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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Help keep Berczy Park beautiful!

30 Jul

Toronto Free Walking Tours team beautified Berczy on July 22nd.

Want to keep Berczy Park beautiful? Stop by our Berczy Park Clean-up event this Saturday August 5, 10am-noon, and spend a bit of time helping us tidy up the park.  You’ll be amazed what a difference we can make in 30 minutes, an hour, or so!

What to bring? Just bring yourself, but please email us your RSVP if you are likely coming, so we can bring enough supplies, at berczypark@gmail.com . *If you can, do bring some clean-up gloves, a broom, dustpan or garden trowel, and remember any personal care items you might need, like sunblock or water.

IMG_3636This event is inspired by the folks at Toronto Free Walking Tours, who led the first successful clean-up event on July 22nd, when they saw that our new park could use a bit of TLC. Now, Friends of Berczy Park and Toronto Free Walking Tours are working together to host these community clean-ups as needed, to help keep Berczy beautiful.

Can’t make it this time? No problem, but help us help beautify Berczy whenever you can. For example, each time you visit Berczy, pick up one piece of litter, or report poor park conditions to 3-11. Thanks!

You asked … about skateboarders

18 Jul

a-skateboarder-jumpingA community member asks, “I’ve heard that damage has been done to Berczy Park by skateboarders. What is being done to resolve this problem?”

We answer: There have been incidents in which a few skateboarders have aggressively jumped and ‘grinded’ across various park features, causing visible damage. Park visitors also witnessed boarders jumping off the new cast metal dog sculptures, causing damage. These boarders refused to stop when challenged by members of the public. Although most boarders have stopped their actions when challenged by park–users, a small group of boards have behaved defiantly and with apparent intention to cause damage. Fortunately, there have not been reports of this activity in recent weeks.

What is being done?

  • The City has installed ‘no skateboarding’ by-law signage in the park and added various protective ‘skatestoppers’, ‘knobs’ and guards on park stages and the fountain edge to discourage skateboarding.
  • More preventative skatestoppers have been ordered, including ‘speed bumps’ to protect the dog sculptures located outside the fountain rim.
  • The Police and City By-law enforcement officers have been asked to patrol the park more frequently to prevent harmful behaviour by any park visitor, including persons who litter, don’t poop & scoop or leash their dogs, and skateboarders.
  • And, the City will repair the damage done to the dog sculptures and other park features.

New anti-skateboarding ‘knobs’ added to Berczy platforms.

Naturally, these measures won’t completely eliminate the issue, since skateboarders will continue to ‘discover’ the park and, as mentioned, a few aggressive boarders may ignore the rules from time to time.

So, what can you do?

  1. If you see skateboarders, first, observe their behaviour. Don’t over-react if they are not actually causing damage or interfering with others’ use of the park.
  2. If you do see them doing harm or impacting others, you may try speaking politely with them. Explain how their actions are harmful and ask them to stop. Most boarders will honour your request.
  3. If they won’t respect your request, you should call the 51 Division Police Non-emergency number (416-808-2222) to report the activity and ask for officers to be dispatched. You may take smartphone photos of the boarders from a safe distance, to discourage their action or to serve as evidence for the police. Do not escalate the situation or put yourself in harm’s way.
  4. 10950667_834855399885956_6523870176803578015_nAnd, help develop longer-term solutions: Keep in mind that part of the problem is a lack of approved areas for skateboarders to practice their sport in the City. If skateboarders have appealing, authorized places to gather, they will be less likely to appear in our park. For this reason, Friends of Berczy Park has been in discussion with the Toronto Skateboarding Committee, (on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/torontoskateboarding/) a 13418960_1103847939653366_8528812750073098110_ngroup that is working with various City councillors and Parks’ Dept officials to find solutions, including the creation of dedicated skate parks, improvements to current ones, or the addition of appropriate skateboard features in existing public spaces. We believe it is important to work constructively to find solutions for everyone, including skateboarders, rather than attempting to simply banish a group from the park. Read the Toronto Skateboarding Committee materials and write/email to your City councillor to urge them to focus on developing positive solutions to this issue.

In memory of Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell

7 Jul

Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell admiring the Berczy fountain on June 28, 2017.

Friends of Berczy Park extends our deepest condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and dedicated staff of Deputy Mayor and City Councillor for Ward 28 Pam McConnell who worked tirelessly to drive the revitalization of Berczy Park.

We understand that the grand re-opening of Berczy Park on June 28th was her last public event and she was determined to leave the hospital to attend the ceremony.

Thanks Pam for helping bring our beautiful new park to life for the community!

Below is text from City Manager Peter Wallace on Pam’s passing: “With sadness, I must inform you that Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell passed away earlier today at the age of 71. Deputy Mayor McConnell served downtown residents for several decades. She was a school teacher before becoming a school trustee in 1982. In 1994, she became a City councillor and spent countless hours working with residents and groups to build healthy communities for all Torontonians. This present term marked Deputy Mayor McConnell’s seventh at Council. She served as Deputy Mayor, South and was selected by Mayor Tory in 2015 as the champion of the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. She also served as a member of the Government Management Committee, the Affordable Housing Committee, and the Toronto and East York Community Council as well as several other boards, committees and Business Improvement Areas. Flags at City Hall, Metro Hall and the Toronto civic centres will be lowered to half-mast. They will remain lowered until the end of the day of her funeral. Books of condolence will be available at Toronto City Hall beginning tomorrow for staff and members of the public to express their condolences. An online book of condolence will also be available at http://cityoftorontocondolences.ca beginning tomorrow. Funeral service arrangements will be forthcoming.”

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