History, stories and memories

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As I recall, John Howard owned most of the tract from Bloor to the lake and Grenadier Pond to Parkside Drive, some 900 or thereabouts acres. He gave the park to the city on condition that it never be sold but preserved as a park. Toronto added some more land to the tract and named it High Park.

There is a tale that British grenadiers were making a winter patrol along Grenadier Pond when the officer in charge decided to cross the ice. They broke through and all drowned. The pond was named after the Grenadiers.
John Howard had a house near the animal zoo, with a large wooden snake on the porch. The house was once open to the public during summer tours.

There was a summer school located in the park for kids who, I suppose, needed extra help. As I recall, it was located in the neighbourhood of the zoo, but on higher ground, in a grove of trees. The students sat on wooden benches, with wooden tables in front of them. Today's Star has a photo of part of the park, taken in the winter of 1910. It shows toboggan runs in the park, down a very steep hill, with throngs of people in the picture watching the tobogganers. I think it was probably of the steep hill that ran down to the pond. There must be several hundred people in the picture.

There was also ice skating in the park, on a large piece of level ground several hundred yards into the park, south of Bloor Street. We used to lug our hand me down skates over there, along with others, to play a bit of hockey. We used to run/haunt the trails through fairly dense woods, all the way from Bloor to nearly the Lakeshore.

There is a monument across the road from the Howard House. I think it is a Howard monument. We used to tour the house and carriage house as if it were Black Creek Pioneer village. There is a cannon on the hill overlooking the lake as a deterrent for Americans trying to invade in 1812.

The hills along east side of pond were great for tobogganing out onto the ice , which was thick enough to skate on back then. The park was always crowded there on weekends in winter. There was a great working carousel. It was a safe place for us when we were young. I think children need parents close by for safety now.


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