In February, an unusually long three-page Park Committee Report, signed by John Hall and J. Stuart Gates, listed improvements planned for Beacon Hill Park in 1900. The report estimated the total cost for the improvements, plus band concerts, to be $1,976.
1. Roads in “the north and west portions of the main drive require repairing and some grading.” The Committee recommended $350 be appropriated for the roads plus cleaning drains “to keep water off the roads.”
2. The Committee recommended the bandstand “be moved from its present position to a place nearer the lake at the other side of the deer run.”
3. More seats were suggested “along the sea front” and near the lakes.
4. “The bridges at the east and south ends of the lake” needed rebuilding.
5. The fence “at the corner of Dallas Road and Katherine Street” also needed repair.
6. The Committee recommended “a properly constructed aviary.”
7. The Fifth Regiment was the Committee choice for band concerts, at $40 per concert, at least half to be performed on Sunday afternoons and the rest on Saturday evenings.
8. It was noted the Park Keeper needed an assistant.
9. “A large pipe is also required for the purpose of supplying the lakes without diminishing the supply to the fountain and drinking taps.” (CRS 4, FE2)
A second band shares concerts
Concert plans, as listed in the February Committee Report, were complicated in May when the Victoria City Band wanted to play some of the summer concerts in the Park. The Fifth Regiment Band wasn’t about to share. On May 14, 1900 Park Committee records state: “Bandmaster Finn of the Fifth Regiment Band declined to play at Beacon Hill Park unless he takes all concerts...”
That tactic appeared to backfire when the Park Committee recommended, on May 17, that City Council accept “the offer of the Victoria City Band to play 15 concerts...for five hundred dollars.” On July 9, Park Committee records indicate a compromise: the 5th Regiment Band would play six concerts at $40 each. On August 13, the Park Committee noted a “Petition from 194 citizens for the Victoria City Band to play out at Beacon Hill...,” and recommended “the remaining five vacancies be fixed by the Park Committee when they will be played.” (CRS 4, 7E7)
The Powder Magazine again
In August, the Colonist wrote:
“Just why the city authorities should longer permit the unsightly old powder magazine building to mar the beauties of Beacon Hill Park is a question somewhat puzzling to those who visit Victoria’s charming breathing spot on the occasion of the numerous band concerts now being held. The powder was long ago removed from the old building and it is now used as a storehouse for the park employees tools. Opinion is unanimous that the building ought to be removed at once.” (Colonist, August 21, 1900, p. 5)
On November 5, 1900 the Park Committee recommended signing a 5 year contract with Mr. Robert Mason “to cut hay in the park and deliver it to any part of the City...for...$6 per ton, he also undertaking to take out boulders and fill up the holes and level the ground and harrow and seed the same...” (Robert Mason was also named in 1898 as the hay cutter.) The Committee noted that roads in the Park need repair. “No work has been done on them for the past ten years.” (CRS 4, 7E7)
Burns Monument erected
On November 10, 1900, the Burns Monument was unveiled. The subscribers of the “monument erected to the memory of Robert Burns” presented a Resolution dated November 9, 1900, transferring the monument to the City. The Resolution stipulated that the City must “forever maintain and keep the same as a Monument and Fountain for the benefit of inhabitants of Victoria.” Mayor Hayward acknowledged the gift and read out the conditions. He said, however, that “municipal law forbade anticipating the future or placing burdens on those coming after us.” He assured the group that “authorities would always be pleased to preserve this loving tribute...” (Colonist, November 11, 1900)
The City did not “forever maintain and keep” the “Monument and Fountain” as the Resolution stipulated. In fact, current residents of Victoria might be surprised to learn the monument was originally also a fountain: water flowed out of small spouts set in the mouths of the lion heads on the east and west side of the monument. In 1959, Park Administrator Herb Warren advised the Park Committee that it was “impractical to modernize the two sprays in the Burns Monument without tearing it to pieces...He also advised that the present Fountain Heads did not comply with Health Regulations.” (CRS 107, Oct. 30, 1959) The fountain spouts are still visible today in the lions mouths. Members of Victoria’s six Scottish societies continue to meet at the Burns Memorial site on or near January 26.
“Report of the Park Keeper,” John G. Thomson, for 1900, stated:
"The band stand has been removed to a more favorable part, repaired and repainted, and two dozen new chairs for same. Two new bridges across the lake have been erected, replacing the old ones...and 100 feet of fencing, closing in the back of the bird houses from view....The small lake has been cleaned out and a water pipe laid into it for supply purposes during the dry weather. The fence around it and bridge have been painted...The bear pit requires good repairs or renewed." (CRS 16, AR, 1900, p. 96-97)
Animals and birds in the zoo:
Animals: “3 bears, 2 deer, 14 guinea pigs, 12 rabbits:
Birds: “20 ducks, 3 eagles, 11 swans, 7 geese, 20 pigeons, 4 cockatoos, 2 paroquets, 2 magpies, 2 blue jays [it is more likely they were Scrub or Stellar’s jays], 4 pheasants, 1 vulture, 3 owls, 1 hawk and 4 peafowl.”
The Park Committee wrote a short report for 1900, as well. They recommended “a keeper’s lodge” be built in the Park and reporting continued pressure on the federal government to remove the “now abandoned powder magazine, which is a great eyesore to all visitors.”
Citizens protest Park gravel pits and tree cutting
A January letter to the editor disapproved of recent work in the Park:
"In the park, near Lovers’ Lane, a force of workmen are engaged in cutting down and burning trees and digging a huge pit in the ground. Quite a number of trees have already been felled and others are marked to come down. For a certainty, as many more will be blown down as are felled. This is always the case where trees have been thinned out close to the coast. Can you tell me how much more of the park it is proposed to clear, and what is the nature of the improvements under way? Is it fortification, rifle pits or swimming baths?" (Colonist, January 27, 1901, p. 8)
The writer also mentioned “wind shelters” and “bicyclists rests... that have been excavated by the side of the race track, just beyond the Burns Memorial.”
Three days later, another letter to the editor protested “the way in which our beautiful park is being despoiled of its beauties....” The writer described a huge pit dug in the northwest corner of the Park to extract gravel for street work. He stated something similar was taking place “at the end of Lovers’ Lane beyond the bear pit.” He asked “why can’t the trees and shrubs be allowed to remain....?” (Colonist, January 30, 1901, p. 7) [The City blasted rock in the northwest corner in 1869 for road work also.]
A second letter the same day disapproved of “the great damage which is being done at the southeast entrance of Beacon Hill Park” by cutting too many trees. As well, to get gravel for Park roads, an “unsightly pit” was being dug, though “there are millions of tons of good gravel that could have been got without doing such damage to the people’s park. Let the work of excavating be stopped. It has gone much too far already.” (Colonist, January 30, 1901, p. 7)
A Colonist editorial reviewed the citizen complaints about tree cutting and the “disfigurement of the landscape by excavating for gravel” in the southeast and southwest corners. The editorial advocated a halt to work and an investigation by the Park Committee, stating, “Beacon Hill Park is too precious...to be allowed to suffer damage... (Colonist, January 30, 1901, p. 4)
Nothing in the record indicates if cutting trees and digging gravel pits in the Park stopped as a result of the 1901 protests. There was a rock quarry in the northwest corner until 1911.
