Archive | August, 2017

A bit of Berczy history: Who was ‘Berczy’?

15 Aug
Scannable Document on Aug 15, 2017, 9_53_36 AM

Self-portrait of William Moll Berczy, co-founder of Toronto.

Members at the Historical Society of Mecklenburg Upper Canada recently pointed out that the new Berczy Park currently does not provide much explanation of the park’s namesake, William Moll Berczy, other than the Berczy Family Sculpture plaque in the southeast quadrant of the park.

Drawing upon materials kindly provided by this Society, we offer a few highlights from their 1976 illustrated booklet, German Pioneers of Toronto and Markham Township: The Story of William Moll Berczy.  The booklet covers many intriguing elements of Berczy’s life. Among the details provided:

  • Berczy was baptized as ‘Johann Albrecht Ulrich Moll’ on Dec 10, 1744 in Wallerstein Germany.
  • In early adulthood, he served a diplomatic post in Poland during the Russian invasion in 1764.  During his wartime exploits, the Hungarian leader of a militia troop nicknamed him “Berczy”.
  • Later, after studying at the Academy of Arts in Vienna, he travelled Europe as  a diplomat and worked as a painter in Italy and England in the late 1700s.
  • One of his English arts patrons encouraged him to lead a group of German immigrants to New York State in America. He adopted the surname ‘Berczy’ for his family for this next stage in his life.
  • Under Berczy’s lead, the group of farmers and craftsmen eventually settled in Upper Canada in 1794.
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    Upper Canada Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe and Willam Berczy discuss the development of York (Toronto)

    Berczy met Upper Canada Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, who persuaded Berczy to settle his Germans on a 64,000 acre site in the newly founded town of York (Toronto). As part of the agreement, the German immigrants would construct a road (Yonge Street) from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe.

  • Upon completing the gruelling road-building project in late 1794, the group of 186 German men, women and children established the Markham Township, with farms, a saw and grist mill, school, etc. Berczy also explored the Rouge River as an faster, navigable route to Lake Ontario.
  • Unfortunately, in 1797, the Government of Upper Canada cancelled its land grants with the German settlers, leaving them in despair, and Berczy in bankruptcy.
  • Berczy travelled to England in 1799 to appeal the decision before the British Government. Although a British Committee decided in his favour in 1801, the ruling was not confirmed by the Executive Council of Upper Canada.
  • Back in Upper Canada, Berczy worked as an architect for the Town of York, consulting on the St. James Church and a Don River Bridge.
  • Joseph_Brant_by_William_Berczy_c.1807

    William Berczy painted this portrait of Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, circa 1807.

    After settling with his creditors, Berczy relocated to Montreal and worked as a portrait painter. Several of his works are today part of the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

  • In 1812, Berczy departed for England, to  re-open his York land claim case. It is believed he died en-route to London, in New York, under mysterious circumstances on Feb 5, 1813, and is buried in the Trinity Cemetery near Wall Street.


A bit of Berczy history: Remembering H. Stephen Went

14 Aug

IMG_3832With the redesign of our new Berczy Park, some people commented on their love for the pre-renovation park, with its simple fountain and geometric arrangement of trees and gardens. Although Berczy was in much need of a renovation, due to maintenance issues, dying trees and changing community demands upon this public space, those comments from loyal Berczy fans are a nice tribute to H. Stephen Went, (1952-1989).

Went was a local landscape architect, artist and horticulturalist who designed the original Berczy Park, opened in 1980, as well as other popular Toronto spots, including St James Park and the courtyard at the


Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion at Lakeshore and Parkside Drive

Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, completed in 1984.

A subtle plaque at Sunnyside Pavilion recently reminded us of Went’s role in Berczy, and his contribution to beloved green spaces in the City.


H. Stephen Went designed the delicate fountain and garden at Sunnyside Pavilion in 1984, which is reminiscent of the original Berczy Park, opened in 1980.




Berczy Park Tree Tour – Adopt-a-Tree event

7 Aug

Join our LEAF Young Urban Foresters for a Tree Tour of Berczy Park.

Friends of Berczy Park invites you to join LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) for a Tree Tour of Berczy Park on Sunday August 27 from 2pm-3:30pm.

LEAF’s enthusiastic Young Urban Forest Leaders will conduct a guided tour of the Berczy trees, including our recently-planted tulip trees, oaks, elms and magnolias, as well as gracious mature species including ginkgo, katsura and amur cork.  Learn about the stresses park trees face, the proper care that will ensure these trees thrive and even some of the wildlife that depends on these trees like bees and birds.

This event will include an orientation session for anyone who previously registered for the Friends of Berczy Park Adopt-a-Tree program (Scroll down to see our June 28, 2017 blog post for details).

If you expect to attend, kindly register for this event with LEAF so we have a sense of attendance. Then, meet by the Berczy Park fountain on Aug 27 at 2pm sharp to begin the tour.

Keep in mind that this event will involve walking through the park on paved walkways and unpaved, grassy surfaces. Please contact us if you have any accessibility concerns. And, as part of our park stewardship philosophy, we’ll encourage tour participants to “pick up a bit of  litter as we go.” We’ll have gloves and hand sanitizer available.

This event is generously supported by the City of Toronto and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

2017 - Berczy Park Tree Tour - August 27

The Berczy beautification blitz!

5 Aug

fullsizeoutput_1ba1Kudos to the dozen volunteers who defied cloudy morning skies on Saturday August 5th to join the Berczy Park Clean-up event, led by Toronto Free Walking Tours and Friends of Berczy Park.

The eager volunteers – and three less-than-enthusiastic dogs – spent two hours collecting  litter, sweeping cigarette butts, weeding the garden beds and tree pits, and documenting repair and maintenance issues for the City Parks Dept to address in the coming weeks. Thank  you volunteers!

Want to help next time? To hear about the next clean-up event, “Follow” this blog, start “following” our Facebook page , or follow us on twitter @FriendsofBerczy.

Want to help everyday? Please pick up one piece of litter each time you visit Berczy Park. And, report unsanitary park conditions by calling 3-11.

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