Friday February 26, 2021
I had a rare Friday off of work and found myself near one of the local parks that I had not explored previously. Dufferin Grove Park is on Dufferin Street just south of Bloor Street and is one of the older parks in the city and contains some carved stones that date back to 1876. Parking is limited on local side streets but I found some without any problem. The archive picture below is from February 1914.
The Cob Courtyard was built as a food preparation area and has a kind of “Flintstones” look to it. It is currently undergoing some restoration work to repair the deterioration that it has suffered over the years.
The local children have one of the best playgrounds in the city. There’s an enclosed playground with all the traditional slides and things to climb on. There’s also a large sandpit for little ones to play in with their toy trucks and diggers.
The park had a few parents with small children but for a Friday morning it was quite empty. I can imagine that Thursdays in the summer when the farmer’s market is on the park is quite busy. The snow that had fallen had been baked into ice which was tricky to walk on. In a few places there were even deep pools that people had walked over and broken through. The city was trying to pump water out of the deep one that had formed in the wading pool near the children’s playground.
There’s a small clubhouse in the north end but its days are numbered. There is a City of Toronto proposal to update the ice rink and clubhouse with a $3.5 Million replacement. It has gone through all the consulting and planning phases over the last three years. Construction should have started in 2020 but has been put on hold by the pandemic.
The park has a surprising number of amenities, some of which you don’t find in most places. The pizza ovens being a prime example. The revised clubhouse is expected to include a kitchen area.
The fifth Customs House in Toronto (or York) was built in 1876 and demolished in 1919, just over 100 years ago. All of them were located at Yonge and Front Streets. The archive picture below shows the building prior to demolition you can see stone faces that were carved into the keystone in the arches over the windows.
When the building was demolished the faces were repurposed into the upper façade of the Colonial Theatre which was later known as the Bay Theatre. It was demolished in 1965 and the faces were preserved with the idea that they would be incorporated into Simpson Tower which was being built on the site. Instead they ended up in High Park where they were setup in a circle near Colborne Lodge. They stayed here until 1991 when the city decided to remove them because they had become a party spot. In 1998 they were incorporated into an artwork in Dufferin Grove Park called Marsh Fountain.
The faces may represent people who were famous in that era. It is said that the faces may be those of John Cabot, Samuel de Champlain, and Mercury the god of commerce.
The park rises to a crest beside Dufferin Street and then is relatively flat stretching out to the soccer fields. There are plenty of mature trees even though there is no woodlot in the park. There’s even a Sakura Cherry Tree to provide some colour in the spring when the blossoms are out.
There is a second group of faces a little farther south along the side of Dufferin Street in the park. They can be found by looking for the fire pit where there is a little remembrance gardens to Garrison Creek and its tributary Dennison Creek which runs under the park. The concrete and bricks for the fire place appear to mostly be pieces of old buildings that have been brought here.
At the pit is a face of a lady with the only original (not vandals) inscription on it. The woman represents the city of Toronto and the old motto of the city of Toronto written below. “Industry, Intelligence, Integrity”.
Dufferin Grove Park is more than the average community park when it comes to amenities and also has some interesting historical artifacts to fire the imagination of the curious.
Google Maps link: Dufferin Grove Park
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As a child, I remember driving by this park after a visit to Dufferin Mall. I loved the looks of it but sadly, never visited it. I will make it a point to visit in the Spring.
When I lived in Toronto I often brought my son to this park. It’s definitely one of the best in the city!
I grew up in a small tenement at the corner of College & Dufferin, the Florence Apts in the 60s, early 70s. Dufferin Park was my backyard, wasn’t called Dufferin Grove Park back then and there was a time when Gladtone went right thru the park. Fond memories of the wading pool and skating solo at the rink with the Blue Danube piping out, in my new skates. A family friend who babysat me lived in a house where the back of the house and the kitchen window faced the wading pool and she would literally holler at us thru that window to come in for supper. Shopped at Dufferin Mall all the time. That little Crest became a toboggan hill in the winter but could be a bit dangerous as our tobbogans would stop just short of Dufferin!! I walked from the apartment to the park cutting thru side streets at 6, 7, 8 years old, hard to believe in these days!!! Thanks for sharing, brought back so many memories for me. Julie Wilbur Sarnia ON