Tucked out of the way on Portland Street in between Niagara and Wellington streets, Victoria Memorial Park is more than just a place to take your dog for a walk.
This park is actually quite rich in history, and is part of the Fort York National Historic Site. It was once the site of Toronto’s earliest known cemetery to be established by British Authorities in 1794. The burying ground was ordered to be laid out by Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe who actually had to bury his infant daughter Katherine on the site. Along with Katherine, there were at least 400 soldiers, wives and children who were buried in the cemetery before it closed in 1863. Many of the inscriptions on the grave markers spoke about the hard reality of life in the 19th century. One of the hardships that people had to deal with was cholera. The oldest surviving gravestone is for John Saumarez Colborne, who actually died at the age of 3 from the disease.
As the neighbourhood around the square filled in, the cemetery suffered vandalism, so the city moved to protect it as a public park. The grave markers were removed to the Western edge of the park, the graves were levelled, and pathways were laid out. One of the cities first historical markers was laid on the site in 1899 and explains the significance of Victoria Memorial Square. In 1907, the monument in the centre of the square was completed. This monument is a tribute to those who died defending Ontario during the War of 1812.
So, next time you’re in the area or taking your dog out for a walk, make sure you stop to read some of the plaques around the park. They’re packed with even more information about the city at that time and offer some insight as to the importance of the park.
All photos and information taken from http://torontoplaques.com/Pages/Victoria_Memorial_Square.html