Garden of the Greek Gods is located on Prince Edward Island Cres (south of the Better Living Centre) at Exhibition Place in Toronto.
The Mythical Sculptures
Renowned Canadian artist Elford Bradley “E.B.” Cox created the collection of 20 mythical limestone sculptures as a tourist attraction for the Georgian Peaks ski resort in Thornbury, Ontario (about 14 km west of Collingwood). While working at his studio, using a sledgehammer, compressed air and hand chisels, Mr Cox started his first sculpture in late 1962. Nine months later, eleven pieces, including Pan, Orpheus, Cerberus, Centaur, Minotaur, Harpies and Three Graces, were completed and transferred to the resort, where they were scattered along trails from the top of the lift chairs to the lookout area.
That summer of 1963, Mr Cox worked on-site at the resort on the 12th sculpture, Medusa. The remainder of the stones were finished by 1964, each representing a god, hero or monster from Greek mythology. Hercules, which stands 3.4 m or 11 ft tall and weighs over 5 tons, was positioned at the bottom of the ski hill at what was known as “The Enchanted Mountain.” At that time, the group of sculptures was collectively known as the “Garden of the Gods.”
Over the next decade, the chair lift’s position changed, meaning the artwork was only being seen during the winter season. Mr Cox was concerned that the sculptures were not being enjoyed year-round as intended, so in 1974, he purchased his collection back and brought it to his North York home.
The Move to Exhibition Place
In 1976, the sculptures were featured in the “Glorious Greece” display during the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in the Coliseum. It took five large trucks and forklifts to transport the giant stones from Mr Cox’s residence to Exhibition Place. For the next two years, they were stored at Exhibition Place.
In 1978, well-known Toronto restauranteur Arthur Carman (Athanasios Karamanos), who owned Carman’s Club at 26 Alexander St, purchased the collection in honour of his Greek heritage from Mr Cox for $125,000. Mr Carman then donated the group of sculptures to the people of Toronto. With matching funds from Wintario and a permanent home provided by Exhibition Place, the landscaped garden called “Garden of the Greek Gods” opened a year later on the south side of the Horticulture Building.
For several years, the pieces were around the grounds of the Horticulture Building. When the building became home to Musik nightclub, today’s Toronto Event Centre, the sculptures were no longer visible to the public.
Garden of the Greek Gods Today
In 2022, the stone figures were relocated and unveiled at their new permanent home on the south side of Exhibition Place. They are free to see and, once again, publicly accessible. There are a total of 20 sculptures and one carved marker stone.
In conjunction with the relocation, Exhibition Place has partnered with CAMH to launch a digital experience called Digital Amphitheatre. The project aims to create a virtual community through sharing stories.
About E.B. Cox
Elford Bradley Cox was born in Botha, Alberta, in 1914. He moved to Ontario and studied languages at the University of Toronto, later becoming a French and German teacher at Upper Canada College. In the 1950s, Mr Cox became a full-time artist. Throughout his career, he created many sculptures, including monumental works found at schools, government buildings, hotels, parks, banks and more throughout Ontario. Mr Cox passed away in 2003 at the age of 89.
Garden of the Greek Gods Photos
The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jul 6, 1963, pg 13
Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Dec 28, 1974, pg F3
Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Feb 1, 1979, pg C15
Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Feb 28, 1979, pg A2
The Parkdale Villager: Jun 13, 2016, pg 1
History of the Garden of the Greek Gods by Kathy Sutton (daughter of EB Cox), updated Apr 9, 2015