The Elephant House, Toronto’s Trunk-Bearing Monument

Sally the elephant on 77 Yarmouth Rd, Toronto

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Known for its cold climate and northern location, Canada is probably the last place that comes to mind when thinking about spotting elephants. That is, unless you are talking about the neighborhood of Christie Pits in Toronto. It is here that one can find a life-size sculpture of an elephant atop an unassuming verdant lawn, greeting flummoxed passersby with her swirling trunk.

Excluding zoos and other animal enclosures, elephants roam freely across parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, where smartphone-armed tourists often huddle to gawk and take pictures of these ginormous mammals. It turns out, however, that Canada too has it own native elephant population – well, sort of.


Whoever passes along 77 Yarmouth Rd. in Toronto’s Christie Pits neighborhood might notice a rather bizarre sight – a sculpted pachyderm loafing on the front yard of an otherwise typical Canadian home. Apparently, up until 2003, the aptly-named Elephant House was undistinguishable from the rest of the street, with nothing to draw one’s attention to.


Crafted using a chicken-wire, fiberglass and a plywood skeleton, the white-coated elephant was single-handedly created by former OCAD student Matt Donovan as part of his whimsical thesis entitled “An Elephant in the Room”. The statue was modeled after a full-grown female Indian elephant, attaining a heigh of about 9.5 feet (or nearly 3 meters), akin to its living counterparts.


Originally, Donovan’s project also comprised of a smattering of black sheep as well as a red herring, all of which found their temporary abode at his parents’ home after being displayed.


Once James Lawson, Donovan’s longtime friend and the owner of the house on 77 Yarmouth Rd, discovered the sculpted animals, he jokingly uttered “if you ever want to get rid of the elephant, I’d be delighted to put it in my yard”. To much of his surprise, Donovan agreed and shortly thereafter, the whitish mammoth was placed in front of Lawson’s home, where she has been standing for the past two decades or so.


Over the years, the article’s trunked protagonist has gained her current name, Sally, and more importantly, a monument-status as evident by the incessant influx of curios onlookers who stop by to rubberneck every now and then.