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Tag Archives: local history Toronto

The old Riverdale Zoo—Toronto

Series 71, It. 5868  May 1923. -Riverdale-Entrance[1]

Riverdale Zoo in Riverdale Park in May 1923, Toronto Archives, Series 71, Item 5868.

In the 1940s, on a hot Sunday afternoon in summer, my dad took my brother and me on a mystery streetcar trip. Not knowing the destination, our excitement increased as we travelled south on a Yonge streetcar to College Street, and then, boarded an eastbound College streetcar. Changing streetcars again at Parliament Street, we travelled north a short distance on a Parliament streetcar, which then rumbled eastward along Winchester Street. Within a few minutes, we alighted at the end of the line, at Sackville Avenue. After we walked one block east to Sumach Street, my brother and I were truly excited when we realized that we were at the entrance to the Riverdale Zoo. 

We spent an interesting afternoon there, a visit I was never to forget. The entrance was not particularly impressive, but the popcorn and toffee-apple venders near the entrance caught my attention. Entering the gates, the grounds seemed immense. Today, I wonder if this was due to a child’s perspective, as many things appeared larger when we were children. However, revisiting the site in 2016, I realized that it was indeed quite a size. The old pathways remain today, which coursed their way through the grounds in the decades when it was the city’s main zoo. It required very little imagination to picture the zoo that I remembered from my childhood.

On that afternoon in the 1940s, we commenced wandering along the many paved walkways that meandered among rows of cages where the animals were exhibited. It was a hot day, and the odours from some of the cages were not very pleasant. However, the excitement of seeing live animals made us indifferent to the smells. Many of the cages were quite small, which allowed the animals to be easily seen, but allowed very little space for the animals to exercise or be active. I was amazed at how close we was able to get to them.

The floors of their cages were cement, with grooves at the edges that allowed the water to quickly drain away after they were hosed by attendants. Members of the zoo’s staff were cleaning some of the cages while we were viewing them, occasionally spraying some of the animals to cool them off. The exhibit buildings had outside viewing areas, as well in interior spaces, where visitors entered during the winter months, when it was too cold for the animals to be exposed to the frigid Toronto weather.

We watched the monkey enclosure from outside, where people were throwing food to the animals. The monkeys were quite bold, eagerly stretching their arms through the bars of the cages to beg for treats. Then, we entered the inside of the building, as a few of the monkeys had not ventured out. Continuing to stroll the grounds, we approached the lion cage. I had never seen a live one before, although I had viewed one that had been stuffed, mounted, and placed in a glass display case at the Royal Ontario Museum. The aviary at the zoo contained what seemed like thousands of birds, and from inside the building, the noise was deafening. The reptile pavilion was much quieter, but I found the snakes frightening.

I was amazed at the size of the elephants, but felt safe near these animals as I had read several Babar the Elephant books that I had signed out from the library. The crocodile was in a cement pool with murky water that had turned green with algae, but it seemed to enjoy the soda crackers that a young boy threw to it. When the reptile opened its jaws to snap at the food, its huge teeth looked even larger and sharper than those I had seen in the Tarzan movies at our local movie theatre.

In the 1940s, I did not think about the cramped cages and pens at the Riverdale Zoo, or that the animals were not protected from people performing pranks, feeding them unhealthy treats, or poking them with sticks. In that decade, most zoos around the world retained the Victorian concept of displaying animals. They were kept in an environment that was alien to them, like freaks in a freak show. The cages and pens were designed for the pleasure of those who viewed them, with little thought given to the creatures’ natural habitats. Very little was done to encourage the animals to be active.

1952-- pictures-r-1150[1]  wolf- 1952- pictures-r-1229[1]

The lion cage in 1952 (left), Toronto Public Library r-1150, and a wolf in a dog house in 1952, Toronto Public Library, r- 1229

History of the Riverdale Zoo

In the 1790s, the town of York (Toronto), was a small settlement clustered around the eastern end of the harbour. During the 19th century, it slowly expanded, even though the Don Valley created a natural barrier to eastward expansion. However, as the city grew, city council realized that more parkland was needed to accommodate the ever-increasing population.

In 1852, city council authorized the purchase of 119 acres of land from the estate of John Scadding, to create a city park and an industrial (jail) farm. Prisoners from the Don Jail, who were not considered dangerous as they had committed minor offenses, were to be forced to maintain the farm site and the park. The facilities were located on the west bank of the Don River, Winchester Street on its northern boundary. However, the green space was not opened to the public until August, 1880, after prisoners from the Don had improved the grounds by landscaping them.

In 1888, Alderman Daniel Lamb, a resident of the area, donated a few deer to the park. Then, he encouraged wealthy citizens to donate funds to purchase other animals and  through his efforts, more animals arrived. In 1889, the first exhibition of animals was held. To improve and expand the area where the animals were displayed, in 1890, the jail property was legally separated from the park. As well, more land was purchased, extending the size of the park to 162 acres. The Toronto Railroad Company (TRR), a precursor of the TTC, which had become a sponsor of the zoo, provided funds to erect a two-storey Moorish-style building. It opened in 1902, and became known as the Donnybrook. By this time, the zoo had acquired a considerable collection of animals from all over the world.

