Toronto Cemetery Sojourns: Park Lawn

As Halloween approaches, we are surrounded by images of death. Most focus on the ghoulish aspects, from bony skeletons to creepy tombstones with punny names for the deceased. But the mock graveyards decorating residential lawns bear little resemblance to Toronto’s real cemeteries. Instead of depressing, scary final resting places, these spaces are full of life.

During the Halloween seasons in 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of articles for Torontoist on the city’s cemeteries. This year I’m mixing those pieces with updates and new stories. This piece was originally published on Torontoist on November 2, 2012.

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Nestled south of Bloor Street between the Kingsway and Bloor West Village, Park Lawn Cemetery fits nicely with the green parks lining the Humber River. You could spend hours wandering its grounds and enjoying the flora and fauna.

History

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Park Lawn Cemetery entrance, circa 1941. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 460.

The graveyard opened in 1892 as Humbervale Cemetery. Funding came from stock sales, with many of the shares held by local farmers. The cemetery was sold in 1912 to a purchaser who promised to maintain the graveyard, but whose true intentions were to transform the property, including the sections occupied by the dead, into a subdivision.

Several former shareholders formed the Humbervale Cemetery Defence Association to, according to the Star, “prevent any desecration of the property.” One defender pleaded with the paper to publicize their battle, which had made little impression on local politicians. “I beg of you for the sake of humanity to give this cause a place in your columns,” the anonymous letter writer wrote, “for if this deal is allowed to go through, with the sanction of one of the highest office in the land, then it means that no place, however sacred, is safe from the attack of the vandal and the land shark, and our boasted civilization is myth.”

The cemetery’s defenders were victorious. The property was sold in 1915 to the Park Lawn Cemetery Company, who gave the site its current name.

Grounds

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Park Lawn is almost completely covered by a canopy of trees, making it a beautiful place to wander on a fall day. Instead of private crypts and extensive landscaping, it has an attractive natural beauty that appeals to humans and other large animal species.

Notable Names

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A large number of Toronto sports figures rest here. Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe probably still curses fellow Park Lawn resident Harold Ballard for removing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from Maple Leaf Gardens to install more seating, soon after Ballard bought the team. And there likely aren’t any kind words exchanged between Smythe and Harvey “Busher” Jackson, one-third of the Leafs’ “Kid Line” during the 1930s. For years, Smythe blocked Jackson’s election to the Hockey Hall of Fame, because of Jackson’s supposed character flaws. When voters overlooked Jackson’s alcoholism and womanizing to admit him in 1971, Smythe resigned his presidency of the Hall of Fame. Smythe’s beyond-the-grave battles are probably being chronicled by Lou Marsh, the Star sports editor whose name graces the trophy awarded annually to Canada’s best athlete.

Other notables include writer/broadcaster Gordon Sinclair, politicians Stanley Haidasz and John MacBeth, and musician Jeff Healey.

Favourite Spots

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Park Lawn is a prime spot for the local Polish and Eastern European community’s observations of All Saints Day. The grounds were filled this week with those placing flowers and lit candles on the graves of loved ones.

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We were charmed by a tombstone resembling a building. Other markers commemorate first dates and remind the living that “a man rarely succeeds at anything unless he has fun doing it.”

Sources: Etobicoke From Furrow to Borough by Esther Hayes (Etobicoke: The Borough of Etobicoke, 1974), and the October 21, 1913 and June 24, 1914 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Letter to editor, Toronto Star, June 24, 1914.

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Toronto Star, July 7, 1914.

Toronto Cemetery Sojourns: St. John’s York Mills

As Halloween approaches, we are surrounded by images of death. Most focus on the ghoulish aspects, from bony skeletons to creepy tombstones with punny names for the deceased. But the mock graveyards decorating residential lawns bear little resemblance to Toronto’s real cemeteries. Instead of depressing, scary final resting places, these spaces are full of life.

During the Halloween seasons in 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of articles for Torontoist on the city’s cemeteries. This year I’m mixing those pieces with updates and new stories. This one is all-new, all-different, not a reprint, etc

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Perched high above Yonge Street near Hogg’s Hollow, St. John’s York Mills may be Toronto’s oldest active cemetery. Its history, alongside St. John’s York Mills Anglican Church, ties into the early development of York Mills and North York.

History

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Pen and ink drawing of the original St. John’s York Mills Anglican Church (used 1817-1844), produced by an unknown artist around 1904. Toronto Public Library, JRR 3579 Cab.

