Beacon Hill Park History

By Janis Ringuette

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

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Chapter Thirteen: 1950-1959


Beacon Hill view
Looking south from the top of Beacon Hill. The geographical marker, erected in 1950, is in the
foreground. In the 1800's, an unbroken open meadow stretched from the hilltop to the sea bluffs.
Roads, parking areas, trees and shrubs mar the view today. - Photo: N. Ringuette, July 9, 2004

“Mountain Indicator” on Beacon Hill

A geographical marker called the “Mountain Indicator” was installed on top of Beacon Hill in 1950. Thirty-eight lines on the bronze circle point to a variety of landmarks including mountains, cities, islands, headlands and notable buildings. As some features disappeared over time, the marker became a historical record as well.

The predominant view on Beacon Hill is south to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The snow-capped Olympic Mountains are often shrouded in clouds. (The rain-catching Olympics assure Victoria’s dry Mediterranean climate.)

Nearer, on the Victoria coastline, are Royal Roads, Race Rocks and Albert Head to the southwest and Clover Point and Trial Island to the southeast.

Some lines on the geographical marker point to features well out of visual range, such as Seattle, Everett, Bellingham and Port Townsend. The line to Vancouver points north, a direction surprising many visitors. Mt. Baker, 75 miles distant and Mt. Rainier, 128 miles away, are visible on exceptional days.

Fifty-four years after installation of the marker, the downtown Empress Hotel and Parliament Buildings--perhaps visible in 1950--are obscured by trees and tall buildings. Views to the northeast--Government House, the Water Tower, Mount Tolmie and Mount Douglas--have been blocked since 1936 by the Lookout Shelter.

Hilltop Mountain Indicator

Three intriguing features on the marker are no longer in existence. “William Head Quarantine,” nine miles west of Beacon Hill, was a health inspection station established in 1891 to examine immigrants entering Canada. At one time, the 106 acre site included 42 buildings and 14 staff. During World War I, a total of 80,000 Chinese went through the station in batches of 8,000 to 10,000, enroute to work as labourers near front lines during World War I and as cleanup labourers after the war. 1927 was the busiest year in the Quarantine’s history: 1,068 ships were inspected. At the end of World War II, liberated prisoners of war from Japanese prison camps came through the station. (Helgesen, Marion I., ed. Footprints, p. 215-217) The facility was closed August 1, 1959 and a federal prison built on the site. (Times, July 24, 1959, p. 6)

The “Bentinck Island Leper Colony” was located 10.2 miles southwest of the Hill. The Colony opened in March, 1924 when lepers from D’Arcy Island (near Swartz Bay) were moved closer to medical supervision at the Quarantine. The Bentinck Island Leper Colony closed in 1956. (Helgesen, p. 216) In 1959, the Department of National Defense began using the island for weapons-testing. (Colonist, September 2, 1979, p. 10)

A third missing feature is the “Grain Elevator,” constructed in 1928 just 1 1/4 miles away at Ogden Point. At the time, the Canadian National Railway brought grain--and most other goods that came to the Island--in boxcars to a railway slip at Ogden Point. Victoria’s ambitions to become a major deep sea port and trans-shipment point for grain from the Canadian Prairies were not realized. The elevator closed in 1977 and was demolished in 1978. (John Adams, Times Colonist, Islander, February 21, 1993, M1)

A centre arrow on the Mountain Indicator points to True North, as accurate as today as it was in 1950. A second arrow points to the ever-changing North Magnetic Pole, an odd choice for a permanent marker; that arrow has not been accurate since 1950.

A more useful piece of information for visitors--but not provided on the Hill--is the exact location of the marker itself. The Mountain Indicator is 48 degrees 24 minutes and 36 seconds North Latitude, 123 degrees 21 minutes and 54 seconds West Longitude. (Provided by Ted Isaacs, City of Victoria Engineering Department, “recent survey” map, July 7, 2004.)

Another measurement not provided at the site is the elevation of the Hill. According to the City survey map, the height of Beacon Hill at the Mountain Indicator is 38.914 metres or 127 feet eight inches, about the height of a thirteen-story building. There are no plans to install a permanent survey marker on Beacon Hill with these measurements.

W. H. Warren first suggested the installation of the “mountain indicator” in October, 1949, after a trip to a Denver, Colorado convention, where he saw two types of markers. According to the Colonist, the Beacon Hill marker was to be an “index device showing the interesting features of mountain peaks in the surrounding area.” (Colonist, October 7, 1949, p. 7) It was designed by the Topographic Division of the B.C. Government; the total cost of the marker was $537. (CRS 106, 12 F 3) The bronze circle is installed on a chest-high concrete cylinder in front of the Lookout building.

Young boy drowned

J. McLeod, Special Constable for Beacon Hill Park, reported a two year old boy drowned in Fountain Lake on March 16, 1950. McLeod, who was making his rounds nearby, performed artificial respiration but could not revive him. (CRS 106, 12 F 2) [In 1951, an older relative of this boy drowned in a Goodacre Lake skating accident.]

Park workhorse Nellie on the job

A photo of “Nellie,” the Beacon Hill Park workhorse, was featured on the cover of the B. C. Electric “Service News” magazine in March, 1950. Nellie was in harness pulling the rubber-wheeled Park cart used for garbage can detail and miscellaneous hauling jobs. Nellie also pulled the park cultivator. She had been the Park workhorse for five years since replacing “Bud.” (“B.C. Electric Service News,” Vol. 21, #3, CRS 108, 12 F 5, f. 12)

[Horses worked continuously in the Park for forty-five years, from 1908 until 1963. Four workhorses are named in the records: Jerry, who retired in 1931; Bud, who worked until 1945; Nellie, who probably worked from 1945 until 1953, when Queenie replaced her. Queenie, the last workhorse, worked ten years until her retirement in 1963. See more on Queenie in 1957, 1963 and 1970.]

Interview with Warren

In May, Warren provided the Times with general statistics on city parks and made a case for increasing parks acreage. Within the City were 15 parks, 12 playgrounds and 25 greens. Using the desired formula of one acre of park per 1,000 persons, Warren said, “...we have need for 640 acres, although our total is only 259 acres within the city...Any increase in our population will make the situation more acute.” He thought the gross cost of parks in 1949 was a bargain at $2.11 per capita, based on a population of 61,400. Warren stated that Beacon Hill Park was beginning to rival Butchart’s Gardens as a tourist attraction. (Times, May 5, 1950, p. 2)

Children’s “zoo” proposed

Alderman Duncan McTavish, Chairman of the Parks Committee, said he was in favour of establishing a children’s zoo: “Children’s zoos are popular features in many large and small U.S. parks. They are stocked with only young animals and cost of upkeep is small.” McTavish visited a children’s zoo when he was in Seattle recently attending the convention of the Northwest Park Association. Mr. Warren estimated it would cost about $3,000 to get the zoo started. (Times, July 20, 1950, p. 13)

In August, Warren pressed the case for a “children’s zoo” in an address to the Gyro Club, a potential sponsor of the “barnyard.” Warren told the group it was mistake to call the proposed project a “zoo” because many people in Victoria were opposed to a zoo in any form. Referring to a “barnyard” would not only be more accurate but would gain public support. He explained the “miniature farmyard” would be patterned after one recently established in Stanley Park. Though only 90 feet square, Vancouver’s farmyard had raised $7,400 in eight weeks by charging a small admission fee. Animals included in the Vancouver operation were “ponies, donkeys, chickens, a small bear, rabbits, a skunk, some raccoons, young goats and lambs.”

Warren said there was room for a barnyard in Beacon Hill Park but “any funds collected there would, by law, have to go toward improvements within the park.” Victoria’s future barnyard would operate during the summer months--June, July and August--using animals borrowed from nearby farms. (Colonist, August 15, 1950, p. 27) [The children’s farmyard proposal was a major focus in 1956. It finally opened in 1973.]

Limiting commercial vehicles in the Park

A citizen’s letter, dated January 10, 1950, recommended all commercial vehicles be prohibited from all roads in Beacon Hill Park and “that a speed of 15 MPH be set throughout the Park.” (CRS 106, 12 F 2)

On March 16, 1950, Warren wrote to Mr. H. R. Halls, B. C. Electric Railway Company repeating his earlier request of February 16 that the company no longer use Beacon Hill Park for “testing of buses and teaching of drivers.” Though the company had been asked by letter and telephone to stop using the Park for this purpose, the BCER was still using Park roads. (CRS 106, 12 F 2)

Unwanted ducks

On May 4, 1950 Warren wrote to the SPCA:

“The foreman in Beacon Hill Park informs me that at various times ducks are deposited in Goodacre Lake by the SPCA inspectors without authorization from us. In some cases, the ducks are fish-eating and are depleting what few ornamental fish exist in the Lake. Would you kindly issue instructions to discontinue this practice.” (CRS 106, 12 F 2)

New caretaker appointed

On November 10, 1950, L. D. Sargeant was appointed Park Caretaker. The “Beacon Hill Park Caretaker was paid $187.50 a month.” (CRS 106, 12 F 3) [The duties of the “Caretaker” are not described. A very specific list of Caretaker duties was compiled later, however. See 1959.]

New path around Lookout

Park Administrator Warren recommended the “Kiwanis Club be thanked for laying a concrete walk around the lookout at the flagpole in Beacon Hill Park.” (CRS 106, 12 F 3, November 10, 1950)

1950 Annual Report

Warren reported extensive damage to trees and plants as a result of cold temperatures extending from December, 1949 through mid-February, 1950. It was near zero on January 13, with a “50 mph blizzard.” A total of 37 inches of snow fell in the month of January and the mean temperature was 26 degrees, 13 degrees below normal. [Ice skating was not mentioned; it is likely heavy snowfalls made skating impossible.] Damage was extensive, but snow cover protected low plant growth. [A later article on that harsh January, 1950 weather stated 18 inches (46 cm) of snow fell on January 6. On January 14 there was a record low of -14.4C and on January 28 another record low of -15.6C. (Times Colonist, January 3, 2004, p. A2)]

A gang of men removed brush and broom in the Park and along the waterfront. The policy of watering from dawn to dusk, begun in 1949, was continued and resulted in the park being more attractive in mid-summer. A total of 700 polyantha roses, which normally bloom continuously from June until December, were planted in various parts of the City including Beacon Hill Park. These were intended to be mass displays.

Victoria’s parks cost $227,293 in 1950. Beacon Hill Park, the city’s largest, cost $34,986 to maintain. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Administrator,” 1950)


Ice skating fatality

A sixteen year old boy, one of six attempting to rescue a thirteen year old youth who fell through the ice, drowned in Goodacre Lake on January 28, 1951. The boys, ages 14 to 18, formed a human chain to reach the boy in the water, but when more ice collapsed, all six would-be rescuers fell into the icy water themselves. Passing motorists, including a teacher and a cab driver, stopped to help. They managed to pull one boy at a time out of the water with the aid of a plank. When two policemen arrived, one “swam around the lake’s bottom in search of another skater. The search was stopped when police were told the other youngster had gone home. Witnesses were convinced he had left.” (Colonist, January 30, 1951, pp. 1, 10)

Rescuers were proud and jubilant until 8:45 p.m. that night, when a mother “reported to police her son was missing after a skating trip to the Park.” The Colonist wrote, “He apparently went under the water unnoticed.” Constables recovered the body of Charles O’Sullivan from Goodacre Lake the next morning “about 18 feet from the lake’s north shore in three feet of water.” (Colonist, January 30, 1951, p. 1) [O’Sullivan’s two year old nephew drowned in Fountain Lake the year before.]

The Colonist reported that Park workers warned people off the thin ice earlier: “Beacon Hill Park foreman Alex Johnston and the resident caretaker had been ordering persons off Goodacre Lake since 11 a.m. Sunday--four hours before a sixteen year boy drowned in the pond.” (Colonist, January 30, 1951, p. 1)

The Park Committee discussed possible actions to prevent future ice skating accidents, including more warning signs for thin ice and regular Park staff patrols. On February 14, the Committee directed the Police Commission to set up life-buoys and ropes at the Lake. (CRS 106, 12 F4)

On March 6, the Committee requested the opinion of the City Engineer on the feasibility filling in Goodacre Lake to a depth of no more than three feet. Committee member Ald. Bate suggested there might be springs in the lake and parts “might be bottomless.” On May 2, 1951, the City Engineer reported: “to fill the lake to a depth of not more than three feet in any place would cost $10,000.” The Park Committee, taken aback by the cost, recommended to Council that no action be taken. On October 3, 1951, an offer was received from a local company “to provide sufficient sand to fill this lake at a cost of 85 cents per cubic yard,” an estimated cost of $4,000. This was referred to the Finance Committee. (CRS 106, 12 F 4) [No record was found this was done.]

