Beacon Hill Park History

By Janis Ringuette

Copyright 2004. Limited excerpts are permitted but please credit the author.

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Chapter Eleven: 1930-1939


The Warren Years Begin

The history of Victoria’s parks from 1931 to 1970 is largely a chronicle of one man’s actions, ambitions, interests, vision and philosophy. For that reason, the forty year period is often called “The Warren Years.”

William Herbert Warren was hired as Park Superintendent in November, 1930 at the age of twenty-five. The surprising selection of this young man to one of the most important positions in the City proved to be inspired. For the next 39 l/2 years, W. H. (Herb) Warren was a strong leader, an indefatigable worker and a meticulous recorder. He was also courageous in fighting for what he thought was right.

Warren’s long record in office can never be equaled, for several reasons. In 2004, the position of Park Superintendent no longer exists. In addition, there is no possibility a twenty-five year old--no matter how amazing his qualifications--would be hired today for a top position over more experienced and senior employees.

That Warren survived almost forty years as Park Administrator is proof he worked effectively with staff, the Park Committee, City Council and the public. From the first, Warren was an excellent planner and supervisor. He was also particularly skillful in public relations. Warren's weekly delivery of fresh flowers from the Beacon Hill Nursery to City Hall is an example of his deft touch promoting good relations with Council and City staff. [This flower delivery tradition continues in 2004.] He promoted parks--and himself--in the community by addressing countless organizations and giving tours to civic leaders. He provided "good news" photo opportunities and information to the press (e.g. daffodils blowing in the wind every spring) as well as stories of park staff struggling valiantly with problems (e.g. evidence of vandalism). Guiding Council, the media and the public to view parks positively helped secure adequate funding.

Warren became a major booster for the City of Victoria as well, promoting Victoria as a tourist destination whenever he attended conferences in other Canadian and American cities. He exchanged scores of letters with other park administrators, historians, horticulture specialists, zoo authorities and private citizens.

From 1931-1969, W. H. Warren’s Annual Reports--readable, comprehensive and interesting--are a rich source of information on the city’s parks and boulevards. Some reports include Warren’s hopes for the future and personal views on proper park use in addition to the usual details on work accomplished during the year. One section of each Annual Report--usually one to two legal size pages--was devoted to Beacon Hill Park. Warren did not follow a standard report procedure so topics varied; usually included was information on captive animals and birds, weather conditions, broom eradication efforts, vandalism and special projects.


1930

Major improvements in city parks, boulevards and other public areas were discussed in the months leading up to Warren’s selection. A consensus grew among civic leaders that change was necessary. Thomas Purdy’s retirement in December provided City Council with the opportunity to choose a fresh, energetic Park Superintendent to lead those changes.


Proposals for Park beautification and improvement

A long essay in the Colonist titled “Appeal Made to Beautify Beacon Hill Park” was the first of a series focused on Park beautification. (The author, identified as “Contributed” in August, is likely the man who submitted a more detailed but similar proposal in December under the name “N. W. F. Rant, F.R.H.S.”)

The writer judged the more natural areas of the Park “arid wilderness” and considered only those areas “improved” by human design to be of value. He claimed there was only one area in the Park which had been “improved” in a worthy manner since 1842. He gave full credit to Alderman Laurence Goodacre for the transformation of what he called “the swamp” into a lake “surrounded by trees” and praised Goodacre’s “intelligence, vision and energy.” (Goodacre was Chairman of the Park Committee in 1889 when the lake was constructed; the lake now bears his name.)

The writer presented a grim assessment of the Park in the summer of 1930 and pointed out the importance of the future Park Superintendent:

Some people ask what could be done to turn the arid wilderness of Beacon Hill Park, which now consists of burnt grass, scrub, bush and broom, into a public park which would be the pride of the citizens and the pleasure and delight of visiting tourists...what seems to be needed more than anything else is the engagement of a man who has the vision, ability and knowledge to transform this area into one of the beauty spots of North America. (Colonist, August 31, 1930, p.11)

The writer proposed specific improvements, including the transformation of the northwest ridge area of the Park into a rock garden. His plan was to cut paths through the rock by blasting. The resulting rock would be crushed and used for “general city purposes.” Vegetation would be planted in the crevices.

He described trees and plants in the overcrowded park nursery “choking themselves to death for years” and suggested they be “uprooted and a proper nursery made...”

Instead of removing broom thickets along the waterfront, he favoured shaping them in a pleasing manner:

The broom should be cut into islands, and other clumps of shrubs and flowers planted so that when our tourists approach Victoria on the boat they would have a colorful scenic panorama from Clover Point to Ogden Point, a distance of some two miles. (Colonist, August 31, 1930, p.11)

“Contributed” stressed the value of a more beautiful Beacon Hill Park as a tourist attraction, comparing it to London’s Kew Gardens. He advocated that plants which grow “to perfection” in Victoria--rhododendrons, daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, Japanese flowering cherries, mountain ash, dogwood, lilac and laburnum--be on display in the Park. Making a “public exhibition of the bulbs” grown locally would not only be attractive but would promote the local bulb industry. He predicted the bulb market would grow and the Victoria area benefit as the best bulb growing location in Canada. [He was correct in this prediction. In 2004, the leading daffodil production area of Canada is on the Saanich peninsula, north of Victoria.]

The Park beautification ideas of three prominent men--Duncan D. McTavish, J. W. Archer, and Fred B. Pemberton--were featured next in the Colonist.

Duncan D. McTavish’s suggestions were presented in a letter to the tourist trade group of the Chamber of Commerce (packed with leading male citizens including City Council members). Their September meeting discussion was featured in the Colonist under three headlines: “Beacon Hill Improvement is Discussed; Tourist Trade Group Recommends Administration by Parks Board; D. McTavish Makes Timely Suggestions.” (Colonist, September 13, 1930, p. 3)

McTavish began by complimenting Park Superintendent Purdy for “doing really good work” and he praised the new gardens off the end of Michigan Street. McTavish stated the new Heywood football field was “a fine addition,” and that tennis courts should be constructed next. He also suggested “the road to the top of Beacon Hill be extended to the farther side, thereby making a continuous drive across the hill.”

McTavish agreed that it was time for a major Park beautification project. McTavish seconded the proposal of “Contributed” that a rock garden be constructed on the northwest ridge and that “broom should be cut into islands or some similar shapes.” McTavish added that broom on the Hill “pretty well covers this section” and must be reduced. He was also in agreement about the overcrowded nursery, saying “hundreds of trees and shrubs now practically going to waste in the park nursery might be planted here and there to good advantage.”

McTavish seconded the idea of planting large quantities of bulbs in the Park and suggested the City immediately buy 10,000 to 20,000 bulbs from local growers “to plant in open beds in the park.” On this point, McTavish received instant and enthusiastic approval of the trade group, followed by quick endorsement from the Chamber of Commerce, the Park Committee and City Council.

There was also general agreement at the Chamber of Commerce meeting on the need for more major improvements. One man suggested the “unemployment committee of the Chamber of Commerce” should be involved. Alderman Worthington thought a park board could be formed to supervise future improvements. H. D. Patterson suggested “unsightly old wagons and other equipment...be removed from the most conspicuous place in the park.” P. R. Leighton said in order to “keep the gardens and lawns in shape” a first step was “to have water laid on the park.” Alderman Peden said the first necessity was educating the public so they would approve funding for the projects.

Alderman Cullin discussed a recent initiative by the City of Victoria to ask the provincial government for financial help in the beautification of the city. The city delegation had received encouragement from the government in this regard. J. H. Beatty, M.P.P. asked that a committee be named to press for a government grant. (Colonist, September 13, 1930, p. 3)

Ten days later, the Colonist published a proposal by J. W. Archer for construction of a major cliff walk along Dallas Road. Archer cited his experience walking in the “Old Land” cities of Brighton, Blackpool, Southport, Lynmouth, St. Ann’s and Bournemouth and advocated a similar seafront walk in Victoria. Archer stipulated emphatically that a gravel surface was not acceptable and presented an unusual plan for path construction:

Have a steam shovel cut a road in the sides of the cliff ten feet down from the general level of the ground. On the platform place a boulevard twelve feet wide and cement and rail it off. Along this boulevard place seats every twenty feet and leave small openings in places for gardens for roses and other flowers. (Colonist, September 23, 1930, p. 3)

The reason given for building the walkway ten feet below ground level was that otherwise winds would make the location uncomfortable.

The Colonist solicited the opinions of Fred B. Pemberton on how to save the Park “from the wild condition into which it had fallen.” Introducing his response, the newspaper extolled Pemberton’s “ripe judgment”:

In the carrying out of a scheme of beautifying Beacon Hill Park, perhaps no citizen of Victoria is better qualified to offer advice than Fred B. Pemberton. A lover of the open life, well trained in floriculture and landscape gardening, it is essentially a ripe judgment that Mr. Pemberton brings to bear upon such a subject.

Pemberton advocated a promenade along the seafront with “seats at points of vantage.” His path differed in two respects from Archer’s: Pemberton’s path was not ten feet below ground level and he specified it should have a gravel surface. Pemberton also suggested a bridle path be constructed close to the gravel walk.

Pemberton thought most of the broom north of the seafront should be removed, though “A few scattered clumps of broom could be well retained in proximity to the promenade and on the Hill proper.”

He favored “appointing a committee including the Park Superintendent to advise the Parks Board before taking action” on a larger plan of Park beautification. (Colonist, September 14, 1930, p. 3)

In December, an article by N. W. F. Rant, F.R.H.S. described in great detail how a native plant rock garden should be constructed on four acres of the northwest corner of the Park. The area was ideal, he explained: “All the make-up of a most natural native garden for every conceivable species of plants, trees and shrubs are to hand.” (Colonist, Dec. 9, 1930, p. 7)

Rant said the design “would be impressive and perhaps unique. It is proposed that it take the form of miniature mountains and valleys, where native plants would grow just as on the hills and valleys of the British Columbia wilderness.”

