control, and did tremendous damage to the train cars and to Christie station. In total, ten passengers and three TTC employees had to be taken to hospital. Two crewmen crawled on their hands and knees through blinding smoke all the way to Ossington station to make their escape. The BLOOR-DANFORTH subway line was shut down between Ossington and St. George stations for the next two days as over 200 TTC personnel worked frantically to clear the debris and repair the line.

Cars 5388, 5389 and 5390 were unsalvageable. Car 5391, furthest from the fire, was stored and, in March 1984, was converted into RT-23, non-motorized ultra-sonic rail inspection and utility car. As for Christie station, TTC work crews laboured to restore the station to its original condition, but did not have enough of the green trim tiling to replace the damaged part of the stations. Instead, they used red-brown trim tile over the damaged sections, giving that part of the station the same pattern as seen in Castle Frank. Yellow tiling was used at the mezzanine level as well in place of the regular beige.

The fire cost $2.5 million at the time, including $2 million to cover the cost of the subway cars. Fortunately, the costs were covered by fire insurance. The fire led to a number of recommendations from the Ontario Fire Marshall, which the TTC implemented by 1980, including installing fire-retardant Neoprene seat cushions on all subway cars, and installing a subway dry-drop standpipe system to fight fires.

Aside from this memorable experience, Christie remains largely unchanged since opening as part of the original BLOOR-DANFORTH line, and with ridership remaining stable for the past decade, it feels as though very little about the station will change. However, the TTC does plan to render the station accessible to wheelchair passengers in 2023, and it’s possible that a second exit from the station platform could be built at that time. Until then, the station will probably retain its appearance and quiet character.

Service Notes (as of August 1, 2017):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 2 BLOOR-DANFORTH
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train to Kennedy: 5:58 a.m. weekdays, 6:06 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:19 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train to Kennedy: 1:49 a.m. every day.
    First Train to Kipling: 5:55 a.m. weekdays, 6:00 a.m Saturdays/holidays, 8:16 a.m. Sundays
    Last Train to Kipling: 1:58 a.m. every day.
  • Address: 5 Christie Street
  • Opened: February 26, 1966
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 12,020 (2015), 12,390 (2014), 12,930 (2013), 12,400 (2012), 12,600 (2011), 12,400 (2010), 12,060 (2009), 12,240 (2008), 12,090 (2007)
  • Entrances: 1
    • 5 Christie Street, located on the east side of Christie Street, 48 metres north of Bloor Street West, with stairs and escalators leading down to a mezzanine leading down to both platforms.
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • North Side - West End - Westbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
    • South Side - West End - Eastbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
    • Concourse To Street (Up At All Times)
  • Not Accessible (Elevators to be installed in 2023)
  • No Washrooms
  • 2 Side Platforms
  • No TTC parking.

TTC Surface Connections:

Former TTC Connections:

Document Archive


Christie Station Image Archive


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Subway Related Properties Page

References

  • Corley, Ray F., Subway Car: 75 Foot Aluminum Class M & H cars (Camshaft Control), The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), October 1996.
  • History of Christie Pits.” Toronto Neighbourhood Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2017.
  • Ng, Nathan. “Christie.” Station Fixation. N.p., Feb. 2016. Web.