In 1910, Thomas Purdy was named Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards. He remained in that position until his retirement in December, 1930. His length of service--twenty one years--was surpassed only by his successor W. H. Warren, Park Administrator for forty years.
A great transformation occurred in Park landscapes during the Purdy years: open spaces in both developed and undeveloped areas filled with vegetation. The filling in process was intentional in the landscaped areas. Purdy’s top priority was planting unprecedented quantities of flowers, shrubs and trees. In the more natural areas, the filling in was the result of inaction by Park staff. Neglect enabled Scotch broom to spread unchecked until it overwhelmed the Hill and other areas of the Park.
Originally, the Park was part of a six mile square camas meadow and grassland habitat with a few trees and no shrubs. Though landscape change began when white colonists first arrived, open spaces and long views lasted through the 1800's and into the early 1900's. Archival photos taken after 1889 show Christ Church Cathedral (on a small hill to the north) visible from the edge of Goodacre Lake. Islands in the lakes were bare of vegetation. Photos show the Chinese Bell-- erected in 1904--standing alone in an open field, a shrub-free Hill in the background.
Those open spaces and long views are gone. In 2004, the Park walking experience is one of shorter views; spaces are filled with bushes, trees and objects. Purdy’s policies greatly accelerated this landscape change.
Purdy increased plant production facilities in the Nursery in order to grow vast quantities of ornamental flowers, trees and shrubs for use in all city parks and along sixty miles of boulevards. The Beacon Hill Park Nursery, first developed under Superintendent D. D. England, was enlarged, fenced and drained. Purdy boosted output further by constructing greenhouses. His first Annual Reports proudly list quantities planted in Beacon Hill Park: in 1910, 288 trees and shrubs and 2,000 perennials; in 1911, 5,000 bedding plants and annuals and 2,000 perennials and rock plants. In 1912, he sent out 6,500 plants to other parks from the Beacon Hill Nursery. Evidence points to increased plant production through the 1920's. Several observers noted plant production became too successful, overcrowding greenhouses. The Nursery area became an attraction to residents, as well. Though it was not a horticultural garden, people could wander around the working area admiring the variety and quantity of flowers and trees. (See newspaper descriptions in 1909 and 1917.)
The Nursery not only supplied plants for city parks and boulevards, it also generated revenue through commercial sales. The Beacon Hill Park Nursery sold plants for at least twenty five years, from 1909 to 1934. Sales began under Superintendent D. D. England, who noted in the 1909 Annual Report that the Nursery was “a generator of revenue.” Plant sales increased under Purdy.
[Commercial nurserymen could have made a strong case against Park Nursery sales. Commercialism of any kind is illegal according to the Park Trust. In 2004, a case can be made that growing plants destined for public areas outside of Beacon Hill Park boundaries in the fenced off Nursery area is also illegal under terms of the Trust. The same legal point applies to city-wide staff offices and maintenance equipment in Beacon Hill Park. Every inch of the Park is legally reserved for public use and those maintenance services needed for that particular park. A service yard serving the entire city does not meet this criteria.]
In 1976, Park Administrator C. J. Bate gave his assessment of the Purdy years:
...the civic nursery was established adjacent to Cook Street [Bate seemed unaware the Nursery was already operating in 1909 under Superintendent D. D. England], playing fields were established along Douglas Street and Heywood Avenue, and the park center from the playground to the animal enclosure was graded to grass. Mr. Purdy planted thousands of shrubs and trees in the park and improved the playground, picnic and bandshell facilities.” (Park Office Files: “Renovation and New Development at Beacon Hill Park,” November 23, 1976, File: 1701)
Bate commented exclusively on Purdy’s performance in the developed areas of the Park. He does not mention the environmental disaster which took place in the undeveloped areas--more than half of the Park acreage--during the twenty-one years Purdy was Superintendent.
The failure to recognize and respond to that environmental crisis is the downside of Purdy’s career. (See the following overview of broom for how and why broom overwhelmed the Park.)
Overview of Scotch broom in Park history (1901-2004)
Broom (Cytisus scoparius) is an outrageously successful plant in western North America. In Washington and Oregon, broom covers more than 2,000,000 acres (810,000 hectares) and is listed as a Class B noxious weed. In California, broom infests more than 600,000 acres (250,000 hectares). The invasive species has spread in many parts of southwestern British Columbia and Vancouver Island. (Randall, John and Marinelli, Janet, ed. Invasive Plants--Weeds of the Global Garden, 1996, p. 52 )
One reason for broom’s success is its incredibly high seed production and seed longevity. Each mature broom plant (3-8 years old) can produce 2,000 to 5,000 pods a year. Seed counts on the ground by broom thickets can reach up to 4,140 per square metre. Each seed has an impervious coat and is able to lie dormant for decades until conditions are right for germination. (Prasad, Raj, “Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius L. in British Columbia,” Canada Forest Service, Pacific Forestry Centre) Broom has an effective (and audible) seed dispersal mechanism: dry seedpods explode with a pop, launching up to nine bean-like seeds into the air.
Many other characteristics contribute to broom’s success:
It forms dense, one-species stands and thickets up to three metres (nine feet) tall, which prevent sunlight from reaching the ground, effectively killing off native plants and other competitors.
It has an average 10-15 year life span.
It can tolerate drought and cold.
It has nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the root nodules so is competitive in nitrogen-poor soils.
It has deep roots.
It can re-sprout from stumps. (Prasad, “Scotch Broom”)
In Beacon Hill Park, broom replaced native plants, especially in the Garry oak ecosystems, and altered soil nutrients. Millions of butterflies were destroyed as broom crowded out native plant species essential to their life cycles.
[Northwest Ridge broom patch.
Photo: N. Ringuette, April, 2004.]
Many early Victorians had fond memories of the “bonny” yellow blossoms in England and Scotland. When broom spread to Victoria from Sooke after 1851, it was welcomed. Even when impenetrable broom thickets covered acres of the Park in the early 1900's, Victorians continued to resist cutting broom. British immigrants in particular were slow to realize that a “good plant” in the “Old Country” could be very “bad plant” elsewhere. In England and Scotland, broom is a native plant with natural checks on its growth (e.g. some insects eat broom seeds, other insects feed on the stems). Broom has no natural enemies in North America.
The first reference to Scotch broom in Beacon Hill Park was over a hundred years ago. A 1901 Colonist editorial suggested cutting broom back fifty feet on each side of the driveway at the “southeast corner of the Hill” so people on horseback and in carriages wouldn’t collide. From 1904 to 1911, frequent grass and broom fires were lamented as a sad loss of broom. (The real problem was not yet understood: broom burns at a high temperature and damages Garry oaks while fire stimulates more broom growth.)
Even as spreading broom thickets excluded residents from more areas of the Park, rapturous descriptions of its yellow blossoms continued. In 1911, “acres and acres of broom” were described as the Park’s “main glory.” In 1913, a long editorial by a former British resident extolled the “riotous golden glow” and “delicious perfume” of “bonny” bloom. In 1916, Beacon Hill was described as a “broom-covered knoll” with a wealth of “golden splendour.”