There had been a previous ice skating tragedy on Goodacre Lake. In 1915, a sixteen year boy fell through the ice and drowned. Park authorities had warned skaters off thin ice with signs and park patrols in both 1915 and in 1951. [New York City developed a novel method to signal when ice in Central Park was safe for skating. White flags were flown on all City streetcars on safe skating days.]

Improving the Park entrance

City Engineer Cyril Jones presented the Public Works Committee with a sketch plan for the “beautification of the entrance to Beacon Hill Park” and facilitation of traffic. According to the Times, “An entirely new entrance would be cut into the Park off Douglas, opposite Superior Street.” (Times, March 31, 1951, p. 13)

Though the emphasis was on “beautification” in this presentation, the key aspect of the proposal was the construction of a major new city street on Park land. When the street--called Southgate--was constructed six years later, acres of Park land were lost under the street and in the new, enlarged intersection and a piece of Park land was isolated on the north side of the new street. (See 1957 for more details.)

Hanging baskets and park planting

“The fame of Victoria’s hanging baskets has reached Switzerland,” the Colonist reported. “Three pictures and a full-page article are contained in the Zurich horticultural magazine ‘Der Gardnermeister.’” A copy of the magazine arrived at City Hall on May 18. (Colonist, May 19, 1951)

News of Victoria’s hanging baskets had reached California, as well. The City of Los Angeles wrote the Victoria Parks Department requesting “all the details” about hanging flower baskets. Park Administrator Warren said a printed pamphlet on the baskets would be sent to Los Angeles, along with additional information he had prepared. He explained that Victoria received requests from all over the world for instructions on how to construct the picturesque baskets. (Colonist, June 6, 1951 p. 13)

Ten days later, Warren told the Times that 19,000 plants were included in Victoria's 1951 hanging flower baskets. (Times, June 16, 1951, p. 13)

100 special geranium plants, developed by Royal gardeners at Buckingham Palace, were packed in “a cool compartment of a T.C.A. plane” for shipment to Victoria. The geraniums, a gift from the King, would be planted in Beacon Hill Park. (Colonist, May 19, 1951)

In June, Warren announced that sixty-four thousand plants were planted in Beacon Hill Park. Notable were the Roggli giant pansies set out north of the bridge and Himalayan blue poppy in the centre of the Park. Delegates attending a American Rose Society convention in Seattle were expected to visit Beacon Hill during a special trip to tour Victoria gardens. (Times, June 16, 1951, p. 13)

New fawns

“Three leggy fawns” were born on the King’s birthday in Beacon Hill Park. Park foreman Alex Johnston said “all are doing nicely.” The Park did not plan to keep the fawns. They were to be turned over to the Provincial game department after they matured to be turned loose in the Goldstream watershed. Twin fawns born in 1950 were given to the Calgary zoo. (Colonist, June 6, 1951 p. 13)

No parking in Lovers’ Lane

The Parks Committee approved a recommendation from W. H. Warren that banned parking in Lovers’ Lane. “Narrowness of the lane was given as the reason,” the Colonist reported. Lovers’ Lane entered the park in the extreme southeast corner of the Park. The Committee decided on the parking ban for “safety’s sake.” (Colonist, June 28, 1951, p. 15)

George Redknap retired

After thirty-four years with the Park Department, Caretaker of Animals George Redknap retired in June, 1951. Beacon Hill foreman Alex Johnston presented him with a “combined magazine and smoking stand.”

During his career, Redknap took special care of young swan families. His main claim to fame, the Times wrote, involved “the famous swan chase of two years ago, which made the front page of the local press and was reported in Time Magazine.” The swan, named Jill, was recaptured after an escape and “subsequently banished to Elk Lake.”

Redknap’s favorite animal was the deer and he also liked budgies. Redknap “was with Ursus Kermodie at the last.” He commented, “You can’t trust a bear.” (Times, June 30, 1951, p. 13)

1951 Annual Report

Warren reported several “high gales” in January, a cool winter and early spring. A clear, dry summer resulted in the worst drought in memory.

More than 40 free events were staged in Beacon Hill Park. Sunday concerts were staged by three different bands and music was presented by the Music Performer’s Trust Fund. Midweek organ recitals and concerts were organized by the ‘Hometowners.’ Films were shown by the Victoria Film Council.

The Heywood Avenue football field was reconditioned and would be ready for play by midsummer 1952. Hard surfacing of paths was continued and most of the Nursery Road area was hard surfaced. A ten-stall fire-proof garage was completed in the maintenance area; two of the units would be used for a machine shop.

A start was made on repairing rock walls around lake margins. A car parking area was still needed. Cars continued to cause congestion parking along roads during concerts. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator,” 1951)


Warren nemesis elected Mayor

After forty years as prosecuting attorney for the City of Victoria, Claude L. Harrison retired to run for Mayor. G. E. Mortimore, in a column titled “The Man of the Week,” predicted if elected, “he will be one of the most original, colorful and vigorous mayors Victoria has ever had.” (Colonist, November 4, 1951, p. 4)

Much later, an obituary described Harrison as “a rugged individualist and outdoorsman...a real estate authority, a student of geology and astronomy...a skillful bricklayer, carpenter, plumber and electrician.” Harrison developed his own method to locate well-water by studying vegetation, operated a 44-foot yacht, considered himself an expert on forest conservation, and was a potter and mountain climber. (Times Colonist, March 13, 1986, p. A3)

During his time as Mayor, from 1952 to 1955, Harrison wore a “brilliant blue cape...casually flung around his shoulders revealing its crimson lining...[and] a police badge on his suspenders.” (Valerie Green, No Ordinary People, p. 208, 209) Harrison Yacht Pond, built on Holland Point during his term in office, bears his name. At the time, some called it “Harrison’s Folly.” [A monument at the site states the Pond was constructed in 1956, but it was completed in 1953, while Harrison was Mayor. See Appendix C, “Dallas Waterfront,” for the history of the Yacht Pond and Harrison’s proposal in January, 1952 to make Holland Point a native plant garden.]

Harrison’s strong opinions on many topics frequently brought him into conflict with other Aldermen and City officials. His views on Parks, trees and plants resulted in years of conflict with Park Administrator Warren. Harrison opposed Warren cutting any trees, even dead ones, and was also against removing broom. This topic was major news in 1953 and 1954.

These were Warren’s roughest years on the job. Looking back after he retired, Warren was in no mood to be charitable about Harrison:

I personally had a rough time of it as indeed did all department heads when C. L. Harrison was Mayor. He had been City Prosecutor, but as Mayor acted as a persecutor. You were guilty until proven innocent. He was suspicious that I was selling plant material from the city nursery. I was directed to plant native material--even Fir and Cedar on Boulevards--any tree as long as it was native. (“Beacon Hill Park--A talk to the Beacon Hill Park Association,” November 7, 1977, p. 6, Park Files, 100 Cook St.)

Harrison’s inaugural address at his first Council meeting on January 7 was the longest on record, covering a huge list of city concerns. Trees were not yet at the top of his agenda; the only statement relating to trees in the address was: “For every one tree cut, the city should plant four.” (Colonist, January 8, 1952, p. 1) Later that month, the Times described the Mayor as “a noted conservationist, steeped in nature lore and Vancouver Island’s history, [who] wants good, wide walks in the area and permanent tags on each plant and shrub.” (Times, January 24, 1952, p. 11)

Massive fir cut in Park

The headline on the front page of the January 4, 1952 Colonist read: “Beacon Hill Park Giant Sacrificed for Public Safety.” Three photos showed a massive fir lying on the snow. One was captioned: “Dark patches on the butt of the tree are rotten areas. Upper branches were dead when the tree was examined on the ground. Officials said the tree might have stood for some time but also might easily have fallen in a storm.” The reason given for falling the tree was “the safety of strollers...the tree showed signs of rot and might have fallen in high wind.” (Colonist, January 4, 1952, p. 11)

A February 1 Colonist editorial defended Warren against “sniping attacks on his policy of silviculture for parks and boulevards.” The paper praised Warren’s “efficiently run department” and accomplishments “during the last 10 or 15 years.” Because he was an “expert,” the editorial concluded, he deserved “a free hand in deciding what is best:

When he says some venerable tree, however pleasing and sound to the eye, is internally rotten and needs to come down, it is foolish and even dangerous for inexperienced people to try to block him...The parks superintendent’s demonstrated artistry in landscaping and his patent love of trees and natural beauty should make it obvious to anyone that he would be the last person to hack and root out unnecessarily. (Colonist, February 1, 1952, p. 4)

Resistance to trees being cut in the Park simmered in the background until January 1953, when Harrison launched a major offensive.

Riding trails proposed

Horse-riding trails along the waterfront from Ogden Point to Clover Point were proposed in February by the Victoria and Gymkhana Club. The Tourist Trade group of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce supported a new attraction for Victoria tourists. The Colonist explained:

The club declares that the cost of providing trails would be small and although the trails would lead through Beacon Hill Park, there would be no violation of the park’s non-commercialization regulation as riding fees would be collected at stables outside the Park area. (Colonist, February 27, 1952, p. 11)


W. H. Warren asked the public for help in spotting vandals in the Park after the concrete bases of six newly installed Park benches were destroyed in one March weekend. Seven benches were installed only a month before, part of the beautification of the Dallas Road waterfront from Cook Street to Clover Point. Six new benches were destroyed or damaged. Two were uprooted, base and all, and one of them toppled over the 50-foot cliff. It will cost $60 each to replace the bench bases. The flagpole halyard was cut four different times in three months by vandals, costing $200 in repairs. (Colonist, March 4, 1952, p. 11) See 1956 for more on vandalism.

Shakespeare Festival fizzled

The tourist trade group of the Chamber of Commerce proposed a twice-weekly Shakespeare play in Beacon Hill Park, with professionals performing “Twelfth Night” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

There was a problem with the venue, Parks Committee Chairman Edgelow pointed out: “The trouble is that no fees can be taken for shows in Beacon Hill Park.” Edgelow suggested the plays be offered with no admission charge and asked for the group’s financial support. Though the tourist trade group agreed unanimously to support the plan, they would not help financially. The City Council and the Provincial Government were asked for $16,000. (Colonist, March 26, 1952, p. 1) The idea was alive until May, when City Council refused to provide any money to the Shakespeare Festival Committee. The Committee had hoped to at least receive $2,500 which had been allotted for May 24 celebrations when that event was canceled after the death of King George VI. (Times, May 3, 1952, p. 15)

A flower-picker fined

A Victoria resident was fined $10 for picking three dozen daffodils in Beacon Hill Park near Cook and Dallas Road. Special Constable John MacLeod of the Parks Department said in court it was “at a time when the flowers in the Park were at their best, too.” The accused, Kosmas Essihos, was represented by attorney Donald Anderson, who said Essihos was “a fine upstanding citizen and I would suggest a small fine.” (Colonist, April 3, 1952, p. 27)

Parks Committee questioned Beacon Hill’s share of the budget

During the month of April, Council worked to reduce the record $328,080 Parks Department budget for 1952 submitted by Warren. The Colonist reported: “Increased wages, material costs and general operating expenses were the cause of the increase, Parks Administrator W. H. Warren said.” Beacon Hill Park expenditures rose from $39,464 in 1951 to an estimated $46,225 for 1952. The budget listed $28,850 for extraordinary expenditures, which included three comfort stations in city parks and a parking area in Beacon Hill. (Colonist, April 4, 1952, p. 20)

During discussions about the budget (a $56,000 increase over 1951), the large share allotted to Beacon Hill was challenged. Some thought Beacon Hill received more funding than warranted, starving other parks.

Warren, recognizing that Council and the public underestimated the extremely heavy use of Beacon Hill Park, began gathering data to justify his budget figures. He presented some astounding numbers in the year’s end Annual Report: 500,000 persons used Beacon Hill Park each year; over 72,000 attended special entertainment; 2,060 vehicles passed one location in the Park on a Sunday in July; 14,147 children used supervised playgrounds in a seven week period; 40,000 other children used the wading pool, swings and playgrounds.

He included a long essay in the Annual Report as well, itemizing the “passive” uses of Beacon Hill Park (e.g. looking at the lakes and flowers, listening to concerts), which he thought were widely recognized and understood, then listed the many “active” recreational activities that were less known and appreciated. These included seven organized sports--baseball, bicycle riding, bowling, cricket, rugby, soccer and softball--using Park fields and shower facilities. (See the 1952 Annual Report for extensive quotes.)

Poisoning Goodacre Lake

“Thousands of fish are being poisoned in Goodacre Lake at Beacon Hill Park to rid the water of voracious catfish,” the Colonist reported in September. The provincial game department, at the request of the parks department, planned to poison the lake to kill catfish, apparently put in the lake by a private citizen. The voracious catfish were reported to be eating the other fish in the lake. It was claimed the unidentified poison would have “no effect on warm-blooded birds and animals and no great loss is represented by other fish now in the lake.” (Colonist, September 10, 1952)

The article reported Warren’s statement that only catfish plus small sunfish and sticklebacks were left in the lake; the carp placed in the lake in 1939 [or later] when the Japanese Tea Gardens closed were already gone. He said, “The last [carp]--over two feet long--was seen this spring and we made many attempts to capture it in anticipation of the poisoning program. But we never managed to get hold of it. Later it disappeared like the others.”

