Thursday, May 28, 2009
St. Matthew's on the Move
St. Matthew's Lawn Bowling Club
One of the fixtures on Gerrard Street East next to the Don River will soon be no more. The St. Matthew's Lawn Bowling Club is slated to be moved to a new location just around the corner on Broadview Avenue. The move is part of the expansion plans of Bridgepoint Health which was renamed from the old Riverdale Hospital. Bridgepoint wants to build an underground garage where the club building sits now so rather than just demolish it, they decided to move it.
Building has been placed on platform of girders in preparation for move.
The lawn bowling club is a rather non-descript cottage-like building yet it turns out to have a rather storied past. Built in 1906, it is an example of the early 20th century architecture found in the Riverdale neighbourhood. The club lasted for 100 years but with the decline in interest of lawn bowling as a sport the club closed its doors in 2007.
Previously, the place where the building resides was used as a "House of Refuge". In the 19th century it was established as a place for poor and indigent people to receive medical treatment. They paid for their treatment with work. In 1870, a smallpox epidemic hit Toronto and the House of Refuge became a hospital to care for the sick. Over the next 130 years the place transitioned into the old Riverdale Hospital.
Riverdale Hospital got caught up in a binge of hospital restructuring in the 1990s. The result was Bridgepoint Health but that's another story. The real story is what occurred in our past which was rediscovered due to the relocation project. Since the club building was designated as an historic site the move required an archaeological review. The review revealed not only the archival history of the House of Refuge but also physical evidence on site in the form of pottery shards, bits of glass and other discarded objects.
Route to be taken to relocate the building
The relocation itself which is scheduled to happen this weekend, will see the building moved north through an existing parking lot, over a retaining wall and through Riverdale Park to its final resting place next to the southern park entrance on Broadview Avenue. The move necessitated the removal of 11 trees, mostly non-native Austrian Pine and Norway Maple. Once the move is finished these trees will be replaced by higher quality native species such as Red Oak, Silver Maple, and Trembling Aspen.
View of Riverdale Park East, looking north along the relocation path.
I don't have any information on what's happening with the building after the move but it would be nice to have it restored and turned into a local museum which could then showcase some of the history of the Riverdale's past. You can find more information about the project on the city's website.
Informational sign about project including picture of what the new location will look like.