A citizen’s suggestion to cut broom on the west and northeast sides of the Hill so people could use the areas again was dismissed as a joke by the Times editor, in 1914, who countered: “...broom is the most attractive feature of the Park.” In 1915, however, a Colonist editorial agreed that paths should be cut through the thickets so that children wouldn’t get lost.
A startling suggestion made in 1925 to cut the letters “Welcome to Victoria” in dense broom on the south face of Beacon Hill revealed thickets had overwhelmed the area. That year the Times reported, “...the city is having the surplus of broom removed from the hill, in connection with the improvements for the bridle path,” but the newspaper did not view broom as a problem. Instead it was described positively as a “luxuriant growth.” The paper hinted the Park was at fault for any surplus because it was an “ideal place for the broom to spread,” and said broom possessed an endearing excess of “rank freedom.”
Impenetrable thickets prevented walking in large areas of the Park. In 1927, the Park Committee directed the Superintendent to clear and keep open fifteen foot wide paths through broom in the Park. The Committee edged slowly toward the realization that extensive broom in the Park might be more than just “too much of a good thing.”
In 1929, the Park Committee directed the Park Superintendent to reduce the amount of broom in the Park by “not less than a third.” This was the first decision to combat broom in a major way. However, Superintendent Purdy was coming to the end of his tenure and there is no evidence he carried out this order. It is unlikely Purdy switched his priority from enhancing ornamental areas to eradicating broom. It is also unlikely anyone realized the enormous effort that would be required to reduce broom significantly.
Great credit goes to the next Park Administrator, W. H. Warren. He recognized the problem and made broom eradication a priority. During his nearly forty years as Park Administrator (1931-1970), Warren worked indefatigably to reduce broom in the Park. Each year he assigned workers to this thankless, monumental task and recorded that work in his reports. Warren’s admirable perseverance and dedication reclaimed Park landscapes.
An abundance of available labour during the first eight years of his broom eradication effort gave the project a boost. Unemployed workers receiving financial assistance during the Depression years were put to work in all the city’s parks. The number of man hours assigned to Beacon Hill Park broom eradication was therefore much higher than would have been possible with normal staff levels.
In 1946, Warren said: “We spend a considerable portion of the annual appropriation on the control of broom...if it were not so, the Park would be over-ridden with broom in a few years...” Many methods were used: workers pulled, chopped, bulldozed, poisoned and burned broom.
By 1949, Warren noted definite progress: “Fifteen or so years ago the broom occupied an area about ten times greater in Beacon Hill Park than it does now.” In 1952, he said “wild meadowland flowers” were blooming again where broom cover had been removed. Warren realized some of the negative impacts of broom and the necessity for constant effort to check its spread. He also made an effort to communicate this information to the Park Committee, City Council and the public.
Broom is hardy, persistent and on the increase. Though other damaging invasive plant species thrive in Beacon Hill Park--including English ivy, Himalayan blackberries, gorse and English elm--broom still remains the greatest invasive plant threat. In 2004, broom patches are visible on all sides of Beacon Hill, in the northwest corner of the Park along the ridge and in other areas of the Park. Park staff, under pressure from budget cuts, have reduced or cancelled broom eradication in order to care for ornamental areas. Broom again surrounds many Garry oaks and will damage the trees in fires. A yearly allotment of staff hours to cut back broom growth is essential.
There are large gaps in information about the Park during the 1920's. Superintendent Purdy did not write Annual Reports in 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929 or 1930; the four reports he did write were very short and general. [His successor, W. H. Warren, was by comparison a historian's dream. Warren was a prolific writer and steadfast recorder.] Mayors' Reports written during 1920-1930 often include remarks about Beacon Hill Park and the minutes of Park Committee meetings fill in some of the blanks.
Another rich source of information--articles in the Colonist and the Times--is largely inaccessible for the period 1918-1929 because few articles on Beacon Hill Park are listed in the “Legislative Library of British Columbia Newspaper Index.” For unknown reasons, there are zero listings for the years 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921 and 1922, two listings for 1923, one in 1925, three in 1926 and 1927, two in 1928. It is impractical to scan years of newspapers without the Newspaper Index as a guide.
Park funding secured for the year
In February, 1920, the Chairman of the Park Committee, E. B. Andros, convinced City Council to appropriate $21,950 for the park system. Though several Aldermen thought the amount excessive, the Colonist wrote:
Andros declared that Victoria’s parks were, next to the climate, the greatest asset the city possessed...We don’t realize the value of our parks because God gave them to us. We don’t appreciate what an asset they are...It would be suicidal to neglect them. (Colonist, February 27, 1920, p. 8)
When one alderman objected to the expensive city nursery in Beacon Hill Park, Andros replied:
The nursery is in existence and we have got to maintain it or lose for all time the efforts of many years. If we spend no more than we did last year, the results would be about 20 per cent less because of the increased cost of labor and materials.
Alderman Sangster said, “I remember when Beacon Hill Park didn’t cost the city ten cents and it was a beautiful park in those days.”
The Mayor retorted, “It was the broom you admired in those days.”
Appropriations approved for 1920: Beacon Hill, $11,750; Central Park, $1,600; Gorge Park, $1,600; Stadacona Park, $2,000; Pioneer Square, Foul Bay, etc. $1,500; Victoria West Park, $1,500; Victoria-Saanich Beaches and Park Committee, $2,750 (including Mt Douglas Park). (Colonist, February 27, 1920, p. 8)
Some roads removed
“By 1920, a number of the carriage ways or roads had been removed from the Park,” Parks Administrator C. J. Bate said in 1976. The roads had been part of the original Blair Plan. (Park Office, November 23, 1976, File: 1701)
1920 Annual Report
Spending was restricted, with “only enough money allotted to Parks for maintenance purposes.”
Land taken for military uses was returned to the Park: “5 acres of ground which had been used for allotments and military quarters were graded and sown with grass, part used for football this season.” (CRS 16, Report of Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards, AR 1920, p. 55-56)
Zoo crumbling but lake fish flourishing
The new Parks Committee toured Beacon Hill Park zoo on January 26, 1921, and were “unanimous in expressing dissatisfaction,” according to the Colonist. They were considering liberating some of the animals and birds. The Colonist wrote:
The aldermen found that animals and birds are caged in exposed wooden buildings built many years ago and which in some places are practically crumbling away on account of age and disrepair. The buildings haven’t even been painted for a long time and they lack the slightest suggestion of attractiveness, members of the committee say.
Besides that, the birds and animals don’t seem to be enjoying themselves very much. (Colonist, Jan. 27, 1921, p. 7)
It was noted the S.P.C.A. complained the “tropical bird” was cold because “no provision had been made for the emulation of conditions in its native haunts.” Ald. R. A. C. Dewar, chairman of the committee said, “It’s a crime. I don’t see the use of having these animals kept at the park...The Council is receiving repeated complaints.”
Alderman Dinsdale investigated whether the City could sell the fish in Beacon Hill Park lakes to private purchasers but found it was not feasible. Dinsdale said, “The fish aren’t genuine gold fish. They are just red carp and they won’t live in glass bowls. They are much too big for private homes and no one would bother buying them for food.” Other Park Committee members called the idea of selling Park fish “ludicrous” and “impossible.”
