Toronto Through My Lens

Category: Parks (Page 1 of 6)

Alexander The Great Parkette

In a beautiful plaza where the avenues of Danforth and Logan intersect lies a statue of Alexander the Great. Built in 1994 by the City of Toronto and largely funded by the Greektown community, the Alexander the Great Parkette is listed on TripAdvisor as a bit of the “local flavour” and personality of the Danforth.

It might seem strange that such a legendary figure, known for his prowess in military command, would be chosen to stand in the peaceful heart of Greektown—but the history of the Greek community in Toronto is not without opposition.

A Bit Of History

Up until 1918, Greek businesses, restaurants, and residences had formed their own neighbourhood on Yonge Street, in the centre of Toronto. It was at one of these restaurants that Claude Cludernay, a crippled Canadian Army veteran, was expelled for drunkenly assaulting a waiter on August 1st. Unbeknownst to any involved at the time, that would be the trigger to Toronto’s largest race riot, and one of the largest anti-Greek riots in the world.

Many Canadian veterans perceived this event as a personal affront from the Greek community, and on August 2, 1918, thousands of veterans gathered in the Greektown area and set about destroying Greek cafes, restaurants, and businesses. The mayor at the time, Tommy Church, was forced to invoke the Riot Act and call in the military police to back up the overwhelmed police forces already involved. However, their presence was reportedly ineffective at best, and negligent at worst. Victims of the destruction criticized the police for standing by and just watching as the veterans continued their rampage.

The following day, the militia and military police cracked down on veterans and bystanders alike. There were an estimated fifty-thousand people involved in the fights, and the aftermath of the riots totalled over one million dollars in damages by today’s values.

The riots were a result of growing resentments against new immigrants, the misconception that the Greeks did not fight in World War I, as well as a suspicion that the Greeks were pro-German. In fact, Greece was a friendly neutral party to the Allied Forces during World War I and was eventually brought to the side of the Allied Forces in 1916. However, their government’s neutrality did prevent many Greeks from fighting in the early years of the war. This, combined with the appearance of many able-bodied Greek men working public-facing jobs, lead to the misguided belief that they were “lazy” or ungrateful for Canada’s war efforts.

Rebuilding

After their businesses and homes were destroyed in the riots, the Greek community moved to Danforth Avenue and built a new Greektown. With this in mind, no better figure than Alexander the Great comes to mind to represent them. Alexander is a figure out of legend and myth. He conquered from India to Egypt and founded around twenty cities that bore his name along the way. He is known for spreading Greek culture, and for his military expertise. All in all, Alexander is a figure who reminds the Greek community of their own fight for inclusion, the dignity of their heritage, and their strength in survival.

Lukumum coffee & pastry shop beside the Parkette

A Night of Tragedy in Greektown

In my photos below candles, flowers, notes and other mementos are scattered around the statue of Alexander The Great. These items are in acknowledgement and remembrance of the Danforth shooting on the night of July 22, 2018. On that awful night, a lone gunman killed two people and wounded thirteen others using a Smith & Wesson M&P .40-calibre handgun. It was a totally random and unprovoked attack on innocent people who were on the sidewalk or on restaurant patios.

Redevelopment

The Alexander The Great Parkette is currently under redevelopment and, as of March 2024, is completely torn up:

Here are a couple of artist’s sketches depicting the finished Parkette:

Looking north
Looking south

Article text & references: On the Danforth website

The Toronto Inukshuk

The Toronto Inukshuk resides in Toronto Inukshuk Park at 789 Lake Shore Boulevard West, west of Coronation Park.

The sculpture is one of the largest of its kind in North America, according to the City of Toronto. It stands 30 feet high and its arms span 15 feet. Made of granite, it
weighs about 50 tonnes. The Inukshuk was unveiled in 2002 to commemorate World Youth Day, when Pope John Paul II visited the city.

The Inukshuk, a sculpture made up of piled stones, is a familiar symbol of the Inuit, mostly found in the Arctic landscape and often used as a navigational tool.

This Inukshuk was designed by Nunavut-born artist Kellypalik Qimirpik.

Former Mayor Mel Lastman spoke at the 2002 unveiling. His speech is engraved on this granite slab next to the Inukshuk. Part of it says:

World Youth Day has been a true navigational guide for millions of young people throughout the world. The Toronto Inukshuk invites each one of us to become beacons of light and hope, striving for justice and peace in this world.

