Human History


Learn more about:

- The establishment of High Park and John & Jemima Howard

- High Park's First Nations Connections and First Story – Black Oak Savannah

- What High Park used to look like - blogTO article with historic photos

- Years Gone By exhibit - High Park and Roncesvalles Village

- How High Park became Toronto's "country" sanctuary (pdf), Toronto Star, April 7, 2016 (webpage link)

Native peoples very likely used the High Park area when they settled in the Toronto region. Nearby, at the Humber River, a well-used trade route linked Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay, and another historic trail ran along the eastern side of Grenadier Pond. High Park: Restoring a Jewel of Toronto’s Park System, City of Toronto, page 6. See also: Indigenous History

1836 - Architect, engineer and land surveyor, John G. Howard and his wife Jemima, purchase 165 acres of land extending from Lake Ontario to Bloor Street. Because of the height of land overlooking the lake, the Howard’s name their property High Park.

1837 - John Howard designs a Regency-style picturesque cottage on the south end of the property and names it Colborne Lodge. The Howards move in in December. In time, Howard acquired another large parcel of land nearby. This property was bounded by the Queensway, Bloor Street West, Roncesvalles Avenue and Parkside Drive. Howard set himself up as a real estate developer, and laid out streets and lots for sale. He called the main north/south street in his development, Indian Road, because it followed the path of an ancient trail used by native people. Unfortunately, most people found Howard's development too far from the city, and sales were few and far between.

1873 - The Howards and the City of Toronto reach an agreement to deed High Park as a public park. The Howard stipulations include: leaving the estate in as natural a state as possible; that the park remain free in perpetuity to the citizens of Toronto; and the name High Park be retained.

1876 - 120 acres of the Howards’ original property becomes public property and forms the nucleus of the current park. The southern 45 acres, including Colborne Lodge, remain Howard property until their deaths. The city purchases 172 acres to the east of the Howard property from the Ridout family.

1876 - Jemima Howard dies and is buried in the tomb northwest of the Lodge.

1890 - John Howard dies and is buried alongside his wife beneath a secluded monument near Colborne Lodge. The remaining 45 acres of property, Colborne Lodge and its outbuildings and the tomb are transferred to the city. Not long after his death, the city extended streetcar service into the park, and the home buyers Howard had long waited for, began to arrive

1893 - The first boat rentals are available on Grenadier Pond.

1893 - The animal paddocks are established.

William and Louise Lightfoot at Caretaker's House (now park office)
William Lightfoot was Park Caretaker 1906-1914
Private collection

1900-1914 - The neighbourhoods around High Park grew rapidly during a period of wide-scale construction in the city. Today, these neighbourhoods are highly sought after for their well-treed streets and substantial old homes. The commercial strips along Bloor Street and Roncesvalles are alive with shops and restaurants, making the area a vibrant and highly-livable part of the city.

1930 - The city purchases 71 acres to the west of the park (formerly part of the Ellis estate), encompassing all of Grenadier Pond within the park boundaries.

1960s - A large number of recreational facilities are added to the park.

1990s - The city and province conduct studies and embark on programs to restore and preserve the ecologically significant environment, continuing the legacy established by the Howards in the 19th century.

The above information was contributed in part by Toronto Culture Division, Colborne Lodge.

Railway Crossing, South End of Grenadier Pond, c1890
Toronto Archives
Flattening Bloor St. & Keele St. intersection 1914
Toronto Archives

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Content last modified on December 17, 2017, at 12:56 PM EST