Sunday, June 9, 2019
The land that we know as Queen’s Park actually belongs the The University of Toronto and the name is often used to mean the Ontario Legislative Buildings which occupy the centre of the park. The City of Toronto has leased the land from the university for 999 years at the rate of $1.00 per year. The grounds to the north and south of the buildings contain many statues and other historic artifacts as well as providing green space for local residents to enjoy. The park grounds have also served as a place for peaceful protesting over the years, I decided to walk around the park and enjoy the statues and information plaques as well as the interesting architecture of the legislative buildings.
King Edward VII ruled from the time of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 until he died in 1910. The statue of Edward on his horse was originally located in India but when the Indian Government decided to get rid of symbols of British rule they elected to give it to Toronto. Edward had visited Toronto in 1860 as the Prince of Wales and had officially opened Queen’s Park. In 1969 it was installed in the north end of Queen’s Park. Due to restorations the north end of the park is currently closed except for the major pathways. It isn’t possible to get close enough to the statue to read the inscriptions.
The picture below is from the Toronto Archives and shows the building as it looked in 1903. The three front arches over the main entrance would be featured on the front cover of the album Moving Pictures by Rush.
When the legislative assembly buildings were designed there was intended to be a clock in the tower on the left side of the main entrance. The clock turned out to be more expensive than planned and the funding was withdrawn. The end result was a pair of ornate round windows.
Sitting on the south lawn of Queen’s Park is a pair of cannons that were captured during the Crimean War. The war was fought over the rights of the Christian minority in the Holy Lands which was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The war lasted from 1853 to 1856 with the British and French supporting the Ottoman Empire against Russia. The two cannons were sent to Toronto in 1859 as a gift from Queen Victoria. Many of the captured cannons were melted down to make Victoria Cross medals for heroic soldiers.
Oliver Mowat was the third premier of Ontario, a position that he held for nearly 24 years. Mowat was the premier from 1872 until 1896 which included the period of time that the legislative assembly buildings were under construction. He was the first person to sit as premier in this building. Mowat was also one of the Fathers of Confederation and as a Liberal was a political rival of Sir John A MacDonald. This monument has stood near the front entrance since 1905.
Carvings adorn the building and all sorts of fanciful gargoyles can be found as you walk around the structures. Some of them are funny, some are lifelike while others are a little on the macabre side of things. This image shows how painful it can be to have your head eaten by a demon.
In other cases the faces are very lifelike. It is speculated that since the stone masons were not allowed to sign their work they may have decided to include an image of themselves. If this is true then the four faces near the front entrance may reveal the identity of some of the men who spent countless hours carving the tons of stones that make up the building.
There is also a suggestion that the face on the east side of the building may be a parody of Queen Victoria.
Carvings of dragons and lions are found all around the exterior of the building.
On the east lawn of the legislature is a maple tree that was planted on November 14, 1968. It represents the one billionth forest tree seedling that was distributed from the Ontario Government Nurseries since the program had begun in 1909. Ontario has provided incentives to farmers to turn their unused lands back into forest. This is one of the main reasons that you will find fences running through the forest. They mark previous field divisions. In 2008 the Ontario Government began a program they called 50 Million Trees which has seen over 27 million trees planted to date. In reversal of a 110 year history of planting trees, the Ontario Government recently cancelled the 50 Million Tree program.
Queen’s Park has been used for the provincial seat of government for the Province of Ontario where a beautiful building stands in the middle of a beautiful park in downtown Toronto. It is certainly an interesting place to wander around.
Google Maps Link: Queen’s Park
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