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William Lyon Mackenzie Memorial 1936–40

William Lyon Mackenzie Memorial, 1936–40

Walter S. Allward, William Lyon Mackenzie Memorial, 1936–40
Bronze and granite
Queen’s Park, Toronto

The William Lyon Mackenzie Memorial, located on the west side of the Ontario Legislative Building in Queen’s Park, is Allward’s last completed sculpture. Prime Minister Mackenzie King initiated the project in 1936 as a way to honour his grandfather, William Lyon Mackenzie, who in 1837 led an armed rebellion in Upper Canada in an effort to establish greater government accountability. The work features a tall vertical pedestal supporting a bronze bust of William Lyon Mackenzie. Behind and to the right is a horizontal granite pedestal surmounted by a bronze figure leaning forward and holding a law book in one hand and a broken harness in the other, symbolizing the oppressed farmers who rose up against the British colonial government. Inscribed on the pedestal are the words, “To commemorate the struggle for responsible government in Upper Canada and the pioneers of a political system which unites in free association, notions of the British Commonwealth.” To unify its two parts, Allward added a small horizontal reflecting pool in front of the sculptures.


Walter S. Allward, William Lyon Mackenzie Memorial (detail of figure representing oppressed farmers), 1936–40, bronze and granite, Queen’s Park, Toronto.
Walter S. Allward, William Lyon Mackenzie Memorial (detail of Mackenzie), 1936–40, bronze and granite, Queen’s Park, Toronto.

Allward hired the Gorham Manufacturing Company in Provincetown, Rhode Island, to cast the various bronze elements. The sculpture was installed in early June 1940, but given Canada’s entry into the Second World War the previous year, Mackenzie King requested that there be no official celebration for the unveiling. Despite the lack of a formal dedication, the work drew praise from multiple sources, including a tribute by Arthur C. Hardy: “In purity of line and general artistic attainment I believe this monument stands at the very top of our Canadian memorial sculpture.”


Allward continued to work on landscaping details after he finished the sculpture, hiring Sheridan Nurseries to plant several Austrian pines between the monument and the building behind it, as well as a low hedge of Japanese yew around the pool, to address concerns from residents regarding its potential danger to children. Complaints from the public persisted, however, and the pool was covered over in 1948.


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