Contributed By Andre Bermon. History is everywhere. It often lingers in places we least expect. The John Innes Community Recreation Centre located in the downtown neighbourhood of Moss Park is one such place where the past yearns to tell its story.
Built in 1951 and dedicated to John Innes, the late Toronto politician, the building was commissioned by City Council to replace the former Moss Park Recreation Centre; a rundown public school from the early 1880s.
When the community centre officially opened in May 1953, it became the first purposed built community centre in Toronto. Hailed by contemporaries as one of the most modern recreation facilities in all of Canada, John Innes had an immediate impact benefiting the under privileged in neighbouring communities.
Situated on the footprint once belonging to William Allan’s Estate, one of Upper Canada’s wealthiest men, he would later christen his property as Moss Park, the name the future community would adopt.
John Innes’ physical connection to the past and the vital role the rec centre has played are two important elements contributing to the historical continuity of Moss Park. A story rich and complex but overshadowed by decades of urban decline.
The redevelopment of the John Innes Centre, now in the early stages of redesign, is an ideal opportunity to begin a positive narrative in an area long beset by social ills. With a visual display highlighting Moss Park’s diverse past, heritage can be the tool that builds social cohesion and binds this neighbourhood together. An important step to anchor a community now in the crosshairs of condo development.
Much like the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, Moss Park, along with Corktown and the Distillery district form the core of old Toronto. The area’s unique character has become an integral part of the ensuing urban landscape, and therefore, has earned a place among the historic landmarks of the city.
To learn more about the history of Moss Park – Join me on a short walking tour of the neighbourhood on June 16th as part of the King-Parliament Secondary Plan Pop-up program. To register for the tour and other great events please checkout www.toronto.ca/king-parliament – All are welcome!