He described blasting rock to form “so-called valleys...Where rock is encountered, it could be blown out to irregular widths and down to ground level.” The broken rock could be used for the rock garden and be sold for road making. Footpaths would be made in the “valleys” and vegetation planted in crevices. The unemployed would provide cheap labour. “The carrying out of this scheme would be killing two birds with one stone--provide work for the unemployed and beautify the city. (Colonist, Dec. 9, 1930, p. 7)

After persuading the Rotary Club and other service clubs to support the “Rock Garden and Native Plant Garden,” he presented the proposal to a “sympathetic” Park Committee on January 26, 1931. He estimated the cost between $10,000 and $20,000 and told the Committee it could be constructed in stages, with a small section added each year. (CRS 76, 3B3-1)

[Though the northwest ridge was not blasted away and another road was not built on the Hill, many of the “improvements” suggested in the fall of 1930 were carried out, including a gravel path along the waterfront from Douglas Street to Cook Street. Daffodils proved to be a consistent crowd pleaser and thousands were planted every year thereafter. By 1967, Park Superintendent Warren estimated “there were 400,000 daffodils dancing in the Beacon Hill Park breezes.” Tennis court construction was delayed another thirty-four years: three asphalt tennis courts were finally installed next to the cricket pitch in 1964.]


Warren named Park Superintendent at age 25

On November 11, 1930, W. H. (“Herb”) Warren was chosen by City Council to be the new Park Superintendent. Because the position of Park Superintendent was one the most important in the city, the appointment was announced on both newspapers’ front pages.

The Colonist described more than a month of deliberation by three members of the Parks Committee--Chairman John Worthington, Alderman W. H. Cullin and Alderman Alexander Peden--as they worked through a list of forty applicants. A week before the vote by Council, the Parks Committee presented a short-list of three men from which Council made the final selection. (Colonist, November 12, 1930, p. 2)

Both newspapers emphasized Warren’s qualifications. The Times wrote: ““With a background of wide training in agricultural and horticultural studies, Mr. Warren is well fitted for the task he will undertake.” (Times, November 12, 1930, p. 1)

The Colonist described Warren’s background in more detail:

His special training in horticulture of all branches has made him specially efficient and familiar with the propagation and growing of flowers, shrubs and trees, lawn making, rockery construction, tree surgery and greenhouse management. His technical training includes the problems of outbreaks of insect pests and diseases, soil problems and the use of fertilizer. (Colonist, November 12, 1930, p. 2)

Both papers emphasized the particular importance of the Park Superintendent position because of changes planned in the City. The Times stated: “The proposed beautification scheme in the Capital City adds importance to the position at this time.”

The Colonist wrote:

The appointment is considered one of the most important in the city’s administration at this time, as a man qualified in all branches of horticulture and agriculture will be required should the scheme of general beautification of the capital city of British Columbia, now under way, be approved by the Provincial Legislature...(Colonist, November 12, 1930, p. 1)

Warren was described as “a former Victoria boy.” He was born in Ontario in 1905 but moved to Victoria before the age of three, where he attended South Park School, Sir James Douglas School and Victoria High School. Warren worked at the Dominion Experimental Station at Sidney for two years, studied horticulture at the Ontario Agricultural College at Guelph and graduated with a degree in Agriculture from the University of Toronto.

Neither newspaper expressed astonishment or concern that such a young man was selected.

Many years later, after his retirement, Warren gave this explanation of why he was hired:

I was a 5' 5" shorty age 25. Although there were some 70 [sic] applicants for the job including many first class local gardeners and nursery men and H. R. Reader, first Superintendent of Parks in Calgary, I was selected because I was a Victorian, young, had a degree in horticulture and had had some experience at two federal Experimental farms. (“Notes From W. H. Warren, Park Administrator 1930-1970,” written after 1982, Park Dept. Files, 100 Cook St. attic)

Neither newspaper listed the enormous responsibilities of the Park Superintendent. Warren was in charge of twenty parks within City limits plus playgrounds, playlots, and greens. He was responsible for 65.5 miles of boulevard trees and grass, the Ross Bay Cemetery and the Pound. He would also administer five large parks and one small park located outside City limits but owned by the City of Victoria: Thetis Lake (1,108.34 acres), Goldstream Park (784 acres), Elk Lake (707 acres), Mt. Douglas (365 acres), Durrance Lake (242 acres), and Gorge Park (11 acres).

[Three of the City-owned external parks were transferred to other governments during the Warren years. Goldstream Park was given to B. C. government in 1957. Elk Lake, owned by the City since the 1870's, was sold to the Capital Regional District for $250,000 in 1967. Gorge Park, owned by Victoria since 1904, was transferred to Saanich in 1965. The last two parks were transferred after Warren’s time in office: Mt. Douglas, deeded to the City in Trust in 1882, was transferred to Saanich in 1992 and Thetis Lake, acquired by the City in 1926, was transferred to the CRD in 1993.]

Warren would supervise older and more experienced park staff as well as large numbers of relief labourers deployed in all city parks during eight years of the Depression. (See 1931 for more details on relief workers.)

Before and during the Warren years, Parks Department employees were entirely male, including the secretary. [The first female was hired as Parks Department secretary in December, 1974 by Warren’s successor, Cliff Bate. By 1981, three women gardeners were on staff. In May, 2004, however, only one woman was working outside.]


Warren’s first days on the job

Warren's first entry in his shirt-pocket size 1931 date-book was: "December 15-31, 1930. Successor to Mr. Thomas Purdey [sic]. Superannuated December 31, 1930." Warren described his work from December 15-31, the two week transition period when both men were on the job: “Supervised removal of broom burned by fire of last summer and the old tall broom east of this area and along Dallas Road--relief work at $1.40 a day of 7 hours approximately.” Warren and two others were sworn in as “special constables” on December 29. (CRS 110, "Superintendent's Date Books, 1931-1954, Box 3, 12 F6)

Warren’s notes at the time indicate his first official day as Park Superintendent was January 1, 1931. However, Park Committee Minutes of December 19 state Warren was Superintendent “during the last three or four days” of the year. (CRS 76 3B3-1) [After his retirement Warren remembered it differently. He wrote: “I started as Park Administrator December 1, 1930. Purdy, my predecessor worked with me to December 31. (“Notes From W. H. Warren," Park Dept. Files)]

On January 2, 1931, Warren noted: “From Mr. Purdey [sic] I received: 1 policeman’s badge, 1 key to Gorge Park tool shed, 1 1925 T-model Ford truck l/4 ton” (CRS 110, "Date Books," 1931) It would be interesting to know if Purdy made an effort to help Warren get started or if that short list was the entire legacy passed from outgoing to incoming Superintendent.

After retirement, Warren looked back at his first days as Park Superintendent:

In December 1930, Thomas Purdy retired as Superintendent of Parks in Victoria. Purdy was a big man with a ruddy face, heavy footed, and had a luxurious jet black beard. I succeeded him at age 25, no experience, except a love of horticulture and a diploma from Canada’s leading agricultural college. Times were tough. My $200.00 a month salary was soon to be cut to $171.00. Park workers who were earning $4.00 a day were cut back to $3.20.
During the 1930's the park was very run down. It had been understaffed for years. When a storm blew it brought down dozens of trees which occupied the men the best part of the winter cleaning up. Remember they had to be cut by hand, split up and loaded in a one horse dump truck or burned on the spot. (Warren, W. H., “Beacon Hill Park--A talk to the Beacon Hill Park Association,” November 7, 1977, p. 5, Friends of BHP files)

1930 Annual Report

In his last year as Park Superintendent, Thomas Purdy did not write an Annual Report.


1931

Relief labour in the Park

The Depression created an unprecedented labour force available to work in all city parks. Unemployed people receiving assistance from the City were required to work in order to receive payment. For eight years (1931-1937), relief workers removed windfalls, cleared broom, built roads and generally improved the rundown condition of all city parks for $1.40 a day.

In 1977, looking back, Warren stated: “As many as 50 or 60 men would be employed. Those with special skills were given special work--carpenters, painters, sign painters, etc.” (“Beacon Hill Park--A talk,” p. 5) After 1982, however, Warren expanded those numbers: “As many as 160 worked in the Parks Dept. for a week or so at a time and this was eventually was the salvation of the parks.” (Warren, “Notes,” p. 8)

In Beacon Hill Park, relief labourers did a major cleanup of dead and dying trees and removed “a vast number of holly and laurels.” (Warren, “Notes” p. 8). They did most of the construction of three lakes near Circle Drive and completed the connecting stream between Fountain Lake and Goodacre. Relief workers drained Goodacre Lake, dug out sediment accumulation by hand and constructed a rock wall around lake edges. They scraped rust off the Chinese Bell and painted it (to the horror of preservation specialists) and constructed the Checkers Pavilion on Beacon Hill.

As the economy improved, available labour declined. By the end of 1937, cheap plentiful labour was no longer available. World War II created an acute labour shortage when the majority of males were involved in the war effort, including regular Park employees. Upkeep in the Park was minimal during the Second World War and new projects were delayed until there was an upsurge of available workers.


Warren takes on dog owners

Though a 1907 City bylaw required dogs in Beacon Hill Park to be leashed, City Councils and Park Supervisors had avoided enforcing the bylaw. No fines had ever been levied on non-compliant dog owners.