By-Law #350, “Maintenance and Care of Public Parks”, passed March 8, 1901, set out the responsibilities of the Park Committee, including the “care and custody” of Beacon Hill Park. (Ireland, “Memorandum,” p. 10)
New steps and seats in the works
An article in the Colonist in May reported: “The fence around the deer enclosure has been moved back and a number of new seats will be erected. This will provide seats for the crowd who attend the Sunday band concerts during the summer.” A water trough will be built for the horses, as well. (Colonist, May 18, 1901, p. 5)
The Colonist reported new steps were being constructed from the Dallas Road cliffs down to the beach at the foot of Cook and at the foot of Menzies. (Colonist, June 12, 1901, p. 5) By June 22, the newspaper noted the steps were completed and commented on three other Park improvements:
"As the bear pit has become weakened through the outer timbers of the pit rotting, the Committee [will recommend] that the pit either be repaired or that a new one be constructed above ground in the deer enclosure. If the latter plan is adopted, it would be necessary to build one of bricks with iron bars.
[The Committee will also recommend] providing accommodation for bathers at Horseshoe Bay, which is situated below the Hill.
Workmen are now busy facing the shores of Goodacre Lake with huge boulders, cemented with clay, the shore having been worn away by the swans and ducks. This will add to the picturesqueness of the lake." (Colonist, June 22, 1901, p. 5)
Third mining claim in the same place
A mining claim was staked yet again “on the point just below Beacon Hill and on the water’s edge” in 1901. Previous attempts to mine gold in the same location took place in 1859 and 1885, with no results. “The present holder of the claim is sinking a prospect hole which is already 25 feet down. He has great hopes for the future...” (Colonist, July 3, 1901, p. 5)
Animal acquisitions and continuing bear problems
Additions to the zoo included an Australian cockatoo, an English cock pheasant, two young peacocks and several flocks of ducks. The Park Committee hoped to get “a cage of monkeys and a pair of foxes for the zoo” from Vancouver. (Colonist, June 22, 1901, p.5)
The Park Committee noted in a July 15 meeting that “the outer walls of the Bearpits...require to be repaired.” The estimate was $105. (CRS 4, 7E8)
Mr. George McKinley, purser of the steamer Boscowitz donated a three month old black bear to the Beacon Hill Park zoo. (Colonist, August 9, 1901, p. 5) A citizen responded to this news with a letter to the editor on August 14. F. B. Kitto glumly reviewed the history of previous young black bears in the zoo. He reminded Victorians that the first little bear was put to death by Park staff, and “the second being placed in the pit with the more powerful full grown bears was promptly killed and eaten.” Kitto was therefore pessimistic about the fate of the newest cub.
Kitto also said the SPCA had recommended in previous years “that the owls might have some shade in their cage and the eagles...have more light...If wild animals and birds must be kept in captivity they should have such arrangements made for them as will nearly resemble their natural habitat.” (Colonist, August 14, 1901, p. 8)
Frequent grass fires in the Park were reported in August and the newspaper made suggestions to prevent them:
"It would be of some benefit to cut the grass and rake it off, although this will not wholly prevent the fires...Perhaps it would be well to break up the expanse of grass by laying gravel walks across it in several directions...But no matter what is done, the city would save money by keeping one or two men in the Park during the dry season, whose duty it should be to watch for fires...As things now are, the fire department is called out every few days and every time this occurs it costs the city something..."
While speaking of this, we may also refer to the necessity of cutting down the broom at the southeast corner of the Hill, so as to enable bicyclists and persons driving to see across the turn. At present there is danger of serious collisions occurring at this point, and this could be wholly removed if the broom were cut away for fifty feet or so on each side of the turn. (Colonist, August 27, 1901, p. 4)
Butterflies and band concerts
In 1901, Pine White butterflies were so numerous that ”Towards the end of the season, in August, the dead butterflies may be seen in vast numbers floating on the sea around Vancouver Island or thrown up along the beach in windrows sometimes an inch or two in depth.” (Dr. James Fletcher, “Entomological Record, 1901," The Report of the Entomological Society, No. 19, 1901, p. 99-109) Evidence of this wealth of butterflies stretched along Dallas Road beaches.
On May 27, 1901, the Park Committee proposed that two bands, 5th Regiment and Victoria City Band, share 12 concerts on alternate Sundays. Each band would be paid $250 for six concerts and would provide a complimentary concert. On May 29, it was decided some of the concerts would be presented on weekdays. The 5th Regiment was to play five Friday evenings and one Saturday afternoon. The Victoria City Band would play six Sunday afternoon concerts at $250. (CRS 4, 7E8)
The “Beacon Hill Park Report” by John G. Thomson, Park Keeper for 1901, stated:
"The edge of two of the Islands in the large lake and one third of the outer edge of the lake have been edged with stone...
The bear pits have been put in good order with new plank walls, inside a new plank floor...A new domicile has been made for the pheasants...The recent gale caused a considerable amount of damage. A large number of trees were blown down--some into the small lake, smashing the fence around it, two swings and several seats, also damaging one of the bird cages." (AR, 1901, p. 99-100)
Captive animals and birds in the Park in 1901:
Animals: “3 bears, 4 deer, 1 raccoon, 20 guinea pigs, 12 rabbits.”
Birds: “5 eagles, 2 owls, 11 swans, 6 geese, 20 ducks, 20 pigeons, 6 cockatoos, 3 parroquets, 1 magpie, 4 pheasants, 6 blue jays, 1 vulture, 3 peafowl, 1 hawk.”
On February 3, 1902, the Park Committee noted because of “great damage to Beacon Hill Park by the storms of the 25th December and the one of the week before last, a large expenditure will be required to put the Park in good order.” Four men were employed during January to help the Park Keeper, at a cost of $152, after the first storm and then laid off. Two more months of work costing $800 would be needed to repair damage from the second storm. (CRS 4, 7E8)
“Seal Presented to Beacon Hill Park Ruthlessly Killed” headlined a Colonist story in September. “The S.P.C.A. is offering a reward for the conviction of the person or persons who killed the seal which so recently was an object of interest and amusement to visitors to Beacon Hill Park.” (Colonist, September 28, 1902, p. 5)
The Park Committee granted a permit to the Victoria Cricket Club “to use that portion of the Park heretofore...used by the Fifth Regiment Cricket Club, upon the condition the club take proper care of the ground...” (CRS 4, 7E8)
On April 15, the Committee recommended “a new run for the deer be fenced in the west side of the main drive into the Park directly opposite to the present one.” The deer, it was noted, were not in good condition. The cost of fencing and a shed for shelter was estimated at $425. The Committee also recommended the flagpole be painted at a cost of $50. (CRS 4, 7E8)
In May, a letter to the editor signed “Q,” protested “encroachments upon Beacon Hill Park.” He criticized continued rock quarrying in the Park as well as fencing off areas for a rifle range and deer. Of particular interest is his mention of the cricket pavilion:
"It is hard to find language to express indignation at the nature and rapidity of the encroachments being made upon the reserve. One would imagine that the custodians of the Park were doing their best to deliver it into the hands of the Philistines, instead of to enlarge and preserve it as is the custom in other cities...you will observe that rock quarrying is now allowed within what should be the sacred limits.
