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In 1883 the government granted land to St. John’s for a park in the west end of the city. The land was originally home to Newfoundland’s first civilian hospital and long-term care facility. Upon closure of the hospital in 1888, development of the park began. On June 5th of 1896, the Riverhead neighborhood gathered for an instrumental concert to celebrate the grand opening of Victoria Park.
From Our Campaign Chair
Like you, I have fond memories of Victoria Park from my childhood but the memories that I cherish most come from being a father. When I would take my kids to Victoria Park I found myself telling them what it used to be like. I didn’t have a good answer for them when they asked, ‘why isn’t it like that anymore?’ So I’m asking you that question. When I walk through Victoria Park I can hear the echoes of children playing in the water, the cheer of the crowd and the crack of the bat as a team wins a softball game, families sliding in winter and even the crunch of the leaves as couples take a quiet autumn walk. Join us as we bring these sounds and more back to an urban oasis that has gotten far too quiet. Help us to bring the neighbors back to the neighborhood so that one day my kids can ask theirs, ‘Can you believe none of this was here when I was a kid?”
Please consider donating today, I’ll meet you in the park!
Bringing the beauty to life
The planned improvements for Victoria Park will ensure that our beautiful grounds will be cherished and enjoyed by people of all ages for years to come. As we Renew the Heart of Old St. John’s, here are a few of the features you can expect to see:
» Bubbler Fountain (activating summer 2021)
» New playground – “Shipwreck Harbour” & “Silvery Mist” (now open)
» ExxonMobil Community Garden (installing now)
» Sliding Hill illumination (in Memory of Larry Dohey)
» New Pedestrian Bridge (completed)
» New Mechanical Services Building & Washrooms (completed)
» “100 Portraits of The Great War” (installed 2018)
» Off-leash dog park (completed)
» Inclusive and accessible pathways
» Improved pedestrian circulation
» Victorian-style benches and lamps
» Story boards
Phase 1 – The North Quadrant
Revitalization of the Park began in the Fall of 2016. Phase 1 included an Entrance Plaza on Hamilton Avenue, Sliding Hill Lookout, new Pedestrian Bridge, Meandering Pathway, Off_Leash Dog Park, and illumination of the Sliding Hill. A Bubbler Fountain was also constructed as part of phase 1 in this area of the Park and was to be activated and illuminated in summer 2020, but has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Fountain will now be activated in June, 2021.
100 Portraits of The Great War
This intriguing monument created by bronze sculptor, Morgan MacDonald, commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War 1 and pays homage not only to the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who fought and died during the Great War but also to their descendants, who have in many ways carried the burden and pride of their loved one’s service down through the generations. Listen to some of the Faces’ stories on our new Victoria Park STORYWALK App.
Shipwreck Harbour Playground
Smiling faces and children’s laughter are key features of the new playground, apply named “Shipwreck Harbour”. The playground is well equipped with the usual attractions and whimsical ships, one of which has been christened “Silvery Mist”.
The park is becoming a great destination for playtime in the Heart of Old St. John’s.
Where once they stood
When the call came out for volunteers to fight in the First World War close to a thousand young men from the west end of St. John’s responded, many of them from the Riverhead neighbourhood.
Where once they played as children, they returned as veterans to remember friends and relatives who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The German artillery piece, that was installed in Victoria Park after the War to honour these brave men and women, is being assessed for possible restoration.
Newfoundland’s Rhur Valley
The history of Victoria Park dates back to the early nineteenth century, when the neighbourhoods were filled with labourers employed by the various industries that had been established in the area. Sharing a border with the Park, businesses included the island’s first commercial bakery, earliest car dealership, and the Parker and Monroe Boot and Shoe Factory that was in operation as early as 1827.
Originally located on Alexander Street, the Parker and Monroe Boot and Shoe Factory was the primary manufacturer of footwear on the island from 1880 until the last retail store closed in 1988. During its prime, the Factory produced over 100,000 pairs of footwear every year.
Follow the river bed
From filling pools to powering factories, the water that flows through Victoria Park has played a significant role in its history. Known as The Cascades, the river that once carved its way through the park’s grounds, now runs through culverts underground. It starts at Mundy Pond and travels through Bennett’s Creek before joining the Waterford River. Vertical lighting has been installed to mark the original course of the river through the park. You can hear about The Cascades on our Victoria Park STORYWALK App.
Victoria Park will receive a variety of upgrades to make it the ideal place for groups to gather. The pool house, which is used by the Friends of Victoria Park for their summer program for children and the very popular annual Lantern Festival, will receive some much deserved TLC as part of phase 3.
Illuminating the park
For safer park access, entrances and walkways are being upgraded to make the grounds more accessible for everyone.
Throughout the park, Victorian-style benches and lamps are being installed to improve visibility and comfort for visitors.
