Jackson Park – 1938

May 23, 2014

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:

    Jackson Park

    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
    Acreage: 59.07
    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.

    Sea

    Lest we forget. WWI 1914-1918
    WWII 1939-1945
    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.

    Copernican Monument

    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
    shaft.

    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.

    Lancaster Bomber

    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.

    Fountain Sculpture

    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.

    Entrance Gates

    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.

    Soroptimists Garden

    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.

    Honours

    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.

8 Responses to Jackson Park – 1938

  1. Lanny on May 23, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Thank you Andrew. Your work is a constant delight for this old Windsorite living in British Columbia, but never more so than this morning. That beautiful park was our home-away-from-home growing up in the fifties, then passing through the gardens to and from KCI in the early sixties. Never did figure out how to read those sun dials! Proves that Windsor’s mayors and councils got a lot right, starting with Mayor Jackson!

  2. Douglas Skoyles on May 23, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Many thanks for this. Jackson Park was a favourite haunt when I attended Kennedy late fifties to early sixties. It was a jewel, a truly beautiful and memorable park. Thanks for the story of it’s inception.

  3. Tim on May 24, 2014 at 5:14 am

    Jackson Park has always had some personal history to me – my dad started the campaign to take the Lancaster down to protect it in the 1970s, a campaign that had many stops and starts along the way and was finally successful some 30 years later. They then commissioned my dad to research and oversee the painting of what was to replace it – a Hurricane MkI and a Spitfire Mk IX, both of which stand today.

    However, the City erred in not putting up a plaque to explain why those two aircraft were chosen and why they were painted they way they are. They still haven’t put up the plaque and most people don’t see them as anything other than interesting monuments to World War 2 aircraft.

    The Story Behind The Paint:

    The Hurricane is a Mk I, as flown extensively in the RAF during the Battle of Britain (the real RAF workhorse that saw most of the action in the Battle, although the Spitfire got the glory). It is painted in the markings of 401 squadron, which was the Canadian squadron during the historic battle.

    The Spitfire is a Mk IX painted in the markings of 417 Squadron, the “City of Windsor” squadron. Specifically, the Spitfire is painted in Squadron Leader Bert Houle’s markings during the time the squadron was fighting in Africa / Egypt. Houle earned the Distinguished Flying Cross while flying for the City of Windsor squadron for shooting down two German bombers in one mission. Houle was a great pilot and his family was honored by Windsor’s monument.

    It is a pity that there isn’t a plaque there expanding on this history to help people understand what they’re looking at and why.

  4. Scotty Hughes on May 25, 2014 at 3:19 am

    great post, and even better responses…

  5. John on May 25, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Andrew, another great post from my old haunt. I grew up across from Jackson Park so for me and all the other kids it was our communal “backyard” (in a neighbourhood with rather small backyards anyway). It was hard to get bored with so many acres at our disposal. Lots of safe space for us to play. Where the basketball court is today (on the west side of Ouellette) was a wading pool that fell into a state of disrepair. But standing water froze in winter time so it was sometimes good for skating. It’s better off as it is today though. A few of the play equipment that are today regarded as “dangerous” are long gone. We all lived though. LOL. The city has done a great job over the years with this park. I still like to visit it occasionally.

  6. PETER FILLMAN on July 11, 2014 at 11:03 am

    As I recall,Jackson Park was the terminal for the Emancipation Day Celebrations during the Annual Labour Day Festivities with thousands of Afro-Americans from Detroit crossing the Border to participate in the festivities. I also recall that Jackson Park was the home of the Windsor Rockets Football team in the ORFU for several years. Games were on Saturday afternoon and the Grandstand often held several thousand people.

  7. Richard Mcintyre on July 11, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    The Emancipation Celebrations where in Aug. the Fireman’s Field Day was Labour Day both at Jackson Park.

  8. Joseph Longmoore on July 13, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Emancipation Day was celebrated on the Civic holiday weekend.

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