of Interest > Riverdale Park
Park opened as a site for public recreation spanning both sides of the
Don River in 1880. The land on the east side of the Don River had once
been part of John Scadding's holdings, which ran from the waterfront to
Danforth Avenue between the Don River and today's Broadview Avenue.
Journalist and publisher John Ross Robertson described the Scadding
farm as it was in the late 1820s or 30s:
"Around the homestead fields of... wheat, rye, barley, oats and maize
were seen; and orchards containing a great variety of the finest kinds
of apple and other fruits.... Asparagus beds and celery trenches were
laid out; hemp was grown, and melons of all kinds.... In the flower
garden bloomed most of the ordinary English flowers, especially roses
of several species.... The [river] flats were converted into meadows,
where sheep were to be seen, and all the usual domestic animals; and in
convenient nooks here and there, stacks of hay."
Skaters on the Don near
Riverdale Park. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 461
Scadding's log cabin, built in 1840 on the east side of the Don, just
south of the present day park, was relocated to the Canadian National
Exhibition grounds in 1879.
In 1856 the City of Toronto purchased 120 acres of the Scadding farm in
order to construct a jail and an industrial farm on the site. The Don
Jail, constructed on the east side of the river, opened in 1864.
Riverdale Park opened on the same site in 1880, and ten years later the
jail property was separated out from the park lands. The park was later
expanded to its current area of 162 acres. The Riverdale Zoo, Toronto's
first, opened within the park grounds in 1894 after several years of
lobbying by Toronto alderman Daniel Lamb.
If you walk along the eastern perimeter of the park near Broadview
Avenue, you'll notice a row of tall green exhaust pipes. These pipes
are used to vent methane gas from a landfill site beneath the park last
used in the 1920s.
looking west, May 2006 Photo: Jennifer Bonnell
In the early 1960s construction of the Don Valley Parkway bisected the
park and reduced its area reduced to 104 acres. Shortly afterwards, the
City parks department announced an ambitious park improvement plan that
greatly enhanced the sports facilities at the park. In 1974, the
Riverdale Zoo closed its doors, and its animals were moved to the new
Toronto Zoo in Scarborough. Riverdale Farm opened in 1978 as a historic
site and education centre.
Text: Jennifer Bonnell