Parks Superintendent Thomas Purdy told Council there were thousands of fish in the Beacon Hill ponds, and he had no idea where they come from. “There is no reason why we should interfere with them. They are getting along all right.” (Colonist, Jan. 27, 1921, p. 7)
1921 Annual Report
“1,500 trees and shrubs were planted out.” (CRS 16, Report of Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards, AR 1921, p. 61-62)
1922 Annual Report
“About 3 acres was cleared of brush and broom.” (CRS 16, Park Superintendent's Report, AR 1922, p. 70-71)
The Parks were “well maintained” but little else was done as finances were “somewhat strained”. (CRS 16, Mayor's Report. AR 1922, p. 7-18)
The Colonist published two letters from C. C. Pemberton in January on the topic of “dangerous fir trees” in Beacon Hill Park.
Chartres Cecil Pemberton was a man of strong opinions and considerable clout. He was the bane of three Park Superintendents--England, Purdy and Warren--as well as many City Councils and Park Committees. He wrote scathing letters to city officials and to newspapers, often declaring those who didn’t share his opinions “ignorant.” Pemberton was born in Victoria in 1864 and lived most of his life in the City, where he was a barrister, law clerk to the Legislature, and a realtor. He was a long-time member of the Native Sons of British Columbia, the British Columbia Historical Society, the Political Equality League, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Conservative Party. Pemberton was often described as a botanist and “arboriculturalist.” He was noted for promoting the development of municipal forests to protect water resources. He considered himself an expert on trees.
Pemberton’s first letter involved both a major and a minor Park complaint. The lesser issue involved the Chinese bell, the guns and the crumpled iron--all objects of interest in the Park--which, Pemberton said, needed interpretive signs explaining their histories, but “the park committee were too ignorant or too indifferent to take advantage of the fact.” (Colonist, Jan. 18, 1923, p. 4)
The bulk of the letter concerned the more serious issue of “dangerous fir trees” in Beacon Hill Park. (Pemberton had identified specific trees as dangerous two years before and strongly advocated the City cut them down. When the City did not do so, he appealed to the Attorney General to place the dangerous dead trees issue before a Grand Jury, to no avail.) Pemberton’s letter triumphantly pointed out that a “huge branch, many pounds in weight” from one of the trees he had identified as “dangerous” had fallen on a road. He said if someone had been killed, “members and officials of the Council would be serving terms for manslaughter and the City paying heavy damages.” (Colonist, Jan. 18, 1923, p. 4)
Pemberton’s letter spelled out to the Park Committee exactly how the “dangerous” trees should be cut: the firs should be topped, leaving stumps so that ivy would grow on them. In his opinion, planting English ivy would create attractive “evergreen columns.” [Ivy is an invasive foreign species, so that was an unfortunate idea for an “arboriculturalist” to propose.]
The following week, Pemberton wrote the newspaper again. He had convinced the Natural History Society to pass a resolution supporting “removal of the danger tops and the turning of the stumps into evergreen columns.” When the Society’s resolution was received by City Council, a reply was sent stating the proposal was “under consideration.” (Colonist, January 24, 1923, p. 4)
1923 Annual Report
There was no Report by the Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards.
The Mayor reported a “policy of economy adopted by Council at the beginning of the year” meant no large public works had been inaugurated but he claimed city parks were well maintained. (CRS 16, Mayor's Report, AR 1923, p. 7-13)
New caretaker hired
The Park and Boulevard Committee appointed a new Caretaker for Beacon Hill Park on March 24, 1924. W. H. Hadley was to receive $75 a month plus “free house and water.” (CRS 7, 3B3)
No Sunday concerts
George J. Dyke’s July 2 “Musical Notes” column discussed “the silence of band music on Sunday afternoons at Beacon Hill Park.” Sunday afternoon band concerts were a long tradition in the Park and were usually presented May through August. In 1924, however, two months had passed without music in the Park. “The situation is regrettable, reflective and unsuspected,” Dyke declared. “Businessmen” told Dyke the reason was that “bandsmen were asking too high a figure for their services.” Dyke did not agree that four dollars per man was excessive, pointing out the musicians must buy and care for uniforms, music and band instruments, plus practice and attend rehearsals, even though “the concert does only last two hours.”
Dyke said City Council had a fund of $700 for special occasions and he thought the previous Sunday should have qualified as a special occasion because the “British Light Cruiser Squadron” was in Esquimalt harbour. He thought “the Sixteenth Canadian Scottish” band should have played. Dyke called for at least some Sunday concerts during July and August. (Times, July 2, 1924, p. 5)
Ursus Kermodei cub arrives
A six month old female white Ursus Kermodei cub was placed in a small make-shift cage in Beacon Hill Park in the summer of 1924. According to a Royal B.C. Museum publication, the bear cub was captured by a man at Butedale (an outpost in Kitimat Channel in northern British Columbia), then sold to a man named Flowers, who tried to smuggle it across the U.S. border. (Corley-Smith, Peter, White Bears and other Curiosities, 1989, p. 54-55.) The Times, however, had a different story: “The famous white bear...[is the] only living specimen in captivity of the unique bear of Princess Royal Island,” a large island on the west coast north of Bella Bella. (Times, December 24, 1924, p. 1,2)
The Provincial Game Conservation Board put the cub in the custody of Francis Kermode, Curator of the Provincial Museum in Victoria. The cub, shown on the left, was the first live Ursus Kermodei specimen in captivity.
The Provincial Museum had acquired some dead white bear specimens in 1904--two cubs from Princess Royal Island and an adult male from Gribbel Island--which were mounted and on display in Victoria. Dr. William Hornaday of the New York Zoological Society declared the white bears were not albinos or polar bears; they were a new species, which he named Ursus Kermodei after his collaborator in Victoria, Francis Kermode.
Hornaday, hoping Mr. Kermode would send him the cub for the New York City zoo, wrote a pleading letter on September 4, 1924. He said he would “perish of disappointment” if Kermode didn’t send him the bear. He tried several arguments:
"Remember that I am fighting your battle for the supremacy of this species that has been named in your honor!"
"Of course, the people of Victoria will be interested in keeping the bear in that city, but let me point out to you the fact that here it will be seen by 2,500,000 people each year..." (Corley-Smith, p. 56-57)
The white bear was not an albino or polar bear and it was also not a new species. In 1928, Dr. E. Raymond Hall of the University of California, after examining skulls of five white bears from Gribbel and Princess Royal Islands, agreed with the American Museum of Natural History that the white bear was “a color phase of the Ursus americanus group--the others being black, cinnamon, brown and blue.” (Corley-Smith, p. 57)
The Kermodei cub made the Times front page when she escaped the make-shift chicken-wire cage and ran up a large fir tree at the northwest corner of the deer enclosure in December:
Offers of food were made, but the bear was deaf to such blandishments and remained in his [sic] leafy [sic] quarters seventy or eighty feet above the ground for more than two hours. Eventually, some tempting food drew him down and he was quickly returned to the pen. Yesterday evening he looked in a more attractive condition than for some time, the cold weather having dried up the wet floor of his cage and his coat was clean and glossy. (Times, December 24, 1924, pp. 1,2)
Hornaday didn’t succeed in acquiring the bear for New York City. Corley-Smith wrote that she continued to be held for months in a small pen in the deer enclosure,
where its cramped and inadequate quarters roused something of a storm among local animal lovers. Kermode, claiming he had no funds to improve the situation, passed the matter over to the City Parks Board. They made some minor improvements and the bear, a female, lived out its lonely and restricted life, dying of old age in 1948. (Corley-Smith, p. 56)
In January, 1925, the Park Committee authorized up to $1000 be used to build a new cage. Photographs in Corley-Smith’s book show the bear in three different cages. The oldest photo shows the cub in a small chicken-wire enclosure. A larger second cage is made of wood and chicken-wire, with a dirt floor, a pole and a small house. The last cage was constructed of concrete and metal bars. (Corley-Smith, p. 55) At least Ursus Kermodei was not stuck down in a bear-pit. (The photo shows the bear in 1948, a few months before she died. See 1948.)