Ice Storm!

All this inclement weather lately has put me in mind of the infamous Toronto ice storm in late December 2013. This happened 11 years ago now, so I guess it qualifies for one of my so-called From The Vaults posts (i.e. Toronto events and photos from several years past).

At the time of the storm I took a little walk around the neighbourhood to see everything more or less encased in ice:

The massive ice storm began on December 19, 2013 and dispersed on December 23, 2013. In addition to hitting Ontario the storm also reached Quebec, Atlantic Canada, Maine, New England, New York, Michigan and even Arkansas. In Toronto, the ice was so heavy it resulted in damaged hydro lines and trees weighing down onto roads and vehicles.

The 2013 ice storm consisted of 40-plus hours of freezing rain and more than 30 millimetres of ice, leaving 416,000 customers without power, 500 wires down and two million trees damaged. During the ice storm, Toronto Hydro said 73,000 metres of service wire and 80,000 pieces of hardware had to be replaced. The storm had a total cost of $200 million.1

The storm killed 27 people, particularly from carbon monoxide poisoning in enclosed and poorly ventilated areas as people attempted to keep warm and cook with gas generators and charcoal stoves.

Streets And Cars Were Shrouded In Ice…

An Icy Allan Gardens

Lots Of Broken Trees…

At the time I remember thinking how weird everything felt; the city had mostly came to a halt throughout the storm. The ice storm of 2013 remains yet another Toronto vignette I will never forget.

1 Stats courtesy of The Weather Network

Love Park

Earlier this year a new park opened in downtown Toronto. Dubbed Love Park, it is located at the southern foot of York Street and Queens Quay (96 Queen’s Quay West, to be exact). The 2-acre park responds to the need for flexible public space in the southern Financial District and Harbourfront neighbourhood.

Talk about making ugly turn beautiful: the former use of this space was the York-Bay-Yonge eastbound off-ramp of the Gardiner Expressway. During 2016-17, the ramp was removed and the space reclaimed for public use.

The project timeline went something like this:

  • June 2020: Design
  • July 2021: Construction starts
  • Spring 2023: Construction complete
  • June 23, 2023: Park opens with ribbon-cutting ceremony and community celebration

Here’s how Love Park looks from above:

Disclaimer: Not my image

Love Park is a deliberate departure from the hard surfaces dominating downtown Toronto, with healthy existing mature trees retained and dozens of new trees being planted. Tree-lined sidewalks outline the entire perimeter and internal pathways of the park site, marking the transition into a calm urban refuge. Rolling elevated grassy mounds provide further buffer from the adjacent roadways and offer space to relax and enjoy the park at different vantage points.

Love Park’s pond was designed and built as a natural pond, which mimics a wetland and uses a natural water filtration system, not chlorine. Foggy pond water with a green hue can occur for a few weeks while the water system balances its water chemistry. The pond water remains safe and is monitored and maintained as required. The changing water hue and clarity can be affected by fluctuating water temperatures, rainwater, sun and shade.

Plenty of little critters around the park…

If you’d like to learn more about the creation of Love Park, click here to go to the architect’s website, Claude Cormier & Associés.

Milkman’s Lane

This post is sort of a companion piece to my last post on Craigleigh Gardens. The quiet and scenic urban trail known as Milkman’s Lane is located off South Drive in Rosedale, next to Craigleigh Gardens.

Though short and steep, the trail connects with the Beltline Trail which leads to the nearby Evergreen Brick Works, Moore Park Ravine and the Lower Don trail system.

Seen on historic maps since at least 1890, the abandoned roadway is 130 years old. It’s been said the pathway was originally intended for mostly commercial transport including, presumably, deliveries of milk.

It’s now a beautiful dirt pathway bordered in by wooden fences and plunging hills on either side as you’re led further into the ravine system. It’s primarily frequented by cyclists, hikers and dog walkers.

The lush vegetation includes black cherry, hemlock, yellow birch, ironwood, the endangered butternut, oak and maple trees.

If you keep following the Park Road Reservation Trail west at the bottom of the ravine, you’ll be offered up pretty views of Yellow Creek as it flows by.

Reference: BlogTO

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