High Park the luck of getting it, due to one man, while east Toronto lost decades for large park


High Park opened in 1876, based on a bequest of land from John George Howard. The park has been an important recreational setting for the entire city and particularly the local communities surrounding the park. The park is the second largest park in the city, and the only large park in the core of the city.


Feb 24 1923 article in which the people of east Toronto want a park such as High Park, they never got it.



Wanted: A High Park For the East End of Toronto

The diary of Augustus Jones, pioneer surveyor, opposite the date May 9, 1798, has this entry: “Went into Toronto bay, and proceeded up the crick that empties in through the marsh, about five miles, to see a mill-seat.”

That was the first recorded reference to the Don river, in connection with Simcoe’s first visit to this vicinity when he was seeking a site for a capital which would be safer than Niagara.

At that time the marsh extended the entire way, more or less continuously, from the bay mouth northward to the line of Danforth and Bloor. Half a mile upstream from the present viaduct was the “mill-seat” : Helliwell’s mill subsequently being erected there, later amplified by the Taylors. No doubt at that date, these Don meadows, with the thickly wooded ravines converging, were most parklike, after English standards. Nor has a brick-backing, railroad-building or paper-making humanity been able quite to obliterate all the charm, after more than a century and a quarter of unpoetical effort. Ontario’s gubernatorial household appears not to think so anyway.

Toronto missed its great chance to secure, in its natural state, all this Don valley land for park purposes in Mayor Howland’s time. There were no brick works then, and the valley lands might have been dickered for from the township for a song. Anywhere northerly from Gerrard street to Todmorden was the swimmin’ hole, in those days, with hockory nuts and butternuts to be gathered in autumn upon the jail hill – even in the pest-house was there, too.

What gives interest to the foregoing lies in the present suggestion of the park commission to secure the river basin property from above Danforth avenue to the point north of Woodbine avenue where the Don river forks. This land, largely held by the Canadian Northern, would be the Howard Park of the fast-growing eastern districts, and at present is assessed as waste land. The scheme apparently only needs combined action on the party of the city and township to deal with the remaining private owners to grant the east end a boom.

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