1924 Annual Report
There was no Report by the Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards.
The Mayor’s Report stated:
The City continued to pursue “a policy of retrenchment” with no appropriations for any large public works made in 1924.
Parks were only funded for maintenance.
The Summer was unusually dry. (CRS 16, Mayor's Report, AR 1924, p. 7-14)
Newspaper describes the Park
The Times presented a lavish full page spread on Beacon Hill Park in February, topped with four headlines:
"Beacon Hill is greatest glory of this City"
"Nature and Art have united to make the Park a wonderful resort"
"Beauty of Nature aided by gardening skill makes lovely Beacon Hill Park"
"Tourists carry away haunting memories of City’s fairest domain; seascape, woodland and greensward invite repose; has been from colonial days centre of public open air functions"
(Times, February 28, 1925, p. 13)
After a seven-stanza romantic poem and flowery writing about “venerable oaks” and “ancient firs,” the article provided detailed descriptions of Park facilities in 1925.
A convention of the “International Association of Parks Commissioners” to be held in Victoria in June was the impetus for two improvement projects in progress:
Some much needed improvements are now being carried out, including the construction of a bridle path round the base of the hill, crossing four of the driveways...the city is having the surplus of broom removed from the hill, in connection with the improvements for the bridle path...Work will also be done in clearing up the brush between the main driveway and Cook Street... This will very much open the panorama to seaward and across to the Olympic Mountains. (Times, Feb. 28, 1925, p. 13)
Though a “surplus” was at last being removed from part of the Hill, broom was still much admired. The next paragraph gives a positive “spin” to the surplus:
Those people who love the open common or upland moors find in the unimproved portion of Beacon Hill just what they wish to see in their wanderings. It has been found an ideal place for the broom to spread. This flower is the park’s most characteristic flower and gives a golden hue annually each May to the Park. In fact, it has been necessary to hold in check the luxuriant growth which has threatened to overrun in its rank freedom parts of the Park designed to other uses...(Times, February 28, 1925, p. 13)
The article described sports facilities in the Park:
There are four sport grounds on the property. 1) opposite South Park school, used by children from that school. 2) near the nursery used by cricketers, 3) the lower grounds, Heywood Avenue, by various sports according to the season, 4) the upper ground at the end of the Beacon Hill car line.
The lawn bowling club is discussed , but not counted as a “sports ground”:
[the bowlers] made a place of beauty of a somewhat neglected spot...At the bowling green, arrangements are in hand for lighting the lawns during the long summer game. Connection will be made to the electric light standard at Vancouver Street and Park Boulevard. This game is of increasing popularity...
In describing the “improved area” of the Park, the paper praises two “ornamental ponds” (later named Goodacre and Fountain Lakes), the aviary and the Kermodei bear enclosure. It pointed out that the “only statuary in the Park” was the Burns Memorial and stated the Park would be enhanced by more statuary, citing the example of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
The Times explained the Nursery produced stock for sixty miles of boulevards as well as “street decorative plants used in the Summer downtown.” The greenhouse served a “useful as well as particularly attractive function,” though it was “quite overcrowded” and a second greenhouse was needed. “The limitations of space prevent anything like a representative floral display within the glass. (Times, February 28, 1925, p. 13)
Kiwanis wading pool construction plans
In August, members of the Kiwanis Club visited the proposed site of a wading pool for small children with Alderman W. H. Cullin, a member of the Parks Committee. The Club planned to construct the pool in cooperation with the City near the northeast corner of Douglas and Simcoe Streets in Beacon Hill Park. Plans for the wading pool were being prepared by Kiwanis member C. Elwood Watkins and the work would be supervised by the City Engineer and Parks Superintendent.
The Colonist reported: “The wading oval will be about 80 feet long and 50 feet wide, with a path of three of four feet in width around the pool. The depth of water in the centre of the pool will be fifteen inches and three inches at the sides.” The City contributed $650 to the project and the Kiwanis Club agreed to pay the rest. The total expenditure was expected to be $1,200. (Colonist, August 5, 1925, p. 3)
The date usually given for construction of this wading pool is 1925. It is not clear if it was completed that year, but if so, it was too late in the season for use. The Kiwanis Wading Pool was officially presented to the City by the Club on May 26, 1926. (See 1926)
Other Park Committee actions
The Park Committee recommended to Council “that an expenditure not exceeding $1000 be authorized for the erection of an enclosure for the accommodation of a bear at [Beacon Hill Park].” On January 23, the Committee called for tenders on plans prepared by the Building Inspector. (City of Victoria Archives, CRS 76, 3B3)
The “redecoration of the Totem Pole” was completed. (CRS 76, 3B3)
The minutes of the Park Committee meeting of May 6, 1925 state: "Moved and seconded that it be recommended to the City Council that the suggestion from Mr. Albion Johns that the broom on the South side of Beacon Hill be cut into large letters forming 'Welcome to Victoria' has been fully considered and found impracticable." (CRS 76, 3B3)
Also on May 6, it was “Resolved that the two small lakes be emptied and cleaned out later in the season.” (CRS 76, 3B3)
The Parks Superintendent was authorized on May 26, 1925, to “arrange for an extension of the present bridle path and to have signs painted marking same.” (CRS 76, 3B3) [The location of the bridle path is not specified in Committee minutes. However, a Times article described a bridle path being constructed “round the base of the hill, crossing four of the driveways.” (Times, February 28, 1925, p. 13)]
“It was decided [on September 9, 1925 by the Park Committee] that no birdcage will be built [at Beacon Hill Park] this year and that the sum of $300 placed in the 1925 estimate for this purpose be transferred towards the cost of the shelter and flag pole which has been erected.” (CRS 76, 3B3)
At the September 25, 1925 of the Park Committee, “A letter was read from the B.C. S.P.C.A. complaining of the surroundings of the Mexican Boar [at the zoo]. The Secretary was instructed to inform the Association that a shelter would be provided for this animal for the winter.” (CRS 76, 3B3)
[Park records for 1925 do not mention that a new animal attendant was hired. However, in the 1946 Annual Report, Park Administrator W. H. Warren wrote that S. L. Smith retired, “animal attendant since 1925.”]
