Tom hosts Tuesday's Treasures.
August 2017 - Toronto ON
I happened upon this gem last week on this walk.
Click here to visit Fort York.
Victoria Memorial Square is a park and former cemetery established in 1793 as the burial place for those affiliated with the nearby Fort York, it was the first cemetery to be used by European settlers in what would become the city of Toronto.
The first historical plaque I came across.
Survey posts bearing a "Broad Arrow" once stood at the four original corners of Victoria Square to mark it as British military property. They were placed there in 1853 by a young Sandford Fleming who surveyed the square as part of the military reserve surrounding Fort York. Later, Fleming went on to fame as Chief Engineer of Canada's first transcontinental railroad, and as inventor of our modern system of time zones.
Fleming's markings followed a centuries-old tradition. The Broad Arrow and the initials "B.O." connected Victoria Square to the Board of Ordnance, a British government body which had used the symbol since the 1600s to mark the supplies, buildings and property it controlled for military purposes.
Though now lost, Fleming's survey stone in this location has been replaced by a reproduction. Other original survey stones may still exist throughout the former military reserve, buried under gardens or sidewalks.
I was intrigued by these stones from afar and as I got closer I realized they were pieces of old graves.
There are some very recognizable names here, Jewell, Colbourne.
Part of the Fort York National Historic Site, this park shelters the city's earliest known cemetery to be established by British authorities. In 1794, shortly after the founding of the fort and the Town of York, Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe ordered this burying ground laid out in a clearing a short distance from the fort. Simcoe's own infant daughter Katherine was the first to be buried here. At least 400 others - many of them soldiers with their wives and children - were laid to rest in the cemetery before it was closed in 1863.
By then much had changed. In 1837, a plan of subdivision extended the city's street grid westward into the area. The cemetery, oriented by compass to magnetic north (unlike the roads), was enclosed within a new 2.4 ha public square named after Princess Victoria. Victoria Square was mirrored by Clarence Square to the east, and linked to it by an exceptionally wide boulevard called "Wellington Place." Intended to create a prestigious neighbourhood, the subdivision plan called for churches to be built in Victoria Square. However, only the Anglican Church of St. John the Evangelist was ever constructed.
Katherine Simcoe, the seventh child of Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe and Elizabeth, his wife, was born in 1793 in what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake. She died only 15 months later in the Simcoes' tent-house at the edge of the wilderness near Fort York. In a letter to a friend in England, Elizabeth wrote of her daughter's death:
She had been feverish two or three days cutting teeth...on Good Friday she was playing in my room in the morning, in the afternoon was seized with fits, I sat up the whole night the greatest part of which she continued to have spasms and before seven in the morning she was no more... She was the sweetest tempered pretty child imaginable, just beginning to talk and walk and the suddenness of the event you may be sure shocked me inexpressibly.
Katherine Simcoe was buried here - on Easter Monday, 1794. The following year, a small marble gravestone was sent from England and placed on her grave. It read:
January 16, 1793 - April 19, 1794
Happy in the Lord
Her gravestone had disappeared by the 1850s.
Created in 1794 and in use until 1863, the military cemetery in this park was once dotted with hundreds of markers. By the early 1880s, vandalism, weather and thieves had left only 35 stone, marble and wooden markers in their original locations.
We know important details about those markers from a study of the cemetery completed in 1884. Their inscriptions spoke to the harsh realities of the 19th century, reminding us that not only soldiers, but also their wives and children, were buried here.
When the cemetery became a public park in the 1880s, the grave markers were removed from their original locations and arranged on a terrace behind the present playground area. By the mid-1950s all of the wooden markers, and three of those made of stone, had disappeared. The remaining gravestones, most in poor condition, were laid in concrete at the foot of the War of 1812 monument.
In 2010, all 17 of the surviving stones were relocated here for their protection and interpretation. Twelve of them have been identified with certainty.
Long overlooked among Toronto's public monuments, the memorial in the centre of this park honours those who died defending Upper Canada (now Ontario) against the Americans during the War of 1812. The monument was first proposed in 1888 by the Army and Navy Veterans Association, but waited nearly 20 years for its completion. The monument's pedestal, completed in 1902, was crowned with the bronze bust in 1907.
The monument is the combined work of one of Canada's leading early-20th-century architects, Frank Darling, and one of is most important monument designers and sculptors, Walter Seymour Allward. Darling designed its granite pedestal, the excavation for which uncovered four coffins. The commission for the bronze bust of the "Old Soldier" was given to the young Allward, best known for his later masterpiece, Canada's war memorial at Vimy Ridge, France.
In 1907, The Globe newspaper gave the bust of the "Old Soldier" high praise for reflecting both "the indomitable courage of a fine British type" and "the poignant pathos of the aged and broken veteran."