Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Central (Memorial) Park is a formally designed park with, Edwardian-era landscape dating to 1912. It comprises an entire city block (1.77-hectare site) located immediately south of downtown Calgary in a mixed-use commercial and residential area of the Beltline neighbourhood. The park includes a strictly symmetrical layout with elaborately designed beds, paths, lawns, specimen plantings, and numerous monuments and memorials. An impressive Beaux Arts-style library (1912) occupies the east end of the park. The park was rehabilitated and reopened in 2010; a washroom-office pavilion and a restaurant pavilion were added as part of the rehabilitation.
Central (Memorial) Park, originally known as Central Park, represents the second oldest park in Calgary. It was acquired by the Town of Calgary for park use in 1889, four years after Mewata Park -- Calgary's first dedicated parkland. Designation of the parcel for park use was a condition of its transfer from the Canada Northwest Land Co. (a Canadian Pacific Railway subsidiary) to the Town to resolve a taxation dispute. The site remained undeveloped and served as a municipal tree nursery until about 1906 when it began to take form with the erection of a bandstand and some basic landscaping. By about 1908, the site was landscaped with paths and plantings to create an 'ornamental park'. In 1912 the park was redesigned by the Superintendent of Parks, Richard Iwersen, in a formal arrangement to include the new library.
Central (Memorial) Park is valued as a pre-eminent example in Canada of formal Edwardian-era landscape design with a strict symmetrical arrangement of paths, beds, and lawns. The park is a Calgary showpiece, being singularly unique for its high degree of historical integrity and type of design. The centre of the park is distinguished by circular and geometric carpet (flower) beds, topiary spruce, specimen trees, lawns and paths - the Boer War monument (1914) known as 'The Horseman of the Plains' serves as the focal point. The carpet beds consist of showy and exotic plants and brilliantly coloured annuals, which follow the park's historic planting records. The topiary spruce are extremely rare in Alberta with no other examples known to exist in the Province dating from the Edwardian era. Making up the rest of the park is the library, lawns, additional paths and edges of shrubs and trees. In 1928 the design was revised to incorporate a cenotaph and plaza at the west end of the park to memorialize World War One.
Due to the central location of the park, its impressive design, and its historic civic and cultural uses, Central (Memorial) Park possesses heritage value as a city landmark. From at least c.1906, the park was used as a ceremonial, gathering and cultural space hosting concerts, celebrations and other displays, as well as being a place of passive leisure. With completion of the library, new band shell, and the park's redesign in 1912, the park's status as a cultural space was further solidified. It subsequently became the community's showcase for numerous monuments, memorials and works of public art. In addition to the 1928 cenotaph, the Boer War monument - designed by the renowned Parliament Hill sculptor, Louis-Philippe Hebert - is prized as one of the most impressive works of historic sculpture in Calgary, and the earliest civic art commission. A fine World War One monument (1924) with a bronze statue of a soldier by Coeur de Lion MacCarthy stands in front of the library.
With the situation of the cenotaph and other memorials in the park, the site has become historically significant for the events which occur in the park, particularly the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies, initiated at the site 1928. With the placement of the cenotaph, the name of the park was changed to 'Memorial Park'. The park has also been a place of celebration and was the site of the municipal Christmas tree.
The park had a substantial historical influence on the urban development pattern of early Calgary. Due to its central location close to residential areas, its vicinity became an exclusive residential area in early Calgary. Early area property owners assumed that their properties would enjoy a handsomely developed neighbouring park, although this did not begin to materialize until about 1906. Surrounding the park were some of Calgary's finest homes, apartment blocks, and churches including the residences of 'cattle king', Patrick Burns (1903), brick maker, E.H. Crandell (c. 1904), grain trader, John McFarland, and N.W.M.P. officer Capt. Fred Bagley; the Marlborough Apartments (1908); and First Baptist Church (1911).
- 1.77-hectare, full-block size;
- flat site character;
- strictly symmetrical placement of paths, lawns, carpet beds, and plantings;
- oval formal garden area with granular-paved paths, carpet beds consisting of circular and geometric designs, lawns, two fountain areas, 'Horseman of the Plains' monument with bronze sculpture on a granite plinth (1914), federal geodesic survey marker (1928), weeping caraganas, and continued use of plantings comprising brilliantly coloured annuals (from park's historic records), showy (exotic) palms, and abundant tulips;
- paths outside the formal garden as per the historic plan; elliptical sidewalk in front of library with Colorado Blue Spruce plantings on the inner edge of the walk and along Second Street SW ;
- abundant plantings of poplar and shrubbery such as lilac, honey suckle, and pin cherry along edges (north and south);
- granite cenotaph with paved plaza and ceremonial granite benches (1928);
- other monuments and memorials and their placement including the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire World War One monument with a bronze statue and tablet on a concrete plinth (1924); granite drinking water fountain commemorating 50th Battalion of World War One (1930); Richard B. Bennett memorial consisting of a granite plinth and bronze tablet (1953); 'Eternal Flame' centennial commemorative lantern on iron post (1967); Royal Canadian Legion granite commemorative medallion (1994); granite Burma Star World War Two memorial (1996); Australia and New Zealand Airmen World War Two memorial (2004);
- Beaux Arts-style sandstone library (1912) and its integration into the site;
- views from the library over the park; and
- annual Remembrance Day ceremonial use.