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I heard there’s a ship buried beneath the Gardiner

I heard there’s a ship buried beneath the Gardiner. Is it true?—Gwendolyn Gao, The Annex

By all accounts, yes. The Knapp Roller Boat was one of the great oddities of Toronto’s past. The brainchild of Frederick Augustus Knapp—lawyer, inventor, terminal optimist—the roller boat was a floating cylinder powered by two steam engines, designed to log-roll widthwise across the water while passengers remained level on the inside. A 110-foot-long prototype was built on Toronto’s waterfront in 1897, and thousands of locals flocked to watch its launch. And it really did work—sort of. The roller boat rolled, but at an exceedingly slow pace, and it proved hard to manoeuvre. The ship spent decades rusting at the foot of Parliament Street, and when the city filled in that part of the waterfront in 1927 for a revitalization scheme, they buried her where she lay. The boat was largely forgotten, but now that the city is proposing to build a new neighbourhood in the area, plans are afoot to mark the spot where Knapp’s dream rolled over and died.

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