The land St. John’s sits on was donated in 1816 by Joseph and Catherine Shepard, who also owned the land York Cemetery was eventually built upon. According to the land transfer document, the site was intended as a place for “Divine Worship according to the rites, ceremonies and articles of the established Church of England, and for the burial of the dead.” The cornerstone of the first church building was laid on September 17, 1816 by Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada Francis Gore and future Anglican Bishop John Strachan. A torrential downpour shortened the ceremony.

Burials appear to have begun soon afterwards. The January 2, 1817 edition of the Upper Canada Gazette reported the recent funeral service for John Willson, who “was killed by the fall of a log from a small house that he was assisting a poor man to raise.” The sermon was delivered by Strachan “to a large and respectable assemblage of friends and acquaintances of this much lamented young man.”

The church’s congregation included many who participated in the Rebellion of 1837, many of whom are buried here

Grounds

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Located northeast of Yonge Street and York Mills Road, you can either enter by foot off Old Yonge Street or by vehicle via Don Ridge Drive. From the parking lot, head east from the current church building. The cemetery is compact and flat, making it an easy stroll.

Burials are limited to members of the St. John’s York Mills Anglican congregation.

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The west side of the church grounds connect to a trail leading from the Don Valley.

Notable Names

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Lionel “The Big Train” Conacher was voted “Canada’s Athlete of the Half Century” in 1950 for his versatility. Conacher is a member of the Canadian football, hockey, and lacrosse halls of fame, and was also skilled at baseball, boxing, and track. He was also a successful politician, serving as both an MP and MPP for downtown Toronto ridings. He was a competitor to the end, dying of a heart attack in 1954 after hitting a triple during a charity parliamentary softball game.

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Sculptor Walter Allward designed the Canadian National Vimy Monument (1936) in France. His Toronto works include numerous statues around Queen’s Park, honouring John Sandfield Macdonald, Oliver Mowat, and John Graves Simcoe. Other notable commissions include the South African War Memorial at Queen and University and the Bell Memorial in Brantford. The plaque honouring Allward was dedicated in 2007.

Favourite Spots

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A monument in the southeast corner honours seven generations of the Van Nostrand family who have been buried here since the cemetery’s beginning. A Loyalist originally from Long Island, Cornelius van Nostrand settled in York Mills in 1805. He was too ill to attend the laying of the church cornerstone in 1816, but was able to view the ceremony from his home. “It is said,” church archivist M. Audrey Graham observed, “he was assisted to the window of his chamber that he might witness before his dissolution the germ, as it were, of the sacred edifice, and then, though feeble and infirm, expressed his joy and gladness at the prospect of leaving behind him the means of grace in the form he loved best for his numerous family.” He died the following year.

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At least 90 members of the family are buried in the cemetery, stretching back to a seven-year-old who died before the cemetery was officially established.

Sources: 150 Years at St. John’s, York Mills by M. Audrey Graham (Toronto: General Publishing, 1966); Pioneering in North York by Patricia W. Hart (Toronto: General Publishing, 1968); and 200 Years at St. John’s York Mills by Scott Kennedy and Jeanne Hopkins (Toronto: Dundurn, 2016).

 

 

Toronto Cemetery Sojourns: York

As Halloween approaches, we are surrounded by images of death. Most focus on the ghoulish aspects, from bony skeletons to creepy tombstones with punny names for the deceased. But the mock graveyards decorating residential lawns bear little resemblance to Toronto’s real cemeteries. Instead of depressing, scary final resting places, these spaces are full of life.

During the Halloween seasons in 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of articles for Torontoist on the city’s cemeteries. This year I’m mixing those pieces with updates and new stories. This piece was originally published on Torontoist on November 1, 2012

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A block west of Mel Lastman Square, the greenery of York Cemetery provides an escape from the endless concrete of North York’s central strip. Amid its gardens and monuments reside tales of heroes, rebels, and royalty.

History

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The property was settled around 1805 by Joseph Shepard, one of several people Sheppard Avenue may have been named after. The site passed to his son Michael, a farmer who operated a mill near the present-day North York IKEA. Michael and his brothers were prominent supporters of William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s first mayor and leader of the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.

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The Shepards are said to have hidden the rebel mayor before he fled to the United States after his uprising fizzled. When Michael and his brother Thomas were released from jail after a brief stay, they followed Mackenzie south. Michael was pardoned in 1843, and he returned to the farm. By 1850, he had completed the farmhouse that currently serves as the cemetery’s office.

