Our project Cinema Tower, which is located at the corner of Widmer and Adelaide Streets in downtown Toronto, is scheduled for completion this summer. It’s a 43-storey tower, which is designed to compliment the nearby TIFF Bell Lightbox. Interestingly, while excavating for the Festival Tower, important historical information about the area was discovered.
Cinema Tower, Toronto.
Toronto’s first brick hospital was built in 1819 on the site of Festival Tower at King and John Streets. When the Irish Famine drove mass immigration to Toronto in 1847, many of the ailing were treated, and that same year, 892 died in this hospital. Notable to this event are the Torontonians who worked hard to help these poor people.
A satellite memorial park, related to the well-known Ireland Park memorial at Bathurst Quay, is to be designed on the Cinema Tower property from neighbourhood Section 37 funds. To achieve this, we worked closely with Daniels, Ward 20 Councilor Adam Vaughan and Mr. Robert Kearns of the Ireland Park Foundation. The park will compliment the building’s ground floor performance space, run by Artscape.
Ireland Park, Toronto.
The park will be a commemoration of those immigrants who died and survived, but more importantly, is in commemoration of those who came to the aid of the immigrants, at risk to their own lives and families. Among the Canadians who helped the Irish were Bishop Michael Power, Nurse Susan Bailey and Toronto’s Emigrant Agent Edward McElderry. Of particular note is George Robert Grassett, chief medical officer at Toronto’s Fever Sheds. According to Mr. Kearns, Grassett was “the principal Canadian medical hero, and he has been lost to history.”
The characters of this story are specific to a desperate time of Irish immigration to Canada and Toronto, but the greater story of wanting to reach in aid of others, regardless of perils to one’s own life, reaches across all cultures. From a grassroots community activism, to the S.A.R.S pandemic, the realization of such genuine goodwill is central to our Toronto identity. It is our hope that, as Mr. Kearns says, the park will act as “an extension of the commemoration…the park should represent acknowledgement and gratitude towards those who gave up their lives helping diseased immigrants.”
The park’s design will be won through a competition process and a new sculpture will be commissioned. “The park and sculpture together will tell the story of an amazing transformation and will commemorate the surviving immigrants’ emergence into the community,” says Councilor Adam Vaughan. “It’s about celebrating a part of the city that gave these people life.”
While the park has an entirely new context, set between Cinema Tower and the street, it should nonetheless “be a thoughtful space, with perhaps light and water elements,” says Mr. Kearns. There are longer term plans to expand the reach of the Ireland Park Foundation beyond the two parks, but those remain under discussion and will be unveiled in the future.