A Beautiful Gift for Toronto : The Transformation of Grange Park

Hello! Today I’m sharing some pictures Nick and I took during a recent walk through Grange Park, located right behind the Art Gallery of Ontario.

This park has been revitalized, thanks to the generosity of “The W. Garfield Weston Foundation”, which contributed many millions to make the transformation possible.

The two-hectare green space has been a city park for over a hundred years, since 1911, however it was originally the front lawn of The Grange House, an estate built in 1829. The building is Toronto’s oldest brick home still standing, and is a beautiful feature of the park.  You can get a good look at from inside the park.

The Grange House became Toronto’s first major art gallery after the family bequeathed it, and today remains part of the AGO, being used as a Members’ Lounge — I was inside with my friend Julie and her son James (when he was only 3 months old!) and photographed and wrote about it in in this post, if you’d like to see. In fact, in one of the photos in that post, taken while looking through the window of the mansion, you can see the park in the first stages of revitalization.

The project took about a year and a half to complete, beginning in February of 2016 and finishing in July 2017. The work went on around the variety of mature trees that were already in the park, and 80 more were planted.

First, we’ll look at the park as it looked when we recently visited, (and then, we’ll go back in time) …

↑ Looking north from the entryway near John Street and Stephanie. The back side of the AGO, clad in blue Titanium, and the Grange Manor are at the far end. You can really get a sense of how the park was the front yard of the house at one point. ↑

↑ Turning around and looking south along John Street. There is a series of inspriational quotes written on blocks of pavement within the path. ↑

↑ There’s an enclosed off-leash dog area on the south-west corner. ↑

↑ A children’s area with a water feature and playground are on the eastern side. I’ve read that the structures are art related, shaped like paint pallets, etc. but we didn’t go over to see. There are two areas, one for older kids and one for younger. ↑

↑ This Henry Moore sculpture, called “Two Large Forms” (it’s actually two sculptures which have always been displayed together, created three years apart in 1966 and 1969) was moved into the park from the north-east corner of the AGO property, at McCaul and Dundas, where it sat for over 40 years, since 1974. Some of my earliest memories of being downtown in Toronto include playing around it. In January 2017, I happened to take a shot of it still in its original spot, not realizing it was soon to be moved. That can be seen in this post. ↑

↑ I’m an angel according to my shadow! ↑

↑ OCADU (Ontario College of Art and Design University). I was inside this building for an artist’s talk in January, written about in this post. ↑

We left via the north-western gate, coming out on Beverley Street just sound of Dundas.

It’s a beautiful place that is clearly much loved by many.

Here are some older pictures, taken while the revitalization was going on …

↑ During the transformation, April, 2016

↑ October, 2016↑

↑ April, 2017, three months before it was completed. ↑

Now, a couple of “before shots”, taken in 2015 …

↑ Before ↑

↑ And, going wayyy back, here is a historical photo from 1913, shortly after the family had bequeathed the land and it had become a public park, and the building had become “The Art Gallery of Toronto”, (later to become The AGO). ↑

In researching the “W. Garfield Weston Foundation” and their generosity which resulted in this newly transformed space, I found this article published by the AGO who own the land the park is on. The story contains this quote by the foundation’s President, and grandson of the founder, W. Galen Weston, “Grange Park has a cherished place in my family’s history. It is just steps away from the original Weston Bakery where my grandfather lived and worked both baking and delivering the bread. While the neighbourhood has changed, the park has been a constant over all these years. I am delighted that this support will ensure its beauty can be enjoyed for generations to come,”.

Upon reading that, I just had to do a bit of poking around to find out exactly where this bakery was! It was built in 1897, at the corner of Soho and Phoebe Streets, just north of Queen Street West, near John Street, but has now been torn down and replaced by housing.

(Fun fact : Nick and I first lived together right across the street from where it had been. It was an empty lot back then, nearly 20 years ago, with only a large shed-type building still standing, which probably had been one of the out-buildings of the Weston bakery. I wish I had taken a picture of it. If you’d like to see our old home, there’s a shot of it in this post. It was a great place which we really liked, but our landlord decided to sell it, so we had to move, ending up further to the west, where we are now.)

↑ By a strange coincidence, I’d taken a photo which included this corner, while on a tour inside another Weston Bakery, one built after the first one in 1910, located just to the south at Peter and Richmond Streets.

This second building is still there and is part of an impressive melding of “old construction meeting new”. I visited that location during Toronto’s Doors Open Festival last year, and wrote about it in this post. While I was up on the 19th floor of that building, I took a picture that included the site of the old bakery, not knowing that the place I was in related to the place I was photographing in any special way. The shot also shows how close it was to Grange Park. As Galen Weston said, it certainly was just steps away! ↑

And while we’re here, I can’t help but show you this charming historic photograph of The Weston Family, taken in 1905. W. Garfield Weston, the person who created the foundation which eventually came to give Toronto residents and visitors this lovely park, is the young boy with his elbow on his father’s chair. His father was George Weston, who began Weston Bakeries, (which is now Weston Foods and Loblaw), after he apprenticed with a baker at the age of 12, in 1894.

So, thank you very much little boy in the picture, and your future grandson, for giving us such a lovely park!

And, thank you for reading,
xo loulou