The Vandalized Memorial – Taras Shevchenko Museum

Dec. 13, 2015

On the side of Sixteen Mile Creek stand the remains of a memorial park that has been vandalized on multiple occasions. The scattered remnants stand abandoned waiting to see if they will fall victim to land developers or be restored as a public park. We parked on the fourth line where it dead ends south of Dundas Street and set out in the light rain and 6 degree temperatures.
Taras Shevchenko was born in Ukraine in 1814 in the feudal system of the era. He was orphaned at the age of 11 and went on to become one of the country’s most prolific writers composing over 1000 works. Some consider him to be the Ukrainian version of Shakepeare. When his writing was seen as agitating against the czarists regime he was sentenced to serve in a military outpost and banned from writing. Although he could have lived in luxury from his work he chose to live humbly like the people he loved.  He died in 1861 just the day after his 47th birthday.  Ukrainians began to emmigrate to Canada in 1891 and by 1939 there was already a plan to erect a statue in honour of Taras. The Second World War prevented the community from getting things started but in 1950 it was picked up again. The plan was revised this time with a park and statue envisioned for the following year. Ten thousand people attended a performance in Maple Leaf Gardens on June 30th, 1951 which featured 1,500 performers. The following day the park was opened with up to 45,000 in attendance. An archive picture from the opening ceremonies is shown below.


The 15 foot tall statue stood on top of a 70 tonne granite monument. It was a gift to Canada from Ukraine and was shipped here in 121 pieces which included the pedestal and garden stones. The total weight was 51 metric tonnes and the assembly work was completed by two local brothers. The statue was controversial from the start with a split between Communist and Czarist Russia causing the statue to be under 24 hour guard for some time after it opened. The Taras Shevchenko monument is seen below as it looked when the park opened on July 1, 1951.


The Taras Shevchenko Museum opened a year later on July 1, 1952.  It housed over 500 exhibits, mostly from the museum in Kiev.  It included 23 of Taras’ oil paintings as well as carvings and Easter eggs.  On September 16, 1988 the museum was destroyed by an arson. The death mask, an original bronze copy of the mold was the only thing rescued from the museum. It has been moved to the new museum which was opened at 1604 Bloor Street W.  Today an old sidewalk runs to the field where the museum stood until 27 years ago.


Park benches are scattered around the formerly landscaped park. 16.5 acres were planted with over 600 trees and 500 pounds of grass seed. The grass near the bench shows signs of a recent grass fire that threatened to consume the remnants of the park.


The old flag pole still stands in the open field near the monument.


Sometime around Christmas 2006 thieves drove a truck up to the statue. They attached ropes to the statue using a ladder stolen from the caretaker’s property and pulled it to the ground. The scrap value was estimated at $20,000 by police and only the head was recovered. It alone weighs 170 lbs and has been placed in the new museum on Bloor Street.


There was a smaller statue of Taras sitting in a chair reading a book near the entrance to the park but it was stolen in 2001 just a few days after the July 1st celebration of the park’s 50th anniversary. There also used to be ornate iron gates that welcomed visitors off of Dundas street but they too appear to have been stolen for their scrap value. The cover photo shows the entrance to the park with the broken monument in the background. Even the granite marker naming the park has been vandalized by graffiti.

We followed the trail to where an old access road leads down to the level of Sixteen Mile Creek. There is a limited range one can travel upstream on this side before you must climb the ravine to cross a shale cliff. Near here is an old pump house on the side of the creek. There are intake pipes in the river as well as pipes running to the top of the hill. The pump house appears to have been associated with a children’s campground that occupied 47 acres adjacent to the Memorial Park. The children’s campground was closed in 1998.  The picture below shows the view through the open door facing the creek.  Pieces of PVC pipe can be seen on the far embankment and in the water.


The eastern red-backed salamander lives in woodlands and is considered to be the salamander species of least concern for preservation in Southern Ontario. They typically breed in the fall but can also breed in the spring. They can reach population densities as high as 1,000 salamanders per acre. This salamander has a short hibernation period compared with other salamanders and have been known to be seen even in winter. The slow start to the winter season this year seems to have kept this one still active.

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Before the current Dundas Street bridge was built the road used to climb the side of the ravine in a switchback that connected with the fourth line. That road was closed to traffic and now provides a link to the hiking trails. We previously visited this site when investigating the Ghost Town of Sixteen Hollow.


The future of the Taras Shevchenko memorial park is uncertain. The park owners had been in negotiations with the City of Oakville to donate the property as a city park when the statue was stolen. At the same time the surrounding land from the children’s camp has been bought by developers who plan 205 single family homes and 125 townhouses on their land. They have been actively trying to acquire the memorial site for part of their development. I’m not sure what is in store for this repeatedly vandalized memorial.


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25 thoughts on “The Vandalized Memorial – Taras Shevchenko Museum

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    1. John sakal

      Hi, I washed dishes for the children’s camp as a summer job. The Tara’s Schevchenkopark had a small village of cottages used by Toronto Ukrainians. I thought of it like a village. The camp had a large dining hall for the children and villagers it also functioned as a convention hall. The park had had a lovely outdoor pool and an amphitheater where Tim Buck leader of the Communist Party of Canada orated. Yes it was a commie camp. Some of the finest people I met there. The camp staff had their own little village of cabins as dishwasher I had my own cabin. Good Times were had by the teenage workers .all were progressives.
      John Sakal peace out

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  4. Karen Locicero

    The best time of my life was spent at Camp Palermo. From the children’s colony to the adult colony, to the statue, to the museum, to the magnificent gates that took you into an unbelievable society of love, happiness. endurance and everlasting unforgettable friendships. So sad that it is gone but so happy the memories are still here. Glad myself and my kids got to enjoy it.

      1. David Dowhaniuk

        NOT a communist camp !!!!!! The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (AUUC) is a national cultural-educational non-profit organization established for Ukrainians in Canada. With branches throughout Canada it sponsors such cultural activities as dance groups, orchestras, choirs and children’s activities within the Association.

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  6. Martin Keenan

    Back in the early seventies, we used to spend a lot of time at the park, as they had an outdoor pool — the nearest one to where we were living at the time. The water for the pool might be the reason for the pumphouse down in the creek valley.

  7. Lukas Zigon

    This park is so beautiful, I first went there with friends just to see an abandoned place, but once I got there I was so impressed by it, there wasn’t much to see but the history behind it made it so much better. I’d love this to reopen as a recreation space
    But it’s owned by treasure hill who’s gonna make houses and also make money by destroying a historical landmark, that place has a lot of history behind it and it would be a shame for it to go to waste.

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  9. ddivadius

    Visited the site Sept 2020. The monument structure is still there but all the rest has been plowed up and ready for new homes. There is a sales office on the site.

  10. Tassa

    Best experience ever summer job 1985 kitchen help..small cottages big pool perfect grounds host to many multicultural events and large groups…Rented the hall and grounds for my wedding in 1992…they should have saved the Creekside land the hall and pool there was a bandshell and playground should of created a kids outdoor educational center or therapy retreat

      1. Karen Locicero

        So happy there are still some artifacts from our history of the wonderful people who came from the Ukraine to make a better life for us. My Berketa family is a treasure to me and Camp Palermo gave me so many memories that I am so thankful for. Never to be forgotten. Karen Locicero

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