1925 Annual Report
The Superintendent noted a shelter was constructed on the top of the Hill and a new flag pole erected. (CRS 16, Report of Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards, AR 1925, p. 127-128)
The Mayor’s Report stated:
Because of a better financial situation, “the Parks Department has been able to carry out many improvements.”
“A bear cage was constructed.”
Goodacre Lake was in the process of being cleaned out, “a much needed improvement.” [This was completed in 1926.]
“With the generous assistance of the members of the Kiwanis Club, a splendid wading pool for children has been constructed.”
The International Association of Parks Commissioners, which held their convention in Victoria in July, 1925, were "very complementary to the Park."(CRS 16, Mayor's Report, AR 1925, p. 7-17)
Colonist against the zoo but for a lighting system
A Colonist editorial in May noted the Parks Committee was consulting with “experts” on how to improve and develop the zoological gardens. The newspaper thought a high quality zoo was too expensive for a small city like Victoria and the “interest in captive animals” was not high. Instead, Victoria should get rid of the zoo entirely:
...nothing of any attractive value would be lost if the sporadic attempts at collecting wild life for the park were abandoned, the existing denizens disposed of and the space they occupy thrown open to the public. The people would really be the gainers, for it would be possible to add to the area available for their recreation, and add, too, to the beautification of the park as a whole. (Colonist, May 21, 1926, p. 4)
Instead, the newspaper urged the Parks Committee make the installation of a lighting system in Beacon Hill Park the top priority:
The main development required in Beacon Hill Park is not a zoo but a lighting system. As an asset to the city, Beacon Hill Park is now restricted to the hours of sunlight. It is practically deserted by pedestrians after dark, and owing to the fact that there are no lighting arrangements, summer band concerts there are confined to the afternoons instead of being possible in the evenings. We are at least thirty years behind the times in not having illuminated Beacon Hill Park. This is the premier need of that recreation space. Zoological gardens can wait until we have a population of 200,000 people for whom to provide exotic spectacles. (Colonist, May 21, 1926, p. 4)
[The topic of lighting in the Park had been debated in 1919 at City Council but the Park Committee recommended “no extension of the present lighting of the park.” They had considered lighting the entire Hill, which would require more power than the City had available. Alderman Sargent thought they should “make a little improvement each year.” On April 7, 1927, “Alderman H. O. Litchfield, speaking on the city’s programme of radio talks,” discussed future extensions to the city’s lighting system. One suggestion was “installing lighting through Beacon Hill Park, from Vancouver Street and Park Boulevard to the corner of Douglas and Simcoe Streets.” (Times, April 8, 1927, p. 20) In 1928, the Colonist published another editorial promoting lighting. In 1958, $25,000 was spent illuminating the Park.]
Kiwanis wading pool presentation ceremony
The Kiwanis Club of Victoria formally presented the new Beacon Hill Park wading pool to the City in 1926. The Times wrote: “The paving of the wading pool, the painting of the fence, the excavation work, were all done by the Kiwanis Club members,” while the City contributed a “generous grant.” (Times, May 26, 1926, p. 1)
The Colonist gave a more detailed coverage of the big event. The dedication was attended by Mayor Pendray, members of City Council, civic and park officials, Kiwanis Club members and many members of the public. The ceremony started with a prayer, went on to speeches and ended with a noisy “three cheers” for the Kiwanis Club.
Officials of the Club said the project cost $1500, of which $600 was donated by the City. Mr. C. Elwood Watkins designed and directed the construction of the pool. Mayor Carl J. Pendray donated the paint for the fence between the pool and the roadway. The pool measured 90 feet by 30 feet and held 10,000 gallons. The shallow pool was filled and emptied on a daily basis with no water filtration or chlorination.
[Seventy-nine years later, the wading pool is still in use. It was converted to a constantly draining water spray facility in 2002 to comply with health regulations. Photo: N. Ringuette, July 4, 2004.]
Alderman Marchant accepted the pool on behalf of the City. He explained the background of the project: “It was suggested that when the Crystal Pool was built, the pipes carrying water from Dallas Road to the Garden could also be utilized in providing salt water for a wading pool at Beacon Hill Park.” (Colonist, May 27, 1926, p. 3)
[No record was found to confirm that salt water was used in the wading pool, but it is likely that was the case. The Crystal Gardens' salt water swimming pool (at Douglas Street and Belleville Street, in downtown Victoria) opened in June, 1925. From 1925 until 1955, water was pumped from the Strait of Juan de Fuca through wooden pipes to the Crystal Gardens pool. The intake was located at a point on the beach near Douglas Street and Dallas Road. In 1955, the Crystal Gardens pool changed from salt to fresh water and believers in the health benefits of salt water bathing were without a pool. As a result, two proposals--in 1959 and 1964--were made to construct a salt water pool in Beacon Hill Park, though none was built.]
Second bandstand constructed
On September 10, 1926, the Park Committee recommended to City Council that $445 “be spent on the improvement and removal of the present band stand...to a new location or...for the construction of a new band stand.” The choice was made to construct a new structure and the City Building Inspector directed to “prepare plans for a suitable bandstand” at the September 22, 1926 meeting of the Park Committee. On November 3, the Park Committee called for “tenders for the erection of the woodwork of the new Bandstand at Beacon Hill Park" and decided that "the City Engineer be authorized to proceed with the construction of the cement base.” (CRS 76, 3B3)
The construction of a new bandshell was begun in the fall of 1926, completed and painted in 1927. The location of this bandstand is not certain. Some Park staff say it was located where Arbour Lake is now. In 1948, when the 1926-27 bandstand was being replaced by the Cameron Bandshell, the Chairman of the Parks Committee was quoted in the Colonist saying “the new bandstand will be located about 100 yards south of the present stand.” (Colonist, April 16, 1948, p.1)
[In 1927, the first bandstand, built in 1888, was converted into an aviary. It is debatable, however, whether the derelict aviary now standing next to the Stone Bridge is that same 1888 bandstand-aviary building. It could be a replacement structure with a similar design. Photos of both structures look very different and it appears the buildings are in different locations. It is certain that the second Park bandstand, constructed in 1926-1927, was demolished when the third and largest bandstand--the current Cameron Pavilion--was opened in 1948. Park Superintendent W. H. Warren stated in the 1948 Park Administrator’s Report: “Following construction of the Cameron Memorial Pavilion, the old bandstand erected in 1926 was demolished.”]
Parks outside City limits
According to Park Department listings included with Annual Reports in the 1960's, Thetis Lake (1,108.34 acres) was acquired by the City in 1926 and administered by the Parks Department “under jurisdiction of the Water Commissioner.” Goldstream Park (784 acres) was acquired along with Thetis Lake. In 1926, therefore, the Park Superintendent was responsible for five large parks and one small park located outside Victoria city limits: Elk Lake (707 acres), Durrance Lake (254 acres), Mt. Douglas (365 acres), Thetis Lake, Goldstream Park and Gorge Park (11 acres).
[In 2004, the City website lists no parks outside city limits and a total of 52 “neighborhood parks,” “parkettes” and “playlots.” Beacon Hill Park is classified as a “parkette.”]
1926 Annual Report
There was no Report by the Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards.
The Mayor reported the principal work undertaken was the cleaning out of Goodacre Lake.
