Points of Interest > The Toronto Necropolis

The city’s second non-sectarian cemetery (the first being Potter’s Field on the northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets), the Necropolis was established on the west slope of the Don Valley south of Castle Frank Brook in 1850. At the time the area surrounding the site was largely undeveloped: only a few houses existed on the west side of the river north of Queen Street, and John Scadding’s farm occupied the east bank of the river between Danforth Avenue and Queen. In 1855 the Toronto General Burying Grounds bought the cemetery and relocated the remains of 984 of people interred in Potter's Field to a special section of the Necropolis called “The Resting Place of Pioneers.” Other remains were moved to Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Toronto Necropolis Chapel. Photo: Jennifer Bonnell, May 2006.

Derived from the Greek “city of the dead,” the Necropolis houses many of the city’s most prominent early residents, including the city’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie, journalist George Brown, founder of what is now The Globe and Mail, and John Ross Robertson, founder of The Toronto Telegram. Also buried here are Anderson Ruffin Abbot, the first Canadian-born black surgeon, and world-champion rower Ned Hanlan.

The chapel at the entrance to the cemetery, erected in 1872, was designed by Henry Langley (an architect known for his Gothic Revival churches and Second Empire houses, banks and public buildings). It and the entranceway and office building are particularly fine examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture. Within the chapel are several beautiful examples of stained-glass windows. In 1933, the Toronto Crematorium—the first in the Province—was established at the Necropolis. The site is currently the oldest of the ten properties owned and operated by Commemorative Services of Ontario.

Text: Lost Rivers and Jennifer Bonnell


Bell, Bruce and Elan Penn. Toronto: A Pictorial Celebration. Toronto: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2006. http://books.google.ca/books?id=PgsNqk4MFj4C, accessed 4 May 2009.

Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries: Toronto Necropolis, accessed 4 May 2009.


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