This week marks the 132nd anniversary of the opening of Canada’s first provincial park when Queen Victoria Park officially opened on May 24, 1888. Standing at the park entrance at Falls Avenue and Clifton Hill is Mowat Gate, named after Sir Oliver Mowat.
Sir Oliver Mowat holds the record for being Ontario’s Premier for the longest time when he served in that capacity for nearly 24 years, from 1872 to 1896. Born in Kingston in 1820, he became a lawyer before entering into politics. He was knighted in 1892 and also holds the distinction of being one of the Fathers of Confederation.
The reason that we might be familiar with Sir Oliver Mowat in this area is due to his involvement with the Queen Victoria Park Act of 1885. During the 1870s, the area surrounding Niagara Falls was becoming quite sordid with many rundown and derelict shacks competing for early tourism dollars. The term “tourist trap” was often used to describe the unsavoury ways in which the “peddlers and hucksters” would prey upon the unsuspecting tourists.
Spearheaded by Mr. Mowat, the Queen Victoria Park Act was signed on March 30, 1885. The act would ensure the preservation of the natural and unspoiled scenery around Niagara Falls. Almost immediately, workmen began to remove several of the unsightly and unwanted buildings within the borders of the park land. Gatehouses made of rustic cedar stood at each of the four entrances to Queen Victoria Park. It was decided that the main entrance gate on the north side of the park would be named Mowat Gate in honour of Sir Oliver Mowat and his contributions to the creation and preservation of the park.
In 1906 the wooden gateway was in dire need of repair and it was decided that replacing it with a more durable and permanent structure was ultimately necessary. Completed in 1907, the new gateway consisted of four impressive granite pillars. The two largest pillars were four feet square and fourteen feet high, and were topped with granite provincial arms that had been cut in full relief. Two smaller plain pillars were set a short distance apart on each side and were used to allow for pedestrian traffic.
As automobile travel increased in popularity, traffic congestion was a significant problem near the Gate and it was decided that the gate had to be moved. In 1936, the columns were dismantled and moved to their present location. Today, you can still read the inscription that was added in 1922 which reads “In commemoration of the great public service rendered to the Canadian people by the late, the Honourable, Sir Oliver Mowat, G.C.M.G., Prime Minister of the province of Ontario for 23 years, in the founding of this park.” Hopefully, we will all be able to get out and enjoy the beauty of Mowat Gate and Queen Victoria Park in the near future.
As an added note, the Niagara Falls Public Library has some exciting news to share! The library would like to thank everyone for keeping library items safe while our locations have been closed. We now need your help to get ready for our upcoming curbside pickup service by returning your materials to the library. Starting on Monday, May 25th, return boxes at all Niagara Falls Public Library locations will be open. Any returned items will remain on your library card until they are checked in after a quarantine period. If you cannot return your items at this time, we understand and please know that fines aren’t being charged for the items that you have been holding for us. As well, we would appreciate it if you do not place any donated items into the drop boxes, as we are not accepting donated items at this time. Curbside pickup is coming in June, please stay tuned to our website and social media channels for the latest information.
This week marks the 132nd anniversary of the opening of Canada’s first provincial park when Queen Victoria Park officially opened on May 24, 1888.
The Niagara Falls Public Library temporarily closed our doors at all four locations on Friday, March 13th 2020 until April 5th 2020. This was our immediate response to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and align with provincial measures to support social distancing.
The Niagara Falls Public Library is offering a wide range of Gardening, Health and Wellness programs this Spring! Join us Monday March 9th at 7pm as food writer Lynn Ogryzlo talks about the benefits and pitfalls of the Keto Diet. On Thursday March 5th at 7pm Master Gardener Kit Thompson will teach you how to make floral designs and arrangements with items from your garden.
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