By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement
This year, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of Lakeview Park. Today, this lakefront gem is approximately 44 acres in size and is used by walkers, picnickers, swimmers and beach-goers, recreational sports teams, events in the summertime, like Canada Day celebrations, and, of course, for those wishing to learn more about the history of Oshawa by visiting us here at the Oshawa Museum.
To celebrate the anniversary, the Oshawa Museum has launched a new online exhibit, Lakeview Park 100, where we will share stories of the park through the years. This post will have links to the online exhibit, or links to older Blog content, and we encourage you to visit and share your own stories!
Prior to the arrival of European and American settlers, the area was part of the traditional hunting grounds of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island. With the arrival of American settlers in the late 1790s, the land became divided and owned by names such as Annis, Smith, Lockwood and Perry. In 1840, the first efforts were made to develop the Oshawa Harbour with the construction of the pier and breakwaters by the Sydenham Harbour Company. The opening of the Harbour brought with it further settlement along the lakeshore, including the construction of the homes that comprise the Oshawa Museum. Much of Lakeview Park was part of the original Henry Family farm, land Thomas acquired in 1830.
As early as 1890, the area by the lake, referred to more generally as “Oshawa-on-the-Lake,” was used for summer recreation. The Oshawa Railway transported beachgoers with 11 trips per day for a fare of just 5 cents – considered to be very inexpensive even in those times. A popular place in these early days was Mallory’s hall, owned by a resident by the lake who rent it out for dancing, concerts, or religious services. Mr. C. A. Mallory tried to sell his property a number of times through the years, notably in 1896 and 1902, and his pavilion would later be purchased by William Harold & Viola Barnhart.
In 1920, Sam & George McLaughlin bought the land in the name of General Motors of Canada Limited and deeded it to the Town of Oshawa for just one dollar. There was only one restriction: that the land be used as a public park for the citizens of Oshawa under the control of the Council and Parks commission. The firm also forwarded a cheque for $3,000 to cover initial improvements and another $6,000 for a suitable park playground.
One of the first tasks undertaken by the parks board was the selection of a name for the new park. Approximately 240 names were submitted, and Lakeview Park was chosen. Although open for use by the public in August of 1920, the park was officially opened late in September by Mayor Stacey. Music was provided by Oshawa Bands, and the Oshawa Railway provided free transportation to the park.
In 1924 an attempt was made to install a zoo at the park. George W. McLaughlin provided a number of buffalo from Wainwright, Alberta that were confined in an area to the north-west of Henry House. They were there until 1931 when the herd began to look somewhat weather-beaten and the odor from the animal pen became offensive to those using Lakeview Park. As a result, it was decided to move them to the Riverdale Zoo in Toronto.
For decades through the 20th century, Lakeview Park was dotted with cottages which were lived in or rented through the year. In 1926, it was reported that many out-of-towners were from Toronto, and some were even American tourists. Many people in Oshawa have stories about living in the cottages, which were ill-equipped for winter with no insulation, electricity or running water. One of the cottages was built by the Oshawa Rotary Club and rented to the Red Cross for one dollar a year. The Red Cross operated it as a summer holiday cottage for wards of the Children’s Aid Society. As the years went on, these cottages slowly fell into disrepair as they were divided into apartments. The City decided that the only way to continue with expanding the park was to tear down the cottages when the leases ran out. The last tenants left in 1984. One of the last remaining cottages is was part of the Oshawa Museum complex. It was located beside the maintenance shed and is used as a storage unit for lumber and large articles until it was torn down in the winter of 2013.
Improvements and development of the park has continued since it was first deeded to the Town. In 1927, the Jubilee Pavilion opened to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of Confederation. It was well known for its nightly dances throughout the year, boasting the best dance floors in North America.
The Lady of the Lake statue and fountain, which today is located between the Museum buildings, was originally located to the west of the Jubilee Pavilion. City Council spent $4,778 on the statue of a nude nine year old girl; this caused quite the controversy as many citizens did not feel it was appropriate for public display. The statue was made in Italy and imported by Whitby Stafford Brothers Monumental Works. It was put into an illuminated pool in the park and dedicated on May 24, 1959, commemorating the gift of the pool by General Motors of Canada. It was relocated in the fall of 2001.
In the late 1970s, a long-range plan of park improvements was to be slowly set into motion. The initial plans included a new and much larger playground, recreation areas (including those designated for baseball and soccer), and the expansion of the road. One important addition was the brick walkway constructed in 1984, extending from the pier to the end of the park. A plaque bears the following inscription: “This boardwalk was constructed and dedicated for the enjoyment of our citizens as a remembrance of Oshawa’s 60th anniversary and Ontario’s bicentennial, 1984.”
Finally, in the summers of 1993 and 1994, finishing touches on the park were completed. The pier was reopened, the beach area had been improved, and – significantly – the roads and parking had been upgraded in 1990. The old Henry Street that ran between the three historic homes was gone, replaced by efficient walkways. In 1997, after the passing of Princess Diana, there was a suggestion to change the name to “Diana Lakeview Park,” but this did not come to fruition.
The Oshawa Museum is a proud feature of Lakeview Park. All museums buildings are on their original foundations, surprising many visitors who assume that they were moved at a later date. The Museum began with the opening of the Henry House Museum in 1960; Robinson House Museum opened in 1969, Guy House opened in 1985 as the administrative centre, and our Drive Shed beside Henry House was a 50th anniversary project for the Oshawa Historical Society, officially opening in 2009. The Henry House Gardens are used for programs and events and are home to the Ritson Pear Trees, Durham Region’s only heritage designated trees.
The City continues improvements to Lakeview Park through the years by adding more walkways, an additional gazebo, old fashioned street lights, many beautiful and bright gardens and hanging plants, and playground upgrades and improvements.
Lakeview Park has been enjoyed by citizens of Oshawa and beyond for over a century, and as we celebrate its 100th birthday, we cannot help but be reminded of summer days gone by, cold wintry winds off the lake, and an excitement for the future of this waterfront park.