The property was purchased in 1916 by the Toronto General Burying Grounds, the forerunner of the Mount Pleasant Group, but no one was interred until July 1948. Some of the Shepard land, between Beecroft Road and Yonge Street, was later sold to build the North York Civic Centre and its associated projects.

Grounds

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The entrance from Beecroft Road is a divided boulevard dominated by a massive war-memorial cenotaph, dedicated in 1963. It bears a quote from 19th-century politician Joseph Howe:

A wise nation preserves its records—gathers up its muniments, decorates the tombs of its illustrious dead, repairs its great public structures and fosters national pride and love of country by perpetual reference to the sacrifices and glories of the past.

In 1986, the width of the roadway prompted then-city controller Howard Moscoe to ask North York council to study turning it into an extension of North York Boulevard, as a way of relieving traffic. Deemed an “intolerable desecration” by a fellow controller, the idea was quickly rejected. An apology letter was sent to cemetery officials.

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The grounds are dotted with special memorials ranging from a section devoted to the military to a monument to the Hungarian community. Near the office are a waterfall-laden “Garden of Remembrance” and a recently built columbarium, powered by solar and geothermal energy.

Like Mount Pleasant Cemetery, York is divided in half by a busy street. While the section east of Senlac Road is flat, hills dot the western portion.

Notable Names

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You won’t find stacks of coffee cups or empty doughnut boxes placed beside the grave of Tim Horton. What you will see is the epitaph “T.T.F.N. Daddy-O.” (That is, ta-ta for now.) Architect Uno Prii, also buried at York, was responsible for the curving modernist apartment buildings of the Annex. Broadcaster Barbara Frum’s gravesite bears an ornate gate and is lined with red stones. Percy Saltzman’s tombstone recognizes his role as “Canada’s First TV Weatherman.”

Favourite Spots

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Not far from Tim Horton’s gravesite lies genuine royalty. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was the youngest sister of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and cousin of King George V of England. Forced to marry an older duke, she had the unconsummated marriage annulled by her brother in 1916 to wed her true love, Colonel Nikolai Kulikovsky. After the Russian Revolution, the Kulikovskys fled to the Crimea, which prevented them from being murdered by the Bolsheviks alongside the Tsar’s family. There were close calls on their flight out of Russia. (After being arrested, they were saved when officials argued at length over executing the couple.) They stayed in Olga’s mother’s homeland, Denmark, until 1948, where the duchess was often called upon to debunk pretenders, like the woman who claimed to be her niece Anastasia.

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Fearing assassination by the KGB to extinguish the her claim to the Russian throne, the Kulikovskys moved to Canada in 1948. They settled in Cooksville, where the duchess preferred to be known as Olga. She developed a reputation as cat lady, and showcased her art at Eaton’s College Street store. Before her death in 1960, Olga briefly lived with friends above a beauty salon on Gerrard Street East. She is memorialized with a sizable cross and a special plaque.

Sources: The Final Word: The Book of Canadian Epitaphs by Nancy Millar (Victoria: Brindle & Glass, 2004), the November 25, 1960 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the July 4, 1986 and August 26, 1996 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Globe and Mail, November 25, 1960.

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Toronto Star, November 25, 1960.

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“Last farewell: Carrying Tim Horton’s casket to burial plot in York Cemetery yesterday are pall bearers (clockwise) Dave Keon, Bobby Baun, Allan Stanley, Billy Harris, George Armstrong and Dick Duff–all former Maple Leaf teammates of Horton.” Photo by Ron Bull, originally published in the February 26, 1974 edition of the Toronto Star. Toronto Star Archive, Toronto Public Library, tspa_0055643f.

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Toronto Star, February 26, 1974.

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Gravesite of architect Uno Prii, noted for his space-age, curvy apartment towers in the city

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More photos from my 2012 stroll through the grounds. 

Toronto Cemetery Sojourns: Roselawn

As Halloween approaches, we are surrounded by images of death. Most focus on the ghoulish aspects, from bony skeletons to creepy tombstones with punny names for the deceased. But the mock graveyards decorating residential lawns bear little resemblance to Toronto’s real cemeteries. Instead of depressing, scary final resting places, these spaces are full of life.

