Gzowski Scholarship Established

Engineers mark centenary of death of famous Polish-Canadian

BY MICHAEL HANLON
STAFF REPORTER

"The Toronto Star", Monday, August 24, 1998

He was the son of a Polish count, an exiled revolutionary who came to the New World speaking five languages, none of them English.

When he died, 100 years ago today, he had built Yonge St. and the International Bridge between Fort Erie and Buffalo, founded the Ontario Jockey Club, co-founded the Toronto Stock Exchange and been knighted by Queen Victoria.

He was Sir Casimir Stanislaus Gzowski and to mark the centenary of his death, the Association of Polish Engineers in Canada is establishing an engineering scholarship in his memory. It will be given to a student of Polish descent attending a Canadian university.

"The first donation, $2,100, has come from the Toronto chapter," Greg Sobocki, the association's national president, said.

A reception to honour Gzowski's memory will be held in early October, Sobocki said.

Gzowski, great-great-grandfather of well-known Canadian broadcaster Peter Gzowski, was born on March 5, 1813, in St. Petersburg, Russia, into a Polish family allied with the czar of the time. He graduated in military engineering and took part in a Warsaw uprising against the czar's brother that was soon put down.

The rebellious troops fled to Austria and Gzowski was interned there for two years before being shipped to the United States. He signed on with a law firm in Pittsfield, Mass., to try to learn law and English.

To earn extra money, he taught violin, fencing, riding and art at a local girls' school. He became a lawyer and a U.S. citizen, and married a debutante from Erie, Pa.

Gzowski went to work for a contractor who sent him to Kingston in 1842 to bid on a contract involving the Welland Canal.

Governor-General Sir Charles Bagot had known Gzowski's father in St. Petersburg and persuaded the young Polish-American to come to Canada, where he eventually became a British subject.

He built the Grand Trunk Railway from Toronto to Sarnia (m 1963 he was admitted to the U.S. National Railroad Hall of Fame) and reclaimed much of the land between Spadina Ave. and the Don River on Toronto's waterfront. He also paved Yonge St. from Toronto to Lake Simcoe.

Gzowski was head of Upper Canada's public works department and much of the major infrastructure of Ontario in his day - roads and harbours and bridges - was built under his direction.

He also helped found Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto.

A Canadian stamp bearing his likeness was issued in 1963 and a park on Lake Shore Blvd. W. is named for him.

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