In terms of local celebrity, many of the first residents and land owners of Parkdale could possibly be listed as “famous people”. An individual from that era who stands out is Walter O’Hara: born in Ireland around 1789 , O’Hara was a soldier and served in the Peninsular war. He came to Canada in 1826, and was the assistant adjutant general to the Upper Canada militia with the rank of colonel from 1827 to 1846. Including O’Hara Street, there are no less than seven streets in Parkdale that are named after, or in relationship to, Walter. These include Marion Street (named after his wife), and Roncesvalles, which was named for a battle in Spain in 1813 in which he fought. Oh, and if you like finding historical plaques, let’s not forget the tiny O’Hara garden located northwest corner of Queen Street West and O’Hara.
Another notable past resident is Anderson Ruffin Abbot, born in Toronto on the 7th of April in 1837, he was a physician, educator, journalist, and civilian surgeon in the American Civil War. Abbot graduated from the Toronto School of Medicine in 1857, and would become the “first Canadian-born black doctor in 1861, when he received a license to practice from the Medical Board of Upper Canada” (Owen Thomas 1998). Additionally, he was also apparently “Among the select group who stood vigil over the dying President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865” and “was later presented by Mary Todd Lincoln with a shawl her husband had worn to his first inauguration” (Owen Thomas 1998). Abbot lived on Dowling Avenue from 1890 onward, and today there is a coffee shop which bears his name at the corner of King and Spencer Avenue.
In more recent history, an other notable Parkdale resident has been Gus Ryder. Gus was the swim coach of Marilyn Bell, the swimmer who, in 1953, became famous for being the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. These and other coaching achievements would lead to Gus being inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as a coach in 1981. Ever the sportsman, Gus was awarded the Gold medal for Handball in the 70-80 year age bracket in the Senoirs Olympics in Los Angeles. Additionally, in 1975 he was named to the Order of Canada, primarily for his work training children with physical disabilities.
Who would you consider a local celebrity in your neighbourhood?
Culliford, C. (2011). Gus Ryder. The Parkdale News. Retrieved July 22, 2013, from http://parkdalenews.com/issues/pn15/index.html
McLeod, Peter and McNeil, Malcolm, eds. (1978) Parkdale: A Centennial History. Toronto: Parkdale Centennial Research
Owen Thomas, “ABBOTT, ANDERSON RUFFIN,” in EN:UNDEF, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/abbott_anderson_ruffin_14E.html
Laycock, M., & Myrvold, B. (1991). Parkdale in pictures: its development to 1889. Toronto: Toronto Public Library Board.