During the Halloween seasons in 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of articles for Torontoist on the city’s cemeteries. This year I’m mixing those pieces with updates and new stories. This piece was originally published on Torontoist on October 31, 2012.

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In the north end of Forest Hill, Roselawn Avenue is a residential street that serves as both a bike route and a handy alternative to driving along Eglinton Avenue. East of Bathurst Street, it’s lined for nearly two blocks by a Jewish cemetery divided into more than 20 small sections, each one serving a different synagogue, fraternal organization, or sick-benefit society. (The latter were groups that helped members of their community by providing things like medical coverage, loans, death benefits, and burial plots in graveyards.) Compared to the excesses on display in other burial grounds, Roselawn’s lack of grandiose monuments makes for an austere visit, focused on contemplation of those who have passed on.

History

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Though Jewish graveyards like Pape Avenue Cemetery (now known as Holy Blossom Cemetery) operated in Toronto as early as the mid-19th century, none existed to serve communities outside city limits until the early 20th century. After an incident in 1906 where a Jewish man was killed in a suburban accident and had to be buried in a Christian graveyard, Goel Tzedec Synagogue member Samuel Weber purchased land on Roselawn Avenue, in York Township, and donated it to the first of many organizations that would operate its burial plots. The man whose death inspired the cemetery was reinterred in Roselawn soon after its establishment. It was one of the first landmarks of the north–Bathurst Street Jewish community we know today.

Grounds

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Roselawn is modest. There are no curving drives, no towering monuments, no carefully cultivated gardens or reflecting pools. The cemetery’s sections are divided by fencing. Inside each section are neat rows of markers, many of which have been restored after years of decay or vandalism. For a sense of how the plots appeared before they were rehabilitated, check the Leibovitzer Weber section next to Caldow Road, where some aging tombstones have fallen and others lean perilously. As per Jewish burial tradition, many graves are topped with small stones.

Notable Names

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On our stroll of Roselawn’s sections, the most recognizable person we found was newspaperman Martin Goodman, whose name graces Toronto’s waterfront recreation trail. Goodman rose rapidly through the ranks of the Toronto Star. He was a cub reporter at age 23, managing editor at 33, editor-in-chief at 36, and president at 43. He was also known as a fierce competitor on the softball field. After his cancer diagnosis, Goodman wanted to play one more season so badly that he asked doctors to inject his chemotherapy in his left arm to save the right for pitching.

Favourite Spots

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You could easily create a photo essay built around the signage marking each section of Roselawn. Entrances range from wooden lawn signs and simple plaques to ornate gateways.

Sources: The Jews of Toronto: A History to 1937 by Stephen A. Speisman (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1979) and the December 21, 1981 edition of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

A couple of updates:

Some of the entrance gates as they appeared in 2012…

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Toronto Cemetery Sojourns: Mount Hope

As Halloween approaches, we are surrounded by images of death. Most focus on the ghoulish aspects, from bony skeletons to creepy tombstones with punny names for the deceased. But the mock graveyards decorating residential lawns bear little resemblance to Toronto’s real cemeteries. Instead of depressing, scary final resting places, these spaces are full of life.

During the Halloween seasons in 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of articles for Torontoist on the city’s cemeteries. This year I’m mixing those pieces with updates and new stories. This piece was originally published on Torontoist on October 30, 2012

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From its small gate entrance along Bayview Avenue, Mount Hope Cemetery doesn’t leave as much of an impression as nearby institutions like the Canadian Institute for the Blind or Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. But this Catholic graveyard has its fair share of interesting monuments. A walk through the grounds offers glimpses of the local ravine system and a great view of the changing skyline of Yonge and Eglinton.

History

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Before Mount Hope, the main Catholic cemetery in the city was St. Michael’s. As that burial site neared capacity during the 1880s, church officials sought a roomier place. The preferred location was somewhere along or near Yonge Street, north of the city.

The plan sat for a decade until Archbishop John Walsh asked his wealthiest advisers to buy land for a graveyard on behalf of the archdiocese.

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On July 16, 1897, former Toronto Street Railway owner Sir Frank Smith and brewer Eugene O’Keefe purchased property near present-day Bayview and Eglinton Avenues from a local merchant for $5,000. Almost exactly a year later, on July 9, 1898, Walsh consecrated the grounds and officially named it Mount Hope Cemetery. The ceremony turned into a farewell party for the ailing cleric, who died three weeks later. According to historian Michael Power, the event was also a wake for the influence of the dignitaries on hand, “the last generation of Irish grandees who would hold sway in the archdiocese of Toronto.”