But recently a large portion of what we understood to be the people’s property was bartered for a rifle range, enclosed in all the hideousness of a barbed wire fence, and ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted.’
Now a new portion is to be enclosed for the deer.
A pavilion is also being erected at the Cricket club. Surely, this new atrocity might, like the former pavilion, have been placed outside the limits.
It would be interesting to learn how far the authorities are at liberty to enclose and dispose of portions of the Park, as the next step will probably be the sale or lease of it for building lots. It seems that some association should be formed for the purpose of protecting the people’s property from its proper protectors. "(Colonist, May 4, 1902, p. 4)
An editorial the same day noted “Q” was the second citizen to complain of enclosures in the Park but the Colonist defended every one. The newspaper acknowledged the rifle range was “an eyesore” but said this was justified because shooting was a popular amusement. The deer fence was needed to protect the animals from “dogs and boys.” The editorial said it was a pleasure to watch deer and a pleasure to watch cricket, too, noting: “The shed put up by the cricket club is a moveable one.” The editorial advocated even more sport fields in the Park:
"a good baseball diamond, a good cricket pitch, a good lacrosse ground and a good stretch of turf for exercising horses laid out in the Park and carefully protected for those who wish to play these games and to ride.
[Organize] the resources of the Park...to get the greatest advantage to the greatest number out of it...And let no one imagine that the dull level of vacant monotony...is what the people as a whole enjoy."(Colonist, May 4, 1902, p 4)
The May 4 letter from “Q” and the editorial both mention an early cricket club building. “Q” refers to the building as a “pavilion,” saying a new pavilion was “being erected at the cricket club” to replace a “former pavilion,” both of which he thought should “have been placed outside [Park] boundaries. The editorial, a booster of sports facilities in the Park, minimizes the cricket building by calling it a “shed” and stating it is “moveable.”
The “Beacon Hill Park Report” by John G. Thomson, Park Keeper for the year ending December 31, 1902, was published as usual in the City’s Annual Reports. It was also printed in full in the Colonist on January 8.
"Thomson reported 'a large number of trees had to be cut up and cleared away' after winter storms. The flagpole was repainted and guy wires attached.
...A new six foot fence has been built enclosing four acres for the deer and they are doing much better in their new quarters, also a new shed has been built for their use... The soil of the old deer park was prepared for seeding.
...A new tunnel has been put in between the two bear pits.
...the small lake [has been] emptied and cleaned out."
Captive animals and birds in 1902:
Animals:” 2 bears, 5 deer, 15 guinea pigs, 12 rabbits.” [The seal had been killed by vandals.]
Birds: “7 eagles, 2 owls, 3 peafowl, 11 swans, 7 geese, 24 ducks, 24 pigeons, 4 cockatoos, 1 paraquet, 1 blackbird, 1 magpie, 7 pheasants 2 blue jays, 2 quail, 1 vulture, 1 hawk.” (CRS 16, Report of Park Keeper, AR 1902, p. 104-105)
The Colonist reported a donation of a “half dozen Chinese quail” to the Park. (Colonist, May 17, 1903, p. 5)
“Repairs to the old ‘C’ Battery barracks at the east side of Beacon Hill Park are now in progress,” the newspaper reported in November. (Colonist, Nov. 1, 1903, p. 5)
In 1903, the Report of the Park Keeper stated:
“The whole of the old deer park, which is about two acres, has been leveled and improved...and seeded...and kept as a lawn.
...There have also been four apartments built by way of additions to the pheasants aviary which gives them better accommodation. Unfortunately, about a month ago six pheasants were stolen from the aviary, including two golden pheasants...
...There have been two new passages made and other repairs done at the bear pits which will suffice to keep them in repair for the present, but I would strongly recommend that the walls of the pits be built of brick and cement or some other permanent material, as they, as at present constructed, require repairing year after year at considerable expense, lumber decaying very rapidly.” (CRS 16, Report of Park Keeper, AR 1903, p. 106-107)
The Park Keeper repeated the recommendation to improve the bear pits in 1904, 1905 and 1906.
"Chinese Bell" - Image courtesy of BC Archives (H01376)
Chinese Temple Bell hung
The Chinese Temple Bell was “mounted” by October 24, 1904, at Circle Drive and Beacon Hill Drive (near Douglas Street and Simcoe). A substantial structure was erected to support the great weight of the bell, including a roof to partially shelter it. The bell remained a curiosity in the Park until 1989, when it was moved to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
A pamphlet written by Barry Till, published by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1992, traces the history of the bell. It was looted from a Chinese Temple during the Boxer Rebellion (1900-1901) by British troops and presented to the City of Victoria by Lt. W.B. Macdonald of H.M.S. Pique. Cast between 1641 and 1642, the iron bell weighed 479 kgs. (954 lbs) and was 1.36 metres tall. Like all large Chinese bells, the Park bell had no clapper. Ringing a bell in China involved swinging a wooden ramrod suspended horizontally by ropes like a battering ram. There was no ramrod provided in the Park, so generations of children banged the bell with coins, rocks and sticks. Inscriptions on the bell list the names of some 300 villagers of Funing City (now in Hebei Province) who paid for it to be donated to the White Robe Buddhist Convent. (Barry Till, Relic From a Distant Temple: Victoria’s Chinese Bell, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1992)
Till described an ill-advised effort of the Park Department to protect the bell in the 1930's involving scraping off rust and coating the bell with red lead and varnish. By the late 1980's, it was clear the bell should be kept indoors to protect it both from the weather and vandalism. A “conservation cleaning” was carefully undertaken so as not to damage the dragon and lotus flowers relief decorations. A special sealant was applied to stop rust and preserve it indefinitely. (Till, p. 5)
Archival photos of the Chinese Bell in the Park show two cannons, one on each side of the bell, in an area bare of trees and shrubs. The structure erected for the bell now stands empty south of the Burns Memorial, surrounded by large trees and shrubs. A gigantic flower basket hung in place of the bell during summer months until the drought of 2002 ended the tradition.
Grass and broom fire
“An alarming fire at Beacon Hill” headlined a Colonist story in September. The article described how “flames spread amongst dried grass and gorse bushes.” Fanned by a wind, the fire “spread to an alarming degree all over the south front of the hill, up as far as the flagstaff. The gorse bushes were blazing and throwing off dense clouds of black smoke, while the fire spread quickly through the matted and dried grass around the hill toward Horseshoe Bay, where probably the worst phase of the fire occurred.” Though the fire department fought the blaze, it mostly “burned itself out” and the park “presents a spectacle of ruin and black desolation, with smoke rising off the heaps of ashes where the gorse bushes that added so much to the appearance of the park once bloomed...The fire was the worst that has been seen at Beacon Hill Park for a good many years.” (Colonist, September 13, 1904, p. 3)
[The writer might have confused gorse with broom. Broom was the dominant invasive shrub on the Hill and in most of the Park. Gorse, an invasive shrub with sharp spines that looks similar to broom, has spread along and near the Dallas Road cliffs.]
