“Bringing everyone together. That’s where the magic is.”
Recently, we learned that the designer of Berczy Park, Claude Cormier, passed away at the age of 63 in St. Catherines, Ontario. As someone who has left an indelible impression in Old Town Toronto, we want to take this time to reflect on the history of Berczy Park and look to the future of Claude’s continuing impact on our community.
Claude launched his landscape design firm CCxA in 1993, which is responsible for dozens of stunning parks throughout Montreal and Toronto, including Sugar Beach and Love Park. Berczy Park, along with its iconic fountain, was unveiled in June 2017 after significant consultation with the Old Town Toronto neighbourhood. The rejuvenated space immediately became a hot spot for events, live music, and of course, dogs. Claude was inspired by the diversity of the Old Town Toronto community- office workers looking for a spot to have lunch, families pushing around strollers, students chatting on the grass- and wanted to create a space that brought all these folks together with a smile. While the city was initially skeptical about a dog-themed fountain, Claude and his team pushed to bring their whimsical vision to life- making a few small concessions by including two cats and two birds in the build. A popular Easter Egg amongst folks in the know is the cat sitting on the fountain isn’t looking up at the bone with the other dogs- but over at the two birds settled on a nearby structure.
Of the 27 dogs featured on the fountain, only one has an official name- Smiley, the golden retriever, named after a blind therapy dog who worked with the St. John’s Ambulance therapy group in Toronto. We wonder what names Old Town Toronto locals have given to the other 26 cast-iron pups (and two cats and birds) over the years!
From Claude, re: the building of Berczy Park
“We are embracing history, we are using history, we are activating history, we are using it not as a decoration but as an active part of the design, something alive and that can be worked out with today’s technology and the current know how of building city life.”
It was key for Claude to ensure that Berczy Park equally celebrated history, the children of Old Town Toronto/St. Lawrence Market, and our beloved neighbourhood dogs. With a rambling grassy space for kids and pooches to play, the iconic fountain as a centrepiece, and a comfortable, beautiful space which blended in with our historic community.
To the West, at Wellington and Spadina, Claude’s team is currently developing “Cat Park”, a promenade flanked by cast-iron cats. In Claude’s mind, “dogs to the east, and cats to the west” lent an affectionate nod to the longstanding friendly rivalry between Toronto’s East and West ends. We hope the CCxA team will sneak in a pup or two to act as ambassadors between the Old Town Toronto and King West neighbourhoods.
Claude’s mark on Old Town Toronto will continue to grow as CCxA recently began a new project at 100 Lombard Street. Lombard Park will be a multi-use pedestrian space and urban passage flanked by stunning murals and heritage buildings, with tree-covered benches for community members to relax and unwind. The park’s development is still in its early days, but you can follow the process and learn how to get involved here.
Since its installation in 2017, the Berczy Park Dog Fountain has represented the heart of the Old Town Toronto community. In the winter, the Friends of Berczy Park volunteer group knit the pups scarves every year to keep off the chill. At the beginning of the pandemic, the dogs were given custom masks to model responsible COVID safety practices. At the base of the fountain, the cast-iron good boys and girls show signs of wear on their noses and heads from the friendly pats of passersby. They’ve even been given a bubble bath– though please don’t add soap to the water, we promise we keep them nice and clean and the water at the base of the fountain is meant to be pup-friendly.
Next time you’re in the neighbourhood, take a moment to enjoy the fountain. We’re sure it’ll put a smile on your face, just as Claude intended.