An ongoing research project of the Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch

Allan Gardens: Legacy of an Early Park Lot Owner

Park Lot 5, shown in gold.

While not the original owner, William Allan did much of the early subdivision of Park Lot 5, which was bounded by Sherbourne Street to the west to George and Huntley Streets to the east. Originally a poor Scots immigrant, Allen had become one of the wealthiest citizens of York. When he bought the lot in 1819, he began by building a palatial home, Moss Park, towards the south end.  Completed in 1828, he enlisted the help of Andre Parmentier, a well-respected New York landscape designer to establish appropriately grand gardens around the estate.

Allen’s son, George, built a house north of Moss Park named Homewood, where he lived for some years until his wife died, at which point he moved back in with his father at Moss Park, and Homewood was rented out.  Having a keen interest in horticulture and with the encroachment of the city on both sides of his lot, George was keen to keep some green space in the Lot and had a vision of a residential area combined with parks. In 1854, shortly after the death of his father, Allen announced The Moss Park Estate Plan, offering villas for sale.

It would appear that he had a change of heart at some point as the minutes of the Toronto Horticultural Society of 1856 state that Allen had offered them permanent grounds for public gardens.  In September 1860, the Price of Wales officially opened the Horticultural Gardens.

More details about the history of this lot and the planning of the Gardens are here.

Duchess Street Burial Ground (Source: Boulton, W. S. and H. C. Boulton, Atlas of Toronto. John Ellis: Toronto, 1858.)

A side note:

Toronto Branch volunteers who have been indexing records from the Toronto Necropolis have “uncovered” an interesting connection to Park Lot 5 and Allan’s “meadow”. One of Toronto’s earliest burial grounds was located just south of Allan’s land on Duchess (now Richmond) Street. The map to the left shows the location of this small extension of Park Lot 5, south of Queen Street. Over time, the little cemetery was nearly forgotten, and various excavations due to building projects led to the discovery of interred remains. These mostly anonymous souls were carefully reburied at the Toronto Necropolis– only to be found by our indexing volunteers some 240 years later. Read more about the newly discovered story.

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