“A new Band Stand is now in the course of erection ... a new location having been chosen in a more convenient situation.” (CRS 16, Mayor's Report, AR 1926, p. 7-14)
St. Barbe blasts away
A letter to the Colonist from Charles St. Barbe, Park devotee and critic of the Park Committee, included several complaints. The first criticism was directed at children picking wildflowers in the Park instead of leaving the “jewels of nature” for all to see. St. Barbe then pointed to even worse “despoilers of the park” than children. Between twenty and thirty cars had parked on the “fine stretch of turf” at Finlayson Point the previous Saturday, damaging the grass. He noted the “no parking” sign had been torn down. St. Barbe blamed the Park Committee: “They do not appear to take any intelligent interest at all in the property under their charge.” Next, he scorned the planting of ‘ornamental shrubs’ in rows:
In the area recently denuded of brush along Cook Street preparations are actually underway for planting those abominations known to nurserymen as ‘ornamental shrubs,’ in rows. Is there nobody connected with the administration of our parks who has any idea at all of the beauties that can be created by an intelligent placing and grouping of trees and shrubs?” (Colonist, March 30, 1927, p. 6)
The Park Committee noted at least one of his points. The Minutes of their April 7, 1927 meeting included a discussion about the damage done to “turf on the south side of Beacon Hill Park--next the sea--by automobiles.” (CRS 76, 3B3)
Bonfire beacons lit on both sides of the Strait
April 30, 1927 was the 135th Anniversary of the date Captain George Vancouver first sighted Victoria’s bluffs. To commemorate the event, C. C. Pemberton organized a bonfire beacon in Beacon Hill Park to be set alight at 9 p.m., “In memory of that great eighteenth century seaman who anchored within range of its cliffs in the dusk of April 30, 1792.”
A corresponding fire would be lit across the Strait at the headland called New Dungeness (east of Port Angeles, at Sequim, Washington). New Dungeness was named by Capt. Vancouver after a similar spit in the English Channel. It was there Vancouver anchored and from that point he looked north:
Vancouver saw the cliffs of this city’s site, from there Douglas crossed to found the city in March, 1843, and to that point was carried the first submarine cable connection the two countries on the Pacific Coast. So that ‘the twinkling points of fire’ which will answer across the strait in the darkness of a Spring evening tonight have a message of international amity. (Colonist, April 30, 1927, p. 1, 13)
Mr. C. C. Pemberton, chairman of the historical sites committee of the Chamber of Commerce, asked citizens to help prepare “a substantial bonfire at Finlayson Point” by collecting wood from the beach, starting at 1 p.m. The committee hoped arbutus would be used in the fire because of its historical association with Menzies, the botanist. The Native Sons of Canada, the Native Sons of British Columbia and the Junior Chamber of Commerce were to be in charge of the bonfire. The Victoria City Temple Band would play “patriotic airs” during the event. (Colonist, April 30, 1927, p. 1, 13)
The event made page one of the Colonist on May 1, with four headlines:
"Giant torch sends signal over strait"
"Beacon Flares message of goodwill to Americans, Answering light from Port Angeles citizens"
"Big crowd watches historic ceremony"
"Celebration commemorates first arrival of Captain Vancouver on waters of Strait of Juan de Fuca"
Victoria celebrants didn’t let the fact that Capt. Vancouver stayed twenty miles away on the United States side of the Strait dampen their enthusiasm. Thousands of Victorians gathered in anticipation of the fire. The Colonist described the scene at Finlayson Point:
On the grassy surface of the jutting promontory, a huge pile of driftwood and barrels, about fifteen feet high, loomed in shadowy silhouette against the sky...Back of the huge pile of driftwood and logs, crowds of people were massed in shadowy ranks, closely grouped in the vicinity of the point, and stretched out along the shore for hundreds of yards in either direction... Circling the road at the crest of Beacon Hill...cars shot the beams of their headlights out over the dark mass of broom bushes below. (Colonist, May 1, 1927, p. 1, 2)
Officials consulted their watches, the City Temple Band played, “a tiny light glowed across the Strait,” and someone yelled, “There’s Dungeness!” Matches flickered in the wind, a torch was lit and went out, was lit again and applied to the wood pile by a direct descendent of Captain Barkley (of Barkley Sound fame). The flames shot up in the wind into “a leaping, noisy giant’s torch.” (Colonist, May 1, 1927, p. 1, 2)
[Celebrating the 135th anniversary did not establish a tradition. On the 150th anniversary, in 1942, Pemberton was still alive to organize a celebration, but World War II was in progress and blackouts in effect. On the 200th anniversary, April 30, 1992, Pemberton was long dead and the date went unnoticed.]
Tally-Ho damages Stone Bridge
Damage to the wall of the Stone Bridge by “a Tally-Ho” was reported to the Park Committee on May 11, 1927. [A Tally-Ho is a large horse drawn wagon. Tally-Ho sightseeing rides for tourists, started in 1903, are still popular in 2004.]
The Parks Superintendent said, “the bridge is too narrow for large vehicles to use.” At the following meeting, May 18, the City Engineer recommended “the total load weight of any vehicle crossing the bridge should not exceed 5 tons and the speed should not exceed 4 miles per hour.” The Committee recommended to City Council that “no trucks, tally-hos or sight-seeing busses be permitted to use this bridge.” (CRS 76, 3B3) [The Stone Bridge was completely closed to vehicular traffic in 1942.]
Other Park Committee business
The Park Superintendent was authorized by the Park Committee to send a pair of swans from BHP to Elk Lake on January 19, 1927. (CRS 76, 3B3)
Tenders were received by the Park Committee for painting the bandstand on April 27, 1927. (CRS 76, 3B3)
The Park Committee directed the City Clerk on September 7, 1927 to “remind the Dominion government of its promise to present the city with a mate for this goat.” The goat was identified as a Rocky Mountain Goat. (CRS 76, 3B3)
On October 26, 1927, the Park Committee recommended that “the old Band Stand at Beacon Hill Park be converted into an aviary...” (CRS 76, 3B3) This was accomplished, according to the Mayor’s Report at the end of the year: “the old bandstand has been converted into an aviary.” [See 1926 for details of all three bandstands in Park history.]
November 9, 1927, the Park Committee recommended that "The Park Superintendent be asked to prepare a sketch plan showing paths, lanes, etc. through broom in Beacon Hill Park, such lanes to be about 15 feet wide and to be kept open at all Times." (CRS 76, 3B3)
Mayors Grove established
Mayors Grove was established in the Heywood meadow area east of Arbutus Way during a 1927 convention of western mayors in Victoria. Nine mayors planted trees to begin the grove. In following years, visiting dignitaries were invited to plant trees, among them Winston Churchill (a hawthorn in 1929), the King of Siam (an oak in 1931) and Lord Baden-Powell (an oak in 1935).
In 1963, a refurbished Mayors Grove sign was erected on steel posts northeast of Goodacre Lake. (Times, February 20, 1963, p. 17) Listed were twenty-five dignitaries, the tree species they planted--oak, maple, fir, ash, beech, copper beech, linden or hawthorn--and the dates. Identification numbers matched stone markers at the bases of the trees.