However, Warren did not claim the carp was gone from the lake in a letter sent to the Fisheries Biologist on the same day as the article. He wrote: “We have delayed notifying you RE sterilizing Goodacre Lake... because we hoped to catch and remove a large golden carp about 30" long which we have had for 13 years. We have been unable to catch it however...” Warren asked that the poisoning proceed. (CRS 106, file 20)

Both newspapers carried the lake poisoning story. The Times double headline was: “Poison Planted in Goodacre Lake” and “Millions of Innocents Must Die to Destroy Catfish Population.” Reporter Aileen Campbell wrote that catfish were “mysteriously introduced into the lake. Since then, they have been eating all the other fish, to say nothing of the ducklings.” Warren was quoted saying: “The poison has no effect on warm-blooded birds and animals...Years ago we drained Goodacre Lake to rid it of catfish and there had been none for 15 years until this spring.” Campbell wrote,“Thousands of catfish were spawning all around the banks of the lake in the spring.” (Times, October 8, 1952, p. 15)

The Colonist headline was “Goodacre Lake Fish Doomed But Not Old Granddad Carp.” The paper stated that the carp “put in the lake 15 years ago when the famous Japanese Tea Garden was closed have disappeared.” Warren was quoted: “We don’t know where it went...[the carp] were old when we got them--and that last one was in the park for 15 years.” Warren blamed the death of the carp on children throwing rocks. The Colonist claimed the catfish had been eating other fish and “are believed to have attacked ducklings” and concluded there were only “small sunfish and sticklebacks” in the water. (Colonist, October 9, 1952, p. 15)

The Colonist searched out carp expert A. G. Holloway, who said he raised carp in ponds and his daughter had sold the carp to the Japanese Tea Gardens nineteen years before when they were a foot long [1933]. He thought there was only one carp left alive in Goodacre Lake in spring of 1952, “a rugged oldster some 16 inches long.” According to Halloway, “grandpappy was nearly 26 years old.” Carp can live to 100 and Halloway said they can even survive being frozen into ice. “When they thaw out they just swim away as if nothing had happened. But kingfishers, fulls, crows, dogs and cats all take a toll if you aren’t on guard all the time.” (Colonist, October 11, 1952, p. 13)

After the fisheries biologist poisoned the lake on October 6, Warren informed him of a major calculating error: “..we gave you the wrong volume of 34,400 cubic feet [of water] when it should have been 344,000 cubic feet.” As a result, too little poison was added to the lake and “only a small fraction of the fish population was killed.” (CRS 106, 12 F 3, file 20, October 29, 1952) The biologist returned and poisoned the lake again. Warren reported on November 18, 1952 that all catfish had been exterminated. There was another glitch, however. Not all floated to the surface, “making the problem of disposal a bit difficult.” (CRS 106, 12 F 3, file 20)

Broom eradication

Warren wrote: “Broom is a serious fire hazard after it is ten or fifteen years old and can only be kept under control at great expense.” He noted when broom cover was removed, “wild meadowland flowers, the erythronium, camas, buttercup and wild larkspur,” returned. (Warren, “A Natural History of Beacon Hill Park,” July 21, 1952, Park Files) Park staff applied 2-4-D in the 1950's and used machinery to keep broom under control.

1952 Annual Report

Warren included a long description of Beacon Hill Park attractions, distinguishing between passive and active recreational uses of Beacon Hill Park. His explanation came after Council cut the parks budget amid comments that Beacon Hill received too large a share, starving other parks:

Periodically it is expressed that too much is being spent in Beacon Hill Park to the neglect of other areas. While it is unfortunate that this large park is off-centre in relation to the city’s area, nevertheless it is probably true that almost half the city’s population is within a mile of the Park.

Most people are familiar with the features of the park which provide a passive type of recreation. These include Goodacre Lake and other lakes and streams, the young ducks, swans, ornamental birds and migratory birds which come in the winter, birds and animals in the deer pen, the seasonal floral display which particularly features wallflowers, roses, flowering cherries, rhododendrons and azaleas besides the wide range of summer bedding plants and in the fall the autumn coloured foliage. For the pedestrian there are miles of walks through the ornamental park centre, in the wilder wooded and meadow areas along the waterfront. The succession of wild lilies, camas and buttercups in the natural meadows attracts thousands each year. The hilltop lookout also holds an interest for an older group of checker players who meet daily throughout the year. Nearby is a mountain indicator and car parking areas where one may find cars parked at any time of the day or night with people admiring mountain, shore and seascape. Over 72,000 attended special entertainment provided in the park. An unknown quantity passed through on scenic tours and by private car. The number of vehicles passing one spot on a July Sunday last summer totaled 2,060. Many people take a daily constitutional walk in the park or along the waterfront.

What is not fully appreciated is the large number of people who use the park for active forms of recreation. The park is used for the following organized sports: baseball, (1 diamond), bicycle racing, bowling (2 greens), cricket (1 field), rugby (1 field, temporary), soccer (3 fields, two being the only all-weather fields in the City), softball (3 diamonds). Dressing rooms with hot and cold showers are provided for sports teams at no cost. Supervised playgrounds attracted 14,147 children in Beacon Hill Park for a seven week period. Besides this, the swings, wading pool, playgrounds in the park centre and south of the nursery attracted probably 40,000 children in a year. Excluding vehicles which travel non-stop through the park it would appear that about 500,000 persons use the park each year. This would place the cost per person under nine cents each, which is a reasonable cost factor. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator,” 1952, p. 12)

The Heywood Avenue Football Field was opened after reconditioning. “A lake was added to the new watercourse...” [This reference is probably the widened area adjoining Fountain Lake just north of the footbridge. The Fraser rhododendrons and memorial are at that location. The widened area of water is sometimes called a lake but has no name.] The margins of lakes were repaired and “drainage in the park centre improved.”

“Preliminary work was done on the construction of a new parking area opposite Burn’s monument.” [This is the main parking lot on Circle Drive, just west of the Children’s Petting Farm.]

“Play equipment was added to the playground north of the Nursery.” [This is the Cook Street playground.]

Trees “naturalized in the wilder section of the Park” were: “120 Ponderosa Pines, 20 Monterey Pine, 10 Atlas Cedar, 100 Arizona Cypress, 55 Lawson Cypress, 20 Glove Cedar... Of 120 trees planted in a shelter plantation east of the hill, 50 were lost by drought, fire and vandalism. About 20 ornamentals were also planted in the ornamental areas, including 2 Dawn Redwood.”

A “raccoon invasion” decimated the remaining pheasants and the introduced California Quail. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator,” 1952, p. 12)


Mayor Harrison halts tree cutting

The gloves came off in January when Mayor Claude Harrison issued a “stop work” order: no more trees were to be cut in Beacon Hill Park for any reason.

He took action after hearing Christ Church Cathedral Archbishop Harold E. Sexton blast the “needless, reckless and wanton destruction of trees” in the Park in a Sunday sermon. Harrison personally inspected the location where nineteen trees had been cut. Harrison’s assessment was: “nothing wrong with them.” He ordered an investigation. Park Administrator W. H. Warren was to file a report immediately with the City Manager. (Colonist, January 13, 1953, p. 20)

The Parks Committee had approved cutting the trees on December 23, 1952, after Warren explained they were dangerous and diseased. Harrison complained the matter had not come to the City Council for approval in either of two recent Council meetings, December 29 and January 5. Alderman Frank Mulliner, Chairman of the 1952 Parks Committee, explained the Committee had visited the site in December and agreed with Warren the trees were dangerous. Most were “gone at the top,” he said. A “city official” told the Colonist that normally Council was not consulted on tree cutting, but during “the last few years” it had been the practice to do so.

Archbishop Sexton and Mayor Harrison declared the trees were not dead or diseased. The Archbishop claimed “a growing number of citizens” were concerned about “unwarranted destruction” and “wanton acts.” The Colonist wrote that Mayor Harrison “inspected every tree [but] found no rot except in one big oak and that was so small the tree would last another generation.” (Colonist, January 13, 1953, p. 20)

A Times page one story focused on the tree debate to take place at the first meeting of the new 1953 Parks Committee. Park Chairman Mulliner said he will “recommend [getting] the opinion of a qualified provincial government forester before cutting any full-grown tree.” He added a blast of his own: “That will stop all this sob-sister stuff--some people would cut any tree down; others would not cut one down if it were dead in 10 languages.” Mulliner said the Committee had spent $1,000 a year for the last four years on tree surgery in Beacon Hill Park. “That shows we have the same love of trees as anyone else and want to save them whenever possible.”

Dr. H. T. Gussow, retired plant pathologist, supported Warren: “The Parks Superintendent is an exceedingly capable, careful man, knowing that whatever action he may take regarding tree cutting will be criticized by people without the remotest knowledge as to whether such trees should be removed or not.” He recommended using the services of the Dominion Forest Pathology Service. (Times, January 13, 1953, p. 1)

Mulliner stated his Committee approved removal of four trees--three firs and an oak. Mayor Harrison pounced on that and said Warren had cut an additional fifteen without authorization. Harrison told the Colonist Warren’s idea that dead branches on tree tops indicate they are dying is “rubbish.” He said, “If you went by a few dead branches, hundreds of trees would have to come out of the Park.” (Colonist, January 14, 1953, p. 11)

In December, Warren recommended to the Parks Committee that twelve more trees be removed from Beacon Hill Park. Before doing so, he consulted four tree experts; every tree Warren wanted cut was agreed to by at least one expert. That wasn’t enough for the Mayor. Harrison called in his own tree expert, George Cheeke, who said nine of the twelve trees might be treated and preserved. (Times, December 15, 1953, p. 13)

Warren wrote a long letter to the Committee emphasizing the City’s dangerous legal position if a person were injured by a condemned tree that had not been removed: “The matter of public liability is particularly important in respect to unsound trees in park areas largely frequented by the public.” Warren emphasized two other management problems. A policy was needed on thinning young oaks that grew in clusters. If not thinned, they would remain “scrub trees” without a chance to grow large. A policy was also needed on clearing dead trees out of the wild, wooded areas in the southeast corner of the park. (Times, December 15, 1953, p. 13)

The decision on cutting trees was postponed to the 1954 Council. [See August, 1954 for the next installment.]

Emily Carr Memorial Footbridge opened

Emily Carr Bridge

The “Emily Carr Memorial Foot Bridge” was officially opened in February, 1953. Emily Carr, Victoria’s most famous painter, died in 1945. Her sister Alice Carr donated $1,000 for the bridge. According to the Times, “It is set in one of the late artists’s favorite spots in the park, and it was there she spent many of her leisure hours.”

The concrete and stone footbridge at Douglas Street near Avalon replaced an old wooden bridge crossing the stream coming from Fountain Lake to Goodacre Lake. Stones used in the bridge were collected from a nearby beach on Dallas Road. A small plaque, mounted on the north side of the footbridge, states: “To the memory of my sister, M. Emily Carr, Canadian artist and writer. Born Victoria, B. C. December 13, 1871. Died March 3, 1945. Alice M. Carr.” Among those attending the ceremony were Alice Carr, Ald. Waldo Skillings and W. H. Warren. (Times, Feb. 13, 1953, p. 14)

Budget discussion: passive and active recreation expenditures

In February, the Parks Committee threatened to eliminate all summer band concerts in Beacon Hill Park. The estimated cost of the concerts was $2,500. The Committee hoped concerts could be sponsored “by a private company now putting on concerts Wednesday evenings otherwise all concerts would be eliminated.”

The Committee was trimming the 1953 budget for parks, boulevards, playgrounds and beaches. It had grown to $328,984, $58,000 more than the previous year. Expenditures proposed included a $16,000 native plant garden, possibly to be located in Beacon Hill Park, and a $12,000 restroom facility in the Park. According to the Colonist, the total cost of the city parks department in 1952 was $269,803. Of that, $43,115 was for Beacon Hill Park. The Nursery cost $15,092. (Colonist, February 24, 1953, p. 13)

The Times published a different total for 1952: $242,880. The paper focused on Warren’s statement that $143,059 of the total was spent for recreation:

He made the statement in reply to recent criticism of the ‘preponderance of expenditures for parks rather than playgrounds.’ Mr. Warren said 42% of the figure is for active forms of recreation, including all sports, and 58% for passive, including gardens, flowers, concerts, birds and animals. “We cater to all forms of recreation, active and passive, and the line between the two is often very thin. Mr. Warren termed as passive, enjoyment of a view from a park bench and as active, a stroll along a waterfront path. Flower baskets at a cost of $5,622 and nursery and maintenance yard at $6,000 were listed under passive recreation.” (Times, March 5, 1953, p. 5)

Parking and traffic

An expanded parking area was nearing completion in March. The lot, opposite the Burns Memorial on Circle Drive, would accommodate 200 cars.

