The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

Queen's Park

The phrase "Queen's Park" is commonly used as shorthand for both the seat of government in Toronto and the Ontario Legislative Assembly. In fact, Queen's Park the place predates the erection of the Legislative Building at its present location.

The land on which today's Queen's Park sits was purchased by Bishop Strachan in 1828-29 as the site for King’s College, an Anglican university. Strachan paid $16,840 for 166 acres, which stretched as far as St. George Street in the west and included the road allowance for College Street.

The College finally opened its doors in 1845, though only the residential wing of the projected university was ever built, where the eastern wing of today's Legislative Building now stands. Nevertheless, King's College became the nucleus of the University of Toronto, which retained ownership of the park after the provincial government insisted that the new university be established as a secular, not a denominational institution, and Bishop Strachan moved his Anglican college to a new site closer to Lake Ontario in what is now Trinity-Bellwoods Park, north of Fort York.

In 1853, the provincial government took possession of a large parcel of the parkland including the King's College site, for the purposes of erecting new parliament buildings. At that time, the provincial government guessed (or hoped) that Toronto would be selected by Queen Victoria as the permanent capital of the united Province of Canada. When this failed to materialize, the government dropped its plans for the parkland and instead appropriated the old King's College building in 1856 for use as an asylum, which it somewhat unfortunately named the University Lunatic Asylum because of its proximity to the University of Toronto. The building served as an asylum until 1869. In 1870 it was briefly converted into a grammar school, but it was abandoned a year later, and fell into an increasingly dilapidated state until it was finally demolished in 1886.

On January 1, 1859, the University of Toronto agreed to lease the easterly portion of Bishop Strachan's parkland to the city under the terms of a 999-year lease at a nominal rent, for the purpose of creating a public park. The new park was officially opened on September 11, 1860, by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). The Prince, "a charming youth who was setting all the maidenly hearts of Toronto aflutter" during his visit to the city, as one journalist put it, was watched by thousands as he laid a foundation stone for a memorial to his mother, Queen Victoria, and planted a silver oak. The Prince christened the site Queen's Park, in honour of the monarch he was not to succeed on the throne for another 41 years.

When Queen's Park opened, places had been set aside at the entrance on College Street for a proposed statue of Queen Victoria and two bronze cannons, which had been captured by British soldiers at the Battle of Sebastopol during the Crimean War in the l850s. After the War, pairs of captured cannon were sent to all the principal cities of the Empire, including Toronto. Other cannons were melted down to provide the material used in the making of the Victoria Crosses, the highest award for bravery that can be bestowed on anyone in the Empire (now Commonwealth), which is personally awarded by the monarch.

Statue of Queen Victoria The statue of Queen Victoria was not ready for its unveiling until July 1, 1871. This modest edifice failed to impress the local citizenry, and it was summarily removed four years later, to be replaced by a multi- tiered fountain. When the Legislative Building opened in April 1893, the cannons were moved up to its entrance, and shortly thereafter the fountain was replaced with a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, which remains in place today. The statue of Queen Victoria now located on the grounds of the Legislature was unveiled in May 1903.