On January 21, Warren asked the Pound Keeper "to summons owners of all dogs found in Beacon Hill.” At Warren’s request, City Council approved the enforcement of the dog bylaw on February 2 and notified the police chief. Warren proceeded to “Publish extracts from dog bylaw for three days...in both papers.” On February 14, the first two dog owners were fined $5 each for allowing their dogs to run at large in Beacon Hill Park. (CRS 110, Box 3, 12 F 6)

The response of dog owners was explosive. A 700 signature petition against the bylaw was quickly organized and presented to City Council.

Colonist coverage of the dog controversy began with three headlines: “Ban Dogs in Beacon Hill; Parks Sup’t Says By-Law to Be Strictly Enforced in Park Area; Killing of Duck is Cause for Decision.”

The story quoted Warren’s description of dog mayhem in recent Park history: “Dogs running at large in the Park are a real menace. During the last few years the records show, no fewer than five deer, five swans and a score of wild fowl have been killed by dogs.” The article continued:

Mr. Warren stated that the guinea fowl, which were plentiful in the deer park, have all been killed off. Beacon Hill Park, Mr. Warren says, is a natural sanctuary for wild birds and hundreds of feathered creatures use it as a retreat....if dogs are permitted to run at large throughout the park area, birds and fowl will cease to go there, thus robbing the park of one of its attractive features...[recently] a stray dog was seen to leap into the duck pond, capture a mallard and kill it on shore...A largely signed petition is already before City Council requesting a modification of the dog by-law. (Colonist, March 7, 1931, p. 3)

Warren and City Council held firm on the leash requirement, though even the S.P.C.A. supported allowing dogs to run free throughout the Park. Council did reaffirm the long tradition of off-leash dogs along the waterfront by granting the S.P.C.A. request to “allow dogs on the foreshore south of ‘cinder’ walk.” (CRS 110, Box 3, 12 F 6)

At least five dog owners were fined in May, but dogs killed a female pheasant and her young and destroyed two mallard nests in the Park the same month. Despite Warren's continued efforts, unleashed dogs harassed, injured and killed zoo animals and birds throughout his term of office.

Later, Warren predicted that densely populated cities would restrict dogs to private yards. This prediction appears to be wildly unrealistic. Today, dog owners in Victoria advocate strongly for more off-leash areas in City and regional parks, and get them.


Ongoing controversies: “dangerous” trees and regulating traffic

Two other controversial topics were identified by Warren in 1931 and returned to plague him later. The most difficult recurring issue was cutting venerable large trees. Two periods of vehement public opposition to cutting trees Warren judged “dangerous” were career low points.

A dramatic crash in 1931 impressed Warren with his personal responsibility to protect the public and staff from dangerous trees. On August 1, Warren wrote in his datebook: “Large oak limb - 20" in diameter fell off tree last night between playground and white bear cage...just missing Mr. Moggey.” (CRS 110, Box 3, 12 F 6) There were many huge Garry oaks in Beacon Hill Park, some as old as 400 years. The branches were gigantic, extremely heavy and prone to break and fall without warning during dry summer months. That first spectacular crash, narrowly missing an employee, awakened Warren to the problem.

Oak branches kept falling through the years, one impressively close to the bandstand just before a concert. Each event reminded Warren of his duty to prevent injury and damage and he made continued efforts to identify problem trees, trim branches and remove those trees he considered “dangerous.”

Some Victorians defended aging trees from the axe with a passion and vehemence matching dog owners. The cutting of nineteen trees in 1942 provoked a prolonged and heated outcry. Some residents calling Warren a “murderer” of trees. Cutting “dangerous” trees was an even hotter topic in 1952, 1953 and 1954 when the Mayor challenged Warren’s competence and hired his own tree inspector for another opinion. Warren’s well considered plan to replace very large but healthy boulevard trees with smaller species more suitable for streets in the 1950's and 1960's confirmed some residents’ view of Warren as a reckless tree killer.

Another recurring controversial topic was the regulation and closure of internal Park roads. Commercial vehicles often took short cuts through the Park. On February 19, 1931, the Parks Committee accepted Warren’s recommendation that commercial vehicles be prohibited from using Park roads. (CRS 106, 12 F 1)

[In 1942, in a continuing effort to exclude non-city trucks from the Park, Warren proposed a vehicle weight limit of 4,000 lbs. on interior roads. He also advocated closing Bridge Way and prohibiting traffic over the Stone Bridge. The Park Committee did not agree, though the road was closed to noisy cars on Sunday afternoons during concerts. In 1950, Warren repeatedly asked the B. C. Electric Railway Company to stop using Beacon Hill Park roads for “testing of buses and teaching of drivers.” After retirement, in the 1970's, Warren agreed with protesters who demanded the closure of all internal Park roads. In 2004, Bridge Way is closed to public vehicles, but other internal Park roads remain open. Commercial trucks and many private vehicles continue to use Circle Drive as a speedy short-cut.]


Dallas Road widened and other improvements

A Times article in March, 1931, described recent Park improvements. Dallas Road was widened twelve feet from Douglas Street to Cook Street using relief labour, including “a wide parking space along the central portion.” This, along with the gravel path built the previous fall, was “welcomed on all sides.”

Park Committee Chairman Worthington explained that Lovers’ Lane has been closed [in the southeast corner of the Park], with “huge tree stumps at either end to halt traffic.”

“The entrance road at the northeast corner is getting another strip to make it more comfortable for automobile drivers, incidentally opening up a little-used section of roadway.” Worthington thought a better entrance was needed at the north end at Douglas Street, which would involve widening the road.

Worthington also pointed to a new gravel walk next to the cricket pitch, which would eliminate pedestrians crossing the pitch, and promised more gravel walks “all over the park” to come. The crumbling embankment on the south side of Goodacre Lake was repaired and men “have been at work for weeks on the flowers and plants of the park.” (Times, March 23, 1931, p. 13)


Chinese bell painted orange

“Indignation Over Painting of Aged Chinese Bell Here” headlined a story in the Colonist. Complaints were received by the paper about “what would appear to be a thoughtless ruination of one of the most interesting historic relics in the keeping of the city.”

The Colonist reported it had indeed been painted bright orange:

Now some person has been allowed to go through the park with a paint brush and a can of bright orange paint and has covered the priceless relic with a thick coating of paint, coloring it to match the brightness of the fire hydrants. (Colonist, April 7, 1931, p. 1)

The “paint” was apparently “red lead and varnish,” applied, with good intentions, to protect the bell. The Times printed a more positive and detailed account:

The famous Chinese bell ...is receiving a coat of paint, the first administered in centuries, in the opinion of Park Superintendent W. H. Warren. The bell was becoming badly weathered, as a result of exposure to the salt sea air, and after being thoroughly scraped to remove the rust, has been given a preliminary coat of red lead. The final coat will be of a slate brown tint, which is expected to be almost identical with the natural colour of iron. (Times, April 7, 1931, p. 13)

The ancient Chinese bell, cast between 1641 and 1642, and looted from a Chinese temple during the Boxer Rebellion (1900-1901), was placed in Beacon Hill Park in 1904. [It was moved inside the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1989. In 1990 “it was treated to remove the heavy corrosion and paint residue covering it using a new technique of dry ‘plastic’ blasting...” (Till, Barry, Relic From a Distant Temple: Victoria’s Chinese Bell, 1992, p. 5)] See 1904 and 1989 for more details on the bell.


New Park Building Plans

The Times reported on May 20, 1931:

Plans for a new workshed, machinery shop and office, at the nursery in Beacon Hill Park are now being prepared and bids will be called shortly... The work was authorized in the 1931 park estimates and will cost about $3,000. Preliminary plans call for an extension of the present greenhouse, a machinery shed 60 x 25 feet with concrete floor, a workshop 25 x 25 feet, and a small office for the Parks Superintendent... Spurgin and Johnson are preparing the plans. (Times, May 20, 1931, p. 15)

The 1931 Annual Report stated the new service building was completed. It provided "permanent office accommodation," machinery storage space, a storage basement, tool rooms, workshop and toilet.

Buffalo protest

A Times editorial protested sending the “first buffalo born on Vancouver Island” to the Peace River District for a beef-buffalo breeding project. The buffalo would be used “to produce a race half buffalo, half cow, and known to science as catalloes and useful for beef.”

The writer said City authorities were “about to perpetrate another of their well-known outrages... This is what I would expect from people who mutilate shade trees and imprison white bears.”

The editorial advocated keeping the young buffalo in the Beacon Hill Park zoo to

...sire a new Island race [of ] vigorous Victorian buffaloes... Now, contrary to all the laws of deportation, we are about to deport this native-born citizen instead of developing our own strain of vigorous young Victorian buffaloes, we are going to retain the old and enfeebled prairie importations.

Sending the young buffalo away was “a worse fate than that of the city’s other prisoner, the little white bear...”(Times, May 22, 1931, p. 4)


Proposals to partially fill Goodacre Lake and construct a new stream

The Capital City Beautification Committee recommended filling "Goodacre Lake to uniform depth of not more than four feet deep. This would ensure greater safety for skaters, a faster change of water and cleaner water...” They also wanted to “Construct a stream connecting the two lakes, and a stream from the outlet of the lake to Heywood Avenue, with pools, falls, bog gardens, wading canal, etc.” (Park Files)

[Fountain Lake and Goodacre Lake were connected by a stream in 1932. The proposed stream from the Goodacre Lake outlet at Arbutus Way running east to Heywood was not practical and was not built. There were at least three proposals to dump sand or dirt into Goodacre Lake over the years, but no evidence to prove it was done.]


