Christie Pits Park – A Beautiful Park Named After a Bygone Quarry

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May 13, 1922 - A baseball game at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park
May 13, 1922 – A baseball game at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 52, Item 1011)

Christie Pits Park is located at ‪750 Bloor St W‬ (bordered by Christie St, Barton Ave and Crawford St) in the Christie Pits neighbourhood of Toronto.

The Park’s History

Until the turn of the 20th century, the land the park is on was initially called Christie Sand Pits, named after Christie St, which itself was named after William Mellis Christie, the co-founder of Christie, Brown & Company (now Mr Christie).

Garrison Creek is under the park, and around the early 1900s, the creek was converted to a storm sewer. In 1908, the sand and gravel pits became Willowvale Park.

Riot at Christie Pits

On August 16, 1933, there was an anti-Semitic riot at the park. After a playoff baseball game ended, young men from the “Pit Gang” provoked the predominantly Jewish “Harbord Playground” team. This resulted in a 5-hour riot; while no one died, many were injured.

Sports and the Park Today

2020 - Looking southeast towards the Christie Pits Park with the CN Tower in the background
2020 – Looking southeast towards the Christie Pits Park with the CN Tower in the background

Founded in 1969, the Toronto Maple Leafs team of the Intercounty Baseball League calls the park home turf.

In 1983, the greenspace and sports facility was renamed Christie Pits Park.

Today, the 8.9 hectares (21.9 acres) park with sloped sides features three baseball diamonds, a swimming pool, basketball and volleyball courts, a multi-sport field (soccer/football/rugby), an artificial ice rink, a children’s playground with a wading pool and splash pad, a ping pong table and a community garden. While the park is in the Christie Pits neighbourhood, it also borders Koreatown and Bloordale Village.

There’s limited street parking available. The park is across from the Christie subway station.

Christie Pits Park Photos

2020 - Christie Pits Park
2020 – Christie Pits Park
1907 - Looking southwest toward the sand and gravel excavation in Christie Pits with the Ossington Ave Fire Hall tower in the background
1907 – Looking southwest toward the sand and gravel excavation in Christie Pits with the Ossington Ave Fire Hall tower in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 3136)
1907 - Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park
1907 – Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1258)
1909 - Skaters and workers at Christie Pits, once known as Willowvale Park
1909 – Skaters and workers at Christie Pits, once known as Willowvale Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 406A)
2023 – Looking north towards the baseball stands and scoreboard at Christie Pits Park
2023 – Looking north towards the baseball stands and scoreboard at Christie Pits Park
Circa 1910 - The sand pool at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park
Circa 1910 – The sand pool at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7289)
December 18, 1912 - Willowvale Park, later renamed Christie Pits
December 18, 1912 – Willowvale Park, later renamed Christie Pits (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 53, Item 51)
1912 - Professional hockey players at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park
1912 – Professional hockey players at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 476)
2020 – The soccer field at Christie Pits Park
2020 – The soccer field at Christie Pits Park
1991 – Soccer field at Christie Pits Park
1991 – Soccer field at Christie Pits Park (Fonds 200, Series 1465, File 682, Item 27)
1914 - A sign prohibiting search for mushrooms at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park
1914 – A sign prohibiting search for mushrooms at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2557)
February 14, 1914 - Bobsled run at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park
February 14, 1914 – Bobsled run at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 52, Item 315)
 2020 – Firepit at Christie Pits Park
2020 – Firepit at Christie Pits Park
June 26, 1920 - Baseball at Willowvale Park, later renamed Christie Pits Park
June 26, 1920 – Baseball at Willowvale Park, later renamed Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 16430b)
2020 – Looking south at two ball diamonds at Christie Pits Park
2020 – Looking south at two ball diamonds at Christie Pits Park
June 26, 1920 - Cricket and baseball at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park
June 26, 1920 – Cricket and baseball at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 16432)
2023 –The baseball scoreboard at Christie Pits Park
2023 –The baseball scoreboard at Christie Pits Park
December 10, 1920 – Looking west along Bloor St W from Christie St with Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park, on the right side. Notice that Bloor St once had streetcars
December 10, 1920 – Looking west along Bloor St W from Christie St with Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park, on the right side. Notice that Bloor St once had streetcars (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 58, Item 909)
July 6, 1922 - Looking northwest toward Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park, at the corner of Bloor St W and Christie St
July 6, 1922 – Looking northwest toward Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park, at the corner of Bloor St W and Christie St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 52, Item 1026)
2022 - Looking northwest toward Christie Pits Park at the corner of Bloor St W and Christie St
2022 – Looking northwest toward Christie Pits Park at the corner of Bloor St W and Christie St
March 28, 1949 – Looking north up Christie St from Bloor St W with Christie Pits Park on the left
March 28, 1949 – Looking north up Christie St from Bloor St W with Christie Pits Park on the left (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 58, Item 1894)
May 13, 1922 - A baseball game at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park
May 13, 1922 – A baseball game at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 52, Item 1011)
2023 – Looking northwest towards the baseball diamond where the Toronto Maple Leaf Baseball Club plays at Christie Pits Park
2023 – Looking northwest towards the baseball diamond where the Toronto Maple Leaf Baseball Club plays at Christie Pits Park
February 2, 1934 - Hockey rinks at Willowvale Park renamed Christie Pits Park
February 2, 1934 – Hockey rinks at Willowvale Park renamed Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 52, Item 1649)
1991 – Looking southwest towards the baseball diamond and the swimming pool in the background at Christie Pits Park
1991 – Looking southwest towards the baseball diamond and the swimming pool in the background at Christie Pits Park (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 682, Item 40)
2020 - Looking southeast towards the Christie Pits Park with the CN Tower in the background
2020 – Looking southeast towards the Christie Pits Park with the CN Tower in the background
2020 - Stands and the scoreboard at the baseball diamond in Christie Pits Park
2020 – Stands and the scoreboard at the baseball diamond in Christie Pits Park
2020 – The heritage plaque reads: 