The Powder Magazine is removed
In 1904, the Report of the Park Keeper reported at last: “The powder magazine has been removed and the foundation has been filled in with black soil and seeded down and is now part of the lawn.”
The powder magazine stood in the centre of Beacon Hill Park from 1879 to 1904, a total of 26 years. In 1892, the military removed four cannons from the bluffs along Dallas Road but left the powder magazine in place for another twelve years, despite constant requests from the City to remove it. Not only was the magazine unsightly, but the explosives inside presented a safety hazard. After the military removed the explosives about 1896, Park staff used the building as a toolshed until it was demolished.
In the 1904 Annual Report, Park Keeper John G. Thomson described road work carried out according to the Blair Plan:
"There has been a great improvement in carrying out part of the original plan of the Park, consisting of grading, graveling and completing of that road from the stone bridge which crosses the lake to the east end of Michigan Street, the length of which is 880 feet, by 24 feet wide, which will be a great convenience to the public. There has also been a loop made at the end of the road on the top of the hill, for the convenience of carriages turning. "(CRS 16, AR 1904, p. 102-103)
[The booklet published by the City, Beacon Hill Park 1882 - 1982, A Brief History, incorrectly states on page 32: “1904 Lookout Road was constructed.” The road was first constructed to the top of Beacon Hill in 1889. Thomson describes a 1904 improvement made to this existing road.]
"Four concrete anchors were placed in the ground for the wire guy-ropes of the flag pole. Fifty seats and several wings have been repaired and painted.
...I would again recommend that the walls of the bear-pits be built of brick and cement, or some other permanent material, as they, as at present constructed, require repairing year after year, at considerable expense, lumber decaying very rapidly.” (AR 1904, p. 102-103)
A Colonist report in May summarized recent work in the Park:
"The energetic park committee of the city council has done excellent work this season in cleaning up the pretty Beacon Hill resort, much of the old underbrush having been removed and burned, the green swards mown, the flower beds put in fine shape and the walks and driveways cleared. As a consequence the park now looks very pretty and inviting. A noticeable improvement is the construction of a large strongly barred cage for the wild cat, which is one of the chief attractions at the menagerie. A new drive has been constructed from the end of Michigan to the stone bridge at Goodacre Lake." (Colonist, May 4, 1905, p. 5)
In 1905, the Report of the Park Keeper stated:
“The small lake was emptied and cleaned out and waterlily beds were made. The water lilies flowered well and were a great attraction in the summer.”
[When there were only two lakes in the Park, the “small lake” referred to Fountain Lake. It was sometimes called Goldfish Lake, and after 1905, when the lilies were planted, called Lily Lake. Photo: N. Ringuette, June, 2004.]
The Park Report continued:
"A substantial quantity of dead broom was cleared off the hill. The Park has been very free from grass fires this year.” [1901 was the first year broom was mentioned in the Annual Report.]
"...A substantial house twenty feet by eight by ten feet high with iron bars in front was built for the lynx, which keeps him both safe and comfortable.
"I would again earnestly call your attention to the unfit condition of the Bear Pits, which should be built of some permanent material, as lumber decays very rapidly.”
Captive animals and birds in the Park in 1905:
Animals: “3 bears, 3 deer, 1 moose, 1 raccoon, 1 seal, 2 squirrels, 30 guinea pigs, 2 white rats, 10 rabbits, 1 lynx, 2 monkeys.”
Birds: “15 swans, 9 geese, 30 ducks, 2 cockatoos, 4 pheasants, 3 bullfinch, 6 eagles, 2 vulture, 1 magpie, 1 hawk, 2 owls, 26 pigeons.” (AR 1905, p. 95-96)
In May, while surveying Avalon Road, City Engineer Topp discovered “considerable encroachment upon the boundaries of the Park by those residing on Catherine Street [now Douglas Street]. The faulty lines are reported to extend from Toronto Street on the north to the Colonist Hotel on the south. It is alleged that from a foot to fourteen feet has been taken from the confines of the park as a result...” Whether or not the nine property owners had been told to move their fences within two years was unconfirmed. (Times, May 23, 1906, p. 1)
On September 21, 1906, the Colonist reported the Mayor accepted “the gift of a grey spotted seal from the Capital Canning company, which was caught in the company’s salmon nets. The seal has been delivered to the park and placed with the present occupant of the pond. The baby seal formerly presented has since died.” (Colonist, Sept. 21, 1906. p.2) [The first seal given to the Park in 1902 was killed by someone soon after. This article indicates two seals were in the Park in 1906 but only one appeared on the animal list at the end of the year.]
Proposal to sell part of the Park
In October, the Times reported an ambitious “scheme” by Ald. Douglas, Chairman of the Parks Committee, to fund zoo and aviary improvements in Beacon Hill Park without using City funds or requiring new taxes. He presented an itemized estimate of the costs for improvements needed: monkey house, $300; bears house, with bath brick dens, concrete doors and sides with partition, $1,130; eagles aviary, 25 by 50 and 30 feet high, $1,346; seal bath, 25 by 50, $1,350; park keepers house with five rooms, $2,000. Total cost: $6,126. (Times, October 23, 1906, p.1)
A week later, Victorians were told what his “scheme” was: he planned to sell part of the Park.
With the agreement of the Park Committee, Ald. Douglas circulated a petition for signatures of property owners. It stated:
"Your petitioners are informed that your park committee have recommended as being immediate and urgent the construction in Beacon Hill Park of proper housing accommodation for the zoological specimens owned by the city and also those improvements which will ...make the park more attractive... "(Times, November 1, 1906, p. 6)
After explaining the city had neglected the park due to lack of money, it was suggested the money be raised by selling
"a strip of land of a depth of 120 feet...of the uncultivated and rocky part of Beacon Hill Park lying at the northwest extremity running parallel with Catherine Street, now the continuation of Douglas Street. ..this rocky strip...is now unprotected against the creation of nuisances...Your petitioners recommend that application be made to the government to release the strip to the city for sale to provide funds for park purposes. "(Times, November 1, 1906, p. 6)
Douglas stated that the land sale could raise $15,000. “Attractive homes and gardens” could be built on the lots. Douglas pointed out the recent gift of a cow moose to the Park by the “governor of the Yukon” was almost withdrawn due to the “unfavorable conditions under which the animals were kept.” (Times, November 1, 1906, p. 6)
On November 12, Council received Alderman Douglas’ petition to sell 2-6 acres of the northwest corner of the Park. Ald. Goodacre was “against selling an inch of this park.” Ald. Fell and Ald. Vincent agreed. Ald. Fullerton thought improvements could be made for the animals without selling park land. Council voted down the proposal to sell a portion of Beacon Hill Park, 7 to 3. Those who voted to sell park land were Aldermen Douglas, Yates and Davey. (Times, November 13, 1906, p.6)
The 1906 Report of Park Keeper John G. Thomson included the following:
"The Band-stand has been repaired and painted...The flagpole was painted and rigged with new halyards. Four new seats were built around the bottom.
