Riverdale Farm 40th Anniversary and Events

In 1978, the Riverdale Zoo (Toronto Zoo) completed its transition to the Riverdale Farm and opened its doors to the public. The City of Toronto, along with members of the community, believed that having it in the heart of the city would give Torontonians an opportunity to experience farm life.

Riverdale Farm Opening
September, 1978 – “Riverdale Farm used to be the Toronto zoo. Now it’s a city park where urban kids — like Jamie Chavel; 6; getting a boost from farmer George Nagy — can look at more domestic animals; and get a taste of life when Ontario was predominately rural. It opens Saturday at 4 p.m. with festivities and free entertainment. Hours will be 10 a.m. to dusk” – Photo Darrell, Dick

The grounds were repurposed for farm life and accompanying buildings were added over the years that would provide program rooms, a pottery studio and much-needed additional washroom facilities. The grounds would also now host a variety of programming and events like summer camps, the Little Farmer program, pottery classes, painting, felting, spinning, baking and cooking workshops.

Much of the original buildings remained in tact as well. The Residence (which housed zookeepers and a medical office) Donnybrook, Island House, as well as the bridge to the lower pond, and the stone wall along the middle roadway of the property are still present today.

When the farm opened, several domesticated animals were present with Riverdale Farm and the community wishing to preserve heritage breeds that were becoming rare with commercial farm production, breeds that were more representative of those that were recorded on the Ontario Stock records circa 1920.

Here are some images that I took in 2016.

Riverdale Farm Photo Competition
2016 – Photo by Joel Levy
Riverdale Farm - 2016 - Photo by Joel Levy
2016 – Photo by Joel Levy
Riverdale Farm - 2016 - Photo by Joel Levy
2016 – Photo by Joel Levy
Riverdale Farm - 2016 - Photo by Joel Levy
2016 – Photo by Joel Levy
Riverdale Farm - 2016 - Photo by Joel Levy
The Meeting House was completed in 1993. It is a three-storey building with program rooms, a pottery studio and additional washroom facilities.
Riverdale Farm - 2016 - Photo by Joel Levy
Old Cage – 2016 – Photo by Joel Levy
Riverdale Farm - 2016 - Photo by Joel Levy
Bars of old cage – 2016 – Photo by Joel Levy
Riverdale Farm - 2016 - Photo by Joel Levy
2016 – Photo by Joel Levy
Riverdale Farm - 2016 - Photo by Joel Levy
The Residence. One of the original buildings on the property – 2016 – Photo by Joel Levy
Riverdale Farm - 2016 - Photo by Joel Levy
Photo by Joel Levy

Events for Riverdale Farm’s 40th Anniversary

Blair’s Run – this annual 2KM Cabbagetown run and walk supported Riverdale Farm with its proceeds this year, totaling over $17,300. Proceeds are being matched up to $30,000 by Burnbrae Farms to support enhancements to the Farm’s buildings and programming in the years to come.

40th Anniversary Fundraiser Barn BBQ – Will take place on September 28 at the Farm, 6:30-9:30pm. Tickets are $40 and proceeds will support educational programming at the Farm in the months to come. Visitors can expect local food, music and drinks amongst neighbours and friends.

40th Anniversary Farm Open House – September 29, 10am-4pm. This event is free (admission to the Farm always is.) Visitors to the Farm can expect free face painting, along with workshops and demonstrations by The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Harrowsmith Magazine and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

The Riverdale Farm Stewardship Group recently designed and launched a new website for the Farm, www.RiverdaleFarmToronto.ca with the help of Meridian Credit Union’s Cabbagetown Branch and JAW Advertising, a milestone for the group and a way for the public to quickly access information about this unique property.

The Riverdale Farm Stewardship Group works with the Toronto Parks and Trees foundation in collecting and raising funds for capital improvements to the Farm, and provided significant funding towards the renovation of Simpson House, the building at the Farm’s front gates. This is done in part through online donations, events, and from coin boxes located on the Farm property.

The Farm also hosts Boo Barn, which includes pumpkin carving ($5 per) and other seasonal activities for visitors towards the end of October (October 20-21 this year).

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Here are some photos from the original zoo. (1912 – 1931)

1912 - July 13 - Riverdale Zoo
1912 – July 13 – Riverdale Zoo
1913 - September 25 - Riverdale Zoo, elephant
1913 – September 25 – Riverdale Zoo, elephant
1913 - September 25 - Riverdale Zoo, monkeys
1913 – September 25 – Riverdale Zoo, monkeys
1914 - January 22 - Riverdale Zoo — Lynx
1914 – January 22 – Riverdale Zoo — Lynx
1914 - January 22 - Riverdale Zoo Seals
1914 – January 22 – Riverdale Zoo Seals
1919 - Yaks at Riverdale Zoo
1919 – Yaks at Riverdale Zoo
1922 - Riverdale Zoo, elephant
1922 – Riverdale Zoo, elephant
1925 - July 5 - Riverdale zoo, lion
1925 – July 5 – Riverdale zoo, lion
1925 - May 29 - Riverdale Zoo
1925 – May 29 – Riverdale Zoo
1926 - July 14 - Riverdale Zoo - Polar bears
1926 – July 14 – Riverdale Zoo – Polar bears
1926 - May 7 - Riverdale Zoo, black bears boxing
1926 – May 7 – Riverdale Zoo, black bears boxing
1926 - May 26 - Polar bear cubs, Riverdale Zoo
1926 – May 26 – Polar bear cubs, Riverdale Zoo
1927 - September 20 - Riverdale Zoo, woolly monkey
1927 – September 20 – Riverdale Zoo, woolly monkey
1928 - September 17 - Riverdale Zoo, lemur with pipe
1928 – September 17 – Riverdale Zoo, lemur with pipe
1928 - September 17 - Riverdale Zoo, orangutan with mirror
1928 – September 17 – Riverdale Zoo, orangutan with mirror
1928 - September 17 - Riverdale Zoo, small monkey
1928 – September 17 – Riverdale Zoo, small monkey
1930 - September 12 - Riverdale Zoo, baboon and baby
1930 – September 12 – Riverdale Zoo, baboon and baby
1930 - September 12 - Riverdale Zoo, chimpanzee Josephine
1930 – September 12 – Riverdale Zoo, chimpanzee Josephine
1930 - September 12 - Riverdale Zoo, chimpanzee Josephine and Geordie
1930 – September 12 – Riverdale Zoo, chimpanzee Josephine and Geordie
1931 - January 28 - Riverdale Zoo, Golden Eagle
1931 – January 28 – Riverdale Zoo, Golden Eagle

 

 

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 1485 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography