Did you know that Victoria Memorial Square is also a cemetery? The park is bordered by Wellington, Portland and Niagara Sts, just off of Bathurst St in the Fashion District of Toronto.
The Garrison’s First Cemetery
In 1794, and soon after the founding of the Town of York and Fort York, Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe opened the earliest-known cemetery established by British authorities. In close proximity to Fort York, the first to be laid to rest in the Garrison Burial Ground was Simcoe’s 15-month old daughter Katherine. There are 100’s of soldiers and their families still buried beneath the park. The cemetery closed in 1863.
The Grounds Throughout the Centuries
In the years after, the cemetery was vandalized and used as a cattle pasture until the 1880s. The City then moved to preserve the remaining gravestones by moving them to the western edge of the park, levelling uneven graves and laying out walkways.
In 1899, a plaque was installed by the Canadian Club of Toronto explaining the significance of the historical site. In 1907, the monument commemorating those who served and died in the War of 1812 was completed. By the mid 20th century, the area around the park was industry but by the 1990s, it was transforming with new residents and businesses. In 2007, the park underwent rehabilitation. Victoria Memorial Square is a hidden jewel in the City and today remains a burial ground beneath its green space.
Did You Know?
The Square was named after Princess Victoria who later became the Queen of the United Kingdom.
Victoria Memorial Square is mirrored by Clarence Park. They were once linked by Wellington Place before the street became part of Wellington St W.
Click for more details on Toronto’s third military cemetery – the Strachan Avenue Military Burying Ground.
Victoria Memorial Square Photos
- The Friends of Fort York: The History of These Graves
- Fort York National Historic Site (plaques)
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library