James Nesbitt reviewed the history of Mayors Grove in 1977:
In the 1920's and 1930's, it was ‘the thing’ for the mayor to take distinguished visitors to Beacon Hill Park and have them plant a tree in the Grove...The Grove was allowed to fall to pieces in the 1950's and Mayor Richard Wilson...had it restored [in the 1960's]. (Colonist, Oct. 23, 1977, p. 6, Mag.)
The 1963 sign title--"Mayors Grove"--did not include an apostrophe and neither did the green replacement sign erected about twenty years later; this history follows that pattern. In November, 2008, a new Mayors Grove sign was under construction further north.
1927 Annual Report
There was no Report by the Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards.
The Mayor reported the Douglas Street entrance was graded, planted with trees, shrubs, and flowers and the water laid on.
The Cook Street entrance was also greatly improved - over 500 trees and shrubs were used on these improvements and 6,500 flowering plants.
“The old bandstand has been converted into an aviary.” (CRS 16, Mayor's Report, AR 1927, p. 7-11)
In June, Charles St. Barbe castigated the Park Committee for being “indifferent to their trust” by cutting park funding. In a letter to the Colonist, St. Barbe stated, “many people have been attracted to Victoria by the beauty of its parks and by the trees and flowers that adorn them.” He said, Victoria is known as “the home of the finest flowers in North America. This reputation is one of the best advertisements that the town could have...” And yet:
Just now, when the busiest season of the year is at its height, the Parks Committee has chosen to commit the folly of cutting down the estimates prepared by the Superintendent of Parks of what he considers necessary for the season’s work...Is it too late for the committee to repent of their error and allow the superintendent the full amount of money he asks for? Surely his opinion in this matter is of more value than that of a committee whose members may or may not be competent gardeners and landscape artists themselves. (Colonist, June 10, 1928, p. 10)
Open Air Checkerboard
Alderman John Worthington proposed to City Council that an outdoor checkerboard be installed in Beacon Hill Park similar to the checkerboard in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The Times described Worthington’s plan:
The checked divisions of the open air board are reproduced on a large scale in cement, with concrete blocks as the pieces with which the game is played. The plans call for the installation of the board at the natural amphitheatre at Beacon Hill and provides for adequate seating accommodation for players and onlookers to the game. (Times, Sept. 17, 1928, p. 15)
[The checkerboard was built and officially opened on May 1, 1929. In 2004, the concrete checkerboard can be found north of the central playground and west of the green “Sports Hut,” near a large rock. It is in good shape but rarely noticed and never used. See 1929 for more details on this checkerboard.]
Parks and Boulevard Committee Meetings
At the April 20, 1928 meeting of the Park Committee, the Park Superintendent reported “many flowers and rose bushes are being stolen” from Beacon Hill Park. (CRS 76, 3B3)
The Parks and Boulevard Committee recommended on May 11, 1928 that the “City Temple Band be engaged to give four Sunday concerts in Beacon Hill Park in June at $120 per concert.” On June 8 another band, the “Fire Department Band” applied for two concerts at the usual rate. On July 6, the “16th Canadian Scottish Band” was recommended for four band concerts during August. (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
The Committee heard a report that no offers had been received in the effort to sell the hay in Beacon Hill Park, though fourteen merchants had been contacted. (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
On November 9, the Committee authorized the construction of a concrete checkerboard at the Park at a cost of $200. (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
Also on November 9, the Committee authorized the Park Superintendent to erect a wooden sign near the Chinese Bell describing the origin of the bell. (CRS 76, 3B3-1) [C. C. Pemberton suggested such a sign in 1923 but said “the park committee were too ignorant or too indifferent” to do it.]
November 30 meeting considered “a proposal from Mr. Craig to donate...a young panther about two months old to be placed in Beacon Hill Park. The Park Superintendent advised that in consequence of many complains from citizens, animals of this nature had been abolished from the park years ago.” The Committee did not recommend acceptance. (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
On December 7, 1928, “A letter was read...suggesting that an extension ladder and life belts and ropes be provided for the pond in Beacon Hill Park in case any skating takes place during the winter. It was decided to pass this letter on to the Chief of Police...” (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
On December 14, a reply from the Chief of Police was read. “He suggested the lake be drained or filled in so that the depth would not exceed more than 3'6" at any point.” At the same meeting, the Committee recommended $500 be included in the 1929 budget to fill in the lake to “a uniform depth of three to four feet.” (CRS 76, 3B3-1, December 14, 1928) [There is nothing in the record to indicate this was done. The same suggestion came up again in 1950 after a ice skating fatality. In 2004, one of the options available to improve water quality in Goodacre Lake is to make the lake deeper by cleaning out sediment.]
Lighting and parking installations suggested
A Colonist editorial spoke against constructing a “cement footpath” along “the cliff edge of Beacon Hill Park.” The idea was being considered by City Council but the newspaper claimed it would be unpopular.
Those who use the cliffside as a walk do so...as to escape hard pavements. It is the soft turf that appeals, as well as the scenic attractions of the view across the Straits.” (Colonist, Nov. 23, 1928, p. 4)
Instead, the Colonist again advocated the installation of lighting in the Park, an idea the newspaper first suggested in 1926. Lighting would enable evening concerts and “many more hours a day” of recreation.
A second suggestion for improvement was to build “a broad semi-circular roadway with embayments for parking fronting the cliffside.” The newspaper envisioned two “embayments,” each capable of holding twenty cars. The editorial said the popularity of motoring increased every year. Though people drive along Dallas Road because of the waterfront view, “Victoria has never capitalized on the magnificent view of the straits and the Olympic Mountains which is available from the Beacon Hill foreshore...it is one of the big assets which Victoria enjoys.” The paper pointed out the second reason people drive along the ocean is the “belief that healthy recreation is to be derived from proximity to the sea and the absorption of the salt-laden breezes.” (Colonist, November 23, 1928, p. 4)
Another legal opinion on a restaurant
The law firm of Elliott, MacLean and Shandley advised the City of Victoria on November 16, 1928 that the Park Trust permitted the City to grant concessions in Beacon Hill Park to individuals. The law firm stated this included a restaurant concession. They pointed to Stanley Park as an example of
a park well managed in the interest of the public. There is in that park a tea house where light refreshments can be procured by the public. We think such an establishment is clearly for the use and convenience of the public and is not at all of the same nature as the uses the portions of the park were sought to be devoted to in the Anderson case. (Cited by Colin Crisp, City Manager, August 27, 1991, File No. 77-677)
[The Anderson case referred to resulted in the 1884 Begbie ruling against using park land for an agricultural building.]
1928 Annual Report
There was no Report by the Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards.
The Mayor reported: “A checker board was laid, which should prove quite an attraction” (CRS 16, Mayor's Report, AR 1928, p. 10-15)
A “refreshment pavilion” is explored
A letter from the Chamber of Commerce and Real Estate Board suggesting the construction of “a refreshment pavilion at Beacon Hill Park” was discussed at the January 16, 1929 meeting of the Park Committee. The legal opinion of Maclean and Shandley was that the City could build one. The cost was estimated at $2200. “The Park Superintendent suggested if a refreshment pavilion is erected there should also be a Caretaker’s house adjoining or in the...vicinity.” (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
On January 23, the city building inspector reported to the Park Committee that a four room cottage was estimated to cost $2700. On January 30, it was decided the Chairman of the Committee would ask “proprietors of the tearoom at the corner of Niagara and Douglas if they would care to provide any additional accommodation.” (CRS 76, 3B3-1) They refused and the “refreshment pavilion” faded away, as have similar proposals.