The British officers of the Garrison at Work Point presented to the Park two field guns that are out of use. [These are probably the guns which stood near the Chinese Bell for many years.]
The small lake has been emptied twice this year, and cleaned out and the seal given more space...There has also been a fine cow Moose presented to the Park by Governor McInnes of the Yukon, which is a great attraction and acquisition.
I would again call your attention to the unfit condition of the Bear Pits; as the lumber is decaying very rapidly, I would suggest that new ones be built of a more substantial material.
There has also been a nice house built for the Raccoons, twelve feet by eight by ten feet high." (AR 1906, p. 95-96)
The new phenomenon of automobiles on Park roads brought complaints to the attention of the Park Committee in May, 1907.
Problems included excessive speed, danger to pedestrians and dust. Chairman Verrinder said these problems could be solved without banning automobiles from Park roads as some critics suggested. He said the speed limit of ten miles an hour, already in place for carriages, could be enforced for automobiles. Verrinder--a proud automobile owner himself--blamed hired chauffeurs for speeding and claimed car owners were more considerate. He said the dust problem could be solved by having the water cart go through the Park on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning before Sunday afternoon traffic. Verrinder recommended to City Council that the Parks bylaw be amended to make regulation and enforcement of motors in the Park the responsibility of the Committee. “As the bylaw stands at present, although all other kinds of conveyances are specially mentioned, nothing is said as to motors, the measure having been drafted long before such things were thought of.” (Colonist, May 5, 1907, p. 3)
Petition drives to improve zoo conditions
A number of “ladies” complained to “the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” about the “cramped condition of the hawks, owls and eagles” at the Park zoo. The women thought the birds must “either be given more accommodation or be let free.” They said the cages got no sun and space was lacking for exercise. Park Committee Chairman Verrinder agreed improvement was necessary and said, “If nothing is done I would be in favor of liberating the birds...” (Colonist, May 8, 1907, p. 6)
Though Verrinder had agreed with the “ladies,” zoo improvements were completely ignored when the Park Committee announced their plans the next month. Touring the Park on June 21, Blair Plan in hand, the focus was on grass and tree trimming, not captive animals and birds. The Times reported that because little money was available for Park improvements,
"...little can be done this year in improving the park or in further carrying out the original plan of Designer Blair, whose tracings and blue prints the committee had with them today. Arrangements, however, were made to have the grass cut immediately to prevent the spread of fires...The burnt broom also will be cleared away and the old limbs and timber in the moose enclosure burned. During the coming winter the magnificent oaks in the northern portion of the Park will be pruned of their dead limbs. Some of these oaks are believed to be one thousand years old, but the lives of a number of them are endangered at the present time from inattention to pruning. Chairman Arbuthnot will oversee the work in a general way, the details being carried out by the Park gardener, Mr. Thomson and his men." (Times, June 21, 1907, p. 2)
The first petition to improve zoo conditions had been entirely ignored by the Park Committee and City Council, so a second petition was organized in July. This time, “gentlemen’s” signatures were solicited.
A “gentleman” signer said “...these poor animals [are] visited with half the tortures of the damned to delight the few children who visit the park... Kill them by all means but don’t torture them to death.” Those who signed the previous petition were asked to sign again at Hibben & Company on Government Street. The Colonist said, “The signatures on the petition include a number of gentlemen’s names as well as ladies which the former petition did not.” The new petition was presented to the Mayor and City Council. (Colonist, July 9, 1907, p. 8)
On July 18, the Park Committee decided that the bears and the deer would have new quarters. “The city engineer with the chairman and several members of the board will visit the park and consider the situation...It is likely a new pen will be provided.” Of the Park Committee appropriation of $6,500, $1,500 had already been spent and about $3,500 was available for Beacon Hill Park. (Colonist, July 19, 1907, p. 11)
Ownership of the Park moose in dispute
A question arose in October about the ownership of the Beacon Hill Park moose, which had lived in the zoo for three years. C. L. Cullin claimed ownership of the bull moose. He offered to sell the moose to the City for $250, stating that a good moose could not be found in “every clump of bushes.” Mr. Cullin claimed a previous Chairman of the Parks Committee, Mr. Hanna, would not purchase the moose but said it could live in the Park enclosure. The Mayor retorted Mr. Cullin might owe board and room for the moose of about $25 a month for three years. In that case, the City could charge Mr. Cullin “upkeep and maintenance” of about $650. (Colonist, October 18, 1907, p. 7)
In November, the Colonist reported a Park Committee decision that “Mr. C. A. Cullin” [sic] could not have the moose back unless he paid the city “ten dollars a month for the past three years, the period during which his bull moose has rusticated within the confines of Beacon Hill Park.” The Committee asked a former Park Committee member, Mr. Hanna, for his account of the previous moose arrangement. Mr. Hanna wrote: “Mr. Cullin got permission from Ald. Douglas, then chairman of the park committee, to leave the animal in the park in care of the park keeper, and so far as I am aware this was the only arrangement made between the city and Mr. Cullin.” The Park Keeper was instructed “not to let the animal out of the enclosure until...$300 in all has been paid.” (Colonist, November 13, 1907, p. 2)
“The Natural History club” asked “to use the street sweepings as fertilizer for the Beacon Hill Park. The Committee pointed out the City was under contract to put the sweepings on the grounds around the Empress Hotel. When that contract with the CPR is filled, the Committee will consider the club request. (Colonist, October 18, 1907, p. 7)
The 1907 Park Keeper’s Report was John G. Thomson’s tenth and last. He was first mentioned in the Park Committee report in 1895 as “foreman of the Park” and the first printed report written by Thomson was in 1898. He worked in some capacity in the Park for at least thirteen years. The 1907 Report stated:
"I have seeded down over half an acre on the triangle at Burns’ Fountain, and kept cut with the lawn mower along with the rest of the lawns around lakes and bird cages, which will extend to about five acres; it being more or less all under trees gives a great deal extra labor with the small branches, leaves and cones falling all the time...
The hay in the Park was all cut this summer and sold, except what was required for the animals...it paid all expenses, and we had, free of cost, what is used here...
I would suggest that a good flock of sheep put on early in the spring would keep the grass down nice and short, which would be better for the public walking around and a good preventative from grass fires.
Unfortunately, we had quite a few grass fires this year again, one of which scorched and killed most of the broom on the Hill, which had to be all grubbed out by the root. I have also been cutting clear spaces through some of the larger clumps that were left, so that if a fire should start it may be possible to confine it more to a smaller area.
There has... been a road cut through connecting Heywood Avenue with the principal entrance to the Park, which is a great improvement.
There was an acre of ground ploughed up in the eastern side of the Park, which is intended for a nursery.
I had the moose and deer enclosure cleaned up, by having all the dead brush and fallen timber burned. There is practically none of their natural food left to subsist on; it has all to be hauled from elsewhere to them. I would suggest having a new enclosure for the moose and deer separate. They would do much better.
Quite a number of the smaller and dead trees were thinned out...which lets more light in on the bird cages, and also gives those remaining more space and air to extend their growth.