Warren and birds

Warren was deeply involved with exotic and wild birds in the Park from his first days on the job. On January 6, Warren listed the “waterfowl in Beacon Hill Park” in his little date-book: 2 Barnacle Geese from England, 12 swans, 50-100 mallards “migrating continually,” gulls 100-1000. He also made a note: “Power to kill gulls--Migratory Birds Act.” (Date Books, 1931)

Warren wanted to shoot both crows and gulls in the Park. He received permission on January 12 from the Park Committee “to write to J. B. Harken, Commissioner of National Parks, for permission to exterminate seagulls in Beacon Hill Park.” On February 19, the Park Committee approved Warren’s “use of firearms in Beacon Hill Park.” (CRS 76, 3B3-1) On May 1, Warren noted: “Crows bothersome in park eating young ducks. Jones shooting them.” (CRS 110, Box 3, 12 F 6) Shooting birds with a rifle in a busy city park was apparently acceptable to Council, the police and the public.

In January, Warren began a collaborative effort with Dr. Cecil French to manage birds at both Elk Lake and Beacon Hill. Dr. French taught Warren how to catch and tag swans with U.S.D.A. Biological Survey bands and to pinion their wings. (Pinioning cuts a portion of the wing so birds can never fly.) French had a large private zoo in Saanich in the early 1900's and had experience with many exotic mammals and birds.

Mute Swan

Warren was particularly keen on swans. He requested three pairs of “His Majesty’s swans” from the “King’s Swankeeper, Thames Conservatory Board, London, England” and received them on December 13. Transportation was provided free by the Furness Steamship Lines. “These birds were pinioned mated pairs and proven breeders. One pair was kept in Beacon Hill and two pair sent to Elk Lake.” (Annual Report, 1931)

Warren learned quickly not to use poison on plants eaten by his valued swans. He noted on August 19, 1931: “Female swan died in Beacon Hill Park, probably from eating weeds sprayed with insecticide Attacide...used to destroy willow stump.” (CRS 110, Box 3, 12 F 6)

In May, Dr. French and Warren pinioned 38 young mallard ducks and two wild male Canada Geese at Beacon Hill Park and took geese to Elk Lake. Warren noted that Mr. Newcombe, of the Provincial Museum, and French accompanied him on an expedition to Elk Lake. They planned to bring some mandarin ducks from there to Beacon Hill, but “the mandarins had escaped the duck enclosure there.” (CRS 110, Box 3, 12 F 6)

Throughout his years in office, Warren organized exchanges of exotic birds, especially swans, between Victoria and other zoos in Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, and Calgary.


Warren learns quickly

Warren quickly learned the necessity of advance planning for large events in the Park. He noted in his datebook on July 18: “Fireworks at Beacon Hill. Best ever seen. Thousands of cars all over hill. Experience. Be prepared. Hundreds of cars all over hill made motor trails where they wished in order to view the fireworks.” (CRS 110, Box 3, 12 F 6)

The word “experience” was underlined in his notes and he added the personal reminder to “Be prepared.” That bad experience was not repeated. He anticipated crowds at large events and planned adequate control measures.

On July 19, he noted: “Band concert delayed and large crowd upset.” (CRS 110, Box 3, 12 F 6) Like daffodils, band concerts could be major crowd pleasers and Warren made certain that future summer concerts in the Park were well organized. There is no record of a large music crowd being “upset” again while he was in charge.


Old Jerry, the Park workhorse, replaced

On October 16, Park Committee Minutes noted: The Park Superintendent was authorized “to dispose of ‘Old Jerry,’ the old horse at Beacon Hill Park, provided there is a good home for him.”

Old Jerry’s replacement is not named but a horse worked in Beacon Hill Park until 1963. Queenie, the last workhorse, was on the job from 1953 until 1963, when she was retired to the deer pen next to the Children’s Petting Farm. She died in 1970 and is buried at the Farm.


1931 Annual Report

The 1931 Annual Report included a long list of the “cleaning up and general improvement work” done in Beacon Hill Park by relief workers.

The men removed broom on the northeast side of the hill exposing “some very pretty Oak Groves that had been suffering from excessive broom,” and cut broom back “elsewhere.” Lanes were cut “through the bush between Dallas Road and the waterfront.”

Relief workers built paths and rustic seats in the southeast corner of the Park, removed dead trees and stumps and trimmed dead tree limbs by Goodacre Lake. They widened Dallas Road from Cook Street to Douglas Street and constructed a large parking strip opposite Horseshoe Bay.

Relief workers cleared islands in the lakes of undergrowth during the winter months and replanted the islands. They built a “rough rock wall” along the edges of Goodacre Lake to protect from erosion and cleaned up the “wet hollow on the north side of the Lake and east of the bridge.” This was “filled with soil to make a bed for rhododendrons and azaleas.”

Work accomplished by regular Park staff included “7,000 bulbs planted in swards in the rough grass along the north side of the lake” and cottonwoods planted in a swampy area between Fountain Lake and Douglas Street. Native oak, copper beech, and linden trees were planted in Mayors’ Grove and the “plantation of coniferous trees along Park Boulevard” was thinned.

A new Heywood Avenue Football Field opened in November, to be shared by senior and junior football associations. A “crushed rock tarvia path” was built along the edge of seacliffs from Douglas Street east to Menzies Street. The bandstand was wired and equipped with lights.

In the Nursery area, greenhouses were painted, inside and out. Twelve concrete frames were added on the south side, heated with water pipes from the greenhouse. 1200' of tile drain was installed. Crushed rock tarvia was put on paths around the nursery.

Warren included a long section on zoo animals:

All the Muscovy ducks were destroyed. The wild turkeys were returned to the Provincial Game Farm. Several silver pheasants were traded for a pair of cockatoos and some love birds. Three Mandarin ducks were placed in the Park.
A one year old female buffalo was presented to Mrs. Emily Crawford, Fort St. John, B.C. Only one deer remains in the park. Two were destroyed because of old age and another was killed by one of the other animals. Two mountain goats died during a wet spell in November and December. One was an adult male and the other a six month old kid. This leaves only one pair left.

“Four swans were transferred to Elk Lake in spring” and two cygnets were raised in Beacon Hill Park in 1931. [The acquisition of six swans from England was discussed earlier.] Old buildings in the deer pen were removed and a feed pen was attached to the bear enclosure. A corral was built for the buffaloes. (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1931)


1932

Stream completed between Fountain and Goodacre Lakes

Fountain Lake (called the Lily Pond by Warren) and Goodacre Lake were connected by a stream in January, 1932. The stream replaced an underground pipe used since 1898.

A hand-drawn map in Park Office files is labeled: “Proposed new water course between Lily Pond and Goodacre Lake.” Written at the bottom: “Constructed January 1932."

Warren provided this description in the Annual Report:

"In past years, the water for Goodacre Lake has come through an underground pipe from the Lily pond [Fountain Lake] which is fed by City water. During the winter a chain of miniature lakes and streams has been constructed between the two larger lakes. The flow of water has been diverted from the pipe to run through the stream from the one lake to the other. Much of the permanent planting material to be used along the borders of this stream must be propagated from cuttings, but the temporary material used made a nice showing. Rustic bridges were constructed across the stream and rustic seats conveniently placed throughout the park." (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1932)

Stream from Fountain Lk. to Goodacre Lk.


Stream to Goodacre Lake. Photo: N. Ringuette September, 2003


[In 1973, a pump was installed in Goodacre Lake to create a recirculating system by returning water to Fountain Lake. The water was still routed through the fountain. The Park budget realized a savings of $1500 a year by not purchasing city water.]


More Chinese bell complaints

City Council received a letter challenging the right of the City to keep the ancient Chinese bell. It was looted during the Boxer Rebellion, presented to the City and hung in Beacon Hill Park in 1904. William Savage, of South Carolina, argued that Victoria should return the ill-gotten bell to China. He wrote:

Was it fair to appropriate those relics because the foreign nations took a fancy to them? You may say that all things are fair in war, but in the time of peace, does it seem fair to keep that relic, sacred to the Chinese? (Colonist, July 23, 1932, p. 3)

Though other suggestions for the bell’s return to China had been made before, the letter was the first time a request came before City Council.

The Colonist reminded readers that the bell had been scraped and painted in 1931. That sincere but amateurish effort to preserve the bell brought “criticism of the action of the civic authorities in permitting what was termed a mutilation of the relic.” (Colonist, July 23, 1932, p. 3)

In August, Robert Connell described the “hideous” paint applied by Park workers to the Chinese bell as “vandalism” by the Park Department. He thought the paint attracted “idiots” to scratch and scrape it:

I came across the football field past the Chinese bell and I can but express my amazement at the treatment this beautiful object has undergone. Not the inept scribblings of scores of idiots, but the hideous coatings of black over red paint that have tempted them: these constitute the vandalism. This splendid piece of metalwork, worthy because of its design and delicate patterning to be treasured in any museum of arts, might surely have been spared this last indignity. It is bad enough to have it here as loot--even a ‘heathen’ temple has its rights--it ought at least to be saved the desecration of our philistinism. The good sense of our people ought to demand the immediate cleansing of the surface from the disfiguring black and obnoxious writing. The historic bell should be forthwith enclosed and protected from further abuse, to be seen, not mishandled. (Times, August 20, 1932, p. M 5)

Fearful of “beautification” schemes

Robert Connell’s comments on the bell were part of a long six column article published by the Times titled “Bell, Bear, Buffalo and Begonias in Beacon Hill Park.” Under Connell’s byline was printed: “Noted Island Naturalist.” [In a letter twenty years later, Warren called Connell “the eminent local naturalist.” (Times, May 10, 1952, p. 4)]

Many people recognize Beacon Hill Park as a “unique” place, Connell wrote, and they believe “the Park’s charm lies in being what it is.” For this reason, “there are signs of unrest when anything approaching radical change is proposed. I know I for one fear all the ‘beautification’ schemes that from time to time are mooted.”

