"The Iron Horse" Returns to Davisville
The year was 1994, and while the familiar Beltline Railroad bridge hadn’t seen any trains cross in many years, it was now home to an artistic crossing - twelve ‘Iron Horses’ who would call the bridge home for two years.
The horses were part of a temporary art installation (“The Iron Horse”) created by an emerging artist at the time, Robert Sprachman. They were always meant to be temporary, but in 1996 Sprachman offered to donate them to the city permanently. At the time, the city asked that the artist also donate maintenance fees totalling fifty thousand dollars. So instead, the horses were sold off - Sprachman recalls that one made its way up to Muskoka, three were acquired by Windfields Middle School in Toronto, and one is still owned by Sprachman himself.
The three horses now owned by Windfields Middle School stand its entrance and according to the school, they “proudly display the Windfields’ horses - 2 in front of the school and 1 inside the entrance - as a tribute to our unique past.” The school is located in the St. Andrew-Windfields neighbourhood which, until the 1960s, was mostly farmland. The school sits on land once owned by E.P. Taylor who was a well known equestrian.
Twenty five years after the original art exhibit was unveiled, the Midtown Yonge Business Improvement Area (BIA), the City of Toronto - Economic Development Office, and Sprachman himself have come together to bring the installation back to the neighbourhood.
The new installation (“The Iron Horse 2019”) will be a copy of the original one - 6 female, 6 male life-size horses galloping across the Beltline Bridge. The 2-300 pound horses will be made from a recycled fibreglass material that is strong and easy to repair. New to the project this time around will be solar powered lights which will illuminate the horses.
Lots has changed in 25 years - the Beltline bridge is now open for pedestrian use and the Beltline trail is named after the Councillor that attended the unveiling of the original installation. Kay Gardner was instrumental in acquiring the Beltline trail for the city from CN Real estate in 1990, and ‘Beltline Park’ became the ‘Kay Gardner Beltline Park in 2000.
The Iron Horse is a fitting symbol for an area which has been so influenced by the development and evolution of public transportation - from horse-drawn stagecoaches to the trains that once crossed the Beltline bridge and over the Davisville Yard.
The Midtown Yonge BIA will be working to put together an event to commemorate the installation of what will surely become a fixture of the Davisville neighbourhood. While there is no fixed end date for the project, the aim is for it to be completed by fall of this year.