subtitle: Hanging out in front of Queen’s Park
There is a collection of statues in the front of Queen’s Park. With the exception of the statue of Queen Victoria, they are of men who helped shape Toronto, Ontario, and Canada in the early years. I was going to spend some time writing about what each person did but this post started to become very dull. I don’t mean to diminish the accomplishments of these men, but reading a summary of their lives isn’t the most interesting way to spend time. If you want to learn more about any of them, I’m sure you can find much more information online!
First, the monarch. Queen Victoria. She was born in 1819 (almost 200 years ago!) and became Queen in 1837 when just 18 years old. She reigned for more than sixty years until her death in January of 1901. Her husband, and father of her 9 children, was her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The fact that her statue’s here is no surprise. Queen’s Park was named in her honour after all – it was opened by her son Edward in 1860. The statue though didn’t appear here until 1902, after her death. It was designed by Mario Riggi.
Also in the front of the parliament buildings are the statues of six other historical figures: Sir John A. Macdonald, John Graves Simcoe, Sir Oliver Mowat, George Brown, John Sandfield Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie, and Sir James Whitney. Most people would recognize Sir John A. Macdonald as the first Prime Minister of Canada and some Torontonians might be familiar with the contributions of Mr. Simcoe to their history, but the other four men, who are they?
Let’s start with John Sandfield Macdonald (no relation to Sir John A. ) He was born in Glengarry County Upper Canada in 1812. He was the first Prime Minister (Premier) of Ontario, starting with Confederation and the formation of the province of Ontario on 1st July 1867. He held that position until 1871. The sculpture is by Walter Allward, 1909.
Next, Sir Oliver Mowat . He was born in Kingston Ontario in 1820. In 1840 he moved to Toronto to study law but in 1857 he was elected a Liberal member of the Legislature of the Province of Canada. He held various government positions at both the provincial and federal levels up until his death in 1903. He took part in the Quebec Conference of 1864 which led to Confederation in 1867. He was the third Prime Minister (Premier) of Ontario after John Sandfield Macdonald and Edward Blake (who was leader for less than a year and has no statue). He led from 1872 to 1896. During his almost 24 years as leader of the Ontario Legislature he introduced the secret ballot in elections and extended suffrage beyond property owners. He also created the municipal level of government. Between 1897 and his death he was a Senator and then the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. This monument was unveiled in 1905 and was also designed by Walter Allward.
below: Sir James Whitney was a member of the Ontario Legislative Assembly from 1888 until his death in 1914. For the later part of those years he was the Premier of Ontario – he was elected four times as Premier. The statue was sculpted by Hamilton MacCarthy and was unveiled in 1927
I’ve also included William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861) with this group of men even though his statue is more to the west of the parliament buildings than in front of them. He was the first mayor of Toronto (1834) although he was only mayor for a year. He was also a leader of the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837.
below: The oldest man of the lot is John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806), founder of the city of Toronto, the designer of Yonge Street, and one busy man in his time.
And last, the most well known of the men, Sir John A. Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada.