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Allan Gardens

Coordinates: 43°39′42″N 79°22′28″W / 43.66167°N 79.37444°W / 43.66167; -79.37444
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Allan Gardens
Allan Gardens with the conservatory in the background
TypeMunicipal park and conservatory
Location160 Gerrard Street East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates43°39′42″N 79°22′28″W / 43.66167°N 79.37444°W / 43.66167; -79.37444
Opened11 September 1860; 163 years ago (1860-09-11)[note 1]
EtymologyGeorge William Allan
Owned byMunicipal government of Toronto
Managed byToronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division
Public transit access  506 

Allan Gardens is a conservatory and urban park located in the Garden District of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The property includes a playground, off-leash dog park, and a 1,500 square metres (16,000 sq ft) conservatory with six green houses.

The park originated from lands donated to the Toronto Horticultural Society by George William Allan in 1858, with the horticultural society officially opening a gardens there in 1860. In 1864, the municipal government of Toronto acquired the lands surrounding the gardens, although allowed the horticultural society to maintain it in return for permitting its public use. The conservatory was later acquired by the municipal government in 1888. The park and the gardens was initially known as the Horticultural Gardens until 1901, when it was renamed after Allan. A fire ravaged and destroyed a three-storey pavilion at the park in 1902. However, a new conservatory building, the Palm House was later completed on the property in 1910. The park has become a popular gathering place for protest since the mid-20th century.



The property initially formed a part of Park Lot V, one of a series of properties that were subdivided by the authorities after the Toronto Purchase in the 1790s.[1] In 1819, William Allan acquired the property, and he later built his Moss Park estate there.[2] His son George William Allan, who served as the 11th mayor of Toronto and as president of the Toronto Horticultural Society, inherited the estate after William Allan's death in 1853.[3][4] In 1855, Allan subdivided the land, although he retained a private garden north of Gerrard Street.[4]

In 1858, shortly after Allan's tenure as mayor had ended, he gifted the horticultural society 2.0 hectares (5 acres) of land for them to develop a garden,[3] although this transaction was not finalized until 1861.[4] The Horticultural Gardens were opened to the public on 11 September 1860, with the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) planting a maple tree in front of the pavilion.[3] Alongside Queen's Park, which was also opened earlier that day, the two parks are the oldest parks in Toronto.[3]

In 1864, the property surrounding the gardens and conservatory was acquired by the municipal government of Toronto for C$11,500, to be used as a municipal park.[3] The city provided a lease to the horticultural society, where the society agreed to maintain the grounds on the condition that they be publicly accessible and free of charge until 8 p.m.;[3] after that time, the horticultural society was free to use the property to host charged-private events.[3]

The Horticulture Pavilion at Allan Gardens in March 1891

The original rustic wooden structures were replaced in 1879 with a new three-storey pavilion to be used for concerts, gala balls, conventions, and flower shows.[3][2][5] Construction of the new pavilion was financed through a C$20,000 mortgage taken out from the horticultural society.[3] Because the horticultural society was unable to cover their debts, the conservatory was later sold to the municipal government in 1888.[3] In the following year, iron fencing and gates were added to the park.[4]

In 1893, the National Council of Women of Canada was established inside the Horticultural Pavilion of the gardens.[3] In 1894, the garden's original conservatory was replaced.[5] Shortly after the death of Allan in 1901, the gardens were renamed from the Horticultural Gardens to Allan Gardens in his honour.[3][4] The pavilion was eventually destroyed in a fire on 6 June 1902.[5] Shortly after the fire, a statue of Robert Burns was installed at the park on 19 July.[3]

Extensions of the Palm House, built during the 1920s and 1950s

A structure to replace the pavilion was commissioned by the municipal government at a cost of C$50,000, after two more expensive proposals were shot down by the government.[3] The new glass and iron-domed conservatory, the Palm House, was completed in 1910.[3][5] In the 1920s, two more greenhouses were added to the conservatory. An additional wing, which included three greenhouses, was built in 1956 and 1957 in order to expand the garden's exhibition space.[4] During the 1950s expansion, the garden was also expanded, its fencing and gates were removed, and its fountain replaced.[1][4] During the 1960s, the property was enlarged, with the lands vacated by Jarvis Collegiate Institute absorbed by the park.[1] The park was expanded again in 1990 after the city expropriated the Larry's Hideaway hotel along Carlton Street.[4]