After getting past the bell, Connell found many things to admire in his Sunday walk through the Park: “I found a delightful picture in the lily pond where hundreds of flowers lay open among the great leaves [with] white swans upon the calm surface.” He admired the new stream constructing the lakes and hoped native plants would grow along it, especially ferns. “Already the beginnings of a brook-garden are to be seen...”

As he passed the bear cage, he thought the “white bear... looked fat and well,” even though his fur was “tinged with brown.” He admired the large variety of pheasants, but judged the bull buffalo was not content. Connell walked by the busy bowling green and the cricket grounds to arrive at the nursery. His “chief delight” in the nursery was the greenhouse full of begonias, which he described in great detail for three columns. Connell approved of trees recently labeled in many areas of the Park: “...typical specimens are now marked by signs bearing their botanical and popular names...I hope the principle will be extended till all the shrubs and plants of any importance are similarly identified.” (Times, August 20, 1932, p. 5)


1932 Annual Report

“Old broom was removed from the north end of the park and on the northeast side of the hill.”

Another “four thousand mixed daffodils were planted in swards in various parts of the park and nine thousand mixed crocuses planted in some of the lawns.”

Retaining walls around Goodacre Lake were completed in December. “The island in the Lily pond [Fountain Lake] and a portion of the margin was also walled.” Several bog gardens were constructed bordering Goodacre Lake. “Soil and portions of rock were removed from on top of the rocks north of the outlet of Goodacre Lake to ascertain the desirability of constructing a rockery and small water garden. The contour and formation looks most promising for a very attractive spot when funds permit.”

Footpaths were constructed to the beach along the waterfront, including Horseshoe Bay. All nursery stock was labelled and park staff began labelling all trees in the Park.

Potatoes were planted on Park land along Cook Street, between May and Leonard to “clean up the land prior to planting a lawn. Yielded 13.25 tons.”

Storms destroyed 25 trees. Bark beetles attacked Balsam firs and killed “over a dozen” trees on the south side of the bowling green. “Up to present there has been no systematic replacement of native trees that have died. Reforestation will take place in the future using coniferous trees provided by the Provincial government.” Relief labour removed dead limbs “from most of the trees in the Park” and old stumps were removed. “A fine collection of conifers, oaks and other rare trees and shrubs is being cultivated from seed in the nursery.” One plane tree was planted in Mayor’s Grove.

The zoo report was short and grim:

The three Mandarin ducks introduced last year have all disappeared. One swan was killed by being struck in the head with a stone... on February 23, 1932. This leaves eight swans in the Park. The female buffalo gave birth to a calf in April which was fatally injured by the bull buffalo on May 13. The female buffalo...died from pneumonia. The male goat died from influenza...The last remaining goat...went blind and had to be destroyed. This leaves one buffalo, one white bear and two male deer... Five golden pheasants raised during 1932 were released...in the Park. (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1932)

1933

Concrete replica of an “Indian Village” proposed

"Henry Whittaker, chief architect for the Province" suggested a "replica of an Indian village, in concrete, be erected at Beacon Hill Park, both as a permanent memorial to the early Indian dwellers of the land, and also as a work of museum value and tourist attraction." Whittaker said:

Such an exhibit could easily be erected in concrete and made so realistic that the materials of construction would deceive anyone at a casual glance...A tableau in concrete of the Indians, their homes and mode of life would give a realistic impression to visitors of the older forms of civilization on this continent, and would certainly be a unique exhibit. (Colonist, August 26, 1933, p. 1-2)

1933 Annual Report

“The course of the new stream has been altered at its outlet to form a more picturesque waterfall...the outlet is now being planted with new shrubs and trees...Japanese Cherries, Maples, and Cryptomerias have been planted along the edge of the new stream.”

“Bog gardens have been constructed along the edge of the lake and planted with Iris, Gunnera, Bamboo, Primulas, etc. The islands have been cleaned up and planted with bamboo, Japanese Cherries, Yellow Willow, Periwinkle and Cotoneasters. A large number of Daffodils and Narcissus bulbs from the Empress Hotel were naturalized in the rough borders near the Lake.”

“Our policy of confining the broom to definite areas and removing the old overgrown portions is being continued.”

“A number of Lawson Cypress trees placed in various parts of the Park. In outlying sections a start has been made to reforest with Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce and White Pine...Some of the oak trees on the hill have been thinned out. These young oak groves promise to be one of the most interesting sections of the park...”

“During the latter part of 1933 the exceptionally heavy rains and strong gales uprooted and destroyed some twenty-five Fir and Balsam trees in the park. About a dozen other trees died, some being infested with bark beetles. Several poplars around the lake which were infested each year with Satin Moths were removed.”

A Linden tree was planted in Mayor’s Grove.

“All the manure from the Provincial Exhibition at the Willows was obtained...most of it being used in Beacon Hill Park.”

“The Band Concerts started on April 24th, much earlier than usual, and did not conclude until September 10th.”

A complete inventory of 300 birds and 18 animals was included in the Annual Report:

Animals: 1 buffalo, male; 1 bear (Ursus Kermodei), female. 16 deer: 9 Native Columbian Black Tail does, 1 buck, 3 fawns; 1 hybrid doe, 1 hybrid buck and 1 hybrid fawn from James Island, 1 Native Columbia Black Tail.

Birds: 6 peafowl; 1 pair Golden Pheasants, 1 pair Goldhurst Pheasants, 1 pair Malanotus Pheasants, 1 pair Amhurst Pheasants, 1 pair Silver Pheasants, plus 25 Golden Pheasants at large. [Total Pheasants: 35, of six species.] 5 Chickens, Silver Pencilled Hamburg, 33 Bantams; 7 pairs of Love Birds; 11 Canaries (All that remained after the Bird House was robbed of 16 Canaries on June 4, 1933.); 9 Turtle Doves; 3 Gallaw Parrots; 3 Cockatoos; 1 Macaw Parrot; 1 Mexican Green Parrot; 10 White swans (including four cygnets); 4 Black swans; 3 Mandarin Ducks; 8 Wood Ducks; 2 pair Pintail ducks; 2 Barnacle Geese; 150 Mallard Ducks. (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1933)

1934

Shoreline erosion

Heavy landslides occurred at many points on the Dallas waterfront in January. The Colonist reported: “Some twenty feet has been cut away by tide, storm and heavy rains” at Clover Point over the years. At Horseshoe Bay, two heavy slides occurred. Cracks in pathways indicated more earth movement to come:

Along the pathways constructed by the Parks Department, cracks have appeared since the heavy rains and it is possible that other slides will occur at this place. In some parts, the cracks extend a distance of between fifty and sixty feet and are open between six and twelve inches. There is every indication that a slide at the base of the pathway will release tons of earth... (Colonist, January 7, 1934, p. 1, 3)

The Parks Committee considered “some further protection for the top of the high banks, especially where the pathways come within a few feet of the edge.” The largest slide was “at the foot of Dallas Road where the municipality had constructed an ornamental retaining wall to protect the roadway.” It was large enough to crush a private boathouse below and to “break down the wooden barricade at the foot of the slope. The slide was about sixty square feet, extending to the low water mark. Dallas Road appeared to be in danger. (Colonist, January 7, 1934, p. 1, 3)


Douglas Street realigned and playing field extended east

Changes to Douglas Street and Improvements to the Douglas Street football fields were announced in January. The Times reported:

The jog in Douglas Street at the end of Simcoe Street will be done away with and Douglas Street carried right through to meet [Dallas Road]. The course of the park roadway will also be altered slightly to meet Douglas Street. This will allow the field area to be extended westward about thirty feet...(Times, Jan. 20, 1934, p. 13)

The plan was to level the football ground by excavating into the Hill on the east side:

The whole pitch will be moved eastward a distance of twenty or thirty feet, taking up part of the present roadway and will be left with only a 2 per cent slope for drainage purposes. At present the ground has a steep grade on the east side...Sufficient space will also be provided by the change to lay out another pitch to the south, and when the job is completed, there will be one field 110 yards long and another 100 yards long, both suitable for league matches. It will thus provide an extra field as the south pitch is rarely used now for anything but practice purposes. Relief labor will be used for the project.” (Times, Jan. 20, 1934, p. 13)

The project was not completed until the following year. Warren stated in the 1935 Annual Report that “the major work of 1935” was the improving the field and Douglas Street.


Birds and chipmunks

As part of a general parks report presented to a community group in March, 1934, Warren stated there was a total of 306 animals and birds--mostly fowl--being cared for in the Park. (Times, March 22, 1934, p. 15)

Six Indian Demoiselle Cranes arrived from India in April, a gift of the Maharajah of Bikaner (a city in western Rajasthan) to the City of Victoria. “Cecil French, of the advisory board of the bird sanctuary,” stated: “Greater Victoria’s bird sanctuary is acquiring world-wide fame.” (Apparently, the bird sanctuary consisted of Elk Lake and Goodacre Lake.) The cranes were taken “temporarily to the deer pen at Beacon Hill Park.” (Colonist, April 3, 1934, p.1-2) Only five cranes were listed in the year-end Annual Report.

More information emerged about the cranes birds in later newspaper accounts. In 1956, twenty-two years after his arrival, a newspaper article wrote: “Abdul the Squawker, the oldest and only Oriental crane in captivity in Canada, will be celebrating his 30th birthday at Beacon Hill Park next year.” An event was planned for April 7. Victorians were invited to watch Abdul eat a special meal. The Times reviewed Abdul’s life:

Abdul was seven years old when the Indian Maharajah of Bickaner [sic] presented Abdul, together with four “damoiselle” female cranes to Beacon Hill Park in 1934....one by one his mates died of old age... [Abdul’s] only companion is a proud pea-hen, who won’t have anything to do with him... in his younger days, Abdul and his wives used to fly over their pen...But park officials put an end to that by ordering the wings of the birds closely clipped as soon as the molting season was over. Every spring Abdul still stages his weird mating dance--a dance that attracts the attention of park visitors. With wings outspread, the crane circles and prances in balletic beauty but without a partner now. (Times, November 7, 1956, p. 17)

Abdul was in the news again in 1960, when a human attacker broke his wing. The Colonist reported the demoiselle crane was named Abdul by park caretaker Sandy Hayton. “His wing appeared to have been slashed with a heavy club.” (Colonist, January 27, 1960, p. 1) Abdul was probably 34 years old in 1960.

