ERA Architects

Parkdale’s coat of arms — for 10 years

The 1998 creation of the “megacity”, a merger of all of metro Toronto’s cities and boroughs, was the last in a long line of annexations. Places like Forest Hill, Swansea and Parkdale were once independent towns with their own municipal buildings and councils.

I was perusing the book Parkdale In Pictures: Its Development To 1889 by Margaret Laycock and Barbara Myrvold and published by the Toronto Public Library, when I stumbled across the former town’s coat of arms (Parkdale existed only as an incorporated village/town for 10 years from 1879 to 1889). Unlike Toronto’s or other Canadian coat of arms — which usually depict beavers, bears, lions, griffins, etc — the Parkdale version was much more humble and personal (shown above).

The town seal reflected the occupations of the first elected members of the village council. It was made up of five representatives: one reeve and four councillors for each of the wards (St. Vincent’s, St. Martin’s, St. Mark’s, and St. Alban’s). John Gray Jr., elected as Parkdale’s first reeve, was a nurseryman, so he was represented by the maple tree near the top; the scales of justice symbolized the barrister James B. Davis; a book for bookseller Charles Frankish; a bull’s head for butcher Joseph Norwich; and a quill for the local bookkeeper Udney A. Walker.

And just like the massive opposition to the 1998 megacity creation, the annexation of Parkdale created a lot of debate. After the votes were cast on October 27, 1888, the pro-annexationists won. Laycock and Myrvold described the the hours and days that followed: “A victory parade of about 100 annexationists carrying torches or lit brooms was led by the Toronto Bold and Iron Works band. The public arguments continued for days while accusations of cheating spread… Ex-Reeve Hugh McMath even launched an unsuccessful lawsuit to quash the vote….” An editorial cartoon in the local paper The Grip captured the mood of residents (see larger version).