Riots at Christie Pits  

"On August 16, 1933, at the end of a playoff game for the Toronto junior softball championship, one of the city's most violent ethnic clashes broke out in this park (then known as Willowvale Park). Toronto was a predominately British and Protestant city struggling through the Great Depression, and youths in several neighbourhoods were harassing those they considered "foreigners." Widespread prejudice against Jews made them particular targets.  

Two nights earlier, on August 14, fans of the predominately Jewish "Harbord Playground" team were provoked by local "Pit Gang" members with a makeshift swastika, a symbol made familiar by the recent rise to power of the Nazi party in Germany. At the end of the game on August 16, another large swastika was displayed. Jewish fans attacked its bearers. As word of the fight spread, reinforcements - including Italian friends of Jewish youths - rushed to the area. The resulting five-hour riot involved baseball bats and iron bars and spilled onto the streets.  

Though no one was killed, Torontonians were shocked by the violence. Mayor Stewart questioned the inadequate response of the Chief of Police to warnings of impending violence and stated that anyone displaying the swastika emblem would be liable to prosecution." 

Heritage Toronto 2008
2020 – The heritage plaque reads:

Riots at Christie Pits

“On August 16, 1933, at the end of a playoff game for the Toronto junior softball championship, one of the city’s most violent ethnic clashes broke out in this park (then known as Willowvale Park). Toronto was a predominately British and Protestant city struggling through the Great Depression, and youths in several neighbourhoods were harassing those they considered “foreigners.” Widespread prejudice against Jews made them particular targets.

Two nights earlier, on August 14, fans of the predominately Jewish “Harbord Playground” team were provoked by local “Pit Gang” members with a makeshift swastika, a symbol made familiar by the recent rise to power of the Nazi party in Germany. At the end of the game on August 16, another large swastika was displayed. Jewish fans attacked its bearers. As word of the fight spread, reinforcements – including Italian friends of Jewish youths – rushed to the area. The resulting five-hour riot involved baseball bats and iron bars and spilled onto the streets.

Though no one was killed, Torontonians were shocked by the violence. Mayor Stewart questioned the inadequate response of the Chief of Police to warnings of impending violence and stated that anyone displaying the swastika emblem would be liable to prosecution.”

Heritage Toronto 2008
1933 - The riot that took place at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park, on August 16, 1933
1933 – The riot that took place at Willowvale Park, now Christie Pits Park, on August 16, 1933 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 30791)
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