In a letter to the Parks Committee on April 7, 1934, Warren concluded a Park swan had been deliberately poisoned. He explained: “the digestive tract of the female Royal Swan which died in the Lily Pond at Beacon Hill was examined...and contained a very heavy dose of salt... I regret to report this Swan appears to have been deliberately poisoned.” (CRS 106, 12 F 1)

In September, seven chipmunks were given to the City by Frank Kermode, curator of the Provincial Museum. The Colonist reported the Chairman of the Parks Committee hoped a chipmunk colony would grow in Beacon Hill Park so visitors could enjoy feeding them as they did in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and in Tacoma. (Colonist, September 22, 1934, p. 18) Warren’s Annual Report stated the number of chipmunks was five, not seven.

[In 2004, there are no chipmunks in the Park, but there are plenty of non-native Eastern Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). They were first introduced into Beacon Hill Park in 1945 by Warren and the Park Committee, but they disappeared later. Park staff working in the Park during the 1980's stated there were no squirrels at that time. Grey Squirrels seen in the Park today might have spread from a Metchosin game farm accidental release.]


Old Blair Plan unearthed

C. C. Pemberton, following a lead from W. H. Warren, unearthed “an old plan, known as the Blair map, of Beacon Hill Park developments” at City Hall. “The Parks Committee...will recommend that the map be presented to the Archives.” (Colonist, Sept. 9, 1934, p. 6)

The BC Archives holds the “Blair Plan” and provides a microfiche copy of it for viewing (BCA, CM/D53). A full-size black and white paper copy of the Blair Plan is in the library at the University of Victoria’s McPherson Library.


Walnut trees

Ald. John Worthington, Chairman of the Parks Board, announced a row of “fine English walnut trees will be planted in Beacon Hill Park starting at a point opposite the bear pen and leading toward the flagstaff.” He predicted “plenty of nuts for the children to enjoy.” (Colonist, Sept. 29, 1934, p. 1) [The 1934 Annual Report stated a row of English Walnuts was planted on the edge of the road lying south of the deer pen.]


1934 Annual Report

Relief workers drained Goodacre Lake and dug out the sediment of 44 years.

125 concrete and wood seats were constructed for the city’s parks, most of which were placed in Beacon Hill Park and along the waterfront.

“Rustic seats and a Rustic Toadstool seat have been built in Beacon Hill Park similar to the one which stood there many years ago.”

“The removal of areas of old broom is about completed. What remains is not over five or six years old and is restricted to certain sections with spaces around them to act as fire guards. Oak trees have been further thinned out on the hill and also in the north end of the park.”

“On July 12, 1934, a Douglas Fir tree was planted in the Mayors’ Grove in honour of the one hundredth centenary of the death of the pioneer Scottish botanist David Douglas, who first collected specimens of a great number of our west coast flora.”

“A peacock was received by the City from the City of Seattle Park Commission and three Swans were given in exchange.”

“Four surplus swans were sent to Elk Lake during the spring months.”

“Following is a list of the stock in Beacon Hill Park on December 31, 1934:

Animals: 1 buffalo; 1 bear; 5 deer; 5 chipmunks; 1 work horse.

Birds: 1 Macaw; 2 Gallahs; 2 Parakeets; 28 Love Birds; 15 Canaries; 3 Black Swans; 9 Mute Swans; 1 Mandarin Duck (male); 1 Mandarin Ducks (female); 4 pairs Wood Ducks; 5 Demoiselle Cranes; 2 Barnacle Geese; Miscellaneous Mallard, Widgeon, Blue Bill and Pin Tail ducks; 2 Peacocks; 4 Pea Hens; 2 Silkie Chickens; 1 pair each of Golden, Goldhurst, Silver, Amherst and Melanotus Pheasants. In addition, there are approximately twelve Golden Pheasants released in the Park.” (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1934)


1935

Kiwanis shelter built at Finlayson Point

Finlayson Point Shelter

Club officials announced the new Kiwanis shelter at Finlayson Point was due to open the first week of June. A Colonist article included a photo of the structure, which could hold thirty people. The small building had a roof and glass windows. “The club erected the structure as part of the local drive for tourists in cooperation with the Tourist Trade Development Association.” People can “look over the waterfront from this point even in stormy weather.” (Colonist, May 30, 1935, p. 3)

In the 1939 Annual Report Warren explained that vandalism “necessitated the boarding up of glass windows in the lookout on Finlayson Point.” It is not clear when the building was changed to an open shelter. The current shelter has benches on four sides, an overhanging roof, no interior, no windows and little vandalism.



Circle Garden Established


Circle Garden
Originally a rose garden, the much-admired Circle Garden
now features a wide variety of flowers and a centre sundial.
Photo: N. Ringuette, July 2004


“A rose garden of 500 plants has been offered to the city by the Round Table Club of Victoria,” the Times reported in May, 1935. Parks Committee Chairman John A. Worthington announced the approval of the Park Department and said the Club preferred the rose garden be located in Beacon Hill Park. The Club will pay “all initial costs, including purchase price of sand or soil, fertilizer and any rock or fencing that may be necessary.” Relief labour could be used to do the work and Club members would “attend to pruning [and] spraying.” If City Council approved, the Club would order roses immediately. (Times, May 30, 1935, p. 15)

In September, Alderman Worthington announced: “Work will start this autumn on a transformation project which will change the deer pen at Beacon Hill Park into a rose garden.” Over 600 British Columbia-grown roses of various types would be donated by the Knights of the Round Table. “A small stream with two miniature islands in a lake and a bog garden are also contemplated as later developments in that section of the park.” (Times, September 13, 1935, p. 15)

Warren described the completed garden in the 1935 Annual Report:

"A circular Rose garden 80' in diameter was planted with 617 bush roses and 17 standards, provided by...the Round Table Club of Victoria. The garden will face an island standing in a lake now under construction within the deer pen. The lake will flow via a meandering stream into the adjacent animal enclosure."


Rose Lake
Rose Lake - Photo: N. Ringuette, July 4, 2004.


This lake, under construction in 1935 and completed in 1936, was called Rose Lake because of its proximity to the circular rose garden. The island in the lake, identified as Duck Island on 1970 and 1974 Park maps, was bare in 1936, but is now covered in vegetation. Trees and plants around Rose Lake continue to change: the top half of the massive Willow in the foreground collapsed a week after the photo was taken and the tree cut to ground level. Three smaller lakes later were constructed near Rose Lake.


The last buffalo

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.


Totem pole refurbished

"Victoria’s big Haida totem pole which adorns one part of Beacon Hill Park has been re-erected following repair work and painting. The pole, according to W. A. Newcombe, formerly of the Museum and outstanding local authority on Coast Indians, was built about 1875. It was purchased in Massett Queen Charlotte Island, by his father, the late Dr. C. F. Newcombe, for the provincial government...

"The pole is one of the old type, differing somewhat from the modern carvings, which to a large extent the influence of the white man in the figures and the use of modern paint. In repainting the pole, those who did the work followed as closely as possible the original colors with the exception of the ground coat, which has been used to preserve the pole. The original blue-green color was obtained by the Indians from clay earth impregnated with soluble copper salts and the bright red from clay earth impregnated with iron oxides.” (Times, July 19, 1935, p. 15)


1935 Annual Report

On November 1, the Provincial Government loaned the City $100,000 for relief works. All city parks continued to benefit from this labour.

"The regrading of the north portion of the football field on Douglas Street in conjunction with the construction of a hard surfaced road along Douglas Street by the Engineers’ Department, was the major work of 1935. A dry spring forced us to delay seeding the area until Fall. It promises to retain its former characteristic of being the best drained field in the City. Italian rye, Canada Blue, Hard Fescue, Red Top and Agrostis Vulgaris grass seed was used, supplemented with Fall rye grain to prevent erosion and hold the soil firm during the winter."

[This field is now gravel and is referred to as “the all-weather field.”]

Bleachers to accommodate 500 spectators were constructed on the west side of Heywood Avenue playing field. Burns Monument was renovated. The parking area south of the bowling green was enlarged and re-graded and adjacent balsam trees removed.

"The surface of the lawn east of the lake was raised to prevent water lying on it in winter as in former years. The site where the former bird cage stood many years ago has been remodeled into a bed containing a collection of hardy heathers."

[Apparently, Arbour Lake was constructed on the site of the former bird cage in 1963 because the area was still wet.]

