City Parks, Nature and the Landscaped Countryside

Such city parks as High Park are man-made spaces of what once was, as it was later remembered. If you look closely at their design and early portrayal it is still possible to see the collective remembrances, the desire that gave them form.



With the transformation of their city into a diversely populated industrial centre, Torontonians searched for a return to a world of certainties, a place from an earlier time. This yearning was embodied in the pictorial country scenes, subject of calendars, stereoscopic views and postcards.


The North American explosion of public parks between the years 1883-1914 was linked with a widespread impulse to improve conditions for the urban poor as well as to enhance quality of life for society as a whole.  The Parks Movement was based on the belief in the beneficial effects of beauty as it was manifested in nature. In Toronto this reform movement acquired further impulse from the Methodist attitude that country life as imbued with higher moral standards.


It is of no small significance that one of the major streetcar routes in the city; the Dundas/Roncesvalles line terminates within the landscaped woods of High Park. The city could discharge, through the transport of the streetcar, its most volatile social elements of “the ward” into the healing bosom of Nature.


Toronto’s ravines were used as portals out of the city centre. Residents could drop into the sights and smells of forested pathways below the street grid.

Rosedale Drive postcardf1244_it1261

Rosedale became associated with the luxury of living in harmony with natural surroundings. Developers of residential subdivisions banked on the popularity of this district to promote the new landscaped “garden-city” style subdivision. The years before the First World War saw a residential building boom in Toronto and the glorification of the  private garden as the ultimate oasis of urban life.


The connection between city parks and public welfare waned in the following decades as people dispersed, thanks to the new network of roads, beyond city boundaries to occupy their own garden and park surrounded suburban residences.


To read more go to PDF: “Paving the Way to Paradise…”  Chapters 2 & 3


1. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 1274   High Park east gates 1924?
2. High Park postcard, crop
3. High Park postcard, detail
4. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 9043  Oakville 1907
5. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 1125  Glen Road bridge
6. Rosedale Drive postcard
7.  city of toronto archives fonds 1244, Glen Road bridge 1907, detail
8. city of toronto archives fonds 1244 
8. Advertisement for Glebe Manor, The Toronto Daily Star

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