....through the generosity of ex-Alderman Goodacre, all the meat-eating animals and birds have been supplied with meat, as usual, gratis, which he has done for the last seventeen years.
The bear pits have been repaired this summer, but only in a temporary way, which has made them secure for the present. I would again recommend that a more permanent and modern structure be built."
[Note: The City of Victoria publication Beacon Hill Park, 1882-1982, A Brief History incorrectly states, on page 24: “In 1907 the bear pits were constructed near Cook and Dallas.” In fact, the bear pits were only repaired that year “in a temporary way.” There were only two bears left in 1907 and in 1909, the bears were killed. The only bear in the Park after that was the Kermodei bear (1924-1948). She was kept in a cage, not a pit.]
In 1908, the first horse was purchased for hauling and general work in the Park. For the next 55 years--until 1963--there was a work horse in the Park. (Queenie, the best known Park horse, worked ten years, from 1953 until her retirement in 1963. She died November 15, 1970, and is buried in the yard of the current Children’s Petting Zoo.)
The Times reported in May, 1908 that the Parks Board would enforce “regulations against the running at large of dogs in Beacon Hill Park.” Notices were posted throughout the Park and the Board warned the public “against allowing dogs in the Park unless on a leash.” After complaints were made to the Board in 1907, it was decided that leashes were required but no further action was taken until notices were posted in May, 1908. Enforcement was needed because “dogs have in the past done a lot of damage in the park by chasing wild fowl, tearing up the flower beds and annoying and scaring the various animals in the park.” (Times, May 5, 1908, p. 5)
That didn’t solve the dog problem. In August, the Colonist reported: “dogs broke into the rabbit warren and after killing eight bunnies departed...” On two occasions, dogs got into the deer enclosure and chased the deer. “The damage done by dogs digging up plants and shrubs, root and branch, has been considerable...the canines persist in their destructive ways.” (Colonist, August 1, 1908, p. 6)
City Council decided on May 27 that “There will be at least a limited number of band concerts in the public parks...$500 was handed over to the Park Committee for music.” Ald. Mable noted some on the Park Committee were in favor of concerts but he wondered if they were legal, according to a new amusement by-law. Ald. Gleason was in favor of band concerts but against scheduling all concerts on Sunday. “There were some people opposed to Sunday concerts and others who were engaged on Sunday, so that it was only fair that some concerts should be held sometime during the week.” Council agreed not all the money would be spent on Sunday concerts. (Times, May 28, 1908, p. 5)
Bowling green controversy begins
On October 19, 1908, the Park Board passed the following resolution:
"That permission be granted...to create a bowling green on Beacon Hill park on the northern portion between Heywood Avenue and Cook Street, on the understanding that such use of that portion of the park, used by the Albion Cricket Club and known as the “Albion Cricket Club grounds” and on further understanding that such permission shall confer no exclusive privilege and that it is granted subject to the pleasure of the public parks board, all work in connection with the making of the bowling green to be carried out under the supervision of the public parks board.”(Times, Feb. 1, 1909, p. 7)
In November, the Colonist headlined: “Finest Bowling Green in Whole Dominion; New Club to Have Ideal Quarters at Beacon Hill Park.” The Beacon Hill Park Bowling Club, the newest sports organization in Victoria, was expected to spend $1,000 on the 125 foot square green, being laid out next to the Albion cricket grounds under the direction of the Superintendent of Parks, D. D. England, who was also a charter member of the bowling club. Hedges were planned around the green to “serve as a protection against straying cattle and dogs. A temporary building of a design in keeping with the park will probably be erected.” (Colonist, November 5, 1908, p. 7)
Objections were raised against allotting a private club a piece of Beacon Hill Park by Dr. J. S. Helmcken. At least fourteen Helmcken letters on the topic were printed in the Times alone in 1909. Willard Ireland, Provincial Archivist, in a 1942 paper on the legal history of Beacon Hill Park, concluded that the main “...objection raised was on the grounds that the City lacked the ‘power to appropriate any particular part of the Park premises to the use of any particular person or class of persons to the exclusion of others of the public.” (Ireland, “Memorandum,” p. 9)
D.D. England wrote a short Park Report as Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards in 1908. He said 20,000 square yards of land was levelled and covered with loam and lawn. England believed more emphasis should be placed on recreation, such as children's play grounds, lawn tennis and other games. He reported the evening [band] concerts caused additional expense and much damage to trees and shrubs. (AR 1908, p. 104-107) This is the only negative band concert report in 116 years of concerts.
Helmcken's crusade against private bowling green and clubhouse
One man waged a landmark battle on the issue of appropriate Park use in 1909. Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken campaigned passionately against the establishment of a private lawn bowling club in the public Park from January through December. Though his arguments were eloquent as well as legally correct, public opinion never rallied to the cause. City officials listened politely to elder statesman Helmcken but continued building the bowling greens and clubhouse.
Dr. Helmcken was a towering figure in Victoria and British Columbia history. He first came to Fort Victoria in 1850 as the Hudson’s Bay Company doctor and married a daughter of James Douglas. Helmcken began a fifteen year political career in 1856, serving as Speaker in the First Legislative Assembly. In 1870, he was part of a three man team negotiating British Columbia’s entry into Canada. His residence, “Helmcken House,” was opened to the public as an historical museum in 1941 and the Royal B.C. Museum was built next to it in 1964. His “Reminiscences” were edited by Dorothy Blakey Smith and published in 1975. In 1909, at the time of the bowling green controversy, he was 85 years old, but not yet fully retired. Helmcken was still the physician for the provincial jail, a job he held continuously for sixty years, from the day the jail opened in 1851 until his retirement in 1910.
Opposing Helmcken in the 1909 Park use controversy were City Council members keen on lawn bowling. In fact, key city officials were organizers, directors and members of the Beacon Hill Bowling Green Association. Mayor Hall was a director of the club and a member of City Council and the Park Committee. Alderman Turner was a director of the lawn bowling club. Alderman Henderson was a member. Park Superintendent D. D. England, the city official in charge of supervising construction of the greens, was a charter member of the Beacon Hill Bowling Green Association. (Times, September 9, 1909, p. 10) There were clear conflicts of interest, but no Council member excused himself from discussions or votes on the topic.
In January, the Beacon Hill Bowling Club chose a contractor to construct their clubhouse in Beacon Hill Park at a cost of about $1,000. (Colonist, Jan. 22, 1909, p. 9) A letter written that day by Dr. Helmcken to Mayor and Council strongly protested the construction of the bowling greens and the clubhouse in the Park. The letter--read at the January 25 City Council meeting--charged that Council was acting contrary to their duties as trustees in allowing a private club to use part of the Park. (Times, January 25, 1909, p. 3) The Times printed a one paragraph summary of Helmcken’s points on January 26, but at Helmcken’s request, they printed the full text of the letter on February 3.
After noting it was an “astounding” idea that a private club was about to erect a clubhouse “inside Beacon Hill park and on a piece of land apparently surrendered for their private purpose and use, and not for the use of the public,” Helmcken's full letter also pointed our that he
"...strenuously protests against the alienation of this or any other portion of the aforesaid park, for the purposes of a private company for private purposes.
