Queen’s Park Visited
by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams
“The following is an article written after our visit to Toronto for a tour of Queen’s Park (Ontario Legislature Buildings). To truly appreciate the Queen’s Park, you need to visit them in person. Have fun!“
Winter at Queen’s Park…
We thought Christmas at Queen’s Park would make a great theme. A tour was arranged for mid-December, just before the Holiday break.
As it turned out, the date we had chosen was the last day Parliament was sitting. When traveling in the winter months we are always wary of the weather. The outlook for this travel day looked promising. The weather bureau said that there might be a few local snow flurries, but nothing major.
Our tour was scheduled for 11:00 AM, so we left at a little after 9:00 AM, plenty of time, we thought, to get there. However, the traffic “gremlins” were at work in Toronto (when aren’t they?) so we were running a little late!
We finally made it to the building, picked up our visitors’ passes and joined the tour that was just about to start. Fortunately the Queen’s Park Tour group was having a group photo taken. It takes a lot to organized 50 some odd children and teachers…
The Ontario Legislature Building is located in the heart of downtown Toronto. The building is situated in the middle of Queen’s Park.
To the south of Queen’s Park is University Avenue and some of the world’s finest hospitals. To the north is the trendy Yorkville Village with all its glittering shops and restaurants. Surrounding the Legislature Building is the University of Toronto downtown campus. If fact, the University owns the land that the Ontario Legislature Building is built on and has leased it to them for 999 years.
Construction of the building was started in 1886 and completed in 1893 at a final cost of $1,250,000. In 1909, during the construction of the north wing, the west wing caught fire and its interior was destroyed.
To learn more about the history of the Ontario Legislature Building, you can go to either of these 2 websites. (About Ontario – History of Legislative Buildings or Wikipedia – Ontario Legislature, Queen’s Park). The Ontario Legislative Building Tour, which started in the centre lobby of the complex, split into two groups. Our group started the tour in the western wing of the building.
The tour guide told us the history of the wing and about the fire that destroyed the interior. High above us in the ceiling was Ontario’s coat of arms presented in stained glass.
Scattered throughout the wing’s hallway were display cases full of Ontario’s past. From the west wing the guide took us to the east wing.
Along with more historical memorabilia display cases, there was a large framed map of Ontario plus examples of Parliamentary protocol.
One room contained a miniature Legislature Chambers. We were led into the room and asked to take seats in the mock Chamber. Judi and I sat inconspicuously in the back while the students rush around the room in a “musical chair” way, clamoring to gain the most sought after chairs.
The teachers quickly settled things down by assigning the few remaining available seats. The guide then started to ask questions about Canada and Ontario and its Parliaments.
I was both amazed and proud of how the kids quickly and enthusiastically answered all of the questions asked. It bodes well for the future of our province and our country. Once all the questions were asked and answered, the tour was over.
Through the Snow…
Once our Ontario Legislative Building Tour was over, we still had 20 minutes to go before our luncheon date with our Member of Parliament. Our tour had finished in the front lobby and when we looked out the front doors, the clear day had turned into a winter storm!
We still had our coats on so we decided to go outside to see what the Building looked like in a snow storm. I know this might sound odd, but the Ontario Legislative Building is a magnificent massive structure that commands the whole view of Queen’s Park.
I thought it would be great to look at and that it would make a wonderful photograph. I was right! Looking at the Building with the snowflakes streaming down around it was magical. Like a scene from a Walt Disney movie, the Building loomed through the haze of snow! After taking a number of photographs we tramped through the snow back to the front entrance.
Our visitor passes allowed us access to most places on the 1st and 2nd floors. We still had plenty of time before our meeting, so we decided to do some more exploring.
We had already covered most of the first floor, so we walked to the main central staircase the led to the second floor. We had to bypass the huge Christmas Tree that dominated the first level of the stairway.
Halfway up the staircase there was a hallway to the North Wing. Looking down the hallway we could see that the Legislative Library was at the end. The hall was lined with wall plaques list the names of former legislators.
Back at the staircase, we climbed to the second floor. Right across from the stairs is the Legislative Assembly Chamber. We had to be very quiet as the Assembly was in still in Session.
We wandered around the different public sections of the second floor, taking photographs were possible. Everywhere you looked the history of our province and country could be seen. (photos, paintings, lists, busts and display) Taking it all in was impossible, there was just too much to absorb!