Patch of green to honour those who helped Irish immigrants

Downtown Toronto's condo zone will soon get a little greener, thanks to a unique partnership between the city and the government of Ireland.

Small park, big tribute

8 years ago
Duration 1:59
The city will add a bit of green space in the form of a new park to commemorate those who helped Irish immigrants in 1847.

Toronto's downtown condo zone will soon get a little greener with a new park to be erected in the memory of those who helped Irish immigrants who'd fled the deadly famine in the mid nineteenth century,

The new park is coming to a small patch of pavement in front of a 47-storey condo at the corner of Adelaide and Widmer Streets.

But this is more than a piece of new green space. The park will be named in honour of Dr. George Robert Grasett who in 1847, was the chief medical officer at Toronto's Emigrant Hospital, which was located near the site of the new park.

Dr. Grasett died of typhus while treating recently-landed Irish migrants who had fled the Great Famine in their homeland. The park will also dedicated to his colleagues Susan Bailey and Edward McElderry who also worked to treat the sick.

In the summer of 1847 some 38,000 migrants passed through Toronto, a city of only 20,000 at the time. By the end of the year more than 1,100 had died of typhus, many in the fever sheds constructed by the Toronto Board of Health at the northwest corner of King and John Streets.

The new park will compliment Ireland Memorial Park at Bathurst Quay near the waterfront. Sculptures there depict the first Irish migrants arriving in Toronto.

"Public health finds its roots right on the land we stand on today," said Trinity-Spadina MP Adam Vaughan on Friday."It's one of those stories about Toronto that you didn't know and the minute you hear it, you can't forget it."

A contest is currently underway to determine the park's design.

Coun. Joe Cressy is one of the judges.

"It's going to be an interesting balance between the new and the old world," he told CBC News.

Cressy is hoping to see construction get underway in the next few months. He'd like to see the new park be open by the spring of next year.

The city will contribute $600,000 to the project, while $150,000 will come from the Irish government.

With files from CBC's Charlsie Agro