“Eight cygnets raised in 1935 mysteriously disappeared when a few weeks old and we are completely baffled as to how they were lost.” Two chipmunks, some canaries and love birds were donated to the zoo. (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1935)


1936

Observation pavilion on Beacon Hill

On January 27, 1936, a letter from the City Clerk authorized Warren to “proceed immediately with the construction at the top of Beacon Hill, using relief labor, of an observation pavilion as per plan.” The City voted $500 out of a $100,000 Unemployment Relief Work Loan to cover materials. (CRS 106, 12F1, f1)

Two weeks later, the Colonist reported:

A decision has been reached with the site for the glass-enclosed lookout chalet to be erected at Beacon Hill. The chalet will be in the shape of a cross, and give a view in four directions. From the centre will rise a flag pole. From this central point, beautification of Beacon Hill Park and the waterfront will be developed. (Colonist, Feb. 13, 1936, p.1)

The Times published a photo of the “New Beacon Hill Lookout” on May 13, stating it had just been completed. “The structure is on a cement foundation and is completely enclosed by glass siding. An unobstructed view from all points of the compass may be had. A fifty-foot flagpole surmounts the structure.” (Times, May 13, 1936, p. 12)

After the Parks Committee inspected the new building on May 21, Alderman Ed Williams, chairman of the relief committee, gave this description to the newspaper:

The structure is of a special design and is almost completely enclosed with glass, so that an unobstructed view is given in all directions, enabling one to enjoy much beautiful scenery...As there is a floor space of approximately 1,400 square feet there is ample accommodation for 200 people, with individual seats available for fifty persons.
The floor and the lower section of the walls are of concrete, allowing for the frequent cleansing of the place with a hose.
The walls are of siding and the roof of cedar shingles.The interior is finished in pale green, while the exterior walls are white and the roof chocolate brown. (Times, May 21, 1936, p. 13)

Alderman Williams complimented the relief labourers on their work and thanked local businesses and individuals for their donations of lumber, cement, paint, hardware, chairs, hauling, sand and gravel.

The “Observation Pavilion” officially opened May 24, 1936. It was more commonly called the Checkers Pavilion, Checker House or the Lookout Shelter.

The building originally had forty five window frames with nine panes of glass in each. There were “two large checker boards on the floor and chairs for 40.” (Recreation Council of Greater Victoria “Survey of Recreational Facilities,” April, 1947, Park Office.) Several sources describe elderly men using special long poles to move large wooden checkers on painted squares.

Hilltop Lookout Building

The Lookout Building was changed to an open air shelter in June, 1971 and all window glass was removed. According to Park Administrator C. J. Bate, broken panes had been costing the City about $500 a year to replace. Bate described the building in a 1973 letter:

"The Lookout Building is a glass enclosed structure used formerly as a protection to view the straits and mountains and as a recreational area for Senior Citizens to play checkers...Since June, 1971, the lookout building has been maintained as an open air shelter." (August 6, 1973 letter, Park Office files, 100 Cook St. attic)

[In 1995, a sign was posted: “Do not enter unsafe building.” The structure was soon boarded up “because one of the supports was collapsing.” The photo on the left was taken in July, 2004. Whether to move the building, demolish it or rebuild it onsite was not yet resolved.]


Park “Beautification” needs public approval

According to a 1936 Times report, the Local Council of Women decided to request assurance from the Mayor that

any proposed plan for the suggested ‘beautification’ or improvement of Beacon Hill Park [will] be first submitted to public opinion. It was felt that such a project, besides involving much outlay, would, unless carefully watched, sacrifice the natural beauty and charm of this lovely spot. (Times, Feb. 14, 1936, p. 9)

The Local Council of Women were staunch defenders of the Park through the 1940's. They spoke effectively against many commercial developments proposed for Beacon Hill Park, including a Pitch and Putt golf business in 1942, a Miniature Golf business in 1946 and a teahouse on top of Beacon Hill. They also opposed a Tropical Aviary and a Theatre Under the Stars. In a letter published in the Times a day after the Council meeting, Leonora MacKenzie, who was often the spokesperson for this group, said she was

filled with apprehension at the proposed plan of ‘beautification’ of the Park area. Surely nature herself has been more than generous in this respect, without artificial aid? At all seasons, particularly in spring and summer, where will one find more beautiful natural surroundings...If inquiries were made of the tourists visiting Victoria, I think it would be found that at least 90 per cent would be in favor of retaining the natural beauty of our park... (Times, February 15, 1936, p. 4)

A sarcastic letter by B. A. Tobin published two days later scoffed at the city’s future beautification efforts, pointing out the “disastrous results” of past “beautification” plans. Tobin claimed any school child could have anticipated that paths cut in the “steep grassy banks” of Horseshoe Bay would result in “a glorious cascade of brown mud to the edge of the shingle.” Tobin disapproved of removing broom from the Hill while saving “straggling” oaks. He predicted the removal of broom would provide work in the future as others would soon be hired to replace the broom and remove the oaks instead. He ended: “Cut down the trees, root out the bushes, mow down the grass, and asphalt the whole area; then we shall all be happy.” (Times, Feb. 17, 1936, p. 4, 10)


New flagpole

“A 165' Douglas fir flagpole has been donated to the city for use at the summit of Beacon Hill Park by Mayo Singh, head of the Kapoor and Mayo Lumber Companies,” the Colonist reported. (Colonist, May 6, 1936, p.5) Warren noted in his Annual Report that the flag pole was being seasoned and prepared in the City Yard before being erected. The pole was finally erected July 29, 1938. [The Mayo family also donated the next replacement pole in 1958.]


Warren commended on “vast improvements”

After a tour by the Parks Committee, Chairman James Adam praised Park Superintendent W. H. Warren for the great work accomplished in improving Beacon Hill Park. The Colonist headline reads: “Beacon Hill Undergoing Major Change With Artistic Rose Beds and Artificial Lakes Being Created---Superintendent Commended.”

The Committee inspected the major projects inside the old deer pen where “hundreds of rose bushes have been planted in one geometric design encompassed by a circle.” In the same area, artificial lakes were under construction. Small bridges were planned as well as an impractical idea that water from the lakes would “find an outlet to the sea by way of a brook.”

The stream between Fountain and Goodacre Lakes was “particularly beautiful...with Japonicas, dwarf trees, irises, heathers, heaths, bed plants and flowering shrubs.” The Douglas Street entrance to the Park was bordered with “brilliantly colored thrift, beautiful beds of iris, early salvia just coming into bloorm, rose beds now in bed, ruby colored petunias, Iceland poppies, wallflowers and other flower beds.” (Colonist, May 21, 1936, p. 3)


Gardener apprenticeship program

In the 1936 Annual Report, Warren described an apprenticeship program already underway:

Our system of apprenticeship has been very successful. It has given us the opportunity of training men to fill vacancies that naturally arise as men reach the age for retirement. At the same time it has been an inexpensive venture for the City, as the City saves money both in contributions toward the superannuation fund and in wages when training apprentices instead of using regular labor. I strongly recommend that this system be extended. (CRS 108, Annual Report, 1936)

Much later, in retirement, Warren provided a more details on this program and named two apprentices who became long term employees at Beacon Hill Park:

In the mid 1930's the City Council approved the setting up of an apprentice system for gardeners in the Park Dept. Two gardeners were appointed at $40.00 a month. They worked two years with us and then spent the third year in the Vancouver Park system on an exchange basis. This was quite successful! The first graduates were Horace Lindsey who became foreman of the nursery and greenhouses and Alex Johnston in charge of Beacon Hill Park... (“Notes,” p. 6)

1936 Annual Report

There was good ice skating on Goodacre Lake during a long cold spell from February 7 to February 25. The temperature dropped as low as 7 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rose Lake was still under construction on February 25, 1936, the date Warren filed his 1935 Park Report. Willow and Deer Lakes were not mentioned by name in the next Annual Report, though more than one body of water is indicated: “..The pools and streams are completed...”

Relief labour continued to be used in all the Parks.

3000 Narcissi, 4000 Mixed Daffodils and 1500 King Alfred Daffodils were naturalized in lawns and grass. In addition, 1550 Tulips and 1700 Daffodils (Red Beacon, Lucifer and Southern Gem) were used for bedding purposes.

Warren stated the Park had fewer grass fires because of the systematic removal of old broom. However, one fire on the northeast side of the hill injured a stand of Garry Oak and burned about five acres. Balsam, Fir and Alder continued dying in the western section of Park. In the vicinity of Goodacre Lake, these were replaced with Japanese Cherries and Weeping Willow.

Warren was co-operating with the Society for Preservation of Wild Plants in developing the Southeast Woods, a section of the Park south of nursery, as a natural woodland area in which ‘suitable plants would be naturalized.’

Warren noted that the Nursery was “no longer selling nursery stock.” [The Nursery sold plants from 1909-1935.] A propagating frame heated with electricity was added in the Greenhouse. The Nursery was concentrating on growing material for the boulevards.

Frost in the fall killed the fall seeding of the Douglas Street field and a dry spring delayed seeding. 75% perennial rye and 25% hard fescue were used.

The Round Table Rose Garden produced a “profusion of bloom which lasted from June to December.” Warren made some changes in the spring to balance the colours.

Raised in the Park were five swans, eight wood ducks, four pintail ducks, three golden pheasants, eleven Reeves pheasants and two Amherst pheasants. Added to the Beacon Hill Park collection by exchange were Zebra Finches, Fishers Love Birds and Nyassaland Love Birds.(CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1936)


1937

Hanging flower baskets tradition

Hanging flower baskets were prepared for the first time in the Beacon Hill Park Nursery in 1937. They were conceived by W. H. Warren to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Flower baskets lining downtown streets became a Victoria summer tradition and one of the best known features of the City.

Causeway Hanging Baskets


In 1937 and 1938, 760 baskets were prepared, at a yearly maintenance cost of $1,470.49. (CRS 106, 12 F 2, f.8, 7) In July, 1939, a Colonist editorial praised the flower baskets hanging on light standards in downtown Victoria, saying they “have been photographed more frequently... than any other single feature in the city.” The editorial stated: “money spent on brightening a city...is money that carries a double value, benefitting residents and visitors alike.” (Colonist, July 20, 1939, p. 4)

In 1942, Warren recommended to Parks Committee Chairman McTavish that the “use of flower baskets” be abandoned for that year because of “the complications with labor at the nursery due to the war.” From 1937 to 2004, this was the only year baskets were canceled.

