Allan Gardens

In 1858 George William Allan, 11th mayor of Toronto and then President of the Toronto Horticultural Society, donated five acres from his Moss Park estate to the Society for the purpose of creating a botanical garden. Walkways and a semi-enclosed wooden pavilion were constructed and the Horticultural Gardens were officially opened by Edward Prince of Wales on September 11, 1860. The Gardens became a popular spot for the fashionable crowd to gather for walks and open air concerts.

In 1878, the original pavilion was removed and a new structure designed by Langley, Langley & Burke opened to the public on June 3, 1879. The new pavilion, built of wood and glass, featured iron roof trusses and a stone foundation.

Sketch of proposed pavilion for the Horticultural Gardens, 1878
Toronto Horticultural Society. Minutes of meeting, 1910-50

The original design called for winter-garden greenhouses to the north and south of a concert hall but estimates of the cost were prohibitive. The Society decided to go ahead with the construction of the concert hall only at a cost of $20,000. A south winter-garden heated by steam was added in 1880 and specimens were obtained in part through a gift from Kew Gardens. The concert hall was a great success as a venue for concerts, small theatrical performances, and banquets.

Allan Gardens
½ plate glass copy negative, 1884
T 11688

Allan Gardens
½ plate glass copy negative, 1884
T 11689

Banquet in honour of The Right Hon. Sir John A. MacDonald
Menu, December 18, 1884
1884. MacDonald

In 1888, the City of Toronto assumed the management of the Gardens as well as the debt incurred by its construction. After the pavilion and winter-garden were destroyed by fire on June 16, 1902, the City decided not to rebuild the concert hall. Langley’s pavilion was replaced by the greenhouses and the steel-and-glass conservatory that we now know as Allan Gardens.

Allan Gardens, Toronto, Canada
Postcard, c.1910
PC 598

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Source: Special Collections, Toronto Public Library.