The park emerged as a popular gathering ground for protest during the mid-20th century, with the Workers' Ex-Servicemen's League first staging a protest at the park on 16 August 1933, in order to protest the treatment of veterans from the First World War during the Great Depression.[3] Attempts were made by the Toronto Police Service to disperse the 1,000 person crowd, citing a by-law that restricted public protests to three designated public parks in the city.[3] The by-law was later revised to include all parks after anti-war poets held "unauthorized readings" at the park during the 1960s.[1][3] After rumours that a Nazi rally would take place at the park, an anti-Nazi crowd formed at the park on 31 May 1965, and eight individuals were beaten by a crowd after they were mistaken for neo-Nazis.[3]

In 2003, the University of Toronto and Toronto-Dominion Bank financed the construction of a sixth greenhouse for the conservatory, named the Children's Horticultural Conservatory.[6] The greenhouse was built by the university in order to house specimens held at the university's old greenhouse on College Street.[6] The park was also among several municipal parks occupied by protesters during the 2010 G20 Toronto summit protests.[3]


Pathways at Allan Gardens

Allan Grounds is a municipal park and conservatory maintained by the Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division. The park is also supported by the Friends of Allan Gardens, a community support group for the park.[1] The park occupies about a city block, and is bounded by Carlton Street to the north, Sherbourne Street to the east, Gerrard Street to the south, and Jarvis Street to the west.[4] In 2008, an assessment of the park revealed that there were 309 trees planted on the property;[7] representing approximately 47 species of trees.[4] The park includes an off-leash dog park, a playground, and the conservatory.[1] The park includes a system of pathways that cross the property, including a north–south pathway that links Carlton and Gerrard Street; as well as an east–west pathway that links the conservatory with the Robert Burns Monument and Sherbourne Street.[4] In June 1973, the park was listed on the City of Toronto Heritage Property Inventory.[4]

Jarvis Street Baptist Church is situated to the southwest, while Grace Toronto Church is situated northwest of the park.[1]


Flora displays inside one of the conservatory's greenhouses

The conservatory was initially built in 1909 by Robert McCallum in a neo-Classical and Edwardian style.[3][6] The building features a brick-clad base with sandstone detailing, with stone, wood, glass, and iron also being used as building material for the structure.[6][4] The building feature a 16-sided glass and steel dome topped and a cupola topped with a finial; although the steel was later replaced with aluminum.[4] The Palm House also includes a boiler room and chimney.[4]

The original domed conservatory was expanded several times during the 1920s, and in 1956 and 1957, with the addition of five new greenhouse.[3][4] In 2004, a sixth greenhouse was opened at the conservatory.[6] In total, the conservatory's six greenhouses cover approximately 1,500 square metres (16,000 sq ft).[1] Two greenhouses are used to house begonia, bromeliads, gesneriads, and orchids.[5] Other greenhouses in the conservatory include a cool temperate greenhouse that houses camellias and plants from Australia and the Mediterranean; a palm greenhouse for a number of palm and tropical vines; the tropical landscape greenhouse for plants like cycads, hibiscus; and the arid house for cacti and succulents.[5]

In addition to the Palm House, and the greenhouses, the conservatory also includes an administrative building erected in 1923.[4] A central oval with a drinking founting that commemorates Graeme Mercer Adam was originally situated east of the Palm House; although this was later replaced with a pergola in 1995.[4]


  1. ^ The park was officially opened to the public on September 1860. However, the park originated from the private gardens created by George Willan Allan in 1855, which was later donated to the Toronto Horticultural Society to develop a garden in 1858. The municipal government of Toronto acquired the lands that surrounded the horticulture society's garden in 1864, and the garden itself in 1888.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "A Vision Document for Allan Gardens" (PDF). friendsofallangardens.ca. Friends of Allan Garden. February 2017. pp. 1–50. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b "The Past". friendsofallangardens.ca. Friends of Allan Gardens. 2020. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Bell, Jason (3 December 2015). "Once Upon a City: Allan Gardens' rich history of revolution". Torstar Corporation. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Amending of Designating By-law – 160 Gerrard Street East (Allan Gardens)" (PDF). www.toronto.ca. City of Toronto. 5 September 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Allan Gardens Conservatory". www.toronto.ca. City of Toronto. 2 December 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e macfarlane, David (20 November 2003). "The seedy truth about Allan Gardens". The Globe and Mail. The Woodbridge Company. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  7. ^ Millward, Andrew A.; Sabir, Senna (15 April 2011). "Benefits of a forested urban park: What is the value of Allan Gardens to the city of Toronto, Canada?". Landscape and Urban Planning. 100 (3): 177–188. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2010.11.013.

See also