If you were to ask someone where Peter Pan lives, they might tell you “Neverland” or “the second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning”. But I’m here to tell you that Peter Pan lives in Toronto, in a park at the corner of St Clair Ave and Avenue Rd.
On December 27th, 1904, play-goers in London were hesitant to go to the theatre. A new production called Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was premiering and it was forecast to be a flop. The curtains opened and immediately the audience was enthralled. When Tinker Bell lay dying on stage from having drunk poison, and Peter Pan let the audience know that they could save Tinker Bell from impending doom if only they clapped their hands and believed in fairies. The audience let loose thunderous applause. The heartfelt response was so overwhelming, the actress playing Peter Pan burst into tears. Tinker Bell was saved and a children’s classic was born.
The playwright, a man named J. M. Barrie, commissioned a statue of Peter Pan to be placed in Kensington Gardens in London. The gardens were where he had first met the children who became the inspiration for characters in the play. It took sculptor Sir George Frampton years to match Barrie’s wild ideas, but eventually he come up with something that pleased the author. When it was finally cast in bronze, Barrie had it set up in Kensington gardens overnight so that it would look to the local children like the fairies had left it there, as if by magic….or pixie dust.
Here is a cheeky video about the original statue in London:
In total there were 7 casts made of the famous statue, one of which was purchased by the members of Toronto’s College Heights Association. On September 14th, 1929, the statue of Peter Pan was unveiled in what is now known as Glenn Gould Park. It still stands there today, and if you choose to visit, you can find the signature of J. M. Barrie about half-way up the base.
The statue itself shows Peter Pan standing on a tree stump playing a flute while a collection of fairies, rabbits, squirrels and other little creatures hide in the nooks and crannies of the trunk. Look closely and you’ll also find a frog, a lizard and some mice.
A neat little Toronto secret, hiding in plain sight.
Written by Jill Sullivan
The Haunted Walk of Toronto