In 1943, a reduced number of baskets were hung in the downtown core. The Chamber of Commerce recommended in 1944 that the number be increased in order to place baskets “in the whole of the downtown area in 1945.” On June 17, 1946, Warren reported to McTavish that 575 baskets were completed that year. He made this request for more greenhouse space: “If a 20' x 30' extension were made...we could accommodate 210 more baskets.” (CRS 106, 12 F 2, f.8, 7)

In 2004, 1,070 hanging baskets were prepared in the Beacon Hill Park Nursery, using the same flower assortment developed by W. H. Warren. (Lynne Milnes, “Herb’s Heritage,” Times Colonist, March 10, 1996, p. F8) Park workers hung the season’s new baskets along downtown streets on June 7 and 8. Baskets decorated lamp standards along Circle Drive in Beacon Hill Park, as well.

Fire in Parks building

In April, 1937, a fire broke out in the Cook Street Parks building in which the Parks Superintendent had his office. (The building was constructed in 1931.) W. H. Warren estimated the damage to be about $1,000 to the building and $400 in contents. Firemen prevented the fire from spreading to the greenhouse, which was full of expensive plants and 750 hanging baskets to be used for street decoration.

Unknown to the firemen, a can of dangerous calcium cyanide was in the building, as well as cans of gasoline and coal oil. The fire started in a room next to Warren’s office. That room was gutted but damage in the office was from smoke and water. A city truck was saved, though other equipment was lost. (Times, April 19, 1937, p. 1)


1937 Annual Report

There was ice skating for two and a half weeks in Beacon Hill park because of continuous cold weather in January and February, 1937. The Park Department regularly flooded Goodacre Lake to provide a good ice surface. Previously there had never been a long enough cold spell to attempt flooding.

The sudden onslaught of winter injured many trees that had not yet lost their leaves – including Birch, Laburnum, Mountain Ash, Poplar, Willow, Alder, Laurel, and other soft wooded trees. Cherries and plums in the nursery were also damaged.

A ten inch snowfall in just twenty-four hours in November damaged many trees. There was another heavy snowfall at Christmas.

Less work was done in the Park because numbers of the unemployed were low and relief laborers not available. Four apprentices were employed.

Several thousand more daffodils and narcissi were naturalized in lawns.

The Barnacle Geese and Black Swans were returned to Elk Lake because "they seriously interfered with the White Swans during the breeding season." A pair of Swans were given to Vancouver and to Seattle.

Vandalism was severe: “A deer was killed and stolen, water fowl were injured by stoning, three Swans being killed...” 29 bush and grass fires during August were all believed to be deliberately set.

Warren recommended construction of an entrance ‘worthy of the park’ at the junction of Douglas, Blanshard, and Superior Streets.

The South football field at Douglas and Niagara was opened for play in the fall but the north field was not in good enough shape to open. Various types of trees and shrubs were planted to shelter the fields from wind.

A 50' extension was made to the greenhouse and heating was installed.

Several hundred yards of dirt from Luney Bros. were received which were to be used to raise the bottom level of Goodacre Lake.

A rose arbour, built around the east end of Goodacre Lake, was planted with climbing roses, wisteria, pyracantha and laburnum. (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1937)


1938

Flagpole erected

A large crowd watched a 157 foot flagpole, donated by Mayo Singh, erected on top of Beacon Hill the morning of July 29, 1938. City officials attending included Mayor McGavin and Aldermen Davies, Morgan and Worthington. Police were on hand to direct traffic and keep the crowd back.

More than two feet across at the base, the pole tapered to eleven inches at the top and was one foot higher than the flagpole at the Legislature. Cut at Goldstream in 1936, it was shipped on three flatcars to Victoria, then seasoned and shaped for two years in the city’s maintenance yard. The pole was transported to Beacon Hill at four in the morning to avoid traffic.

The Times reported:

“The job was done by experts from Singh’s lumber camp, who have been preparing the gigantic pole for the last three days.” Well placed cables and a “powerful donkey engine” brought from the donor’s camp were used to raise the pole. “The exact vertical angle was determined by a theodolite.” Four guy wires were fastened half way up the pole and another four below the top. A new flag will fly from the pole within a week. (Times, July 29, 1938, p. 1)

1938 Annual Report

“A lacrosse box was constructed.” The location in 1938 is not described. However, the 1945 Annual Report states: “Unsightly Lacrosse box at north east of the hill removed.”

There was a summer drought but few grass fires. 70 mph winds in November destroyed 50 native trees in Beacon Hill Park, mostly balsam and Douglas Fire.

A bake-oven type sterilizer was purchased for the Nursery to sterilize soil and a building was constructed to store the soil.

Another rose arbour was built on the west side of Goodacre Lake. Landscaping continued in the old deer pen area: an acre of lawn was seeded and a long curved perennial border established. The Round Table Rose Garden attracted attention with two blooms, spring and early fall.

‘Modern’ white enamel toilets replaced ‘natural wood finish’ in the Park washrooms. It was hoped people would be “more respectful” because white looks cleaner. The under structure of bandstand was repaired.

Warren reported vandalism in Beacon Hill Park was severe. (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1938)


1939

An article by J. Stafford titled “Starving Trees” complained that park workers raking up all leaves from around trees in city parks were robbing the trees of essential nutrients:

There is small likelihood of the young oaks in Beacon Hill Park attaining the majesty of their forebears. Our soils, generally speaking, are not very fertile and at least two thirds of the humus obtained from the decay of these leaves should be returned in the form of a mulch to the trees in the late autumn and winter months, following the raking up of the current season’s fallen leaves. (Times, January 14, 1939)

[In 2004, the Beacon Hill Park maintenance yard contains gigantic piles of composting leaves which are later distributed around plants.]


Spring in the zoo

A photo of “the world famous white bear at Beacon Hill Park” taking his first bath of spring was published on April 1. The emergence of the bear heralded spring had arrived. The Times noted Ursus Kermodei “went into hibernation a few weeks before Christmas, appearing only every three or four days for a little food.” (Times, April 1, 1939, p. 7)

The article reported the arrival of a new pair of English green pheasants:

Sam Smith, who is in charge of the park livestock, hopes to raise a number of that variety. Other pheasants include Silver Amherst, Reeve, Golden and Goldherst...In two years Mr. Smith has raised over 50 young pheasants...

A large Reeve pheasant was reported to be quite aggressive, having recently “cornered a young woman... threatening to peck her” until Mr. Smith drove him off. The pheasants were free to roam the Park.

Two swans were to be kept at Beacon Hill Park while others would be shipped to Elk Lake, including a male with only one wing. Additions in the aviary were pairs of Pekin Robins and Strawberry finches and a large talking parrot “that was caught after it escaped from a steamer that came to port.” (Times, April 1, 1939, p. 7)


A maze is proposed

A maze was proposed for Beacon Hill Park by W. T. Straith, M.P.P. The Chairman of the Parks Committee, Alderman Okell, announced the committee had “received the proposal favorably” and would consider it. (Colonist, Aug. 17, 1939, p.16)

[Warren referred to a maze proposal in 1948 in his Annual Report. He said the Tourist Trade Development Association had suggested a maze similar to Hampton Court “fourteen years ago” as well as other improvements in Beacon Hill Park such as a Shakespearean Garden, a Rose Garden, a proper entrance to the Park in the vicinity of Douglas Street and a native rock garden north of Goodacre Lake, but that only the Rose Garden had been built. Warren thought these additions were desirable: “I feel that Beacon Hill Park could become as much of a Mecca for tourists as Mr. Butchart’s Gardens if support were secured for its improvement.”

As the years passed, Warren’s views changed. In the 1960's and 1970's, instead of promoting developments, he spoke against developing Park open spaces. He was against building the provincial museum on the Hill, against the extension of Michigan Street through the Park and opposed any restaurant or tearoom. He even stated, in 1977, that he was against continuing the “farmyard zoo,” against providing more parking in the Park and for closing all internal Park roads.]


Captive bird policies

In a long report titled “Bird Life in Beacon Hill Park,” Warren described his captive bird policies:

Besides the collection of pheasants in pens, the Department of Parks is endeavoring to naturalize ornamental varieties of pheasants in the park. Silver pheasants when released, attacked and killed pea fowl and other varieties of birds and it was found necessary to dispose of them because of their vicious habits. Some fifty golden pheasants, native of China, have been released in the last five years... At present there is one cock Reeve’s pheasant with a beautiful tail about four feet long which is free. Of the goldens, only two or three are left...they are run down by cars, caught by dogs and killed by vandals.

Warren said gulls ate many young ducks and he made this unlikely statement: “large grey owls... come down from the north in large numbers” to eat ducks and pheasants. (CRS 106, 12F2, File 1)


1939 Annual Report

Warren outlined the year’s weather: there was an early, dry spring, a cool summer and a mild fall and winter. There were two frost days, October 29th and Christmas.

A lath-house was built for hardening the hanging baskets at the Nursery.

A large block of broom was removed on the west side of the road to the hill in order to accommodate crowds at the presentation of colours to Pacific Command R.C.N. by King George VI.

Warren recommended the removal of a large number of balsam and fir trees near Douglas Street and reported, “a severe storm last November blew down some thirty trees in this area.” Many citizens objected to removing trees and this controversy continued through 1942. [F. B. Pemberton wrote a letter to the City on January 19, 1942 objecting to cutting “large numbers of firs between the wading pool and the Lake.” He also objected to many oaks being cut.]

Vandalism and unknown factors reduced the swan colony in Beacon Hill Park by three adults and three cygnets. Vandalism “necessitated the boarding up of glass windows in the lookout on Finlayson Point.” (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1939)


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