A grassy island circled by an asphalt road was also nearly complete. Just off Douglas Street at Simcoe, the loop was constructed so the Beacon Hill bus could circle the island. The bus had been returning to town via Battery before turning onto Niagara. (Times, March 4, 1953, p. 11)

The Parks Committee recommended to City Council that the speed limit on the internal roads of Beacon Hill Park be reduced to 20 miles per hour instead of 30.

The Committee also agreed to ask the B. C. Electric and Vancouver Island Coach Lines Ltd. to stop using Beacon Hill Park as a testing ground for buses. (Times, September 2, 1953, p. 11)

The V. I. Coach Lines said it stopped the practice upon receipt of the City Council letter. The B. C. Electric Company claimed it had not used the Park for two years to test buses or to train drivers. However, Mr. Mathews, a company official, wrote the City Clerk: “We understand it has been the practice of the motor vehicle branch of the Provincial Government upon occasion to have our student drivers take their Class A driver’s license tests using our buses on the roads in the Park.” (Times, September 15, 1953, p. 18)

Rare trees planted

Dawn Redwood

“Relics of the Ice Age” and “ancestors of the giant Sequoia and redwood trees of California” were “thriving” in Beacon Hill Park, the Colonist reported. The newspaper did not identify the trees by their common name, Dawn redwood, but gave the correct scientific name, Metasequoia glyptostroboides. In 1953, the trees were four to five feet high. The Colonist wrote: “The Victoria trees were grown from plants sent here from the United States after a Chinese botanist found the ‘living fossils’ in China and a quantity of seed was shipped to the U.S.” W. H. Warren said at first he thought the trees were “semi-tropical,” but “they are quite hardy and thrive outside.” (Colonist, March 6, 1953, p. 5) Warren's 1952 Annual Report listed two Dawn redwoods planted “in the ornamental area” [central area] of the Park. It is likely the two specimens still standing a few feet north of Goodacre Lake and west of the Stone Bridge are those trees. This 2004 photo, taken by Norm Ringuette, shows the beautiful gnarled trunk of an original tree.

In 2005, there are a total of eight Dawn redwoods in Beacon Hill Park. In addition to the original two north of Goodacre Lake, one Dawn redwood is near Douglas Street by the Emily Carr Footbridge, two are near Douglas Street north of the wading pool, one is east of Arbutus Way and north of the central playground parking area, one is by the path leading into the Park from Park Boulevard and one stands near Queen’s Lake. An unusual characteristic of the Dawn redwood--rare for a conifer--is that it is deciduous. When bare of needles in winter, the distinctive conical shape of the trunk is particularly noticeable. Though Dawn redwoods are now considered to be an exotic species, fossil evidence proves they grew in North America two million years ago, according to Royal Roads University gardener Paul Allison.

Loose dogs

Parks administrator W. H. Warren told the Parks Committee meeting: “The time is fast approaching in Victoria when no dog should be allowed to run at large in a public place under any condition. Dogs should be kept on the owner’s property and not allowed to run loose.” The Committee agreed that more strict city control was needed but no action was taken. (Times, June 3, 1953, p. 17)

Decapitated peacock

A Park peacock was found decapitated and missing three feet of colourful tail feathers. A photo in the Colonist showed Roy Stewart, Parks Department secretary, holding the severed head. The vandal or vandals climbed into the deer pen to kill the bird. A possible reason for the carnage was suggested by Parks Superintendent Warren: “Peacock feathers are used for fly fishing.” (Colonist, July 5, 1953, p. 1)

Lookout area development and improvements

Park Administrator W. H. Warren responded in August to a “Crib, Crab and Checker Club” request for light and heat in the Lookout, where members met daily. The Colonist reported:

"The City has had an offer of a used air-circulating heater to heat the Beacon Hill Park lookout for checker and cribbage players during the winter. Parks Administrator W. H. Warren thinks heating the lookout and providing light...would involve costly wiring... There would also be supervision difficulties." (Colonist, August 29, 1953, p. 13)

The Times provided more details. Warren explained it would cost $250 to lay 1,000 feet of underground cable for lighting in the Lookout on the Hill. But the worst problem was vandalism:

"We can’t just put a stove in and forget it. Vandals would come in, light up a fire and then what? Our biggest problem at that point is difficulty of supervision. We replace half a dozen to a dozen broken windows twice a month, the year round." (Times, August 28, 1953, p. 13)

Herb  Warren in his office

Warren, shown working on the left, thought the hilltop site ideal for a “restaurant with a view,” and he advocated a major development on the site:

"There should be a look-out on a much more pretentious scale than at present. I would favor erection of a building on the south face of the hill, which gives a commanding view of the sea. I would like to see a restaurant there when legal technicalities are hurdled, together with a public restroom and other facilities... Any plans for development are complicated by the fact that the deed of trust prohibits sale of goods or services in the park and until such time as the legal difficulties are resolved, it can’t be considered." (Times, August 28, 1953, p. 13)

Warren said improvements to the Lookout were not financially possible. “With the continued cuts in the parks budget year after year and the rising cost of labor we are feeling the pinch,” Warren said. Twenty-two seasonal workers were laid off two weeks before, four men retired with no replacements and three were promoted to foremen with no replacements. The Times concluded: “Heavy slices have been taken out of the parks budgets by City Council when estimates come up for review annually.” (Times, August 28, 1953, p. 13)

1953 Annual Report

Warren noted there was less sunshine in 1953 than in any previous year on record. There were thirty two concerts in the Park compared to fifty two concerts in 1952. The parking lot west of the deer pen was completed and planted with shrubs and trees. Crocuses made a fine display “for the first time naturalized in the lawns,” lasting seven weeks. Warren said he received permission to remove three dead and dying trees. “Pending positive action on the above it is bound to cause a deterioration in the appearance of the park and increase the hazard to the public who use the park.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1953)


Budget cuts and Park Improvements

The total 1954 Parks budget submitted by Warren was $398,564, $118,000 over the previous year’s expenditures. The Committee could not cut maintenance costs substantially but some new projects were eliminated. $12,000 was cut from Beacon Hill Park estimates by canceling plans for a new “comfort station,” even though all agreed the forty-year-old buildings in use were “not in very good shape.” Also cut was $1,500 for further improvement to Beacon Hill Park’s parking area and $6,250 for two tennis courts and two shuffleboard courts. Surviving in the budget was $2,500 for band concerts and $5,193 for hanging baskets. It was undecided whether planned improvements along Dallas Road would go ahead. (Times, March 10, 1954, p. 11)

A letter to the Times signed “Victorian” was opposed to clearing “bush” and cutting trees along the Dallas Road waterfront, which the writer said formed a windbreak and a sheltered place for birds. The rationale given by the City for clearing the bush--that “it forms a menace to public morals”--was disputed by the writer: “There are more queer goings-on in one night in the cars that park above Horseshoe Bay than there are in the Dallas Road bush in 12 months.” (Times, March 15, 1954, p. 4)

B. C. Attorney General gives opinion on Park commercialization

“A new attempt to bring about amendment to the Beacon Hill Trust deed so that charges could be levied within the park is to be City Council,” according to the Colonist. A three person committee was appointed to ask B.C. Attorney-General R. Bonner if the City’s title deed to the Park could be amended to permit a charge for future entertainment concessions. This time, discussion of Trust restrictions were in relation to establishing a children’s petting zoo in the Park with admissions fees. (Colonist, March 20, 1954, p. 3)

In 1954, B.C. Attorney-General R. Bonner gave this opinion to the City:

It contention that the public would be better served in making full use and enjoyment of Beacon Hill Park if certain goods were sold and services rendered, providing always that the profits therefrom were used for the development of the park and the public’s interest in the park fully protected.

If this interpretation is not acceptable in law one thing is clear. It was never the intention of the Provincial Government to ham-string the development of the park by placing such restrictions in the trust deed.

Under such conditions I am sure the government upon request would gladly amend the deed in such a way as to safeguard the rights of the public. By so doing it would greatly assist in the future development of this park. (File No. 77-677, August 27, 1991, report to Colin Crisp, Victoria City Manager written by John R. Pennington, City Solicitor, RE: Permitted Uses of Beacon Hill Park, p. 6.)

Attorney General Bonner provided the City with another pro-commercialization opinion in 1957. [Other legal interpretations of the Trust, before and after Bonner, reached the opposite conclusion. See 1998 for the latest legal ruling by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wilson prohibiting a paid-entrance music festival in the Park. Wilson’s ruling was a clear endorsement of the Trust wording prohibiting any commercialism--including signs--in the Park.]

City worker strike delayed hanging baskets

A strike of outside City employees from June 17 to June 30 delayed placement of baskets on streets until July and held up Park work, according to a Monthly Report by Warren.

City Council overruled Harrison, backed Warren on cutting trees

In August, after many contentious months, City Council overruled Mayor Harrison and gave Warren permission “to remove any dead trees from time to time as required in city parks, boulevards and other city owned property.” The Mayor was not pleased:

I’m against it. If we give that man carte blanche he’ll cut down more trees in the parks. We had the Archbishop and everyone else complaining the last time. [There are] good sound oak trees still standing through wind and storm that he would have cut down if we’d let him. Beautiful trees being cut down right and left! (Colonist, August 13, 1954, p. 11)

Alderman Mooney replied that Mr. Warren knew his business and if he didn’t, “we should fire him and get a new man.”

The Times, covering the same Council meeting, quoted Mayor Harrison statement that Beacon Hill Park was beginning to look like a “scarecrow” due to Warren’s “tree, brush and broom cutting policy.” Harrison doubted Warren knew the difference between a “dead and live tree.” He said he had enough of Warren’s tree cutting and he “was not going to stand for it.” Harrison didn’t want Warren cutting broom either. “What’s the matter with broom?” he said, “It looks all right in its proper place.” (Times, August 13, 1954, p. 7)

In September, a branch from a “condemned tree” fell, piercing the roof of the “recreation building” in two places. Warren had recommended the “unsafe” tree be removed in 1953 but was stopped by Harrison. Ald. Mooney said Warren should be allowed to cut any tree he considers a danger to public safety. Opponents said one branch did not justify cutting down a tree; the branch could have been trimmed. (Times, September 11, 1954, p. 27)

Aquarium and zoo proposed

A first class zoo and a major aquarium were suggested for Beacon Hill Park by C. M. Neles, chairman of the tourist trade group of the Chamber of Commerce. Provincial Museum Director Dr. Clifford Carl spoke as a member of the Victoria Aquarium Society to support the aquarium:

For some time we’ve been gather data and drawing up plans for an aquarium and we’re delighted that someone else has similar ideas. Anywhere along Dallas Road where an ample supply of cold pure water is available, would make a good site. (Times, Sept. 25, 1954, p. 9)

Dr. Carl was also in favor of the zoo, though perhaps not in Beacon Hill Park. He noted a “properly established, well-run zoo” would be “very expensive.” A former SPCA officer spoke against the zoo, saying, “I’m opposed to any form of animal captivity at all. As a tourist attraction, I think a zoo would fail.” He was in favour of the aquarium, however. Park Administrator Warren thought the aquarium idea “merited consideration” but not the zoo. “An aquarium would be a fine thing for the city,” he said. (Times, Sept. 25, 1954, p. 9)

1954 Annual Report

“The amount of work involved in maintaining this park is not generally appreciated. A breakdown of cost of labor devoted to various categories of work in Beacon Hill Park in 1954 yielded the following information:

         Ornamental area 45%;
         Trees and Natural areas 29%;
         Public facilities including roads, paths, signs, seats,
                   buildings and gathering paper and rubbish 16%;
         Recreation, playgrounds and playing fields 6%;
         Birds and animals 4%.”

“[Beacon Hill Park] is actually the centre for amateur sports in city parks....It is interesting to note that practically double the number of events were played in Beacon Hill Park than in any other city park.”

“Thousands are spent annually just maintaining the natural appearance of the wild areas, cutting hay in the summer, keeping Himalaya Blackberries and other aggressive exotic plants in check, pruning and renovating dead trees and shrubs.”

“Not least of our activities is removal of bottles, paper and debris and garbage deliberately brought into the park and dumped in the bushes by those who obviously are callously indifferent to their obligations as citizens. This keeps one man busy most of the year.”

Plant labeling in the Park was appreciated by the public, especially for flower beds, trees and shrubs. “A very satisfactory and cheap type of label made from aluminum Venetian blinds and reasonably vandal proof has been used in the park to mark plant material.”

