By James Bow
York Mills station opened to the public on March 31, 1973 as part of the northern extension to the YONGE SUBWAY. For a year, less a day, it served as the northern terminus to the line, something the station was not originally planned for. York Mills station saw a number of revisions between the time of its initial proposal until opening day, and the revisions continued even after the station opened.
The full history of the North Yonge Extension can be read here. From the beginning, subway designers knew that the extension faced challenging terrain as it approached York Mills. North of Glen Echo Road, Yonge Street descended into a deep valley carved by the western branch of the Don River. This steep descent, into an area called Hogg’s Hollow, frustrated previous road and rail builders, as seen by the many different routes Yonge Street took to get through the valley, Yonge Boulevard and Old Yonge Street.
A Controversial Alignment
Initial plans for the subway called for the line to be dug beneath the west side of Yonge Street and up part of Yonge Boulevard, before emerging onto an elevated section bridging the Don River and Wilson Avenue before diving back underground beneath Highway 401. This proposal proved deeply unpopular with local residents, who objected to the number of houses that would have to be expropriated, and to possible noise issues resulting from the above-ground train operation (this, in spite of the fact that Highway 401 was already in the area, making noise).
The cost of expropriations and pressure from residents led the TTC to re-think the extension. A re-design had the line coming north on the east side of Yonge and staying underground through the valley. This meant that York Mills station would have to open practically beneath the Don River. To accomplish this, the TTC built the station as “a concrete island that ‘floats’ below the Don River West Branch”. The underground chamber is located beneath the river bed, with thicker-than-average walls to keep the river at bay.
Strike Delays, Changes, and a Grand Opening
As the North Yonge extension was being built, labour difficulties thwarted the TTC’s plans to open the whole line on time. In order to make a March 1973 opening date, the TTC decided to scale back the initial extension (which had been to Sheppard station) to just York Mills, opening the York Mills-to-Shepard section at the same time as the further extension to Finch. Even so, strikes forced the TTC to open York Mills station without working escalators to its automatic entrance from Old York Mills Road. This was a frustrating problem for passengers, given the depth of York Mills station, and the number of stairs that had to be climbed. Some of the escalators weren’t available to the public until June 1973.
When York Mills station was the first station to open in the Borough of North York. This fact was celebrated on Friday, March 30, 1973. Nearly 400 invited guests and officials gathered at Eglinton Station around 2 p.m. to board a special train bearing a sign reading “Official Opening - Yonge Subway Extension” on front. Toronto Mayor David Crombie operated the train through a banner reading “Get Ready - North York, Here Comes the subway”, and then the train headed for Lawrence Station where it was met with another group of dignitaries, including North York Mayor Mel Lastman. Eastman and Crombie together activated a symbolic signal to send the train on to York Mills, after which Eastman himself took over the controls and operated the ceremonial train into York Mills.
A Regional Hub
When York Mills station opened, it was located outside the central fare zone in the TTC’s two-zone fare system. Passengers paid their Zone 1 fare upon boarding the subway, but all the buses connecting with the station required Zone 2 fares. The bus terminal, located on the north-east corner of the Yonge/York Mills intersection, was thus located outside the subway station’s fare barriers. The terminal served TTC buses and Gray Coach buses alike and, later, GO Transit buses as well.
The bus terminal itself would be the first major change to York Mills station. A redevelopment proposal in the mid-1980s led the TTC to close the terminal and temporarily relocate the connecting buses across the street to the GO/Gray Coach terminal and parking lot. York Mills Centre soon rose on the old location, including an enclosed TTC bus terminal. When the new terminal opened, the fare barriers in the concourse level were altered to allow for transfer-free connections between the buses and the subway. At the same time, a separate GO terminal was opened north of the TTC terminal, with connections made via the shopping concourse of York Mills Centre.
Gray Coach’s use of the York Mills terminal diminished following the subway’s opening. The extension of the subway to Finch, along with the construction of a new regional bus terminal serving the northern suburbs, pulled some buses away. The Airport Express bus faded in 2000, leaving just GO Transit to use the terminal for its express services using Highway 401.
York Mills Today
York Mills decades-long battle against the Don River did not come without casualties. While the station’s structure remains sound, moisture did cause the station’s wall tiles to deteriorate. Around 2010, some of these tiles fell into the tracks, leading the TTC to pull up all of the station’s distinctive blue-green tiles, exposing the bare concrete walls. Late in 2014, the TTC applied an enamel-covered sheet metal wall treatment, restoring some of the old colour to the station.
The station itself was rendered accessible for wheelchairs in 2007, with two elevators connecting the subway platform to its concourse level. A non-TTC elevator operated by York Mills Centre allows patrons to access the street.
- In 2010, York Mills station acquired a tapestry called “Breaking Ground”, by artist Laurie Swim. The tapestry was commissioned to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Hogg’s Hollow Disaster”. On March 17, 1968, five Italian immigrant workers helping to building a water main tunnel beneath the Don River were trapped by a cave-in and killed. The incident provoked a public outcry which led to an improvement of safety standards at Ontario work sites. The tapestry is found under glass in the station’s northern mezzanine.
Service Notes (as of January 3, 2016):
- Off-Site Resources:
- Line: 1 Yonge - University - Spadina
- Hours of Operation:
First Train Northbound: 5:45 a.m. weekdays, 5:57 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:52 a.m. Sundays.
First Train Southbound: 5:57 a.m. weekdays, 5:52 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:01 a.m. Sundays.
Last Train Northbound: 2:08 a.m. every day.
Last Train Southbound: 1:22 a.m. every day.
