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Ask Torontoist: Obelisk Envy

The Nordheimer Ravine obelisk revealed.

Reader Sarah ML asks:
If you can explain the grave marker that is down behind the back entrance of the St. Clair West subway station, I would be very happy. It is on someone’s property, and looks like one of those tall narrow monuments you see in the cemetery.

Torontoist answers:

Though Toronto has its share of cenotaphs, eternal flames, and public memorials, cities around the globe appear to boast an abundance of obelisks memorializing significant events in their history. At first blush, Toronto would appear to have a dearth of these phallic-like structures.

Or does it?

Closer study reveals obelisks popping up in Toronto’s architectural landscape. Here’s one, and another and if you squint real hard, using your imagination, this is an obelisk, too.

On a smaller scale, there’s an obelisk located along the foot path behind St. Clair West station in the bucolic Nordheimer Ravine.

But what’s it doing there?

A common architectural feature found in cemeteries, it is understandable how the Nordheimer Ravine obelisk could be mistaken for a grave marker. It is situated beside the emergency exit used by survivors fleeing the tragic 1995 subway collision, resulting in three fatalities.

The obelisk, however, is privately owned—it isn’t a public monument. The owner of the Russell Hill Drive property told us in no uncertain terms that no one is buried beneath this structure: along with an artificial babbling brook, meandering stone pathways, and a hilltop gazebo, it is nothing more than an impressive garden feature—albeit one that marks many people’s TTC commutes each day.

Which, as it turns out, is a good thing. According to the provincial Cemeteries Act, it is illegal to inter human remains in any location other than a designated cemetery.

This rule applies to two legged humans, but what about their four legged friends?

While digging into Sarah’s original query about the obelisk, we stumbled into a pet cemetery.

In order to keep Radar’s resting place, umm, under the radar, we won’t reveal its location. Complete with handmade wind chimes quivering in the breeze, gnome-like trinkets, and a scattering of freshly cut flowers, the animal resting place doesn’t give off a creepy, Stephen King vibe.

Could it be that nearby apartment dwellers, lacking backyard burial space, find solace in interring Fido at the location where he once frolicked? And who’s to say Hammy the hamster isn’t in a better place resting in perpetuity among foraging woodland creatures?

Seems like some bereaving pet owners consider Toronto’s extensive ravine system a great place for a final walk into the doggie afterlife.

Photos by Edward Brown.

Ask Torontoist features questions posed by you, and answered by our elite team of specially trained investigative experts (also known as our staff). Send your questions to ask@torontoist.com.

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