“As greater use is being made of the park and acts of vandalism increase, the maintenance of a stock of peafowl and swans in the park is becoming increasingly difficult. We have a reserve of six swans at Elk and Prospect Lakes, but only one is a female.”

“There are 8.8 miles of foot paths, about half of them hard surfaced and 6.5 miles of [internal] roads to maintain excluding boundary roads.”

“Some 500 trees were planted in the ‘wilder’ areas of the park, chiefly cedars and hemlock. [The trees were supplied by Provincial Forestry Branch.] About 400 yards of leaf mold was spread around oak trees on the Hill. Fifteen hundred dollars was spent on pruning tops of oaks and other trees in the vicinity of the band pavilion.”

A 3" pipe broke, part of playground equipment installed in 1911, injuring a girl on a swing. It was decided to take all crossbars down, lower the swings, eliminate the ladders and sloping parallel bar slides. Braces would be welded into the framework and the work completed in 1955.

The Douglas St. baseball diamond infield was surfaced with good soil and seeded. Work began to move “the south soccer field to run east and west to provide greater playing space for ball games and more space between soccer fields.”

The beaches along the Dallas Road waterfront from Holland to Clover Point were cleared of logs by burning. Warren thought if burning continued the beaches would be cleared of undesirable logs and debris in a few years. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1954)


Harrison Yacht Pond completed

The Harrison Yacht Pond was completed at Holland Point in 1955, with landscaping completed in 1956. It has been used for model yacht sailing and model power boats as well as ice skating and, in 1957, as a location for fly fishing classes. To the disgust of boat modelers, it is usually referred to as “the Duck Pond,” though it was specifically designed for sailing model boats and is still used for that purpose.

Unfortunately, the granite monument at the yacht pond is inscribed with the wrong date. It states: “Harrison Yacht Pond. Dedicated in 1953 by Mayor Claude Harrison for the fun and enjoyment of model boating, Victorians and visitors alike.” The correct date is verified in the 1955 Annual Report: “A yacht pool was constructed from the Provincial grant for beautification and the seafront footpath renewed and widened. Completion of landscaping around the pool will be done in 1956.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1955, p. 13)

More park space needed

In February, a speaker at the B.C. Natural Resources Conference said Victoria had only half the desirable standard of recreational facilities for the population. C. M. Campbell, in an address called “The Urban Recreational Resource,” said there should be 10 acres of public open space for every 1,000 people. Vancouver had about 6.3 acres per 1,000 and Victoria had about 5 acres. He said a single juvenile delinquent costs the community a great deal and park space was a deterrent to delinquency. (Colonist, February 24, 1955, p. 13)

Vandalism in Beacon Hill Park

The Colonist printed excerpts from Warren’s presentation of the 1954 Annual Report to City Council in which the money needed to maintain the wild areas and pick up garbage was emphasized. The newspaper asked Warren for more details about the increasing difficulties in maintaining peafowl and swans in Beacon Hill Park. Warren explained that peahens needed 30 undisturbed days on their nests to hatch young. They were often disturbed by children, dogs and adults. Swans have more protection since they nest on islands in the lakes, but they were sometimes pelted with rocks by children. (Colonist, March 22, 1955, p. 15)

November cold spell disaster for plants

November’s cold spell meant a loss of $25,000 or more for city parks and boulevards, the Colonist reported in December. 95% of Victoria’s flowering tree blossoms were killed. Mayor Claude L. Harrison perused Warren’s report on frost damage and said more hearty native trees should be used on boulevards instead of the exotics planted by Warren. Harrison advocated planting arbutus, dogwood, yew, yellow cedar, ash and elderberry. (Colonist, December 7, 1955, p. 1) See more details on the "cold spell" damage in the Annual Report.

1955 Annual Report

An “unprecedented cold spell” in November, 1955, resulted in the loss of 657 boulevard trees. Many Beacon Hill Park trees were killed, especially flowering cherries, plums and crab-apples.

Killed outright or to ground level were Monterey Cypress hedges, Cryptomeria japonica var. elegans, some of the bamboos, all eucalyptus, some azaleas and rhododendrons, dawn redwood or metasequoia, flowering apricot, many flowering quince, some heathers, Wilson’s barberry, Cotoneaster semonsi, frigida, horizontalis and many others. All ornamental roses, hydrangeas and hypericums were killed to ground level and there was a probable 25% loss in that group. Material that did not suffer severely included Chusan Palm, Darwin barberry and Californian Nutmeg Yew. These have all been injured at other times by mid-winter frosts no greater than the ones experienced in November. At the Nursery we lost our basic stock from which we propagate many plants."

The floral display in 1955 was generally poorer than usual due to subnormal temperatures throughout the growing season. The mean temperature in March was 5.2 degrees below normal and 3.3 degrees below normal in April.

Twenty four concerts were held in the Park, including six B.C. Electric Concerts and one symphonic concert.

The flagpole on the hill was seriously decayed and the Mayo Lumber Company agreed to replace it. More picnic facilities were required “due to the large number of people using the park for this purpose.”

Surplus swans from the Park were carried to nearby lakes: two males to Prospect Lake, one pair and two extra males to Elk Lake. Two young ones reared in 1955 at Elk Lake flew away and were not recovered.

The Park Department continued burning logs on the beach “where they were keep the beaches clean.” Warren noted they had worked out how this could be “a routine job.” [This contrasts with the current law against beach fires.]

The Maintenance yard was almost totally hard surfaced making the yard much cleaner and more serviceable. Drainage at yard and nursery was improved. An employee lunchroom was constructed and a hot-water boiler added.

Warren again advocated “a proper entrance” at the north end of the Park, tennis courts and shuffleboard courts. He proposed floral displays:

There is a need for further distinctive horticultural features in Victoria...One such might be a maze copying that at Hampton Court and another might be an historical rose garden to show the roses grown at various periods through the Ages together with modern roses and the sources from which they came, all suitably labeled to tell the story simply. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1955)


Concessions in the Park discussed all year

City Council agreed to request the Provincial Legislature wipe out Trust restrictions which stipulate there can be no establishment for profit in Beacon Hill Park. Mayor Scurrah told the Times in January that the motion was intended to produce permissive legislation to make a site available for an auditorium as well as tearooms. The motion stated the reason for the request:

...the said corporation desires to use part of the said lands for a tearoom, an auditorium and concessions for use and enjoyment of the public and making a charge to cover expenses of maintenance of such structure and services. (Times, January 27, 1956, p. 17)

In 1956, a Children’s zoo received most of the attention. The following year, a tearoom concession was the major focus.

Children’s petting farm proposed

In a meeting with the Parks Committee, Realtor M. H. King “offered to donate materials and labor and to obtain farmyard birds and animals if the city would agree to maintain the zoo.” The Times reported the zoo would be similar to Stanley Park’s petting farm; children could pat calves lambs, kids, colts and see chickens, geese and ducks. Stanley Park charged an admission fee, but King thought Victoria’s children’s farm could be run on donations since the City could not charge admission fees in the Park. King estimated it would cost $2,500 a year to maintain a petting farm seven months of the year. Mayor Scurrah thought a zoo would be “a fine thing and of great educational value.” Warren was asked to meet with Mr. King and contact the Vancouver zoo authorities. (Times, June 6, 1956, p. 19)

After an investigation of the Children’s Zoo operating in Stanley Park, Warren presented his report to the Parks Committee on July 11. He estimated initial start-up costs to be $6,000. The times wrote, “If such a zoo were operated on an admission basis in Beacon Hill Park, special permission would have to be obtained from the Province. It was decided the committee would approach the government to learn the legal position.” (Times, July 11, 1956, p. 1) Park Committee minutes included Warren’s conclusion that Beacon Hill Park would need to charge admission. (CRS 107 12 F 5)

A Times editorial the next day stated:
Whatever may be the attractions of a ‘children’s zoo,’ no such development should be allowed to introduce commercialism into Beacon Hill Park. Once the bars against operation for profit were lowered, there would be no end to applications from enterprises wishing to use that site for money-making purposes...Beacon Hill is not the place for a money-making enterprise. (Times, July 12, 1956, p. 4)

On July 20, City Council agreed with the Parks Committee recommendation to “ask the provincial government to permit operation of a children’s zoo in Beacon Hill Park as a commercial venture.” (Times, July 20, 1956, p. 5)

In an August report to the Parks Committee, Warren reviewed previous attempts to establish commercial enterprises in the Park and then offered his opinion on what Judge Matthew Begbie, if he were alive, would think about the children’s zoo issue. Warren was certain Begbie would have changed with the times and would agree to allow fees to be charged in Beacon Hill Park. [Begbie, considered the “savior” of the Park by those against commercialism, concluded in 1884 that the Park was not to be used “for general purposes of profit, or utility, however great the prospect of these may be.” See 1884 for more details.] Warren said:

If he were alive today, I am sure his interpretation would be...broad. If some amenity is established in the Park for which there is a charge for services rendered and it is operated on a non-profit basis or the net profits are used to further the development of the Park rather than for private gain, I feel that in the light of modern times he would make no objection. (Colonist, August 15, 1956, p. 5)

Letters opposing the Children’s Zoo were sent to City Council by the B.C. Historical Association, the Native Sons of B.C. and the Victoria Council of Women. On October 31, Park Administrator Warren recommended approaching the Provincial Government on the matter of changing the Trust restrictions. [The Council had voted to do this in January.] (CRS 107 12 F 5)

A letter to the Times in September was against putting “little dumb creatures behind iron bars...” K. Barrett said “children will be allowed to handle the animals...many of the poor creatures will be injured by the rough handling. I have seen kittens so badly injured by children they have had to be destroyed. The Cats Protection League can vouch for that. What is the SPCA doing about it? I have heard no word of protest from them.” (Times, September 27, 1956, p. 4)

Picnic centre and shuffleboard cut

A proposed picnic centre in Beacon Hill Park, complete with electric hotplates and hot water, was axed by the Parks Committee. The $8,000 picnic centre was included in budget estimates for 1956. Other items totaling $56,066 were cut, leaving the total parks budget $27,000 higher than 1955. Shuffleboard courts in Beacon Hill were cut again.

$100 was left in the budget for a monument to mark the site of two guns known as the “Victoria Point Battery,” in place 1878-1892 at Douglas Street and Dallas Road. $12,000 for a new vandal-proof comfort station in the Park also survived. (Colonist, April 5, 1956, p. 17)

Waves of vandalism

Vandals attempted to chop down the flagpole with a stolen fire axe one night in April. On the hilltop, the flagpole was scarred, guy wires loosened and the fire axe thrown through a window in the locked Lookout building.

Park Administrator W. H. Warren said, “[Vandals] are active almost every night after dusk. They know the ropes; last night [Monday] was the park policeman’s night off.” [The Park was patrolled by a Commissionaire.] The night’s damage began at the aviary, where netting was smashed and doors opened.

The week before, three 12 year olds were caught smashing windows in the Lookout. Parks Foreman Alex Johnston said five fires had been set in the Park in 1956 and bottles smashed on roads. Drinking on the waterfront was also a problem. (Times, April 24, 1956, p. 17)

The Parks Committee decided a second Commissionaire would be hired on a part-time basis to patrol Beacon Hill Park. The worst night’s vandalism cost amounted to $350, including the loss of rare birds worth $75. (Times, May 11, 1956, p. 14)

In August, after 38 windows were smashed in the Lookout and a Park drinking fountain was pulled up, Ald. Macmillan suggested installing lighting in Beacon Hill Park. Life-saving equipment at Goodacre Lake had to be replaced five times in 1956. Mayor Scurrah warned if vandals are caught they will be dealt with “most severely.” (Times, August 16, 1956, p. 11)

In November, City Council voted an extra $3,551 added to the $12,000 budgeted for a new comfort station in Beacon Hill Park to assure the most “vandal-proof” building available. (Times, November 23, 1956, p. 14)

Warren included the following summary of vandalism in the Annual Report:

There were severe outbreaks of vandalism in Beacon Hill Park. In April, injury to the lookout, flagpole and flower beds totaled $420. Damage was lighter in June and July but up to $232 in August. An ever-increasing problem is that of hot-rod artists who do figure eights on the more accessible lawns in Beacon Hill Park. As traffic increases this problem gets worse and the only remedy seems to be to construct curbs and gutters where required. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1956)

Historic markers installed

In 1956, historic markers were placed on Finlayson Point, Clover Point and in Beacon Hill Park. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1956, p. 9-10)

On Finlayson Point, the monument states:

Finlayson Point. Named after Roderick Finlayson, Chief-Factor Hudson’s Bay Company at Victoria 1844-1872. Before the arrival of the white man, this was the site of an ancient fortified indian village. A battery of two 84-pound wrought iron rifled guns stood here 1878-1892 for protection against an unexpected Russian invasion.

