The day before yesterday we visited this small park by the waterfront. It is only about 50 m x 20 m, maybe slightly larger, a small piece of green surrounded by the Toronto Island airport and the Harbourfront. It is dwarfed by the huge, derelict, concrete grain silos of the Canada Malting company. There are great limestone slabs, supposed to be reminiscent of the coast of Ireland, into which the names of those known to have died are engraved. There are five bronze figures crafted by Rowan Gillespie, who has also created a monument to the famine victims in Ireland. The five figures included a man raising his arms in – what might be – gratitude, a pregnant woman, a dying person and an apprehensive young boy. It is most unexpected, almost eerie. A reminder that we are a nation of immigrants.
In 1847, between May and October (the ‘summer of sorrow’) nearly 40,000 Irish immigrants landed in Toronto, which at the time had a population of 20,000. Around 1,200 of them died, mostly from typhus, and many were buried originally at a potter’s yard about two blocks from this apartment. The site of the park is near where they landed and where the city erected huge sheds to process the victims and ensure that the sick were not just prevented from proceeding into the city, but also cared for, despite the strain on the resources this presented. There are no explanatory plaques on the site.
When we came home, we looked up information on the silos, which loom over the park, surround by fencing and warning to ‘beware: falling concrete.’ Apparently, they are a heritage site! No one can pull them down, no one can keep them up! Built in 1928, they are unique in being constructed of concrete, so that they last (!!!) – they’ve been derelict for 20 years. Here’s a link to a group that trespass to take pictures: http://www.uerev.com/index.php?pid=maltplant . Amazing. Some actor from Game of Thrones complained that tearing down quirky buildings in New York City would turn it into Toronto – hmmm.