This park is now located on the east side of Yonge Street, a bit south of Lawrence Ave. Originally, in 1933, it was established on the west side of Yonge Street across from Mount Pleasant Cemetery, to mark the Toronto centennial celebrations. In 1951, to make way for the Yonge Street subway, the Toronto Transportation Commission paid over $100,000 to move the gardens, including the stone walls and plants, north to Lawrence Park. The new gardens were dedicated at their present location on May 28, 1952.
“The Maple Leaf Forever,” composed by Alexander Muir was considered Canada’s unofficial National Anthem by past generations. It received second prize in a patriotic song competition sponsored by Montreal’s Caledonian Society in 1867. He wrote it while teaching at Leslieville, Toronto. Some say that he got the idea when a maple leaf fell on the coat of George Leslie, a nurseryman with whom he discussed the competition. He did not any received royalties as he did not copyright this song.
Muir was born in Lesmahagow, Scotland in 1830 and moved to Canada as a child. After obtaining a B.A. from Queen’s in 1851, he taught school mostly in the Toronto area. He died on June 26, 1906, while principal of Gladstone Avenue Public School, Toronto. The next morning his students came to school wearing maple leaves. In 1925 the name of the school was changed to Alexander Muir School. Muir is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
Appropriately, the maple leaf appears throughout Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens in various decorative and natural forms. At the Yonge Street entrance there is a commemorative plaque topped with a multicoloured maple leaf. Another plaque, located in the stone walls of the terrace, is inscribed with the refrain of The Maple Leaf Forever. When opened in 1952, the seven largest trees in the new park were maples.
For more about Alexander Muir and Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens, see “Historical Walking Tour of Lawrence Park” by Lynda Moon, Barbara Myrvold and Elizabeth Ridler Published by Toronto Public Library in cooperation with North Toronto Historical Society 1994 & ‘95.