Two buffalo arrive
By 1929, plans were well underway to acquire two buffalo for the Park zoo. Mr. W. T. Straith, President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, had advised the Park Committee the previous fall that he “had been trying to obtain some buffaloes for Beacon Hill Park.” The Dominion government allotted two from Wainwright and the CNR offered to ship them free. Mr. Straith donated $250 toward the “necessary stable” and would try to raise the money for fencing. (CRS 76, 3B3-1, November 9, 1928)
The Colonist weighed in against acquiring the buffalo on March 3, 1929. The editorial said not only would it be too expensive to care for the animals, it “would be a form of cruelty” because there was no suitable accommodation in Beacon Hill Park.
The buffaloes, if they are to have anything resembling their native habitat, must have considerable space in which to roam. It is all very well to confine them in National Parks many square miles in area. It is quite a different thing to immure them in a confined space under wholly unfamiliar surroundings just for the purpose of titillating the curiosity of our residents and tourists. It is plainly evident that the transportation, accommodation and upkeep of these animals would cost thousands of dollars. (Colonist, March 3, 1929, p. 4)
At the March 6, 1929 Park Committee meeting, a letter was read from the B.C. S.P.C.A. objecting to placing a pair of buffalo in Beacon Hill Park on the ground that “it is cruel and improper to move these animals from a cold dry climate to a wet climate.” The Committee decided to confer with “other Coast Cities on their experience.”(CRS 76, 3B3-1)
On March 20, Alderman Straith suggested that one half of the present deer enclosure be used for the buffalo. The Junior Chamber of Commerce would pay for the fencing. On March 27, Ald. Straith reported that the City would be required by the Dominion Government to “enter into a bond re the care of the buffalo.” (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
The two-year old pair of buffalo arrived in Victoria on May 20 after four days of travel inside a crate. From Wainright, Alberta, they traveled by C.N.R. train in a boxcar. After reaching the coast, they were brought by car ferry and then by truck to the Park, arriving in Victoria about midnight. An attendant, Mr. Roderick MacLeod, accompanied them. (Times, May 21, 1929, p. 1, 3)
In the Park, the buffalo “have a brand new log hut and a fair-sized run in which to exercise and even a few bushes where, if they want, they can escape the staring eyes of the public.” the Times explained. Comparing the Beacon Hill Park quarters to European zoo accommodation, Mr. MacLeod deemed the Park “first class.”
Mr. MacLeod said, “They will miss the herd for awhile, but they have been penned at Wainwright for some time in order to make them used to it and will be perfectly at home in a few days.” He explained the young buffalo looked bedraggled because they still had their long, shaggy winter coats.
The Times began a “name campaign” for the animals. (Times, May 21, 1929, p.1)
[The buffalo did not have long and happy lives. On May 9, 1935, the last buffalo in the Park zoo, Albert, was found dead, possibly of pneumonia. Victoria, his mate, died in 1932, the same year as her calf, which was gored by Albert. Another calf was sent in 1931 to Fort St. John for a crossbreeding experiment with cattle. The buffalo were not replaced.]
Outdoor checkerboard court opens
The new outdoor checkerboard court at Beacon Hill Park was officially opened May 1, 1929. After making a speech, Mayor Herbert Anscomb played the opening game of a checkers tournament with Alderman John Worthington, the man who initiated the checkerboard project. Contestants in the tourney included other Council members and two Constables who had been finalists in a recent police checker tourney. (Times, May 2, 1929, p. 15) According to Park Committee records, seats were constructed around the checkerboard.
New caretaker hired for animals
A. M. Young, Park employee and Park policeman, retired in 1929. The Parks Committee hired J. Riddell, at $110 a month, to replace him at their June 26 meeting. The Parks Superintendent was asked to “instruct the new caretaker of the animals...as to the necessity for taking proper precautions for his safety when cleaning out the bears enclosure. Gates provided must be closed.” (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
A representative of the Civic Employees Protective Association told the Park Committee at their October 25 meeting there was “a lack of safety precautions for the employee who has to clean out the bear pen.” (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
Suggestion for a waterfront bridle path
A visitor to Victoria staying at the Empress Hotel wrote a long letter to the Colonist advocating more development along the Dallas Road waterfront. “From Ogden Point to the old Clover Point rifle range, the city owns an undeveloped asset of over 10,000 feet or nearly two miles of frontage which any other place in the world would covet.” Mr. J. A. Campbell had a specific suggestion: “A bridle path along the front, the planting of a few suitable trees, shrubs, gorse, etc. would cost but little...” He had visited the Beacon Hill Nursery “full of trees and shrubs choking one another to death,” and thought they should be used. (Colonist, June 30, 1929, p. 4)
A response from resident J. R. Anderson was printed July 10. He agreed the waterfront was beautiful and thought the bridle path worth considering, but he recommended “a windbreak of broom and low-flowering shrubs” because prevailing winds would stunt and deform any trees planted there. Anderson agreed the city nursery was too congested but did not want any further nursery expansion into the Park. (Colonist, July 10, 1919, p. 4)
Winston Churchill plants a tree
On September 6, 1929, Sir Winston Churchill planted a hawthorne tree in Beacon Hill Park’s Mayors Grove. A plaque at the base of the tree states: “The Right Honourable Winston L. S. Churchill planted this tree Sept. 6, 1929." Churchill arrived in Victoria at the end of a month long tour of Canada and stayed three days at Government House.
On the 50th anniversary of the Churchill tree planting, in 1979, the Colonist wrote: the “now-mature tree stands in splendor by the playing field.” (Colonist, Sept. 7, 1979, p. 11)
Many people attended a ceremony at the tree after Churchill died on December 30, 1965. Annual meetings to “toast” Sir Winston on or near the anniversary date of his death began in 2000. The last “toast” was held at his tree on January 25, 2004.
Other Park Committee business
On March 6 the Committee discussed leveling the football grounds at Heywood Avenue because the “ground [was] very rough and uneven.” On April 19, they agreed to call for tenders to drain, grade and level Heywood field for football. (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
The Committee arranged, on March 13, for twelve summer band concerts to begin June 9. The first six by the 16th Canadian Scottish and the second six by the 5th Regiment. (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
On July 10, 1929, the Park Committee instructed the Parks Superintendent to commence “to clear away not less than one third of the broom in Beacon Hill Park.” (CRS 76, 3B3-1)
On November 27, the Committee recommended the preparation of “a plan for laying out and beautifying that portion of Beacon Hill Park between Dallas Road and the sea...”(CRS 76, 3B3-1)
1929 Annual Report
There was no Report by the Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards.
The Mayor reported a “new football ground at Beacon Hill Park.” [This could refer to the construction of a soccer pitch at Heywood Avenue. However, a new field in that location was mentioned in 1931.] (CRS 16, Mayor's Report, AR 1929, p. 3-5)