Monday, 28 May 2012


Saturday Musings
Spectator August 30, 1902
        If you want to enjoy a delightful bit of scenery go out to Dundurn Park on any of these bright afternoons and you will see a picture of beauty that it would be hard to duplicate. The land is just rolling enough to add to the attraction, and the old forest trees, many of them with an age record before Hamilton became even a struggling village, set off the rare beauty of the scene. Sir Allan Macnab had an eye had an eye for harmonious effects when he selected Dundurn for his home and built in it his castle and watchtowers. The buildings should be permanently preserved as part of the ancient landmarks of the city – not to perpetuate the memory of the former owner. For after all that Hamilton did for Sir Allan, he left nothing for the public to hold him in grateful remembrance. Hamilton’s public men have never been in danger of dying from enlargement of the heart so far as benefactions to the city are concerned. It remained for private individuals, who had no axes to grind, nor with any expectancy of reward from a grateful people, to make the only benefactions in Hamilton worthy of note, the latest being John Billings’ addition to the city hospital buildings and Mrs. William Hendrie’s handsome home for hospital nurse. Their names will not be forgotten, for the buildings will be a lasting monument to their memory.


          But our musing was about parks. Adjoining Dundurn is Harvey Park, the gift of the Hon. Samuel Mills, one of the early settlers of Hamilton. Unfortunately, his name is hardly known in connection with the gift, save by the old stagers, for in a burst of patriotic sentiment, it was called after Col. John Harvey, who encamped on or near the grounds with his command during the War of 1812. Col. Harvey was the hero of the battle of Stoney Creek. The name of Samuel Mills should be linked with the gift of Harvey park, that future generations might be reminded that now and then some public-spirited citizen thought of Hamilton in his benefactions The Beasleys at one time owned Dundurn and all the land in that neighbourhood. There is no more delightful view to be had anywhere around Hamilton than from Harvey Park and Dundurn. Being at the head of nthe bay, a charming picture is presented of the entire bay and its surroundings and out into Lake Ontario as far as the eye can reach. When the city bought Dundurn for $50,000, it secured for future generations a park such as few Canadian cities have.


          Victoria Park is the playground for boys and young men, and because of this little effort is made to beautify it with beds of flowers, or is it possible to cultivate a green sward. It is well to have one large breathing spot in this city where the boys are not forever reminded that they are trespassers by signs as “Keep off the grass.” In the good time that is coming, the building lots fronting Victoria Park will become much more valuable than they are now, for the nabobs will want them for palatial residences.


          A thing of beauty is a joy forever. When George Hamilton donated to the city a strip of land on King street from James to Mary, known as the Gore, her never dreamed that it would one day become the most charming spot in the city. The strip of land represents a wedge. For many long years, the Gore was only a mud hole, and was anything but creditable to a city that claimed the title of “Ambitious.” The old stagers will retain a picture of it in their memories and of the famous town pump on the west end of the Gore. The water was always cool and pure, and nearly everyone who passed it drank from the old iron dipper that was suspended from the pump by a chain. It was the public watering hole for man and beast. Along in the early sixties, art triumphed over nature and the unsightly mud hole was changed into a beautiful park. The Bank of British North America contributed the fine fountain in the centre of the park, and nature has been lavish in the growth of trees and shrubbery.


          Don’t you remember what a time the City Council had some three or four years ago when the question was being discussed to extend the park from Hughson to John street? The cab men were against the change because they would have to find some other place for a cab stand; the military wanted it left open for the occasional drills, and many of the societies argued that to plant grass and flowers there would deprive them of the only place they had to form their occasional processions. The council was betwixt the devil and the deep sea, for many of the advocates for the park extension were threatened with the terrors of the ballot box when they would present themselves for aldermanic honours. To the credit of the members of the council, it was decided to change the unsightly cab stand into grass and flowers, and today the man who would dare to suggest that it should return to what it formerly was would be strung up high on the skeleton flagstaff that ornaments the centre of the park.


          And speaking of the flagstaff reminds us that a couple of years ago, the Spectator advocated the idea of using the top of it from which to suspend two or three arc lamps to brighten up King street at night. It would add but little cost to the city to pay for the extra lamps, and the change in the lighting of the Gore, from James to Mary, one of the poorest lighted streets in the city, would be appreciated by the merchants and those who are in the street, especially on Saturday night. A prominent alderman says the lamps would have been put up before this if the electric light company had not been unreasonable in its price for running the necessary wires to the top of the tower. As the Cataract company substantially owns the streets of the city and forty or fifty feet up in the air, it might let go its hold for a moment and be satisfied with a reasonable compensation for wiring the flagstaff.


          At the corner of King and Wellington streets is a neat little park, covering about half a square; and opposite are the well-kept grounds of First Methodist Church. Together they make quite a breathing place. There are some fine building spots facing the park, which some citizens of taste will buy and erect homes for their families. If there were more such parks scattered in the residence part they would pay for themselves in the added beauty to the city.


          Down in the northeast end of the city is Woodland park; that is yet in a state of nature. When the park commissioners are able to reach it, it can be made a beautiful spot. It is a natural bit of woodland, with native forest trees, and the land just rolling enough to make a ideal spot for a landscape gardener to exercise his taste and skill. Old stagers will remember when Land’s woods and Huckleberry point were far beyond the city limits, and it was considered quite an outing to spend the day picnicking down on the banks of the bay. There were no electric cars to whirl one there in a few minutes, but the young folks used to hire the hotel omnibuses to carry them down. Ecclestone, the confectioner, was the caterer for all such occasions, and George Steele’s orchestra made the woods ring again as they played the old-fashioned tunes for the merry dancers. The whirligig of time has changed all this; big factories and the stock yards and packing houses cover the ground that was devoted to rural pleasure-making. The young folks of the present day may think they are enjoying life, but they know nothing of the pleasures of the old boys and girls had when Hamilton was but little more than a village and Wellington street was the eastern boundary of the city.


          Up on the mountain side, at the head of Cherry street, the city owns a bit of land which stands on the official records as a park. Old Corktown will in time become a fashionable part of the city, and the mountain side will take its place with the other parks.

No comments:

Post a Comment