The Vessel by Ilan Sandler
One of the many pleasures of living at 50 Prince Arthur is having Taddle Creek Park in our backyard. Those of us living in the apartments on the north side can enjoy the daily sight of people hurrying to the subway early in the morning (and returning later in the day), children happily running around the playground, dutiful pet owners walking their dogs, and others simply relaxing on the benches or grass at all hours. It is a special place in this busy section of our city.
The park is named after Taddle Creek, a stream that flowed a southeasterly course about six kilometres long, from the present site of Wychwood Park, thorough the University of Toronto, and into the Toronto Harbour near the Distillery District. During the 19th century, it was buried and converted into an underground sewer. The footpath known as Philosopher’s Walk follows the ravine created by the creek from the Royal Ontario Museum to Trinity College. The University of Toronto sections of the stream were buried in 1886, marking the final disappearance of Taddle Creek.
Taddle Creek at the University of Toronto, ca. 1876.
Professor Frederick Banting of the University of Toronto won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1923 for co-developing insulin. He then built a house at 46 Bedford Road, at the southwest corner of Bedford and Lowther. (Banting died in 1941.)
In 1962, Ted Lempicki founded a construction company and began buying up homes along Prince Arthur, Bedford and Lowther with a plan to build apartment houses. Banting’s house was demolished in the process of clearing the land acquired.
Frederick Banting’s house at 46 Bedford Road.
At that time, it was hard to get approval for dense high-rise development in the Annex. To encourage city support, Lempicki offered to donate a half-acre for a public park, complete with playground equipment. In exchange, he wanted approval to build two 23-story apartment houses.
The deal didn’t go through. In the end, a single 19-storey building was constructed at 50 Prince Arthur, with lots of space around it. But the idea of a park stuck and, in 1973, Annex residents began urging the city to buy the land. In 1976, the land became city property and Taddle Creek Park opened two years later.
The park became a vital part of the neighbourhood. Its diagonal pathway served as a shortcut to the subway from Admiral Road and the apartment buildings of St. George Street. Its playground got lots of use. And area residents took pleasure in a green space in the heart of the city.
After decades of hard use, the park looked a bit threadbare. Reconstruction began in November 2010 after years of community lobbying for improvement.
In July 2011, Taddle Creek Park reopened. Its new centrepiece is a sculpture by Ilan Sandler called The Vessel. It consists of stainless steel rods that have been welded into the shape of a 5.7-metre-high jug. Water is pumped up to the rim where it is released to splash down the rods. According to Sandler, the four kilometres of tubing used reflect approximately the distance that Taddle Creek once flowed from this spot in the Annex to Lake Ontario.