After a year and a half of preparation, the cemetery was ready, and 79-year-old King Street resident Edmund Sullivan became the first person to be buried at Mount Hope. Since his interment on March 24, 1900, over 76,000 people have been buried there.

Grounds

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The main entrance is located at the eastern end of Erskine Avenue. Pedestrians can also enter through a gate on Bayview Avenue, north of Broadway Avenue. Like Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the gently rolling grounds attract many North Toronto joggers and walkers. The most scenic part is the north end, where the cemetery meets the trees of the Sherwood Park Ravine.

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Religious iconography is prominent on many of the tombstones, ranging from grand statues to small angels marking young children. Several sections are devoted to Catholic orders, whose members are commemorated by row upon row of small markers or metal rings.

Notable Names

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Mount Hope boasts a good cross-section of notables. Hockey fans will find 1930s Maple Leafs legends King Clancy (buried with a modest marker in an area the cemetery office referred to as “the flats”) and Red Horner. Laura Secord chocolates founder Frank O’Connor is here, as is Fran’s restaurateur Fran Deck. Political figures include longtime Toronto city councillor Joe Piccininni, and also Lady Annie Thompson, the widow of Canada’s first Catholic Prime Minister, Sir John Thompson. Representing the arts are writer Morley Callaghan and theatre impresario Jeremiah Shea. Notable sinners include 1930s bank robber Red Ryan, and two members of the Boyd Gang, Lennie Jackson (unmarked grave), and Steve Suchan (buried under his real name, Val Lesso).

Favourite Spots

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The monument for George J. Foy is one of the largest grave markers in the city. It’s a 40-foot-high cross crafted from a single slab of granite and anchored to the ground by large stones. It’s said to have taken a team of 24 horses to drag the monument to Mount Hope from Union Station.

Foy made his fortune wholesaling cigars and liquor. He died in October 1909 while out for a doctor-recommended after-dinner stroll along Queen Street in the Beaches. According to his Globe obituary, Foy approached a policeman and quaintly remarked, “Mr. Officer, I believe I have been seized with a slight attack of asthma” before fatally dropping to the sidewalk.

Sources: A History of Mount Hope Cemetery Toronto , Ontario 1898-1998 by Michael Power (Toronto: Catholic Cemeteries Archdiocese of Toronto, 1998) and the October 2, 1909 edition of the Globe.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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The Erskine Avenue entrance.

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Catholic Register, November 10, 1904.

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The Globe, October 2, 1909. 

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Sifting through the photos I took for the original article, this monument to the Puccini family stood out. Abramo Puccini (1873-1952) emigrated from Italy to the United States in the late 1880s, made his way north, and became known as the “macaroni king of Canada” with business and properties in Toronto and St. Catharines.

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Funeral ceremony for Josephine Puccini, August 2, 1922. Photo used in the August 3, 1922 edition of The Globe. Toronto Public Library. Full-size version.

The monument to the Puccini family was present by the time Abramo’s wife Josephine passed away in 1922. A portion of this photo ran in the Globe under the headline “NOVEL SCENES AT LOCAL ITALIAN FUNERAL,” which indicates how the Italian community was still considered an exotic species in Toronto.

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Toronto Star, August 2, 1922. 

Toronto Cemetery Sojourns: Richview

As Halloween approaches, we are surrounded by images of death. Most focus on the ghoulish aspects, from bony skeletons to creepy tombstones with punny names for the deceased. But the mock graveyards decorating residential lawns bear little resemblance to Toronto’s real cemeteries. Instead of depressing, scary final resting places, these spaces are full of life.

During the Halloween seasons of 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of articles for Torontoist on the city’s cemeteries. This year I’m mixing those pieces with updates and new stories. This piece combines a story originally published by Torontoist on October 29, 2012 with a “Ghost City” column published online by The Grid on June 11, 2013.

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It seems like a strange location for a graveyard. Tucked within the massive interchange of Highways 401 and 427, Richview Memorial Cemetery stands calmly amid the traffic chaos surrounding it. The heritage site provides the final resting place for members of western Etobicoke’s pioneer farming families.

History

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To read the plaque, check out Toronto’s Historical Plaques.

