A green awning provides a serene final resting place in the Kingsway area.
The fake cemeteries that decorate residential lawns this Halloween bear little resemblance to the real Toronto cemeteries, which, in fact, are full of life. As we did last year, during this week we will be visiting some of the most interesting definitive resting places in the city.
Nestled south of Bloor Street between Kingsway and Bloor West Village, Park Lawn Cemetery fits perfectly into the lush green parks bordering the Humber River. You could spend hours wandering its lands and enjoying the flora and fauna.
The cemetery opened in 1892 as the Humbervale cemetery. Funding came from the sale of shares, with most of the shares held by local farmers. The cemetery was sold in 1912 to a buyer who promised to maintain the cemetery, but whose real intentions were to transform the property, including the parts occupied by the dead, into a housing estate.
Several former shareholders formed the Humbervale Cemetery Defense Association to, according to the Star, “Prevent any desecration of property”. An advocate begged the newspaper to publicize their battle, which had hardly impressed local politicians. “I beg you for the good of humanity to give this cause a place in your columns,” wrote the author of the anonymous letter, “because if this agreement is allowed to pass, with the sanction of one of the highest office in the land, then that means that no place, however sacred, is safe from the attack of the vandal and the land shark, and our much-vaunted civilization is a myth. “
The defenders of the cemetery were victorious. The property was sold in 1915 to the Park Lawn Cemetery Company, which gave the site its present name.
Park Lawn is almost completely covered with a canopy of trees, making it a lovely place to take a walk on a fall day. Instead of private crypts and extensive landscaping, it features attractive natural beauty that attracts humans and other large animal species.
Many of Toronto’s sports figures rest here. Maple Leafs Owner Conn smythe Probably again cursed Harold Ballard, another resident of Park Lawn, for removing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from Maple Leaf Gardens to install more seating, shortly after Ballard bought the team. And there are probably no kind words exchanged between Smythe and Harvey “Busher” Jackson, a third of the Leafs’ Kid Line in the 1930s. For years, Smythe blocked Jackson’s election to the Hockey Hall of Fame because of Jackson’s alleged character flaws. When voters neglected Jackson’s alcoholism and glee to admit it in 1971, Smythe resigned his Hall of Fame presidency. The battles beyond Smythe’s grave are probably recounted by Lou marsh, the Star Sports writer whose name graces the trophy awarded each year to Canada’s best athlete.
Park Lawn is a prime location for All Saints’ Day sightings by the Polish and Eastern European community. The grounds were filled this week with those who laid flowers and lit candles at the graves of their loved ones.
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.”
Additional material from Etobicoke From the furrow to the borough by Esther Hayes (Etobicoke: The Borough of Etobicoke, 1974), and the October 21, 1913 and June 24, 1914 editions of Toronto Star. Photos by Jamie Bradburn / Torontoist, unless otherwise noted.