East of Garrison Creek

Planning for the New Fort took more than a decade before construction began. Among the questions that needed to be answered before then were: where was it to be sited, and what form and size would it take? (see 'New Fort York' chapter preceding). As for how to pay for it, everyone agreed on offsetting its costs by alienating part of the Military Reserve adjacent to the town and east of Garrison Creek. Some felt, however, the land should be leased, while others including Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Colborne thought it should be sold. Finally, in May 1833, Colborne was authorized to sell the land, and he immediately directed approximately 223 acres of the Reserve between Lake Ontario, Peter Street, Lot [Queen] Street, and the curve of Niagara Street along the Garrison Creek ravine to be surveyed and laid out in lots for development.

To test the market, the first sale of 18 lots took place in Nov. 1833. Three other auctions followed in 1834 and 1836 and realized the following amounts:
  • No. 1    25 Nov. 1833 (18 lots; £7,618)
  • No. 2    18 Nov. 1834 (8 lots; £1,068)
  • No. 3    8 Dec. 1834 (12 lots; £2,237)
  • No. 4    12 Nov. 1836 (104 lots; £11,272)
Source: Isabel Ganton, The Development of the Military Reserve, Toronto, 1792-1862. (1975)

W. Allward’s Old Soldier watching over
Victoria Square. Courtesy TPL: JRR 4113
In parallel with these sales the Lieutenant-Governor ordered a series of maps made, mainly to work out where land might be set aside for public uses, including churches, cemeteries and a market. In all plans the military burying ground of 1794 formed a significant, immovable feature, often shown as sharing space with a church. By 1837 this pairing had come to be denoted as Victoria Square.

This 2-acre space, now called Victoria Memorial Square, has links with York's founding. Katharine Simcoe, the infant daughter of Lt. Gov. and Mrs. John Graves Simcoe was the first person buried there [Read more: A history of the square]. Although it has been a city park since the mid-1880s, the square remained in the ownership of the Government of Canada until July, 2011, when it was the last piece of the Military Reserve to be granted away. From 2005-10 the City of Toronto undertook an extensive re-landscaping of it in partnership with area residents and the Wellington Place Neighbourhood Association. Its central “Old Soldier” monument of 1907 by Walter Allward honours the dead of the War of 1812 (see also). Victoria Memorial Square is now part of the Fort York National Historic Site.

Some plans between 1834 and late 1836 showed Victoria Square connected by a wide avenue to a ten-acre reserve for a new Government House, south of King Street to the lakeshore, between Peter and Spadina. Colborne pushed strongly for accommodating his successors in something better than old Elmsley House, for which the British Government would have had to foot the bill. But it wanted none of the project. So instead in the final plan of 1837, Clarence Square and more building lots were created at the east end of Wellington Place, as the wide avenue came to be called.

This area was far from the town's market square at King and Jarvis, which commended its having its own place where daily shopping for perishables was possible. The earliest schemes proposed a market square on Niagara Street west of Bathurst; then on the axis of Adelaide Street east of Portland; and finally as a two-acre space flanked by Adelaide, Brant and Richmond Streets. Here St. Andrew's Market — named for the surrounding ward — functioned, most notably before 1900. The under-utilized south half of the square became the St. Andrew's Playground in 1909, the City's first such facility.

As planning to extend the town on the Military Reserve went ahead a second cemetery was opened there, used briefly, then closed even before the final plan of lots and streets was adopted. In 1832 a graveyard was established in haste at the west end of Newgate [Adelaide] Street for the victims of York's first cholera epidemic. Over 200 people had been buried in this ground when it was closed in 1835. On some early plans it shows as a rectangle within McDonell [Portugal] Square which was granted to the Roman Catholics for a church and presbytery in 1837.  The first St. Mary's Church was not built on the site until 1852; the present structure dates from the 1880s.

1831 Chewett: Plan of Survey of the Lands for Lease adjacent to the York Garrison in the Township of York Home District

1833 Bonnycastle: No. 2 Plan of Comparison shewing ... the site of the new Barrack ... means shall be furnished from the Sale of that part of the Military Reserve given up for the improvement of the Town

1834 HWJ Bonnycastle/Tazewell: City of Toronto

1836 Bonnycastle/Nicolls: Copy of Final Approved Plan By Command — Government House Reserve

1837 Hawkins: Toronto Military Reserve 
[with & without names of lot owners]

1852 Fleming/Wilkinson/Walker: Plan shewing the Boundaries . . . of the Military Reserve [Detail]

ca.1854 Cumberland & Storm: Proposed Alterations . . . to 'Lyndhurst' villa residence of F. Widder, Esq.

1856 Dennis: Plan of the Subdivision of Lots 14 & 15 Wellington Place and 5 Ontario Terrace of Section A in the Original Survey of the Garrison Reserve at Toronto [Draper St.]

1884 Unwin, Browne & Sankey: Plan of the old Military Burying Ground Victoria Square, Toronto

1889 Hering & Gray: Plan of the City of Toronto, Proposed Intercepting Sewers and Outfall

1923 City Parks Dept: Plan [of] Clarence Square
2012 The Planning Partnership: Victoria Memorial Square Update Plan

Proceed to Next Chapter: The Lunatic Asylum