201 Winchester St. (Parliament & Carlton)
Purchased by the city in 1856; opened as a park in 1978; 7.5 acres
Known for: Originally Toronto's first zoo
An historic working farm in old Toronto
Wondering what it was like to live on an Ontario farm in the 1800s? Riverdale farm is an actual working farm, set in an almost hidden area of old woods, many ponds, and steams connected to the city's rich ravine system. Where else in the city can you see a horse being groomed, cows in the pasture, a goat being milked, or chickens laying eggs?
There are over 3 km of trails through the park, the Francey Barn that houses horses, cows, goats and sheep, the pig and poultry barn, duck pond, and various historic buildings on the site.
The farm was originally owned by John Scadding, who was a settler in the town of York and worked directly with John Graves Simcoe. The City of Toronto purchased Riverdale Farm in 1856, and in 1894, opened the site as Toronto's first zoo.
The site was restored as a farm when the new Toronto zoo opened in Scarborough. The idea was to provide children with the chance to see how a farm works.
The Simpson House on site is a Victorian-style farmhouse named after he restoration architect who built it. It is a reproduction of the original Francey farmhouse, complementing the Francey Barn.
The property features flower, vegetable and herb gardens, with plants that would have grown there on the original farm. In the various paddocks and barns, you can see rare breeds of livestock, representing animals kept in Ontario at the time. Riverdale Park West is adjacent to the Farm, and is a lovely picnic spot in the summer, with plenty of shade and a wading pool. During the winter, the Park offers some of the city's best tobogganing hills.
Three buildings on the site remain that were part of the original zoo. Located next to the Duck Pond across from the Meeting House is the Residence, where the zoo keeper lived. The Residence was built in 1902 by prisoners of the Toronto Don Jail!
Open 365 days of the year, every season there's something new to see, such as the fabulous display of tulips in the woods during the spring, or watching baby animals take their first steps.
There are daily farm demonstrations, were the farmer presents a different animal to visitors in the Francey Barn and a year-round handwork and craft programs in The Meeting House.