It cannot be asserted by any one that any private bowling green in the park is for the benefit of the public in general. All the public will get will be a permit to see the bowling...but during the interregnum, what uses may be made of their building?
Other private companies of a like nature exist, who have ground of their own and there is no reason why this bowling green company should not purchase land for their purpose in a similar manner instead of trespassing on the public Victoria park. If once this cadging is agreed to it will form a frightful precedent for others to do or attempt to do the same thing, and the park become dotted over by chartered private companies, under the fictitious and deceptive plea of their being public benefactors.
As to the club house it can just as well be erected outside the park, as a public street is in very close proximity and there is plenty of land for the bowling green, but the site would have to be purchased. Well, let this private company do as others have done before them.
Your petitioner therefore very earnestly asks that your honorable body will immediately take steps to prevent the building of the private club house on the public park, and further will cancel any agreement which may have unfortunately been made in respect of the bowling green and further will preserve intact Beacon Hill Park, and as trustees hand it down intact to future generations for whom it will be invaluable. "(Times, Feb. 3, 1909, p. 4)
The City Council responded with three justifications for the lawn bowling development. The same three points were repeated throughout the year:
1. Council denied there was any special privilege extended to the club.
2. They characterized the portion of Park land to be used as “waste,” “marshy,” “unused,” “wet” and “low-lying”.
3. Council argued that the lawn bowling club was creating “delightful lawns” at no cost to the City of Victoria and that because the club was “paying for the work,” the public benefitted. (Times, January 26, 1909, p. 4)
Helmcken convinced the Pioneers’ Association, of which he was a member, to support him in April. The Association passed a resolution charging “breach of trust against the City... in granting permission for the erection of a club house and the use of a corner of Beacon Hill park by a bowling club.” The Association charged that the deed of Trust under which the City received the Park was violated by giving any portion of the Park for other than public use. (Times, April 21, 1909, p. 5) The group’s letter to City Council was written by H. Dallas Helmcken, Secretary of the Association, and relative of Dr. Helmcken.
On April 22, Mayor Hall told the Times that people misunderstood the situation regarding “a hitherto unused portion of Beacon Hill Park.” Hall repeated that Council was not “giving the club any rights or privileges..,” saying,
"The use of the park for sports and games has been recognized as proper from its earliest days. Bowling is a game in which many citizens engage, but it requires a properly prepared green, carefully looked after, and is not a game which can be engaged in on any level space, as can baseball or football...From a practical point of view...we are getting reclaimed a low-lying, wet corner of the park, which has never been used and which we have not had the means to put into shape ourselves, and that without creating any right to the green on the part of the club which is paying for the work... "(Times, April 22, p. 7)
City Council discussed the matter further on April 26 after a reading of the resolution by the Pioneers’ Association condemning the action of the Parks Board. Ald. Henderson argued again that anyone could play on the green and the club house would be open to all. “The only thing under lock and key will be their bowls and any private property,” he said. And “no one can deny that the work the club has done has been a great improvement to that part of the park.” The Times reported that Ald. Turner and Mayor Hall both agreed “the green beautified a portion of the park which had hitherto been more of less unsightly.” Ald Turner said, “I am prepared to allow anyone to go in and spend their money to beautify the park, when they get no exclusive privileges.” (Times, April 27, 1909, p. 2)
The Times published a long letter to the editor by Helmcken dated June 4, in which he carefully reviewed the legal history of Beacon Hill Park, including the circumstances of the Trust and the important decision by Supreme Court Chief Justice Begbie in the case of the Agricultural Hall built in the Park. Helmcken pointed out the similarities between the twenty acres alienated for that purpose, declared illegal by Begbie in 1884, and the 1909 lawn bowling building. Helmcken concluded:
"The Chief Justice opined that all buildings erected in the park should be built by the corporation for the use of the public at the public cost or expense, in fact that everything in the park should be for the enjoyment of the public and paid for by them...it is quite plain that the bowling green and clubhouse belong to the public and therefore that the claimants, the Bowling Green Company, should at once be ousted and the public resume possession of their property. The Bowling Green Company have no lawful right to be there at all...” (Times, June 9, 1909, p. 11)
This was a powerful legal argument. According to the wording of the Park Trust, private uses of Park land are indeed illegal. Nevertheless, City Council decided to ignore the law. Since 1909, every other City Council has done the same.
Helmcken did not stop his crusade when the bowling greens and clubhouse construction was completed. His August letter to the Council described the impact of the area surrounded by isolating fences, a ditch and brush,
"...giving the appearance of ...a private domain into which only those invited (members) should enter, and thus assuming pseudo-proprietor-ship or possessory rights.
There is a very great and immediate danger that the company will be cunning attempt to acquire...a perpetual lease of the portion of the park occupied by the bowling green and house..."(Times, August 24, 1909, p. 11)
He was correct in predicting the club would acquire “a perpetual lease,” or as he phrased it in September, “a right to continuous undisturbed occupancy.” Though an official lease was never issued, the greens and clubhouse have indeed succeeded in maintaining a “continuous undisturbed occupancy.” Ninety-five years later, the private bowling greens and clubhouse remain in Beacon Hill Park, improved through the years with municipal money as well as club funds. Now surrounded by an even higher fence, the area remains very much a private domain. Because of “undisturbed occupancy” since 1909, the area has now apparently achieved heritage protection status.
In September, Helmcken referred back to Ald. Turner’s April statement welcoming “anyone to go in and spend their money to beautify the park...” Helmcken demolished Council’s claim there is public benefit when private groups improve the park, saying:
"The whole agreement...is still unlawful. If by improving a piece of the park any one or association of a few individuals can obtain an occupancy therein, in this case the whole park is in danger of being occupied. A florist would willingly lay out flower beds for an advertisement; some zoologist have a piece to take care of the white mice and guinea pigs, and, the remainder thrown in for golf! Bah!" (Times, September 9, 1909, p. 10)
On September 10, he advocated removal of the fences around the lawn bowling area, citing a precedent with earlier cricket fences:
“...fences of the Victoria Cricket Club, about the year 1884...were ordered by the corporation to be pulled down...The trustees of the park can now lawfully and justly mete out the same treatment to the Bowling Green Company. There is a precedent for the Mayor. Follow it."(Times, Sept. 10, 1909, p. 4)
In December, Helmcken lamented:
"The public are so very apathetic that soon they will find the whole park occupied by athletic or other associations...The work now going on should be stopped at once. The fences around the bowling green and the club house still stand defiant and insultingly erect!"(Colonist, December 11, 1909, p. 13)
In 1910, Helmcken continued efforts to oust the club from the Park and in 1914, he teamed up with sister-in-law Mrs. Dennis Harris, a daughter of Gov. James Douglas, to ask the provincial government to oust the club from the Park.
It remains a puzzle why Dr. Helmcken did not include the cricket club in his protests. The cricket club was also a private sports group with a building and grounds in the public Park. The older cricket pavilion was in a similar legal position to the new lawn bowling clubhouse. According to Trust restrictions and Justice Begbie’s ruling of 1884, both buildings were and are illegally in the Park and both clubs had and still maintain quasi-private grounds in the Park, yet Helmcken attacked only the bowling club during his many years of protest.
