Toronto Through My Lens

Category: Statues & Monuments (Page 1 of 3)

A Walk Down Roncesvalles Avenue

I love Roncesvalles (aka Little Poland) – it has such a welcoming village-feel to it and exudes a laid-back yet slightly hip vibe. Roncesvalles Avenue itself stretches for 1.8 km, and is filled with gardens and charming, independent shops along the way. About 15,000 people live in Roncesvalles Village’s vintage buildings.

Known as “Roncy” to the locals, Roncesvalles consists of the stretch of Roncesvalles Avenue from Bloor Street south to Queen Street West.

“They Came From Roncesvalles”
The mural wall which greets visitors. The artists who painted this mural are Spud1, Wales, Random & Cruz.
More of the Mural
Artists: Spud1, Wales, Random & Cruz

A Very Brief History of Roncesvalles

Roncesvalles Avenue was originally owned by Colonel Walter O’Hara who named the street after the Roncesvalles gorge in Spain, where he had won a battle against Napolean’s army circa 1813. British settlers began to arrive in the early 1900’s as residential homes appeared. After WWII large numbers of Polish immigrants arrived and set up all sorts of businesses; that is why this neighbourhood celebrates the Roncesvalles Village Polish Festival every year.

Little Poland

Culturally, the area is known as the centre of the Polish community in Toronto with prominent Polish institutions, businesses and St. Casimir’s Catholic Church located on Roncesvalles Avenue. The businesses along Roncesvalles have formed the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Area and hold the largest Polish Festival in North America, which takes place every September.

Mural Outside “Jimmy’s Coffee”
2210 Dundas Street West. You know the area is urban-hip when there’s a Jimmy’s Coffee in the ‘hood.
The Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Avenue
Built between late-1911 and early-1912, the theatre is a designated heritage site and is Toronto’s oldest standing movie theatre in use for showing movies. When news of its closure became public, a grass-roots community movement sprang up in order to save the cinema. After a great deal of effort, the movement was ultimately successful and the Revue reopened in October 2007. It is now operated by the not-for-profit “Revue Film Society”.

Roncesvalles is very well known for the large number of small restaurants, cafés and specialty food shops of various cuisines. There are several bakeries and delicatessens found along the full length of Roncesvalles.

Patios along Roncesvalles Avenue
One of the many fruit and veg shops along Roncesvalles Avenue
Sweetpea’s Floral & Gift Boutique
This is a floral studio located at 294 Roncesvalles Avenue. It’s widely recognized as Toronto’s Best Florist (Toronto Life, BlogTO).
Another shot of Sweetpea’s
Sweetpea’s was just so colourful and inspiring I had to take yet another shot…
Neighbourhood garage doors, Roncesvalles Avenue
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
263 Roncesvalles Avenue
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
Pope John Paul II Monument
The piece was created in 1984 by Alexander von Svoboda. The bronze statue sits outside St. Casimir’s Polish Parishes Credit Union Limited at 220 Roncesvalles Avenue.
The Chopin Restaurant
Polish cuisine, 165 Roncesvalles Avenue
More fruit & veg shops
Old-style barber’s pole on Roncesvalles
In window of Roncesvalles restaurant. Plenty of restaurants in Roncesvalles.
Grafton Community Garden
In Grafton Avenue Park, 23 Roncesvalles Avenue. Resident Walter Ruston painted the mural (on wall behind the garden) of the Sunnyside Amusement Park. This area used to be a neglected scrap of land but was turned into a thing of beauty by local gardening committees.

I’ll leave you with a couple of sites to explore it you’d like to learn more about Roncesvalles:

From Destination Toronto:
An excellent post on their website

Roncesvalles BIA:
Local info found here

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.


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.


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 Victory Peace Monument

The Victory Peace Monument is located in Coronation Park, 711 Lakeshore Boulevard West, just beside Lake Ontario. Victory Peace was unveiled on November 14, 1995, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, built in honour of those who died.

Designed by John McEwan, a Toronto-born artist, the structure is made up of two bronze arcs that sit on the ground quite close to the lake. When looking at the monument from afar, it appears as though the arcs form the sides of a boat’s bow. You can see the lake peeking through an opening between the two arcs, as if you’re on the boat headed through the water. The other opening faces inland.

The powerful words SACRIFICE and HOPE are part of the monument, within engravings of maple leaves.

