A view of the sunken gardens at Jackson Park, taken in 1938, looking east towards Kennedy Collegiate. Note that there’s no pool in the middle of the gardens yet, just a small pond (not visible).
Jackson Park is truly one of Windsor’s great public spaces.
From the City of Windsor parks history document:
Commonly known as: Jackson Park, Sunken Gardens
Former/other names: Queen Elizabeth II Gardens, Sunken Gardens
Location: South of Tecumseh Road at Ouellette Avenue
Property acquired: 1929
Official designation: City-Wide/Regional park
Late in 1928, at approximately the same time that Windsor Mayor Cecil Jackson was publicly
presenting the idea of purchasing a 64-acre parcel of land owned by the Windsor Jockey Club, the
entire North American continent, including Windsor, was experiencing a degree of economic
prosperity unprecedented in the history of modern civilization. But just one year later, in October
of 1929, with little warning, the stock market crashed, and the roaring ’20s ground to a screeching
halt. A new economic and social era, characterized by boarded up factories and long lines in front
of soup kitchens, was destined to grip the nation for the next decade. It hardly seemed like the
appropriate time for governments to be dipping into the public purse to finance parkland purchases.
But Mayor Jackson, undaunted and determined, weathered the vehement public and political storm and
held fast to his plan to purchase the Jockey Club property. In December 1929, after hours of tense,
sometimes heated debate, Windsor City Council finally succumbed to Jackson’s strong- minded
tenacity, narrowly voting in favour of his land purchase proposal. In fact, on that same night,
City Council formally named the new park Jackson Park, in honour of their Mayor.
On the surface, the scheme appeared to be both political and economic suicide. But Mayor Jackson
had a vision that went well beyond the establishment of Jackson Park’s well-known Sunken Gardens.
The Mayor believed that many Windsorites would soon join the swelling ranks of the unemployed, and
the Mayor also felt that some form of federally-sponsored economic aid would by necessity be
forthcoming. Mayor Jackson was correct on both counts.
Queen Elizabeth II Gardens (Formally Sunken Garden)
By 1930, federally-assisted construction on the Sunken Gardens began. Timothy Carter, Parks
Superintendent, soon had an eager, massive construction crew at his disposal, and a Mr. Appleyard
was engaged to lay out and oversee the planting of the Sunken Gardens. In the 1930s, the
development of the park was simply called a make-work project, and those working on the
construction team were said to be holding down welfare jobs, receiving $1.25 per day.
The workers constructed the original entrance to the park at the corner of Tecumseh Road and
Ouellette Avenue, an exquisitely crafted, Norman-style stone entranceway. Norman Eansor, a former
City Alderman, financed the purchase of the materials needed to build the pillared structure. A
lily pond containing over 200 fish was constructed and quickly became popular with both locals and
tourists. As well, an assortment of trees were planted, including many elms. In spite of the fact
that Dutch Elm disease ravaged Windsor’s tree population in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many of
these elms, now over 60 years old, still stand tall at Jackson Park.
South African War Memorial
Also in the 1930s, the South African War Memorial, a fixture at the old downtown post office since
1906, was moved to Jackson Park. Honouring those who fought in the Boer War (1898-1902), the
memorial features a centre fountain with a dolphin-type spigot above a shallow central bowl and
anchored in a deeper, larger basin. The centre wall, inscribed with the names of pivotal Boer War
battles, rises 12 feet high and is flanked by colonnaded sidewalls. Bronze plaques recognize two
volunteers from Essex County who died during the Boer War: 18-year-old Walter Raymond White and
22-year-old Harry Barr. In 1961, when Highway 401 was constructed and Jackson Park was split into
two sections, the War Memorial was moved to its present location, where it is a feature of the
garden at the south side of the pool.
Land, Sea and Air
On the south side of the South African War Memorial is a stone monument honouring the people who
fought for their country during World War I and World War II. Each stone recognizes a
different area of battle: land, sea and air.
Lest we forget. WWI 1914-1918
War Pensioners of Canada Rose City Branch
Dedicated this 8th day of May, 1998 Windsor, Ontario, Canada
The City of Roses
Land and Air
Similar commemorative scripts are written on the adjacent monuments which are designed to be
considered as one memorial.
Robert Burns Memorial
The Robert Burns Memorial, honouring the great Scottish poet whose most popular work was produced
in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, was donated by the Border Cities Burns Club in 1952.
Originally located at the west entrance to the Sunken Gardens, it was moved to the rose garden
entrance in 1982.