Also in 1902, the zookeeper’s cottage was also built. The same year, another elephant (named Princess Rita) was brought from Bombay, India via New York City, and two more lions were purchased. During the same summer, the Toronto Railroad Company transported 20,000 people to the zoo. Its donation of funds for the Donnybrook had resulted in handsome dividends for the transit company. 

As the decades passed, animal rights activist began agitating for improved conditions for the animals. It finally became obvious to city council that a new zoo was required. On June 30, 1974, the old Riverdale Zoo closed and the animal were relocated to a vastly improved facility in the Rouge Valley, its entrance on Meadowvale Road. The buildings and cages at Riverdale were demolished, except for the zookeeper’s cottage, the tower of the Donnybrook, and a small white pavilion at the bottom of the hill near the river.

The new Toronto zoo opened on August 15, 1974. The site of the old Riverdale Zoo was renovated and opened as the Riverdale Farm on September 9, 1978.

Sources: www.lostrivers.ca—www.blogto.com – torontohistory.net

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The home of Alderman Daniel Lamb on Winchester Avenue, across from the the site of the old Riverdale Zoo that he was responsible for creating.

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The zoo keepers cottage (the Residence) built in 1902, one of the few buildings surviving from the old Riverdale Zoo.

2[1]

Riverdale Zoo c.1915, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 646

1925 - pictures-r-1211[1]

Riverdale Zoo in 1925, gazing eastward toward the Don River. Photo from the Toronto Public Library, r-1211

gates on Winchester, 1955  pictures-r-1158[1]  DSCN0454

Entrance to the Riverdale Zoo (left photo) on Winchester Street in 1955, Toronto Public Library, r-1158. The right-hand photo is the entrance in 2016. 

1955,  pictures-r-1128[1]

  Walkway beside the cages at Riverdale Zoo in 1955. Toronto Public Library, r- 1128.

1955-- pictures-r-1130[1]

            Riverdale Zoo in 1955, Toronto Public Library r- 1130

monkey enclosure, 1955  pictures-r-1126[1]

                   Monkey enclosure, Toronto Public Library, r-1126

Riverdale Par, Zoo, 1952--pictures-r-1235[1]

Eastern side of the zoo in 1952, beside the Don River, Toronto Public Library r-1235

Donnybrook pictures-r-11331952-- [1]

The Donnybrook, photo from the Toronto Public Library, r- 1131952

DSCN0461

The tower of the Donnybrook, which survives today in Riverdale Farm. Photo taken in April 2016.

F1244,  item 0555   Riverdale-Elephant-Alr[1]

The elephant enclosure at Riverdale Zoo, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 0555.

F 1231, Fl.1231, It. 0467 May 26, 1926.  -Riverdale-PolarBears[1]

Polar bears at the zoo on May 26, 1926. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 0467

            brown bear, 1955 - pictures-r-1156[1]

   Brown bear at the zoo in 1955, Toronto Public Library, r- 1156

                  1955 - pictures-r-1124[1]

               Visitors at the zoo in 1955,  Toronto Public Library, r-1124.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

 

 

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tayloronhistory.com—check it out!

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The blog tayloronhistory.com first appeared on the internet in 2011. Since its inception, over 800 posts have been published that explore the Toronto’s history and its heritage structures, including those that have been demolished and lost forever. The blog’s purpose is to generate an interest in our city’s past and its historic buildings, to prevent remaining heritage sites from being destroyed by developers or indifference on the part of the civic government. During the past few years, Torontonians have become more aware of the importance of preserving the past, but the laws remain weak and ineffective, so our architectural heritage continues to disappear.

As a result of the blog, three books have been published about the topics that have appeared on it: Toronto Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen (published by History Press), Toronto’s Local Movie Theatres of Yesteryear (Dundurn Press), and Toronto Then and Now (Pavilion Press). The latter two books will be available in the spring of 2016. 

Toronto’s Old Movie Theatres

Over 130 posts posts relate stories about the city’s old movie theatres. They include archival and modern photos that depict the theatres’ grand facades, marquees, auditoriums, and  lobbies. There are also present-day images of the locations where the theatres once existed. The great movie palaces of the early decades of the 20th century (e.g. Shea’s Hippodrome, Pantages, Victoria, Tivoli etc.) are explored, as well as the more modern film palaces such as the University and the Odeon Carlton. The following is a link to the posts about the old movie theatres of Toronto.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/torontos-old-movie-theatres-on-tayloronhistory-com/

Heritage Buildings and Sites

Famous heritage building such as Toronto’s First City Hall, the Old City Hall, St. Lawrence Hall, Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, Mackenzie House, St. James Cathedral, Union Station, St. Michael’s Cathedral, and the St. Lawrence Market have been researched and documented. Other sites, some of them less known, are also explored: Farr House, Oddfellow’s Temple, Grossman’s Tavern, Waverly Hotel, Gooderham Building, and the Bellevue Fire Station. Structures that no longer exist are included — a part of lost Toronto. The following is a link to a list of the sites included on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/torontos-heritage-buildings-and-sites-on-tayloronhistory-com/

Toronto’s 19th-Century Streetscapes

Several streets that possess timeless qualities have been researched. They harken back to the more tranquil days of the 19th century. Below are the links to access the posts about these unique avenues of downtown Toronto.