The dates on the monument are correct, but the gun size is not. Both Victoria Point and Finlayson Point were equipped with “64-pounder RML.” (Lovatt, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot, p. 16 &118)

World’s tallest totem erected

Totem Pole

The “World’s Tallest Totem” was erected in Beacon Hill Park Saturday, June 30, 1956 and dedicated Monday, July 2, 1956. The totem was carved from a single cedar tree with adze and knife by noted Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw) carver Chief Mungo Martin, his son David and Henry Hunt. 3,000 people attended the dedication ceremony on July 2. 76 year-old Chief Martin, in ceremonial robe, made a dramatic speech in Kwakwaka’wakw.

The pole was erected in the southeast corner of the Park, east of Circle Drive near Dallas Road, against the backdrop of the Lovers’ Lane forest. Other sites considered for the pole were Thunderbird Park, the Legislative lawn, the top of Mt. Tolmie, the Causeway and closer to the waterfront in Beacon Hill Park. “The architect’s committee... chose the natural setting in Beacon Hill where the totem will stand in its own area against a background of other trees.” (Times, June 19, 1956, p. 8)

Totem Pole bottom

It took six months from the time the tree was felled at Muir Creek until it was erected in the Park. The carving was done at Thunderbird Park, next to the Provincial Museum. A major hurdle in moving the totem from Thunderbird Park to Beacon Hill Park was maneuvering the 127 foot 7 inch pole around the corner at Belleville and Douglas Streets. The next challenge was setting it into the 90 ton steel sleeve and concrete base prepared at the site. The socket base, which resembled a “giant candlestick holder,” enabled the pole to stand without guy wires. The base stood 5 feet 9 inches high, leaving 121 feet, 10 inches of the pole visible. (Times, June 29, 1956, p. 1-2)

To pay for the pole, a public fundraising campaign, sponsored by the Victoria Daily Times, was launched by publisher Stuart Keate in January, six months earlier. On Friday, June 29, 1956, the Times published a fourteen page “Totem Souvenir Edition” listing the names of over 10,000 people who bought 50 cent shares. A list of contributors was also buried at the base of the pole. Keate wrote: “The idea was to recruit those famed Indian carvers, Mungo and David Martin, and their relative Henry Hunt, and rear up in Beacon Hill Park ‘...a mighty totem...visible by sea, land and inspiring landmark of our city.’” (Times, June 29, 1956, p. 1-2)

The totem in Beacon Hill Park was the world’s tallest totem until 1973, when it was surpassed by a 173 foot pole erected at Alert Bay.

There was much discussion and a long delay before plaques were placed at the Tallest Totem. See 1957 for details.

[On May 22, 2001, a public campaign to raise funds for the restoration and reinstallation of the pole was launched. The cost of each share in 2001 was $5. The pole was taken down, restored, repainted and erected again. (See 2001 for details.)]

Navy Day event on Dallas Road waterfront

“Close to 45,000 people jammed the waterfront of Beacon Hill Park Wednesday [August 15] for the biggest Navy Day ever held in the century since a British naval base was first established here,” the Times wrote. (Times, August 16, 1956, p. 8)

To start the celebration, a giant parade marched from downtown to Beacon Hill Park, where military displays and demonstrations were featured. Highlights included four navy frogmen jumping from a helicopter, swimming ashore underwater and then blowing up a model ship. Navy aircraft roared by in simulated attack. The ship Cayuga dropped a depth charge. Five parachute flares were dropped from planes and Cayuga guns shot at them. 2,000 boys were taken on cruises by ten vessels of the RCN from the Ogden Point docks. About 1,000 people listened to the HMCS Naden Band at the Cameron Bandshell.

In the evening, the “HMCS Ontario and HMCS Crescent, ablaze with lights, poured out a 20-minute gorgeous fireworks display, biggest ever seen in Victoria.” The fireworks was followed by a “street dance” in Beacon Hill Park. (Times, August 16, 1956, p. 8)

Big crowds for marathon swimmer

Horseshoe Bay

18 year old Marilyn Bell made her first attempt to swim the Strait of Juan de Fuca on August 10 starting from Horseshoe Bay. The Bay, shown on the left, lies directly below Beacon Hill and west of Finlayson Point.

Dubbed “Canada’s swimming sweetheart,” Bell started swimming in the 49 degree Fahrenheit water before 6 a.m. after a cheery wave and a “Good Morning, everybody!” to 1,500 spectators. Her skin was coated with a thin layer of vaseline. She was paced by swim partner Cliff Lumsdon; the navigator was veteran tugboat skipper Capt. Ellice Cavin of Island Tug and Barge. If conditions were poor and she had to quit, Bell was prepared to try again.

Bell’s distance swim attempt was number 58 in the history of Strait of Juan de Fuca swimmers. She had been the first to swim the width of Lake Ontario in 1954 and swam the 22 mile English Channel for a prize of $15,000. Bell would earn $30,000 from her sponsors, including the Times, if she made it 18.3 miles to Port Angeles and $20,000 if she failed. (Times, August 10, 1956, p. 8)

After nine hours and 50 minutes in the water, Marilyn Bell stopped the swim five and a half miles from Port Angeles. Though she had won $20,000 for her failed effort, she decided to try again and, if successful, would earn the other $10,000. (Times, August 11, 1956, p. 1) Before Bell’s second swim, her partner, Cliff Lumsdon, swam from Horseshoe Bay to Port Angeles on August 16 but there was no prize money for him.

Marilyn Bell made her second attempt to swim the Strait of Juan de Fuca on August 23. She started from Port Angeles, Washington this time, swimming north. A planned landing at Horseshoe Bay provided an exciting opportunity for Victoria spectators and anticipation grew as reports of her progress circulated through the day. A crowd of 30,000 to 40,000 gathered along the Dallas Road waterfront two hours before her arrival.

Marilyn landed east of Finlayson Pt.

Despite a 15 mile an hour wind and choppy seas, Marilyn Bell made the Strait crossing on her second try. She drifted east slightly as she neared the beach and landed at the unnamed bay just east of Finlayson Point, shown on the right. (Times, August 23, 1956, p. 1) The Times described the crowd cheering Bell as she swam to shore:

[Spectators] were lined shoulder to shoulder on the cliff’s edge along the Beacon Hill Park waterfront. As the flotilla drifted eastward, the mob edged toward Clover Point until the rocky headland was covered by cars and people...two big bonfires were lighted on the beach to guide the swimmer in.” (Times, August 24, 1956, p. 11)

Marilyn Bell set five records: fastest time for a Strait crossing (10 hours and 38 minutes); fastest time for a south-north crossing; first Canadian to complete a south-north crossing; first woman to swim the Strait; youngest person to swim the Strait. A parade through Victoria and a reception in Beacon Hill Park was organized. (Times, August 24, 1956, p. 11)

In 1957, a monument marking Bell’s swim was erected along the Dallas Road footpath, above the unnamed beach east of Finlayson Point on which she landed. It states:

This cairn commemorates the feat of Miss Marilyn Bell who landed in this bay 23rd August, 1956 to become the first woman and first Canadian to swim Juan de Fuca Strait from Port Angeles, U.S.A. to Victoria, Canada.

30th birthday of Abdul the crane

The male demoiselle crane lived a long life in the Park zoo. In November, 1956, a Times feature focused on his longevity: “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 when Abdul would receive a special meal. The Times feature continued:

Abdul was seven years old when the Indian Maharajah of Bickaner [sic] presented Abdul, together with four demoiselle female cranes to Beacon Hill Park in 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, victim of an attack that broke his wing and battered the head of a peacock. The Colonist said 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) The newspaper didn’t mention that Abdul would have been 34 years old in 1960.]

1956 Annual Report

Warren wrote an especially long Annual Report “for the use of the International Northwest Parks Association,” which was to meet in Victoria August 1-3, 1957. He described the area’s population and the committees and departments in the region with parks responsibilities.

The effects of the severe early November, 1955 freeze were still being assessed. Loss on boulevards was 657 trees up to 7" in diameter. 1700 feet of Monterey Cypress hedges in parks were killed; 800 feet of English laurel hedges “killed to ground level at the Nursery.”

“The third Capital City Grant of $75,000 from the Provincial Government was allocated for the improvement of Clover Point and road widening and curb construction across the Beacon Hill Park section of Dallas Road...Road widening and parking bays have been commenced and curbs and gutter installed along Dallas Road...” Part of the capital city grant was spent “straightening Dallas Road at Douglas Street.”

“All records, except plans, were microfilmed up to 1952.” [Both the City Archives and the Park Department state they do not have these records.]

The Park contained “almost nine miles of footpaths, about half of them hard surfaced and 6.5 miles of roads, excluding boundary roads. A caretaker (S. Haydon) resides in the Park...Two rose pergolas by Goodacre Lake were replaced.”

[Annual Report references to vandalism and historic markers are included under those topic headings.] (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1956, p. 9-10)


New Parks Committee for commercialization

The new Park Committee, headed by Ald. G. I. Edgelow, was all for profit-making ventures in Beacon Hill Park as a way of reducing costs to taxpayers. In January, the Committee waved aside previous legal advice that no commercial businesses could operate in the Park. Ald. McEwen said he had been told by the B. C. Attorney General’s Department that “the city had every right to use the park as it liked...”

The new Committee decided to ask Council to press the provincial government to spell out what uses were allowed. Park Administrator Warren said previous committees had made similar attempts for three years with no results. The Committee planned a tea-room as the first commercial operation if approval was obtained. “We could make the park self-supporting in future years,” said Chairman Edgelow. (Times, January 14, 1957, p. 2)

In a letter to Council, the Native Sons of British Columbia, Victoria Post #1, protested any commercialization in the Park:

We are alarmed by these repeated attempts of the Parks Board over the last few years to defeat the purpose for which this park was dedicated. We contend that the granting of one single concession will set a precedent for further concessions and thereby spoil the park. (Times, January 16, 1957, p. 17)

The Native Sons predicted many organizations and other citizens of Victoria would join them in opposition. The letter stated concessions would “break the Deed of Trust” which they supported. (CRS 107 12 F 5)

In February, the Park Committee received the reply it wanted from B. C. Attorney-General Bonner, the same person who wrote a pro-commercialization opinion in 1954. Though vague, the 1957 letter did not say sales of goods and services were prohibited in Beacon Hill Park. The Park Committee took his answer as a go-ahead for commercialization. The Colonist quoted part of Bonner’s statement:

It seems to me...that it is a question of policy as to what use the city of Victoria wishes to put the park and whether that use falls within the trust provisions. Further any commercial venture which may be established within the park would have to provide services which would add to the use, enjoyment or recreation of persons using the park.” (Colonist, February 21, 1957, p. 17)

The Park Committee interpretation was: “...commercial ventures could be established in Beacon Hill Park provided all proceeds were used for the enjoyment and recreation of persons using that park.”(CRS 107 12 F 5)

The Committee directed W. H. Warren to bring in suggestions for a tea-room and other commercial enterprises for their consideration. “We could make $90,000 to $100,000 a year up there if it was run properly,” Ald. E. D. McEwen, a restaurant owner himself, claimed. (Times, February 25, 1957, p. 11)

The Colonist quoted Chairman Edgelow: “It looks as though we can recommend a tearoom or such if we wish to Council. We have that authority and always have had.” The newspaper commented, “Rumbles of coming battle began at once.” (Colonist, February 26, 1957, p. 26)

In March, Council received letters opposed to establishing any concession, restaurant or tearoom in the Park from a second Native Sons group. The Victoria Assembly No. 1, Native Sons of Canada agreed with objections presented in January from the Native Sons of B.C. The Victoria Council of Women wrote Council opposing commercialization, as well. (CRS 107 12 F 5)

Parks Convention admires hanging flower baskets

Columnist Ormond Marrion complimented W. H. Warren’s “masterly job of winning new friends and more fame for Victoria” by hosting over 200 visiting park officials of the American Institute of Park Executives in August, 1956. Delegates had high praise for Victoria’s hanging baskets. Several American cities wrote Warren afterward for information on how to begin their own hanging flower baskets programs. Norfolk, Virginia planned to inaugurate both hanging baskets and window boxes. In return for information from Warren, the Norfolk Park Department was sending Victoria camellias to replace stock lost in the cold spell. The New York Times requested information for a future article on Victoria’s hanging baskets. (Colonist, February 9, 1957, p. 4)

Warren noted in his Annual Report: “The International Northwest Parks Association met here August 1, 2 and 3, 1957 after an absence since excellent program was provided.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1957)

Horseshoes and shuffleboard proposed again

Mayor Percy Shurrah was in favor of building horseshoe pitches and shuffleboard courts in Victoria parks. W. H. Warren supported this plan, saying, “I’ve been trying to get shuffleboard in the parks for twenty years. It’s in the estimates. It was tossed out last year, but maybe we’ll get it now. We’re willing to provide those facilities, if the public shows it is interested.” (Times, March 14, 1957, p. 17)


Plants and equipment valued at more than $750 were stolen from the Beacon Hill Park Nursery, Warren told the Parks Committee. The Committee had previously rejected his request for $1,000 to fence the area. Park commissionaires will try to catch flower and shrub thieves. A standing reward of $50 is offered for information leading to an arrest of flower thieves. (Times, April 2, 1957, p. 3)

Arch proposed

A centennial commemorative archway was proposed for the Superior Street entrance of Beacon Hill Park. Ben Tennyson, a Victoria masonry contractor and member of the Chamber of Commerce, hoped to begin constructing the arch in September from remains of the old Birdcage legislative building and Government House, both destroyed by fire the previous winter. Granite from Government House and bricks from the Birdcage were set aside for Tennyson to inspect. (Times, July 24, 1957, p. 10) The civic affairs group of the Chamber of Commerce approved of the arch in May and decided to sponsor it as their centennial project. (Times, May 25, 1957, p. 15) [There is no evidence the arch was built.]