In 1954, the Windsor branch of the Polish-Canadian Congress donated a monument to Nicolas
Copernicus, the great Polish astronomer who discovered the heliocentric system (revolving around
the sun) of the world. The monument features two sun dials mounted on top of an 18-foot stone
Bandshell and Grandstand
Shortly after World War Two, a bandshell was constructed at the park. When combined with the
original Jockey Club grandstand, the bandshell allowed outdoor entertainment events to proceed in
spite of the unpredictable elements. However, in the summer of 1957, one of the most spectacular
fires in Windsor’s history totally destroyed both the bandshell and the grandstand. Most of the
service vehicles used by the Department of Parks and Recreation, which were parked beneath the
grandstand, were also destroyed. In 1959, the City financed the reconstruction of both facilities,
but the bandstand is no longer in public use and the grandstand has been demolished.
Windsor Stadium Added
In 1960, Jackson Park was split into two sections to accommodate construction of the 401 Highway.
The Province of Ontario provided the City of Windsor with financial compensation for this
development, and the City used most of the money to upgrade Jackson Park. A new entrance on the
park’s east side was created in 1965 and over 400 decorative lights were installed. The original
lily pond was rebuilt and a fountain, complete with underwater lights, was installed in its centre.
Formal control of Windsor Stadium, previously under the jurisdiction of the Windsor Board of
Education, was assumed by the City at this time, and improvements to the Stadium’s turf
were carried out. Along with several service buildings, a California-style pergola structure, made
from British Columbia cedar, was erected in 1964.
In 1964, the Lancaster Windsor Committee, comprised of twenty ex-airmen headed by Wing Commander
Joe Mencel, purchased the Lancaster Bomber from the Canadian War Assets Corporation for $1,250.
Prior to its retirement in 1961, the Lancaster was used as a photographic plane in northern
Ontario. However, the Lancasters earned their fame as bombers in Europe during the Second World
War. The Windsor Lancaster is one of 430 Canadian built Lancaster Mark 10’s.
When the Lancaster Committee purchased the plane, it was stored at Canadian Forces Base Dunnville,
and was sent to Windsor on a barge. As a focal point for Jackson Park, the 41,000 pound (25 ton)
Lancaster Bomber stands on a 16-foot concrete and steel plinth at the centre of a huge
compass-shaped, 600 foot diameter bowl, filled with rose bushes, known as the Lancaster Memorial
Rose Garden. The plinth on which the bomber rests was designed by Alfred Sydney Phillips, a former
pilot of the RAF 625 Squadron during WWII flying Lancaster Bombers. His rank was flight lieutenant
and he was awarded the DFC. Refurbished in both 1983 and 1991 and re-painted in 1993, the Bomber is
a popular tourist attraction.
Lancaster Memorial Rose Garden
The Memorial Rose Gardens was the major addition to Jackson Park during Canada’s centennial
celebrations in 1967. Sponsored by the Greater Windsor Foundation, an organization interested in
establishing Windsor as the City of Roses, the garden is the first to bloom in Canada each spring
and contains over 12,500 bushes in all.
The beautiful sculpture form, which is located in the Jackson Park fountain, is the work of Mr.
Hans Hennecke who donated his art to the City of Windsor. Mr. Hennecke explained the sculpture work
represents bilingualism. If you view the sculpture you will see two “tongues” a “mother tongue” and
a “younger tongue” coming from the base, and if you were to move to the rear of the “mother tongue”
you will find the sculpture has been constructed to look like the torso of a woman.
The stone entrance that leads into Jackson Park from the corner of Ouellette and Tecumseh was
constructed by Mr. Norman Eansor, a former alderman in the City of Windsor. The gateway entrance
was designed by architects J.C. Pennington and John Boyd in association with architect John
Leighton. Eansor’s Blacksmith shop located on McDougall fabricated the wrought iron gates in 1931
for a cost of $12,277.00. Ernest Reddin, was the blacksmith who worked on the gates. These elegant
gates received Official Heritage designation in 1999.
Donations from the Soroptimists made it possible to create a beautiful addition to Jackson Park.
This garden was added to the park in 1994. The boulders that were used for the arrangement were
originally from the Amherstburg Quarry. The garden contains a walkway and benches to relax and take
in the view.
Active Play Area
Jackson Park is also a well-equipped, popular sports park. Besides being the permanent home of the
Windsor Lawn Bowling Club and Windsor Stadium, the park also provides a wide assortment of creative
play units, a basketball court, five ball diamonds, and rugby and soccer fields. Other improvements
have included a complete refurbishment of the stadium grandstands, building and fields in 1990. In
1991, both the lighted tennis courts and the lawn bowling greens were upgraded and repairs made to
the cedar pergola structure.
In 1970, the Sunken Gardens won the Ontario Parks Association award for being the best night
lighted garden in the province. In honour of the Queen’s 1984 Royal Visit to Windsor, the name of
the Memorial Rose Gardens was formally changed to Queen Elizabeth II Floral Rose Gardens.
Attracting busloads of tourists throughout the summer months, Jackson Park and its more than
10,000 plants is undoubtedly one of Windsor’s foremost attractions.
Have a good weekend everyone! See you back here Monday.