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Gardens Allan


Toronto’s first civic park By Tania Moffat and Ashlea Stone


T


he history of Allan Gardens dates back to 1858 when George William Allan, had a vision for a public garden to follow his motto to “beautify Toronto”.


George William Allan, in addition to being a munici- pal politician, alderman and Toronto’s 11th mayor, later became involved in national politics. He first served as a senator and later as the Speaker of the Parliament. Mr. Allan, a long-time president of the city’s horticultur-


al society, offered to sell part of his Moss Park estate to the city, provided it was used for horticultural purposes and as a recreational public space, something that was not yet in existence in the industrialized city. The gardens, located on the south side of Carlton Street at Sherbourne Street, were originally named the Horticultural Gardens and became Toronto’s first civic park. Grand opening of Toronto’s first park


On September 11, 1860 the Horticulture Gardens were


officially opened with pomp and circumstance as the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) planted a maple tree at the front of the garden. The park is well-treed today with some 300 trees, many


planted in the early 1900s. In 1864, the City of Toronto purchased an additional five acres from Mr. Allan, which they continued to lease to the horticultural club on the condition that entry remained free for the public, with the exception of private events held after 8 p.m. The immaculate lawns and gardens were graced with


benches for the public to rest. By 1879, a sparkling new pavilion modeled after the Crystal Palace (a structure erect- ed for the British Great Exhibition of 1851) replaced the original rustic wood structure. The pavilion, designed by architectural firm Langley,


Langley and Burke quickly became a hot spot for prom- enades, galas and flower shows. The structure was one of the finest facilities of its type in all of Canada, an impressive design that married the use of wood, iron and glass. Here many budding poets and writers, such as Oscar Wilde in 1882, came to lecture and speak. A conservatory was added to the south side in a later


expansion. A change in ownership In 1888, the city of Toronto gained ownership of the


gardens from the horticultural society due to financial difficulties in maintaining the park, despite its popularity. The city began improving and expanding the conservatory and replaced the old building in 1894 with a more spacious


30 • Fall 2016


The Palm House with its classical dome opened in 1910.


facility. Shortly after Mr. Allan's death in 1901, Toronto renamed the park Allan Gardens to commemorate him and pay tribute to his service to the city and its people. Scottish poet Robert Burns became a permanent fixture


in the garden, when the Toronto Burns Monument Committee presented the city with a life-sized stature of him in 1902. It still stands at the east end of the park. In 1902 a disastrous fire destroyed the pavilion; it had


served as the city’s largest concert hall for the previous two decades. It would take another eight years before it would be replaced. Toronto hired architect Robert McCallum to design a new pavilion. In 1910 the historic Palm House with its classical dome opened its doors to the public and still stands today. Over the years, the city continued to rejuvenate the park


and acquire new land, increasing the size of the site. Sever- al improvements and additions have been made to Allan Gardens including two additional greenhouses, a children’s


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