Draper Street: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/torontos-draper-street-is-akin-to-a-time-tunnel-into-the-past/

Wilcocks Street: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/visiting-torontos-best-preserved-nineteenth-century-street-willcocks-street/

Bulwer Street: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/a-toronto-street-that-disappeared-but-yet-remains-in-view-bulwer-street/

Glasgow Street: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/torontos-architectural-gemsrow-houses-on-glasgow-st/ 

Huron Street: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/a-toronto-street-that-disappeared-but-yet-remains-in-view-bulwer-street/

Toronto Disasters

Three of the greatest disasters that Toronto suffered are chronicled on the blog. In 1914, the “RMS Empress of Ireland” sank in fourteen minutes in the icy waters of the St. Lawrence River. More passengers lost their lives than on the Titanic, yet few Canadian know about this maritime tragedy. Many of those who perished were from Toronto.

In 1949, a lake steamer named the “S S Noronic” caught fire in Toronto Harbour and 122 people lost their lives.

In 1954, Hurricane Hazel flooded the Humber and Don Valley, and over 100 drowned in the flood waters.

Below are the links to read about these events.

Empress of Ireland: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/the-empress-of-ireland-tragedymay-29-1914/

Noronic: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/the-noronic-disaster-in-1949-122-people-burn-to-death-on-torontos-waterfront/

Hurricane Hazel: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/torontos-1950s-newspapers-hurricane-hazelpart-3/ 

History of Toronto Streetcars and Toronto Island Ferries

Posts on Streetcars:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/travel-on-torontos-great-streetcars/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/memories-of-torontos-streetcars-of-yesteryear/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/amazing-streetcar-trips-on-torontos-red-rockets-during-yesteryears/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/toronto-streetcarsfrom-omnibus-to-red-rocket/

A post about the Toronto Island Ferries

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/remember-the-toronto-island-ferries-the-bluebell-primroseand-trillium/

Posts on the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/the-old-dufferin-gates-at-torontos-cne/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/11/26/muzik-nightclubsite-of-cnes-crystal-palace/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/thoughts-about-torontos-2014-cne/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/ten-suggestion-to-make-the-cne-great/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/the-magnificent-grandstand-shows-of-the-1950s/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/the-magificent-1921-grandstand-show-at-the-cne/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/postcard-views-of-the-1947-cne-part-one/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/postcard-views-of-the-1947-cne-part-two/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/golden-memories-of-the-cne-from-yesteryear/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/whats-it-like-to-attend-the-cne-in-2011-in-comparison-with-yesteryear/https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/memories-of-the-cnetoday-and-yesterday/

Memories of War-Time Toronto During the 1940s

Sunnyside Beach and Amusement Park

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/a-pictorial-journey-to-torontos-old-sunnyside-beach-part-two/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/in-mid-winter-recalling-the-sunshine-of-torontos-sunnyside-beach/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/a-private-memory-of-a-95-year-old-about-the-sunnyside-of-her-youth/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/walking-along-lakeshore-boulevard-near-sunnyside-in-1922/

Snow storm of December 1944, the largest amount of snow to ever descend on Toronto.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/the-worst-snowstorm-to-ever-hit-toronto-post-1/ 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/downtown-torontos-five-best-xmas-displays2015/

Toyland at Eaton’s (Queen and and Yonge Street Store) and Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/memories-of-eatons-toyland-in-the-1940s/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/are-you-ever-too-old-to-enjoy-torontos-santa-claus-parade/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/torontos-santa-claus-parade-through-the-decades/

The village on Manitou Road on Centre Island

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/centre-islands-lost-villagetoronto/

The Author of this Blog

Doug Taylor was a member of the faculty of the Lakeshore Teachers’ College (York University) and the Ontario Teacher Education College, where he shared his love of history with promising young teachers-to-be. During the 1970s, he conducted walking tours of Toronto’s historic districts for university students, during the days when such tours were rare. He also led tours of Chinatown, the Kensington Market, and the Necropolis Cemetery.

Now retired, he lives in downtown Toronto, within walking distance of Toronto’s historic neighbourhoods. Since retiring, he has written ten books, all of them employing the history of his native city as either the subject or the background for the story.  He continues to promote the history of the city he loves through his books and his blog. He can be contacted at tayloronhistory@gmail.com.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” is one of the books that was written incorporating the research material from this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                     image_thumb6    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

 

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