The City attempts to make Heywood residents pay for improvements
Though he lost on the bowling greens, Dr. Helmcken was successful in opposing the City on another matter in 1909. The City petitioned the Legislature for “the right to assess for local improvements on property fronting on parks, squares, public drives or boulevards.” Though Beacon Hill Park was not named, the City application was aimed at property owners adjacent to the Park, particularly those on Heywood Avenue. Helmcken’s position, summarized by the Times, was that Heywood Avenue was built on Park land and thus “was part and parcel of Beacon Hill Park and must be maintained out of the general revenue as a public trust.” The City had attempted to get permission to charge those with property fronting on the road before, but had been turned down in committee and by the legislature. “In the present bill the city had skillfully mixed up the park it held in trust and the ordinary city parks which it owned itself...”
Mr. Oliver observed, “They want to treat as streets roads which, according to the deed of trust, they cannot erect into streets.” Helmcken agreed, and added: “The roads surrounding the park are not treated as streets, for teaming and the passage of heavy loads is prohibited.”
Dr. Hall, representing the City, said people living alongside a park benefitted from improvements and “should be liable for a proportion of the cost.” The committee agreed that was generally true, but was not the case for parks held in trust, such as Beacon Hill. Oliver said, “It is evident the City wants power in regard to Beacon Hill Park, and seeks to get it in this manner.” The City was not allowed to bill property owners for improvements on Park land and the provincial legislative committee made it clear they didn’t want to be asked to do so again in the future. (Times, February 12, 1909, p. 4)
Bears killed, new zoo building
“The bears must die. No more...will youngsters try to get a look at the poor animals penned up in a damp hole in the ground in a corner of Beacon Hill Park,” a June article in the Times wrote. The Park Board decided the unhealthy animals must be killed and the unsanitary pits closed. Rat infested zoo buildings were declared a disgrace. Dr. Hall said “It is no pleasure for people to go there and see animals in misery.” (Times, June 24, 1909, p. 1)
With double headlines, “Nice New Home for The Beacon Hill Zoo” and “Present Disgraceful Looking Structures to Be Torn Down,” a July Times article described the proposed new building in the zoo as not “pretentious architecturally” but “clean, dry, capable of being warmed in winter and free from rats.” For the cost of $500, the Park Committee decided to “gather the birds and animals in the best of the old structures, tear down the others and build a new house in a corner of the deer enclosure.” (Times, July 3, 1909, p. 6)
A replica of the Parthenon is proposed for Beacon Hill
An astonishing proposal to build a rustic replica of the Athens Parthenon on top of Beacon Hill caused a flurry of interest and argument in July, 1909. The structure was suggested by the Vancouver Island Development League and promoted by the Colonist. The Secretary of the League, Mr. E. McGaffey, anticipated it would become “one of the wonders of the world and people would be attracted from far and near to see it.” Made entirely of Island timber, its placement “on the elevated part of Beacon Hill would form a landmark visible for many miles out in the straits, just as the Greek Parthenon overlooks the Aegean Sea.” McGaffey said it would “form a great convention hall, capable of holding hundreds and hundreds of delegates. It might be turned into a museum, in which could be placed specimens of the island’s ores, animals, birds and fishes. Concerts could be held there.” (Colonist, July 6, 1909, p.6).
A sketch of the building by John Wilson, Architect, with the dimensions of 114 feet by 51 feet (proportionately half of the Athens Parthenon), was spread across five columns on the front page of the July 11 Colonist. The newspaper followed with an editorial on July 14 noting a local hotel owner’s offer to donate the massive trees needed. The editorial agreed the building would be useful for conventions and “large assemblies” and anticipated “the fame of it would go abroad throughout all the world.” A powerful light was suggested for the top. The objection by a reader “that the hill clad in broom is more beautiful than any edifice can make it,” was noted in the editorial, but the Colonist countered that “a broom-clad hill surmounted with a massive structure of the kind proposed, would be a majestic picture.”(Colonist,July 14, 1909, p. 4)
In a letter to the editor of the Times the following day, Arthur Davies called the building a “tumorous monstrosity in the shape of an asinine imitation of the Parthenon” which would “desecrate the beauties of Beacon Hill.” Davies pointed out the prototype for the building was the “white elephant” forestry building in Portland, Oregon. He thought throwing $75,000--the amount the structure would cost--into the streets would “do far more good”. (Times, July 15, 1904, p.4)
The Times printed a paragraph in praise of the new Beacon Hill Park nursery:
"The remarkable growth of the plantation of the parks board at Beacon Hill attracts a large number of visitors daily to that corner of the public playground which was originally a piece of waste bottom land. Thousands of young trees of all kinds, limes, elms, lindens, maples, walnuts, chestnuts, holly, etc. are here being cultivated preparatory to being planted on park strips and boulevards, while a great number of plants for fall transplantation are also thriving in this new nursery. The saving to the city will be enormous over the old plan of buying from the growers, while it gives the board an immense and constantly increasing reserve of shrubs and flowers for the different parks and pretty places of the city. "(Times, August 13, 1909, p. 5)
Water Drainage problems
In December, heavy rains caused flooding “in the residential area next to Beacon Hill Park.” [Whether this was along Cook Street or elsewhere was not stated.] The Times reported the park “will require extensive drainage facilities in order to carry off the water which flows down that great watershed whenever it rains heavily.” The City Council heard many complaints from property owners. Mr. Oliphant said he held “the city responsible” because he had warned the city about the problem three years before. (Times, December 4, 1909, p. 7)
In the 1909 Annual Report, D.D. England, Superintendent of Parks and Boulevards, included a long section titled “Animals”:
"The old buildings [for animals] have all been taken down, and new ones built after having made investigations at Seattle, Spokane and Vancouver, and they are all up-to-date, clean and healthy.
During the year there have been added to the number of animals and birds the following: one male and three female deer, two coyotes, two guinea fowl, two golden pheasants, ten canaries, eight zebra finches and six white rats, and I have the promise of more as soon as we have suitable buildings to accommodate them.
Six swans were sent away in exchange for some of these, but we still have eight more swans left than we had last year and could part with a few more.
A seal was presented by Captain Sears, but after a few weeks, I was compelled to put it back in the salt water, as it was pining away in spite of all the care we could give it.
The bears were killed according to instructions received as they were in bad shape, and we also had the misfortune to lose the two monkeys.
The new aviary is a decided advantage for the birds and is a good addition to the menagerie, and is kept warm with an oil stove."(AR 1909, p. 168)
Another section, titled “Nursery,” states:
"At the present time the Nursery is one of the most valuable assets in the Park.
The total cost of the same to date has been approximately $2,000 and the stock at present on hand is worth at least $3,000 besides which trees, shrubs and flowers to the value of about $400 have been transferred to the different parks and a revenue of $377.16 has been received for trees planted on the boulevards making a total of almost $800 besides what stock is on hand." (AR 1909, p. 168)