Plaques for totem pole

The Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors criticized the city parks administration on November 24, 1956, for the long delay in placing the plaques and landscaping the totem pole site. (Times, February 26, 1957, p. 5)

In March, 1957, the Parks Committee chopped $3,025 earmarked for landscaping the base of the totem but agreed to spend $700 for installing two plaques and a stone memorial cairn. Ald. Edgelow said:

I wonder whether we could ask [the Times] to undertake maintenance. Would it be unreasonable to ask the Times to finish the job? I was by on Sunday and saw nothing wrong with the site other than the plaques were not installed. (Times, March 28, 1957, p. 29)

Two large plaques were installed on a boulder near the “World’s Tallest Totem.” One plaque, titled “The Legend of the Totem,” tells “the story of the carving.” The other plaque states:

World’s Tallest Totem Pole, 127 feet, 7 inches. Carved by Mungo Martin, David Martin, Henry Hunt. Dedicated July 2, 1956. Percy B. Scurrah, Mayor Victoria, Hon. Ray Williston, Minister of Education, Stuart Keate, Sponser. Raised by Public Subscriptions Through the Victoria Daily Times.

Two additional plaques can be found near the totem pole. A small bronze square imbedded in concrete near the base of the pole states: “Buried Here Are The Names Who Subscribed to The Tallest Totem.” A plaque attached to the west side of the steel sleeve holding up the totem reads: “This Tablet in Memory of the British Columbia Indians Who Gave Their Lives in the World Wars 1914 1918 1939 1945. Was Erected By the B. C. Indian Arts and Welfare Society.”

Camas meadow flourishing on Finlayson Point

Finlayson Point was covered with a healthy wildflower meadow in 1957. A photo taken by Dr. Christopher Brayshaw shows a verdant growth of spring Camas flowers. By contrast, a photo taken in the same area in 2004 shows the meadow completely destroyed by “off leash” dog activity. The soil is compacted and pitted with holes. The only vegetation left is tough weeds.

1957 Finlayson Pt. meadow              Finlayson Pt. damage

Comparison of these “before and after” photos demonstrates extreme habitat degradation in a prime scenic location along the Dallas Road waterfront.

Mass marathon swim

7,000 spectators crowded the Horseshoe Bay area at noon on a Sunday in August to watch 17 marathon swimmers enter the water and stroke toward Port Angeles. Their destination was Ediz Hook, 18.3 miles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Juan de Fuca race was dubbed the “Mount Everest of swims” in 1954 by Florence Chadwick, the first swimmer to tackle the Strait.

It was the second annual Victoria-Port Angeles Strait Swim sponsored by the Victoria Junior Chamber of Commerce. About fifty boats accompanied the swimmers into the distance.

Standing on the beach before the start, swimmers coated their skin with a variety of materials. Some rubbed on “a light coat of oil, some used axle grease, some lanolin and at least one used an oil liniment. Many smeared on heavy yellow, red, black or white grease. (Times, August 5, 1957, p. 8)

22 year old Myra Thompson was the official winner, though a strong tide stopped her a mile and a half from the opposite shore. Myra had hoped to win $5,000 to send her parents on a trip to Sweden; she received $2,500 for the uncompleted swim. She established an immersion record:

[She stayed] in the water 16 hours, 31 minutes, which was nearly four hours longer than ever before. She was 1.5 miles from the Washington shore when taken out at 4:34 a.m. She could have gone on longer but the tide was taking her out again and her coach decided to call it quits. All others of the 17 who started the swim had quit four hours previously. (Times, August 5, 1957, p. 8)

New street cut through Park

“City employees began cutting a 900 foot road across Beacon Hill Park from Douglas Street to Rupert Street...a continuation of Superior Street,” the Times reported. The new street was intended to facilitate traffic to the Legislative buildings.

The newspaper noted “a chorus of protests from local residents,” but it appears they were the only dissenters. Heywood property owners complained to City Council that 39 trees along the route would be cut, including a 400 year old oak. Mr. Warren inspected the trees and concluded there was a “misunderstanding.” Only ten of the 39 marked trees would be cut, he said, and definitely not the ancient oak. The newspaper quoted Warren saying the trees removed were “young and of no particular value to anyone.” (Times, August 5, 1957, p. 9)

Warren quickly wrote a letter to the Times saying he was misquoted:

I much resent the statement published...relative to removal of trees...for the new road...the reporter put words in my mouth which I never uttered when it was implied I said that trees being removed were ‘young and of no particular value to anyone.’ Naturally, these lovely oak trees are of value. Probably no one in Victoria is more concerned with the preservation of trees than I am...everything was done to reduce to the minimum the number of trees involved. (Times, August 8, 1957, p. 4)

Warren detailed construction of this street in the 1957 Annual Report:

The Capital Improvement District Commission authorized construction of a road across Beacon Hill Park from Douglas and Superior Streets to Rupert Street and Heywood Avenue with provision for an entrance into Beacon Hill Park southward at some future date. At the end of the year, street lighting had been installed and the road completed except for final paving. Completion of footpaths and the landscaping will be done early in 1958. The new road involved extensive alteration to the intersection of Douglas, Superior and Blanshard Streets. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1957)

This new city arterial, called Southgate Street, isolated a sizeable chunk of Park land north of the street. The intersection of Douglas, Blanchard and Southgate was enlarged at the same time using Park land. The date usually given for the construction of Southgate Street is 1960, but 1957 is correct.

Dallas Road widened

Warren described the other road construction project taking Park land in 1957, the widening of Dallas Road:

Road widening was completed across the Beacon Hill Park portion of Dallas Road from Cook to Douglas Streets. This included extensive alterations to the intersection of Douglas Street and Dallas Road. Grading was completed to the new curb levels on either side of the road and the area preserved in its natural state as closely as possible except for a 15 foot strip to be maintained in grass next to the curb. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1957)

The Dallas road construction were financed by “the third and final Capital City Grant of $75,000.” The Grant also covered improvements at Clover Point, including the construction of the loop road and several ramps.

More daffodils planted

80,000 daffodil bulbs “and maybe more” would be planted on the southern face of Beacon Hill to create a special colourful showing in the spring of British Columbia’s Centennial year. Park Administrator Warren announced to the media that City Council authorized $1,500 for purchase of bulbs. That amount would buy 25,000 bulbs from the Victoria Bulb Growers’ Association and the Association would donate several thousand more. Bulb grower Joe Howroyd donated 40,000 daffodil bulbs and the Park Nursery had several thousand on hand.

Warren said, “If anyone with bulbs of the King Alfred type to spare cares to drop them off at the Beacon Hill Park Nursery, we would be very glad to have them.” He planned to plant bulbs in large masses on the seaward slope of Beacon Hill. Warren explained, “We can use hundreds of thousands there.”(Colonist, Sept. 25, 1957, p. 21)

In the Annual Report, Warren wrote: “Seventy-five thousand daffodils planted on the north side of [Dallas Road] will present an attractive scene in spring.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1957)

1957 Annual Report

There were four skating days in January, 1957.

“The new comfort station was completed in time for the summer season...Its design has been much admired by others in the field of park management.”

“Re-location of the play equipment for small children has resulted in a model playground area completely surfaced and fenced from the area used by older children. A baseball field complete with backstop was constructed at the south end of the Douglas Street playing fields.”

[Annual Report items included elsewhere in this chapter include construction of Southgate Street, the widening Dallas Road, the Northwest Park Association conference and daffodil planting. The Annual Report description of the loop road, path and ramp construction at Clover Point can be found in Appendix C, “Dallas Road Waterfront.”](CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1957)


Park workhorse aging

Queenie was very popular

The Times ran this photo with a story about “the Queen”--the Park workhorse--nearing the end of her reign. “The Queen is a good-natured, well-mannered four footed friend whose job it is to draw a two-wheeled, rubber-tired cart on behalf of the park’s maintenance crew...[She] is the last working horse in the city of Victoria.” Queenie started working in the Park in 1953.

The advantage of the work horse, the newspaper explained, was that her rubber shoes could cross lawns without damage to the grass. A drawback was that rubber shoes cost “$17.50 per shoeing and replacements are needed four or five times a year.” Queenie was aging and “pulls up lame on occasion,” with no replacement available. In non-working hours, she stayed in the deer enclosure. It appeared Queenie would soon be replaced with a truck. (Times, March 14, 1958, p. 17) [She didn’t retire until 1963.] (See more on Queenie in 1961, 1963, 1966, 1969 and 1970.)

New flagpole

A new 142' flagpole was installed on May 2, 1958. It was donated by Mayo Lumber Company, Ltd., Lake Cowichan, to replace a flagpole it gave twenty years before. A newspaper photo showed a Mayo company steeplejack applying paint to the top of the pole. (Times, May 2, 1958, p. 17) Earlier, the Times reported, “It will be erected in the memory of Mayo Singh, well-known island lumberman and philanthropist...” (Times, July 18, 1957)

Lighting in the Park

A $25,000 illumination system in the Park was almost complete by the end of May, 1958. The Capital Improvement District Commission project provided “illumination in selected areas of the park similar to the illumination in the Butchart Gardens,” the Colonist reported. Lights were expected to be on from dusk to midnight in spring and summer.

Flower beds are mainly illuminated by shielded lamps two or three feet high, but in some cases lights shine down from high in the trees. Some of the most striking and colorful trees in the park are illuminated from below or picked out by powerful spotlights. (Colonist, May 30, 1958, p. 19)

Kenneth Reid, electrical superintendent, said the completed system will contain about 700 lights. The lights could be used “to illuminate Goodacre Lake if it were to freeze solidly enough for skating in winter.”

In his Annual Report, Warren said the new ornamental lighting gave a “fairyland effect” in the centre of the Park and “drew large crowds all summer.” The “exceptionally warm, balmy evenings” encouraged park visits.(CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1958)

Mile Zero sign erected

The “Mile Zero” marker was erected in a triangular plot of Park land surrounded by city streets at the junction of Douglas Street and Dallas Road in 1958. According to the plaque attached to the Mile Zero sign, it was “Erected by the Victoria Auto Club 1958. Maintained by the British Columbia Automobile Association.”

Supposedly, this sign marks the start of the Trans-Canada Highway. It is, however, entirely an arbitrary placement. Mile Zero has nothing to do with the Park or with Douglas Street; the Trans-Canada Highway starts further north at the Town and Country Mall on Blanshard Street.

Traffic congestion is extreme at the Douglas-Dallas intersection. There are few car parking spaces and no space for buses. Tour buses bring their passengers to the spot, nonetheless. It is a key destination in particular for Asian tourists, who pose by the hundreds in front of the sign and often wander out into the street.

Some residents sensibly suggest moving Mile Zero to Ogden Point where acres of bus parking is available. That move would relieve traffic congestion at a dangerous corner and solve parking problems. The city could choose to offer two Mile Zeros, with one sign at Ogden Point for bus passengers’ photos and a second at the tourist office, for photos by pedestrians. Moving the sign would be an appropriate application of a suggested new monument policy for Beacon Hill Park. The Heritage Landscape Management Plan, 2004, stated: “Consideration may be given to moving existing monuments or markers that do not have direct relevance to the Park to a location outside the Park.” (Page 61)

[In 1999, the City proposed an ambitious redesign of the Mile Zero intersection to address the traffic and parking problems, but it did not proceed. See 1999 for details.]

Beacon Hill sign erected

A large green sign was erected by the B. C. Centennial Committee on the south edge of Dallas Road in May. (Times, May 21, 1958, p. 22) The sign, titled “Beacon Hill,” states:

Death, life and happiness are the story of Beacon Hill. On these headlands, where an ancient race once buried their dead, early settlers erected beacons to guide mariners past dangerous Brotchie Ledge. Here, too, ever since Victoria was founded in 1843, people have gathered to enjoy sports and a vista of timeless appeal.

