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How Agnes Macphail Square Became “Agness McPhail Square”

For about four months, a pioneering politician's name has been misspelled on a City-supplied sign in a park named after her.

Detail of a photo by Larissa Haluszka-Smith.

Agnes Macphail became Canada’s first female MP in 1921, and later served as MPP for a swath of land on Toronto’s east side. “Agness McPhail,” meanwhile, is currently the namesake of a small patch of green space near the intersection of Pape and Mortimer avenues, right in the middle of the provincial electoral district Macphail represented until 1951.

The misspelling (of both first and last name!) on Agnes Macphail Square’s City-issued sign was noticed by Larissa Haluszka-Smith earlier this week. She forwarded a picture to her husband, Greg Smith, who posted it to his Twitter feed. The image is embedded above.

It’s clear that Macphail’s name hasn’t been misspelled for long. An archived City press release indicates that the square was named for her more than a decade ago, in 2001. And everything appears to have been fine for at least a decade afterward. Google Street View imagery shot in 2011 clearly shows a sign with Macphail’s name spelled the right way.

Mark Hawkins, the City’s general supervisor of parks for the Toronto and East York district, explained what happened. “We believe [the sign] came down in a heavy windstorm,” he said during a phone call. That storm happened last spring. A new sign, Hawkins believes, was installed in August. That replacement sign is the current one—the one that’s misspelled.

The City makes its park signage in-house, and so, Hawkins said, this was likely a case of a City parks worker—he’s not sure which one—typing the wrong thing into an email, or something like that. “It doesn’t happen often, but periodically it does,” he said. “There’s 1500 parks.”

As a result of Torontoist‘s phone call, the parks division has ordered a new sign for the square. “We’re hoping to have it up in the next day or two,” said Hawkins.


  • Greg Smith

    Ironically, my tweet misspelled her name “Ages”… #damnyouautocorrect! I noticed it at the time but instead of deleting and re-postinf I decided it would be hypocritical not to point out my own mistake:

    • Greg Smith

      Bonus iPhone typo included above for meta-irony.

  • Canadianskeezix

    Val Dodge, in his blog Dodgeville, fairly recently posted about the sign at the City’s Todmorden Pumping Station reading “Todd Morden Pumping Station” (this happening, as Dodge wrote, “just a few steps from Todmorden Road in Todmorden Mills in the Todmorden neighbourhood of East York”).
    Happens more often than we think. The City doesn’t have enough respect for our history.

  • Mark Jull

    Same with Joseph Burr Tyrrell Park: The sign’s missing an r.

  • Anonymous

    More like MacFAIL nudge nudge

  • TzOzMz

    I wonder if the guy who misspelled the name in the sign was the same one who wrote “There’s 1500 parks” in an email.

  • Annoying Font Guy

    It bothers me to no end that the navy blue type runs down into the dark flower mosaic pattern, with a white stroke outline around each letter. Awful, illegible design, especially when a park’s name is two lines long (which is frequent). D’you think an intern was given the job of designing Toronto’s park signage?

  • Anonymous

    There’s also a problem with a sign at Christie Pits commemorating the Maple Leafs baseball team, which has an errant apostophe.