Though burials were made onsite as early as 1846, Richview wasn’t officially a graveyard until the Union Chapel was completed, around 1853. According to a historical plaque, farmer William Knaggs (who is buried at Richview) sold the land that became the cemetery for use as “a chapel and lot without belonging to any particular church or denomination, to be respectively devoted exclusively to religious purposes in the discretion of certain trustees.”

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The congregation nearly split when the church acquired a pipe organ from Cooke’s Presbyterian Church in Toronto in 1855; several members believed that music was a form of devilish temptation. Perhaps they were on to something, as legend has it the organ met its demise in a barn fire before it could be installed.

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Map depicting location of Union, later Richview, taken from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of York (Toronto: Miles & Company, 1878). The east-west road through Union would become Richview Sideroad, then Eglinton Avenue. Future Highway 27/427 runs north/south through Union. The road to the west became Renforth Drive, while the road to the east became Martin Grove Road. Modern-day Rathburn Road runs along the bottom of the map. For the full map of Etobicoke Township, check out Historical Maps of Toronto.

Up until the late 1880s, the intersection was known either as Union (after the church) or Kit’s Corners (after blacksmith Christopher “Kit” Thirkle). It became known as Richview after 1887, when a post office bearing that name moved south from present-day Airport Road. The Knaggs family offered more land to build a larger church, which opened as Richview Methodist in 1888. The new building, renamed Richview United in 1925, was a gathering spot for local farmers to enjoy activities ranging from crokinole tournaments to oyster suppers.

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Richview’s long run as a quiet farming community ended in the 1950s with the encroachment of suburbia. The cemetery and church found themselves in an isolated island in the middle of the interchange of Highways 27 and 401. The church was demolished soon after its last service was held in February 1959, with the congregation moving into its present home on Wellesworth Drive west of present-day Highway 427 three years later. Cemetery trustees resisted moving the dead, leaving local pioneers undisturbed amid the growing volume of traffic around them.

Maintaining Richview Cemetery proved handy when development elsewhere in Etobicoke crept toward pioneer burial grounds. During discussions of how to move remains from Willow Grove Burial Grove on Rexdale Boulevard to Richview in January 1968, Etobicoke councillors couldn’t resist cracking jokes. When the cemetery board chairman was asked to provide more information on relocation logistics, one councillor told him to “keep digging.” Around 110 bodies were moved to the south end of Richview in 1970, followed by re-interments from the McFarlane Cemetery on Dundas Street West.

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Around 300 people are estimated to be buried in Richview, of which only 90 have markers. Only descendants of those resting there can buy plots. The most recent burial was Victor Kimber, who maintained the grounds for over 40 years before he died in 2005. Kimber’s burial revealed one problem with holding services at the site—traffic roaring by on Highway 427 made it difficult to hear the minister.

Grounds

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Finding the entrance is tricky if you aren’t paying attention. A hidden driveway runs south from Eglinton Avenue, just west of the exits from the surrounding highways. The road leads to a high, gated fence, which may or may not be locked when you arrive.

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Don’t expect a tree-shaded vista: grass and shrubs provide the only hints of greenery. What you will see are plenty of century-old tombstones mixed in with historical plaques telling the cemetery’s story. Around 300 people are buried in Richview, with the oldest tombstone dating to 1846. While some markers have been restored, age and vehicle exhaust threaten to make others illegible.

“This is a final resting place,” local historian Randall Reid told the Globe and Mail in 2006. “That has to be respected.”

Notable Names

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At least one family name is recognizable, if only because of the Etobicoke road named after them: Dixon.

Favourite Spots

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Several tombstones provide glimpses into the lives of those buried below them. Take Elizabeth Coulter, who passed away at age 22, in November 1852. Though her marker is missing a few pieces, enough remains to hint at the pain surrounding her passing:

Affliction sore long time I bore
Physicians were in vain,
Till God was pleased to send me [home?]
And free me of my pain.
Repent in time make no delay
I in my bloom was called away.

Sources: Etobicoke Remembered by Robert A. Given (Toronto: Pro Familia, 2007), Villages of Etobicoke (Etobicoke: Etobicoke Historical Board, 1985), the October 28, 2006 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the January 4, 1968 and October 20, 1987 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Globe and Mail, January 4, 1968.

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Toronto Star, October 20, 1987.

Toronto Cemetery Sojourns: Mount Pleasant

As Halloween approaches, we are surrounded by images of death. Most focus on the ghoulish aspects, from bony skeletons to creepy tombstones with punny names for the deceased. But the mock graveyards decorating residential lawns bear little resemblance to Toronto’s real cemeteries. Instead of depressing, scary final resting places, these spaces are full of life.

