The landmark greenhouse that once stood on the University of Toronto campus completed a successful move across the downtown yesterday as the reconstructed steel and glass structure was officially reborn as the Allan Gardens Children's Conservatory.
The former botany education facility, built in 1932, had to be dismantled in 2003 to accommodate the construction of the university's new pharmacy building.
Local councillor Kyle Rae led the battle to preserve the building and have it moved to the Allan Gardens site at Carlton and Jarvis Streets. The project, which cost close to $1.5-million, was funded by the city, the university and Toronto Dominion Bank.
"It costs a lot, but isn't it worth it? I would say it is," Mr. Rae said, pointing out the architectural details of the transplanted building.
He said the building, which he described as an important part of Toronto's historical and cultural fabric, will house educational programs for Third and Fourth Grade students.
"They will be educated about ecology, biology, environmental issues. I think it's really important that kids in the inner city experience soil, and understand that corn doesn't come from a shop, but from the ground."
Mayor David Miller said he hopes the building will contribute to the revitalization of the park and surrounding area.
"It's going to be a big boost to the redevelopment of this neighbourhood," Mr. Miller said. "We've helped Allan Gardens, through this project, to become a great park again."
In his remarks to an assembled crowd, Mr. Miller called the project a public-public partnership.
"This is about members of the public joining with City Hall to really create something special," he said. "It's about reinvesting in our parks and green spaces and using our resources. That's the way you build a city. At its best, everybody contributes."
Mr. Rae said the university was not initially keen on the idea of preserving the greenhouse.
Although it took a great deal of persuasion, Mr. Rae said he was able to secure a guarantee from the university to relocate and reconstruct the greenhouse before proceeding with the construction of the $75-million pharmacy building.
The university eventually spent just over $1-million as the building was dismantled, packed in boxes for a year, and then reassembled several blocks east of its original location.
Elizabeth Sisam, director of campus and facilities planning at the U of T, said the university had worked closely with the city to ensure an appropriate location could be found.
"The university is a responsible citizen. It wanted to do this from a heritage perspective," she said.
Yesterday's opening ceremony included a demonstration of the botanical knowledge of a group of fourth grade students from Church Street Public School who have been learning about plant life in the new facility.
Eight-year-old Alison Dris showed Mr. Miller how to care for a spider plant.
She said afterward that the mayor was a good student.
"I got to teach him how to plant," she said. "He understood me. It was nice."
Margot Haldenby, whose grandfather Eric Haldenby designed the greenhouse, was also on hand yesterday. She said her grandfather would have been delighted with the new location.
"He loved to mix buildings with nature," she said. " . . . Allan Gardens is gorgeous, but this will help people see it in a different light."
The greenhouse was once part of the largest botanical facility in the country when it opened at the corner of Queen's Park and College Street in 1932. More than 600 plant species were housed there.