After a long day of work, there’s nothing better than escaping to the neighbourhood park with the family. That’s why we’ve added a number of modern, family-friendly features in our plan, including a new nautically-themed playground (coming in summer 2021) and an off-leash dog park. As well, as part of phase 1 in 2017, we added area lighting to the popular sliding hill, allowing for longer days in the park during the winter season.
Celebrating the past
Our Community Renewal plan includes several features that will pay tribute to the park’s rich history. The plan includes a fountain featuring ten illuminated bubblers (activation in summer 2021), and storyboards that will be placed through the park sharing memories and moments in history with our visitors.
As well, in 2020, thanks to a grant from the RBC Social Impact Foundation, a GPS operated Soundwalk App (Victoria Park STORYWALK) was developed for smartphones that engages visitors with audio descriptions of the Park and some of the Faces on the “100 Portraits” monument. Where their eyes find present-day highlights, their ears will find history, memory, and meaning: the inside stories.
Explore Victoria Park’s Past
On May 7th, Newfoundland’s first civilian hospital – the Riverhead Hospital – opened on the grounds of what is now known as Victoria Park.
The first industries to set up shop in the Riverhead neighbourhood included a brewery, sawmill, foundry, forge, flour mill, and whisky distillery operated by Charles Fox Bennett as early as 1827.
The Great Fire of 1846 destroyed almost three-quarters of the City of St. John’s from Riverhead to the Battery. After that significant fire, The Marine Parade or the Promenade (predecessor to Victoria Park) was created along the shore of the river mouth from Hutchings Street to the Parsley Garden, opposite Alexander Street by Governor John Gaspard LeMarchant.
The remnants of the Promenade are a line of trees along Water Street West from the old Railway Station to Patrick Street.
In the early 1850s, R. Vail Bread became the first commercial bakery in Newfoundland.
Newfoundland’s first long term care facility was built, originally titled the Poor Asylum and later referred to as the Home for the Aged and Infirm.
After inheriting the business from their father, James and John Jr. Angel renamed the company ‘St. John’s Iron Foundry’ and went on to produce the first steam engine, steam boiler, and iron hulled steamship ever manufactured in Newfoundland
St. Patrick’s church opened on the edge of Victoria Park, serving the Catholic population of the neighbourhood.
Land for a park in the Riverhead area was given to the City of St. John’s by Newfoundland’s colonial government.
Riverhead Hospital, which stood on the lower half of what is now Victoria Park, was demolished.
Victoria Park received its name honouring Queen Victoria and development began on the grounds.
On June 5th, the grand opening of Victoria Park was celebrated with an instrumental outdoor concert.
A monument was installed in Victoria Park to honour a prestigious business man and politician, Moses Monroe.
June 26 marked the opening of the Wesley Street United Church.
Bennett’s Distillery began producing ‘near beer’ – a beer that contained no more than 2% alcohol – until the end of the prohibition in 1924.
On August 4th, a concert was held in the park as a celebration of peace, welcoming soldiers home from the First World War.
Philip Edmund Outerbridge was elected to St. John’s City council. Throughout his career, he played an instrumental role in the development of parks and recreation facilities in the city.
Sergeant Furlong was appointed as policeman of Victoria Park with a salary of $15/week.
On July 28th, the Rotary Club opened a swimming pool along Rennie’s River, on land donated by Cyril Duley, brother of the local novelist Margaret Duley. There was already in existence a natural swimming pool in Victoria Park. The Rotary Club Rennie’s River Pool remained open until 1954.
In 1938, through his association with the Rotary, Anthony Tooton pledged $3000 towards a pool for Victoria Park in memory of his son Frank. In that year the pool at the upper end of the park was improved. A shallower paddling pool was opened next to the existing pool in Victoria Park, as requested by Phillip Outerbridge at a cost of $750.
January 1953, Council approval was given to an application of the Playgrounds and Recreation association of St. John’s to rebuild the Tooton Pool. . The new Tooton Pool was opened in July 1954. According to Rotary records Mr. Anthony Tooton again put substantial moneys into the pool. Grading was also laid for a sliding hill on the upper portion of Victoria Park extending from Hamilton Avenue.
In August 1963 a new swimming pool was opened in Victoria Park in proximity to the existing paddling pool and extending onto property on the north side of Angel place.
In 1996, due to the high cost of repairs and maintenance, the swimming pool in Victoria Park is permanently closed and removed and the site reverts to open space.
With extensive public engagement, a master revitalization plan is developed for Victoria Park by Tract Consulting and presented to City Council for approval.
The VP Foundation Inc. convenes its first Board meeting on May 16th. The Victoria Park Community Renewal project is launched and Phase 1 construction begins with funding of $1 million from the City/Province Multi-Year Capital Works Program.