In the 1880s, active and retired soldiers began planning for a memorial to honour their predecessors who had died during the War of 1812. The site of the old military burial ground seemed to be an appropriate location for such a tribute and so fundraising efforts began. With the outbreak of war in South Africa in 1899 and the deployment of Canadian troops there, the urge to commemorate fallen soldiers became particularly strong for the veterans, who made impassioned pleas for donations.
The Toronto Guild of Civic Art, at the request of the Army and Navy Veterans' Association, sponsored a competition for the design of the memorial at Victoria Square. Well-known Toronto architect Frank Darling's winning design was showcased on 1 July 1902, during a ceremony that included laying the cornerstone of the monument, songs, speeches, and the burying of a time capsule. The unveiling of Darling's completed granite pedestal took place in November of that year, and in 1905 the name of the park officially changed to "Victoria Memorial Park."
VETERANS LAYING THE CORNERSTONE
AT VICTORIA SQUARE, 1 JULY 1902
Library and Archives Canada, PA 138519
A sculpture by future internationally famous Canadian artist Walter S. Allward completed the War of 1812 Memorial on 5 January 1907, when it was mounted on top of Darling's existing pedestal. Allward's career began in his hometown of Toronto in 1894, with the figure Peace for the North West Rebellion Monument in Queen's Park, and culminated in France with the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge.
WALTER SEYMOUR ALLWARD, 1913 (M.O. HAMMOND)
Archives of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto
Allward received two commissions for war memorials in 1903; one for Victoria Square and one for those recently killed in the Boer War. The South African War Memorial stands on University Avenue north of Queen Street, within walking distance of Victoria Memorial Square, and shows the artist's inclination toward allegorical representation and his talent for recreating the human form. For outstanding artistic contributions to his country, the Canadian government named Walter Seymour Allward a National Historic Person in 2001.
1894 (WALTER ALLWARD)
Department of National
Defence (History and Heritage),
photograph by Hellmut Shade
WAR MEMORIAL, 1910
City of Toronto,
Division, photograph by
CANADIAN WAR MEMORIAL AT VIMY RIDGE, 1925-1936
Veterans Affairs Canada
An "Old Soldier" sits on top of the monument in Victoria Square, looking out over the cemetery that contains long-dead fellow servicemen and their families. He is not a specific historical figure, but a representation of the "universal" soldier from the 1812 era. With his empty left sleeve, balding head, lined face, and sorrowful eyes, Allward's soldier does not resemble a vigorous and triumphant young warrior, but a weary and solemn veteran who can testify to the terror of war.
OLD SOLDIER, 1906 (WALTER ALLWARD)
Photograph by, and reproduced with thanks to, Lee Sandstead
Continue reading the Heart and Stone exhibit