Toronto's Historical Plaques
Learn a little of Toronto's history as told through its plaques
Colonel O'Hara's Garden
Photos by Alan L Brown - Posted May, 2007
Plaque coordinates: 43.641099 -79.434264
Long before urbanization, Parkdale was comprised of large rural estates. As a way of commemorating the early nineteenth century owners of these properties, this garden - and others along Queen Street West - have been planted.
Walter O'Hara (1789?-1874), who once owned this land, was born in Dublin, Ireland. A career soldier, he served in the Napoleonic Peninsular War, and arrived in Canada in 1826. He was Assistant Adjutant General of the Upper Canada Militia with the rank of Colonel from 1827-1846. Walter and his wife Marion accumulated over one hundred and twenty hectares of land in Parkdale (north of Queen from O'Hara to Roncesvalles) between the years of 1831 and 1840. Their home, an imposing Georgian-style building named "The West Lodge", stood at the head of the street of that name until it was demolished in the 1960s.
There are many streets in Parkdale named for O'Hara family members or places linked to them. The only two named by the Colonel, himself, date back to his 1856 subdivision of Park Lots 33 and 34: Roncesvalles and Sorauren Avenues. These names refer to the sites of battles in Spain in which he fought (in the years 1813 and 1815, respectively). As a way of honouring the strong feelings O'Hara evidently had for the sunny Iberian Peninsula, this garden is meant to evoke an image of its landscapes. The plants chosen are native to Spain or are species closely related to ones the old soldier may have seen in his travels.
A single specimen of the mountain ash tree, noted for its late summer show of clusters of orange berries, anchors one corner of the garden. Mugho pines, elderberry, skyrocket juniper and clematis are other dominant features. As a nod to the Rioja wine region not distant from the Peninsular War battlefields, a grape vine grows. Fall-blooming Crocus sativus - source of the precious culinary saffron - reprises the display of common crocuses seen in the early spring. Dozen's of the poet's narcissus which carpet upland meadows in Spain bloom soon after. Lavender, santolina and succulent groundcovers remind the viewer of the aridness of that country. The perennials bloom predominately in the blue/violet or yellow colour range.
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