[The topic of this sign is Beacon Hill, but anyone reading the sign faces the ocean, away from the Hill. Oddly, the sign refers to Beacon Hill as “headlands.” This strange sign had a fresh coat of paint in July, 2004.]

Speaker’s Corner proposed

“A Speaker’s Corner won’t be established in Beacon Hill Park, but if anyone wants to make a speech in the Park it probably can be arranged,” the Colonist wrote. “City Council’s Parks Committee went along with a letter from the police committee opposing establishment of a Speaker’s Corner as proposed by a citizen.” (Colonist, May 13, 1958, p. 1)

[A Hyde Park style Speaker’s Corner was established in 1960 and was still being used in the 1970's. In 2004, the quaint sign stands little noticed in the grass east of the Children’s Petting Farm. See 1960 for more details.]

No more swings on oak branches

All tire swings and rope swings were removed from oak branches in the park after a limb broke while a child was swinging. Garry Oak branches often break in times of drought, Warren explained, which was why “local Indians” never camped under Garry Oaks and park staff did not position picnic tables under oaks. Warren thought some of the larger Park oaks dated back to 1500. (“Beacon Hill Park,” A talk to the Beacon Hill Park Association, November 7, 1977, Park Files.)

One-way roads in the Park

On June 2, Warren presented the Park Committee with a plan for one-way roads in the Park. They agreed to one-way around Burns Monument and around the “large section east of that location.” (CRS 107, 12 F 5)

Venison thieves

“Venison thieves killed a five year old buck and stole the carcass,” the Times reported in December. W. H. Warren said the buck had a fine set of antlers and that it wasn’t the first time a deer was killed and stolen. It was dragged out of the fenced enclosure in Beacon Hill Park. (Times, December 8, 1958, p. 17)

Mayor Percy Scurrah authorized a $50 reward and Mrs. Rigby of the Women’s Auxiliary of the SPCA added $75. Additional reward money was offered by Capt. Gadsden and the SPCA brought the total to $250. Warren asked for help in tracking down the killer: “I would like to hear from anyone who has seen or heard anything which might give us a clue.” He said he had a report a car with a deer carcass on the fender was seen near the Park Sunday morning. (Times, December 10, 1958, p. 1)

Scurrah said, “It was a horrible act. I hope the culprit is caught and if he is, I hope the magistrate throws the book at him.” Mrs. Rigby said it was terrible to think tame animals were not safe in the park. “This innocent animal could be approached by anyone, it was so friendly. It’s just terrible.”

The thieves were never caught. In his Annual Report, Warren wrote “A magnificent buck deer was killed and removed from the park on December 6-7 by some unknown person or persons. Despite rewards totaling $1,000 from the city and interested citizens, no information was obtained as to who were responsible.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1958)

1958 Annual Report

Warren noted good weather and “fine floral displays throughout the spring and summer months.”

“The new Park entrance road was landscaped and planted to give a naturalistic appearance.”

“The foundation of the caretaker’s residence was repaired, roof renewed and a garage supplied. The shower rooms in the Sports Hut were renewed...The bandshell was improved acoustically by construction of a false ceiling and enclosure of sides of the stage.”

“The wet fall served to re-emphasize the value of the two dirt soccer fields adjacent to Douglas and Niagara Streets. They can be used at any time regardless of wet conditions elsewhere. For several years, junior soccer players have used this area for soccer practices in the early evening. Two batteries of lights are used. A third one would be desirable. The city foots the bill for power used here which actually doesn’t amount to very much.”

“Three sets of twin fawns and two young swans were born in 1958.”

[Annual Report items included earlier in the chapter are: the new flagpole, illumination of the Park and the deer killing.] (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1958)


Lake drained

“Partial drainage of Beacon Hill Park’s Goodacre Lake,” was the caption under a photo of the drained lake. “Water was released to expose rock and mortar shoring for a $800 repair job. The result is a rock ‘beach’ on north side of lake and mud flats on south.” (Times, February 16, 1960, p. 13)

Rabbits for Easter

Park Committee Minutes, March 2, 1959, reported discussion on Warren’s suggestion that a few rabbits be kept in the Park on special occasions such as the Easter season. Mr. A. J. Ingram offered a mother rabbit and family plus other rabbits free. (CRS 107, 12 F 5)


The Times reported the Parks Committee “was astounded” at the amount of vandalism damage in Beacon Hill Park contained in a “routine” report for the month of March:

Damage included 2,000 daffodil blooms stolen or destroyed, eight seats thrown in Goodacre Lake, three cement tables overturned, all small bleachers at Heywood Field turned over and badly sprung, windows smashed and “no parking” signs destroyed or stolen. (Times, April 10, 1959, p. 29)

Warren was asked to prepare an estimate of total vandalism damage to parks each year.

The May 25 Minutes of the Park Committee included Warren’s recommendation to hire a man at $1.25 an hour to patrol at night because “person or persons...regularly steal gasoline from the vehicles” at the Park Nursery. On July 6, the Park Committee again discussed a “night patrol in Beacon Hill Park, particularly at the Nursery.” (CRS 107, 12 F 5)

List of Caretaker Duties

“Duties of the Caretaker--Beacon Hill Park” were spelled out by C. J. Bate, Superintendent of Maintenance, on June 5, 1959. Hours of work were 48 per week. Duties listed:

Daily maintenance of public toilets morning, afternoon and evening (4 p.m.); Maintenance of playground building; Maintenance of Lookout building and Kiwanis Lookout on weekends; Maintenance and feeding of animals in animal enclosure, birds in aviary, swans and other fowl as required.

Responsible for raising of flag daily and inspection of flag pole and stays; Responsible for supervision of weekend concerts at bandshell; In summer, cut the grass in the Rose Garden as required; To maintain garage and maintenance building, park centre; To maintain cleanliness of all lakes and keep outlets clear at Goodacre Lake; To erect necessary road barriers and miscellaneous signs as required.

To supply fuel for outdoor fireplace when requested; To inspect and untangle playground swings, etc.; To supervise sanitation of wading pool on weekends; To maintain cottage grounds during working hours Saturday after other duties are completed; To carry out additional work as detailed by Parks Foreman.

The caretaker is expected to keep normal residence in his home within the park. Where overnight absence is planned, he will notify the park foreman. Thursday will be the day off for the caretaker. (Park Office files, 100 Cook Street)

Shuffleboard courts and horseshoes

After being axed from the parks budget for years, two shuffleboard courts were finally constructed in Beacon Hill Park in 1959 after $850 was allocated for the courts in 1958. The shuffleboard courts were located along Arbutus Way near Mayor’s Grove. [In 2004, the asphalt shuffleboard area is used for wheelchair accessible picnic tables.]

Authority was granted by the Park Committee on July 16, 1959 to the Greater Victoria Horseshoe Pitching Association “to place horseshoe pitches in Beacon Hill Park at a location east of the present children’s playground area,” at their expense. (CRS 107, 12 F 5)

Shuffleboard, checkers and horseshoe pitching were situated in the centre of the Park with equipment stored in the nearby Sport Hut.

Royal Visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrived in Victoria on July 16, 1959, on their 39th day of a Canadian tour. 70,000 people lined their route and 10,000 were at the Legislature for the Queen’s speech on the steps. Beacon Hill Park was the focus of events on July 17, beginning with an official reception at the base of the Hill, followed by a colours ceremony at the Douglas Street soccer field.

An estimated 20,000 people stood in the hot sun as soldiers of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry marched on the field and stood for 90 minutes at attention. The Colonist wrote, “The earth literally shook each time 360 pairs of feet came to the halt.” It was the first time in British Columbia history that a reigning monarch presented colors. (Colonist, July 18, 1959, p. 8)

The Colonist estimated 100,000 people lined the waterfront that night for “a spectacular fleet illumination and fireworks display.” Crowds began gathering at 6 p.m. and by 10 p.m., the starting time for the event, cars packed the waterfront in a four mile traffic jam from the breakwater to the Oak Bay golf course. The Queen and Prince Philip watched from the newly constructed Government House, which overlooked the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Twelve navy ships stood offshore.

Under the frontpage headline “Navy’s Spectacular Show Climaxes Queen’s Visit,” the Colonist described the show:

Crowds along the waterfront gasped as the ships were outlined in hundreds of electric lights. After fifteen minutes, at 10:15, the lights were switched out and the ships were dark shapes against the smooth, moonlit waters. A minute later the scene erupted in a spectacular burst of noise and color as fireworks played over the ships for almost 15 minutes. Rockets soared high into the windless night sky, painting off-shore waters in lurid reds, yellows and greens. (Colonist, July 18, 1959, p. 1)

Royal bust is a bust

The bust of Queen Elizabeth II commissioned to mark the 1959 Royal Visit had a controversial, dramatic and very short life.

The original plan was to erect the sculpture on Dallas Road below Beacon Hill in time for the “civic reception ceremonies” on July 17. Victoria sculptor Peggy Walton Packard planned a “life-size bust” placed on a “long slender base making it as high as the Queen is.” Ald. Curtis, Chairman of the city’s Royal Visit Committee, said the price would be $350. Nearby municipalities agreed to share in all costs of the Royal Visit on a population basis, including the bust. (Colonist, June 12, 1959, p. 1)

The 750 pound concrete sculpture was not completed until November. To many, it looked like “a concrete head mounted on a seven-foot pedestal.” The City of Esquimalt refused to pay its share of the cost, which was $48, though they did pay their 8.8% share of other Royal Visit expenses. (Colonist, October 14, 1959, p. 1)

Oak Bay agreed to pay their share of the visit’s general costs, but hoped “the bust will be eliminated because it wasn’t produced in time.” By October, the estimated cost of the bust had climbed to $500, including installation. Reeve Murdoch said he opposed the bust from the start because of “what vandals might do to it.” (Colonist, October 16, 1959, p. 25)

On October 20, Warren was advised “appropriate landscaping would bring the total to $850.” Saanich Council decided to pay its $150 share. The Times explained:

The bust was commissioned on the assumption that all four municipalities would chip in to pay for the work on a per capital basis. But as the memory of the Royal Visit faded away... Esquimalt has flatly refused to pay, while Oak Bay wants to discuss the matter further...Victoria’s share is $250--half the cost of the bust. Said [Saanich] Councilman Leslie Passmore: ‘I don’t see why all this fuss over the bust. I would like to see it in our municipal hall for three months of the year. (Times, October 20, 1959, p. 17)

Colonist reporter Terry Hammond visited the sculptor’s back yard to view the “curing” statue in November. He was surprised to find Queen Elizabeth’s “broad smile” was missing. Packard explained the smile on the display model of the bust had disappeared “Because I got tired of looking at it. Such an insipid smile it was.” When the first “cast-stone process” sculpture refused to set, she had started the project over again with an unsmiling Queen. (Colonist, November 11, 1959, p. 1)

[See 1960 for details of how--in one eventful year--the bust was stored in the public works yard, displayed at City Hall, stolen, recovered, erected in Beacon Hill Park and destroyed. In 2004, the setting constructed for the concrete statue--a stone wall and bare planter with plaque still attached--stands grimly in the parking lot opposite Burns Monument.]

Repairs on two structures

On Oct. 16, the Park Administrator advised the Park Committee that “the cedar shake roof on the [bandstand] had cracked in many places and had caused leaks on the piano and other equipment stored thereunder.” Replacement was authorized on Oct. 19. (CRS 107, 12 F 5)

Warren advised the Committee on Oct. 30, 1959 that it was “impractical to modernize the two sprays in the Burns Monument without tearing it to pieces...He also advised that the present Fountain Heads did not comply with Health Regulations.” (CRS 107, 12 F 5)[The Burns Monument was originally a fountain with water coming out of lions mouths on the west and the east side of the edifice. See 1900.]

1959 Annual Report

Warren included a short essay in the Annual Report summarizing the Park’s good qualities:

Beacon Hill Park is our largest park and is as old as the city. Most of it is maintained in a semi-natural condition. It is unique because of its close proximity to the downtown area, the Garry oak trees which dominate the wooded portion and the unsurpassed views of mountain and sea from the water front which extends for 3,000 feet across the park... The park contains ornamental lakes, floral displays, accommodation for soccer, baseball, softball, cricket, shuffleboard, checkers and horseshoe pitching. [Shuffleboard and horseshoes were added in 1959.] There is a wading pool, picnic area and two children’s play areas with apparatus. Scenic cliffside paths are provided along the Dallas Road cliffs which are part of the system of waterfront paths which extend over two miles from Clover Point to the Breakwater.

There were three days of skating “at Holland Point Pool” [Harrison Yacht Pond] in early January, 1959.

“The floral display was excellent during the spring,” but was diminished in the summer heat. “Naturalized daffodils on the south slope of the hill facing Dallas Road were particularly good in early spring...Four dangerous oaks were removed.”

“Vandalism in this park is averaging about $200 a month. A swan was stolen and a peacock and crane killed.”(CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1959)