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October 4, 2004
City begins archaeological investigation to revitalize one of Toronto's most significant open spaces
On October 5 and 6, the City of Toronto will undertake a preliminary
archeological investigation of Victoria Memorial Square, the first step in
developing a rehabilitation plan for one of the city's oldest and most
historically significant parks.

Victoria Memorial Square, Toronto's first European cemetery, opened in 1794 as
the original Fort York garrison burying grounds. The last burial in Victoria
Memorial Square occurred in 1863 and since the 1880s, the site has been
maintained by the City of Toronto as a public park. The archeological
investigations are intended to identify the boundaries of the cemetery area.

The residential intensification in the communities surrounding Victoria
Memorial Square is increasing demands on the two-acre site, located at Portland
and Wellington Streets. In collaboration with the Wellington Place
Neighbourhood Association and other stakeholders, the City of Toronto has
retained a multi-disciplinary consultant team to develop the rehabilitation
plan. The team is being led by ENVision - The Hough Group and includes E.R.A.
Architects Inc., and Archaeological Services Inc.

This plan will assist the City to identify a sensitive approach to
incorporating typical park elements such as lighting, furnishings and walkways,
an interpretative program, and initiating a fundraising campaign to help
undertake various components of the plan. The archeological investigation will
be completed prior to any detailed design work being undertaken.

Remote sensing and below-surface investigations will be used in the
archeological investigations and will be limited to a closely defined area of
the park. The remote sensing will involve the use of a resistivity meter.
Resistivity operates on the principle that soil and rocks conduct electricity
so by introducing an electrical charge into the ground, the resulting current
can reveal anomalies. The location and depth of most of these anomalies will
identify graves, which will then be confirmed by below-surface archeological
investigations. At no time will human remains be disturbed.

The 18 grave markers that surrounded the park's 1812 memorial have recently
been removed. Although original to Victoria Square, these markers were not in
their original location and are not part of the original monument. Placement in
concrete and the horizontal positioning had accelerated the erosion of the
stone. The grave markers were carefully removed and will be cleaned and safely
stored until they can be re-installed appropriately within the park.

In 1990, Victoria Memorial Square was included on the Inventory of Heritage
Properties by the City of Toronto. In 2003, the National Historic Sites Board
of Canada recognized it as part of the Fort York National Historic Site.

Media contacts:
David O'Hara, Economic Development, Culture and Tourism, Policy and Development
Division, 416-392-8874 (
Susan Hughes, Culture Division, 416-338-1096 (



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