Howard Memorial Gates - A Century of History

It was a cold but bright day when we gathered to celebrate the 100 Year Anniversary of the magnificent wrought iron and stone gates that mark the east entrance to High Park, which were built to honour John Howard, whose vision and generosity gave High Park to the people of Toronto.

On March 19, 1914, the gates were opened to great fanfare.  Among the attendees were the Governor General, Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught and his wife, Princess Louise Margaret, the Duchess of Connaught; Mayor Horatio Clarence Hocken and his wife; Sir Henry M. Pellatt of Casa Loma; and a number of members of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire.  The Westminster Chapter of the I.O.D.E fundraised half of the $4,500 cost of building the gates and City Council provided the matching funds.

On March 20, 1914 The Mail reported: High Park Boulevard, at the foot of which the gates stand, presented a gay appearance. From every residence floated flags and streamers, while near the gates the Royal Standard was flying from a staff erected for the occasion. The Boy Scouts, headed by Highland Pipers, were drawn up in line. The Duke arrived shortly before 4 o’clock, and as he walked from his motor to the platform the 48th Highlanders’ Band struck up ‘God Save the King’. At the moment of unveiling the band struck up ‘Rule Britannia’, and afterward the Boy Scout, Stanbury, sang ‘O Canada’. Other dignitaries included Casa Loma’s Sir Henry Pellatt and the Mayor, Horatio Hocken. The Toronto Horticultural Society donated the bouquets of long- stemmed ‘American Beauty’ roses, which were presented to the ladies.

On March 23, 2014, we convened with bouquets of long-stemmed roses, donated by The Horticultural Societies of Parkdale 1914 & Toronto to echo that gesture of 100 years ago, in a large tent to keep the roses and everyone from freezing, near the Jamie Bell playground. Thanks go to Mary Louise Craven for bringing the roses over from her house, where they had been delivered by Martins florist. Martins defrayed some of the roses’ cost to us, as their donation. Thanks also to Kathy Andrachuk and Bill Cheng who brought Hort brochures for our display, and members Vanessa Barnes, Emieke Geldof, Pat Bremner and Diana Baxter who were able to join the festivities as well.

The celebration started off with a parade, including many enthusiastic Boy Scouts. Their various flags and brave bearers can be seen in one of the photos. And special thanks to the 2 brave girls who held the roses, warmly at the gates, until their presentation!

After the parade had wound its way up to the gates, some interesting remarks about their original inception were given by the park’s spokesperson. This included the fact that the Westminster chapter of the IODE, Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, had contributed 50% of the original cost for the gates in 1914, with the City providing matching funds. Thus their national President and local President received our roses from David Allen, local artist, playing the role of the Duke of Connaught, who had officiated on that 1914 day. Sarah Doucette played his wife, the Duchess. Both were fittingly attired in period costumes. Peggy Nash and Cheri di Novo also spoke very eloquently of the importance of the gates and the overall community spirit they invoked. The spokesperson then thanked all contributors, including the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto.

We closed the event by hurrying to the tent for some communal warmth and, inspired by 1914, refreshments of cider, tea, lavender cookies and Derby cakes.

Thank you to all the Hort members for their gracious contribution to this day.

E.Terri Dixon, event convenor for the Hort, Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee, March 2014