- Address: 4015 Yonge Street
- Opened: March 31st 1973
- Average Weekday Ridership: 22,600 (2014); 29,110 (2013)
- 4023 Yonge Street, east side of Yonge Street, north of York Mills (Accessible entrance to north side of platform via non-TTC elevator in York Mills Centre building)
- 16 York Mills Road, north side of York Mills, east of Yonge (Accessible entrance to north side of platform via non-TTC elevator in York Mills Centre building)
- Old York Mills Road (Automatic Entrance to south side of platform)
- Yonge and Wilson (north-west corner, to north side of platform.
- 4100 Yonge Street, west side of Yonge Street, north of Wilson (Via Yonge Corporate Centre; tunnel open 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays)
- Elevators (click here for maintenance schedule):
- Northern concourse to bus level
- Platform to northern concourse
- Northern concourse to Street (non-TTC elevator in York Mills Centre building)
- Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
- Westside - Southbound Platform To Street (York Mills Automatic Entrance) - Up At All Times
- Eastside - Northbound Train Platform To Street - Down At All Times
- West Side - Concourse To Train Platform - Down At All Times
- East Side - Concourse To Train Platform- Up At All Times
- West Side - Concourse To Street - Up At All Times
- End Of Walkway - Concourse To Bus Level - Up At All Times
- York Mills Centre to Collector level - Down at all times
- York Mills Centre to Collector level - Up At All Times
- End Of Walkway From Concourse Level To Bus Level - Down At All Times
- Wheelchair Accessible Since: February 9, 2007
- Forms of fare payment include credit or debit
- Centre platform
- Token vending machine
- Pass vending machine
- 4050 Yonge Street
- Paid parking from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day;
- $7 from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, and $4 from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends and holidays
- Enter from the west side of Yonge, north of Wilson Avenue, or the north side of Wilson, west of Yonge Street
- Capacity: 263 spaces.
- 4050 Yonge Street
TTC Surface Connections:
- 78 ST. ANDREWS
- 95 YORK MILLS
- 96 WILSON
- 97 YONGE (transfer required for Yonge Street; no transfer required for via Yonge Blvd branch)
- 115 SILVER HILLS
- 122 GRAYDON HALL
- 165 WESTON RD NORTH
- 319 WILSON NIGHT
- 320 YONGE (transfer required for Yonge Street)
- 321 YORK MILLS NIGHT
York Mills Station Image Archive
This Toronto Archives image shows a model of an early proposal for York Mills station. As you can see, the subway would emerge from the side of the valley, cross York Mills and the Don River over a bridge, before diving back underground by Highway 401. York Mills station would have resembled Old Mill. Residents at the nearby Armour Heights neighbourhood objected, saying the "noise pollution" would adversely affect property values, even with Highway 401 already in place. This image is courtesy the Toronto Archives.
On October 4, 1972, six months before the station opened to the public, Ted Wickson managed to get this shot from track level of the northbound platform of York Mills station, looking south. This image is courtesy the Pete Coulman collection.
Another shot of the platform level of York Mills station on October 4, 1972, taken by Ted Wickson. Photo courtesy the Pete Coulman collection.
A photo of York Mills station's bus terminal, taken by Anthony Holt early in 1973. Note the Gray Coach waiting room on the left. Photo courtesy the Pete Coulman collection.
This shot, taken by Anthony Holt in March 1973, shows the last days of Glen Echo terminal, which the York Mills station bus terminal replaced on March 31st. TTC GM New Look bus #3158 prepares to pick up passengers while in service on 59 NORTH YONGE while GM New Look #3581 lays over in service on 96 WILSON. Note that the Wilson bus already has a "YORK MILLS STN" exposure. Photo courtesy the Pete Coulman collection.
In April 1973, days after the opening, we see York Mills bus terminal in use. TTC GM New Look bus #3999, in service on 59 NORTH YONGE picks up passengers beside a Gray Coach bus. Photo by Lewis Swanson, courtesy the Pete Coulman collection.
A subway train pulls out of York Mills station, heading northbound, on January 27, 1980. The photographer is unknown.
This photo shows the entrance to York Mills station on the northwest corner of Yonge and Wilson on May 31, 2008. In 2015, the TTC considered a proposal to redevelop the parking lot behind it, which would likely see this structure replaced. Photo by GTDAquitaine, used in accordance with its Creative Commons License.
The tapestry "Breaking Ground", by Laurie Swim, is seen on the mezzanine level of York Mills station in this shot taken by Secondarywaltz on March 26, 2010. The image is used in accordance with his Creative Commons License. The tapestry was commissioned to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the "Hoggs Hollow Disaster", where five Italian immigrant workers were caught in a cave-in while building a nearby watermain tunnel in March 1960, and killed.
Here we see the platform level of York Mills station on December 27, 2010. The original ceramic tiles are still in place, but looking a little worse for wear. This photo is by Suigi, and is used in accordance with his Creative Commons license.
Richard White snapped this picture of York Mills station's bare concrete walls on September 17, 2014. Water damage issues forced the TTC to remove the original tiles from the walls.
The platform level of York Mills station, taken by Richard White on September 17, 2014.
Richard White captured this shot of the inside of York Mill's bus terminal on a visit on September 17, 2014.
A southbound subway train enters York Mills station on April 2, 2015, passing the enamel-painted sheet metal wall treatments that have been applied to the station since the original ceramic tiles were removed. Photo by James Bow.
TTC Orion I bus #8376, in service on 115 SILVER HILLS, pulls up beside TTC GM "New Look" bus #7783, in service on 95 YORK MILLS at the York Mills subway station bus terminal on October 5, 1982. Note the Gray Coach bus (#2358) in the background. This photo is courtesy the Gilbert Ebling collection.