The words for “peace” in multiple languages are engraved on the plaques on the ground.
A plaque sits at the monument that says, in both English and French: “A tribute to all Canadians at home and overseas who served their nation with courage, hope and sacrifice during World War II”

Victoria Memorial Square

At 10 Niagara Street, on the corner of Portland Street and Niagara, sits Victoria Memorial Square:

Victoria Memorial Square is a park and former cemetery. It was established in 1793 as the burial place for those affiliated with the nearby Toronto Garrison (Fort York). It was the first cemetery to be used by European settlers in what would become the city of Toronto. Originally known as St. John’s Square, the park today is part of Fort York National Historic Site.

The Old Soldier
War of 1812 Memorial

This monument in the Square is entitled The Old Soldier, and was erected by the British Army and Navy Veterans’ Association. It was erected to honour the dead of the War of 1812, on this site of an old burial ground used between 1794 and 1863 for soldiers and their families from nearby Fort York. 

The memorial was designed and constructed by Walter Seymour Allward. He designed a bronze half-length figure of an old one-armed soldier in the uniform of 1812 holding his military cap, the George IV medal on his chest and the end of one empty sleeve pinned up.

The memorial’s cornerstone was laid on July 1, 1902. The cornerstone featured a time capsule, including newspapers, coins, and other documents of the day. Veterans of several wars were on hand for the ceremony, including those who had served in the Crimean War, Second Opium War, Indian Rebellion of 1857, Second Anglo-Afghan War, Fenian Raids, North-West Rebellion, and the South African War. The official unveiling was on July 5, 1907, after nearly 20 years of planning and fundraising.

Inscriptions On The Memorial



APRIL 27TH 1813

Front Plaque

Royal Artillery – Royal Engineers
19th Dracoons 41st Regiment 100th Regiment
1st Regiment 49th Regiment 103rd Regiment
6th Regiment 82nd Regiment 103th Regiment
8th Regiment 89th Regiment
Royal Veteran Rect.
Royal Newfoundland Rect.
Prov. Dracoons Militia
Wattsville Rect. Militia
Canadian Fencibles
Simcoe Militia
Clencary Fencibles Militia
York Rangers Militia
1st Norfolk Militia
Coloured Corps & Indians
Rear Plaque
“Dead in Battle – Dead in the field”
More than his life can a soldier yield?
His blood has burnished his sabre bright
To his memory, honour: To him, good night”

This monument is to perpetuate the memory and deeds of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men who gave their lives in the defence of Canada in the War of 1812-15 and is erected by the British Army and Navy Veterans residing in Toronto. Aided by generous subscriptions from the British Army and Navy, and the citizens of Canada.

July 1st 1902


Side Plaque

Surviving Headstones from the Military Burial Ground

The park is Toronto’s oldest cemetery. The downtown site was used as a burial ground for nearly seventy years, from 1794 to 1863. During that time, it saw hundreds of burials, including many soldiers from the War of 1812.

The park was created by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe shortly after the establishment of the Garrison at York and the founding of the town. Simcoe’s infant daughter, Katherine, was one of the first to be buried at the cemetery which was closed in 1863 when it was deemed to be full.

The cemetery was converted to a park in the 1880s. Its grave sites were levelled, paths were established, and the 17 surviving headstones gathered along the park’s western edge:

Historical Photos

1885 – Military burying grounds, today’s Victoria Memorial Square (Toronto Public Library r-2851)
1913 – Looking northwest from Portland Street. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 52, Item 192.
1950 – City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257


Government of Canada, Veterans of Canada site

The Daily Hive

Northrop Frye Statue at Victoria College

For more than half a century, renowned literary critic Northrop Frye made Victoria College at the University of Toronto his intellectual home: he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy, taught English to students from 1939 to 1991, and wrote such influential works as Fearful Symmetry and Anatomy of Criticism. This bronze sculpture – located near Northrop Frye Hall on the Victoria College campus – shows the esteemed professor in a state of contentment, surrounded by beloved books.

The life-size statue was created by artists Darren Byers and Fred Harrison. The figure is a modified version of a sculpture in Frye’s hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick.

The artists adapted the statue so it reflected Frye’s time at U of T and in Toronto: among his stack of books is a class planner, and in his right hand is his wife Helen Kemp Frye’s sketch of a party. The book he holds contains images of an angel, the Leviathan and the divine creator, which allude to his religious background and to poet William Blake – whose work is the focus of Fearful Symmetry.

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