Toronto park honours a doctor who died in the 1847 epidemic

July 16, 2021

Toronto park honours a doctor who died in the 1847 epidemic

Imagine a hot night in the summer of 1847. Lantern light creeps out through the doorways of a shed where Irish refugees, newly arrived in Toronto, lie sick with “ship fever.” Curtains of cheesecloth, placed to keep out insects, billow in the breeze. And through the door walks a figure: George Robert Grasett, a local doctor who has volunteered to treat the new arrivals.

Many of those newcomers, who left home to escape the Irish Potato Famine, would not survive their time in hospital. Ship fever, now known as typhus, would take their lives – and also those of Dr. Grasett and a dozen other medical personnel. Now, 174 years after Dr. Grasett’s death, a downtown Toronto park is commemorating him and his colleagues – medical professionals who showed up to fight a deadly disease, and sacrificed themselves.

Grasett Park, which officially opens Friday on Adelaide Street West in Toronto, brings this history back into view. “It’s a story of incredibly courageous people who do the right things, notwithstanding the objections of people in their social milieu,” said Robert Kearns, head of the Canada Ireland Foundation, which helped create the park. “That is a fantastic story of the early history of our city: Of welcoming people and accepting people.”

Read the full article in the Globe and Mail

About This News Item:

By Alex Bozikovic, Architecture Critic.

Published in the Globe and Mail.

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