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Visiting the domed Palm House, at Allan Gardens, Toronto, Ontario: by Robert McCallum, dating from 1910

Updated on January 13, 2016
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
The top of the Palm House at Allan Gardens
The top of the Palm House at Allan Gardens | Source
 Allan Gardens Conservatory Toronto Ontario 2010
Allan Gardens Conservatory Toronto Ontario 2010 | Source
Allan Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Allan Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Source
Fall Show at Allan Gardens 2009
Fall Show at Allan Gardens 2009 | Source

Named for a 19th century horticulturist mayor

A dome is nothing if not conspicuous, and since 1910 this domed structure has been among Toronto's most visible and well-known buildings. The domed building, known as the Palm House, is by Robert McCallum (1851-1916) (1). It replaced a previous structure which burned down in 1902.

Allan Gardens, as the complex is collectively known, are built on land donated to the Toronto Horticultural Society in 1857 by George William Allan (1822-1901)(2).

While the glass and metal (3) Conservatory is open year round, at certain periods of the year there are particular events such as the Fall Show.

Palm House is the most visible part of Allan Gardens, but the complex includes a Cactus House and a Tropical House contains a striking variety of orchids. Some of these divisions came about as a result of various expansions during the 20th century. In 2004 Allan Gardens acquired a significant quantity of greenhouses from the University of Toronto.

In Palm House, one of the main exhibits is a huge Screw Pine; other species in the Palm House include banana and bamboo. (An interesting thought: Toronto is known for its extensive multiculturalism; but from a natural history perspective also, the sheer variety of flora within Allan Gardens provides for a realistic, imagined worldwide journey: surely a triumph over the sometimes seasonal harshness of the Canadian climate.)

Hundreds of trees in the surrounding park are more than 100 years old; species include black oak, American beech and sugar maple.

Appropriately, the suburb of Toronto in which Allan Gardens is situated is known as the Garden District. Jarvis, Carlton (East), Sherbourne and Gerrard Streets lie adjacent to Allan Gardens. In total, the area covered by Allan Gardens is 4 hectares.

Palm House is often used as a backdrop to wedding photographs.

The building is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act; it is probably among the most prominent of the Province's structures designated under the Act.

January 13, 2016


(1) Robert McCallum served as Provincial Engineer for Ontario from 1881 until 1903. From 1903 until 1913 he served as the City Architect of Toronto; he himself was a civil engineer by training, but while City Architect many public buildings were designed by architects under his general supervision. His son Robert J. McCallum, who undertook architectural training with distinguished architect E J Lennox, predeceased him.

(2) George William Allen was among Toronto's most prominent citizens, serving variously as Mayor of Toronto, Senator and President of the Toronto Horticultural Society.

(3) Cast iron was used in the structure. Interestingly, Robert McCallum was noted for his hostility to the already emerging use of concrete, and controversially sought to prevent or hinder efforts to use the material in Toronto buildings; ironically this occurred at a period when Toronto became the home in 1910 of the Lumsden Building, once said to be the largest concrete-surfaced building in the world (see links, below).

See also:

Some sourcing: Wikipedia.

Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

Also worth seeing

In Downtown Toronto itself, visitor attractions include: the CN Tower, Old City Hall, St James's Cathedral, Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, the Ontario Legislative Assembly Building at Queen's Park, Fort York, Union Station, and many others.


How to get there: Porter Airlines, flies to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, with wide North American connections. Car rental is available at Union Station. Air Canada flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available, but visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many sights to be easily walkable. TTC Streetcar 506 passes close to Allan Gardens. For more information about Allan Gardens call: (416) 392-7288. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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