During the Halloween seasons in 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of articles for Torontoist on the city’s cemeteries. This year I’m mixing those pieces with updates and new stories. This piece was originally published on Torontoist on October 27, 2011.

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Mount Pleasant Cemetery is much more than a burial spot for a century’s worth of Toronto elites. Beyond its historic tombs, it serves as one of North Toronto’s major parks, suitable for a leisurely run or quiet contemplation. The grounds act as an arboretum preserving a wide variety of tree species. A walk from the oldest to newest sections traces Toronto’s evolution from Anglo-Saxon stronghold to multicultural city. You could spend days uncovering Mount Pleasant’s many gems, from surveying the personal mementos inside the main mausoleum to reading epitaphs that ask a simple question: “Well, now what?”

History

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To forestall overcrowding at the Necropolis, the Toronto Burying Grounds Trust purchased a 200-acre farm on Yonge Street in 1873. Designer Henry Engelhardt’s layout was inspired by the park-like graveyards emerging in American cities. The early appearance of Mount Pleasant was described in the cemetery’s 1876 rule book:

Commodious and inviting foot-paths wind around every hill, and explore each dale and shady nook, whence crystal springs bubble forth into beautiful streams. The waters of Spring Creek have been dammed up in several places, and Cascades, Lakes and Ponds have been formed with rustic bridges leading over them; and what was once a rough and impassable ravine bears now the impress of art, and can be visited by persons either in carriages or on foot.

Among the first burials were the remaining unclaimed remains from the Potter’s Field cemetery at Bloor and Yonge, which had officially closed 20 years earlier. When the cemetery officially opened on November 4, 1876, the Globe called Mount Pleasant “a quiet resting place for the people’s dead.” Among the early rules: tickets were required for entry; children had to be accompanied by adults; horses were allowed by special permit only; carriage drivers had to remain in their coach seats during funeral services; burials were not permitted on Sunday unless a doctor determined that the person being placed in the ground had a communicable disease; and no bathing, dogs, fishing, picnics, skating, smoking, or washing were allowed.

Grounds

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The cemetery is divided by Mount Pleasant Road—to get from one side to the other, we recommend taking the underpass on the north side. The older western section is where you’ll find the earliest burials, main mausoleum, grand tombs, and most of the recognizable names. The eastern portion includes the Garden of Remembrance, scattering grounds, and, especially as you approach Bayview Avenue, a better representation of the multicultural diversity of present-day Toronto. The winding roads are part of the Belt Line trail and attract plenty of cyclists, joggers, and runners.

Notable Names

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It’s easier to list off who isn’t buried in Mount Pleasant than who is. Pick up a copy of Mike Filey’s book Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide for a comprehensive who’s who of the cemetery’s permanent residents. Memorials that we suspect are among the most visited are those for Frederick Banting, Charles Best, war hero Billy Barker, the Eaton family, Glenn Gould, Foster Hewitt, Punch Imlach, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and the Massey family (whose mausoleum was designed by Old City Hall architect E.J. Lennox).

Favourite Spots

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The Garden of Remembrance and its neighbouring wooded trail provide a relaxing atmosphere to rest and reflect. On the day of our photo shoot, we noticed a man quietly working on his computer while sitting next to the fountain pond.

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For over-the-top absurdity, it’s hard to beat the ego-driven monument to Knob Hill Farms founder and onetime Maple Leafs owner Steve Stavro that greets visitors to the western section as they enter from Mount Pleasant Road. There’s some self-inflation at work in depicting yourself as a classical emperor wearing a laurel-leaf crown, with a pack of lions standing guard. Top it off with a statue of Alexander the Great on horseback, and you’re left with a memorial that might cause business titans of old, like the Eatons and Masseys, to turn in their graves.

Additional material from Rules and Regulations of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery (Toronto: Toronto Burying Grounds Trust, 1876) and the November 6, 1876 edition of the Globe.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Report from the November 6, 1876 edition of The Globe. The paper also printed the trustees’ report, which summed up the historical path to the creation of Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

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While I can’t track down my original set of photos from 2011, it appears this one was left on the cutting room floor. This memorial to the Cutten family was sculpted by Emanuel Hahn, who was also responsible for statues of Ned Hanlan at Exhibition Place and Sir Adam Beck along University Avenue.