Sun setting on Gage Park greenhouses
A half-century-old piece of Hamilton history is scheduled for demolition next week as a first step in a major plan to modernize Gage Park.
Seven decrepit greenhouses that were built during the 1950s will be knocked down, part of a $2.2-million project that will see all of the city-run plant-growing facilities massed under one roof.
“The old greenhouses are coming down and the new one is being put in. Those greenhouses were around when I was a kid,” said Councillor Bernie Morelli.
The Gage greenhouses, located in a city works yard on the eastern side of the park, had been used to grow flowers — including petunias, begonias and geraniums — to be transplanted on city-owned properties such as City Hall and traffic islands, as well as for use in the popular fall Mum Show.
Last year more than 240,000 plants were grown. This year, because of the impending demolition and construction, a greenhouse facility on the escarpment toward Grimsby has been rented by the city so that flower production would not be affected.
The new greenhouse is scheduled for completion this summer and will be used for the Mum Show.
“It is going to make things a lot easier. It is going to be more efficient and allow us to grow more flowers,” says Mike McNamara, manager of forestry and horticulture for the city’s public works department.
“One of the big problems is the boilers were over 50 years old and on their last legs. They were being held together with Band-Aids,” he said.
When the dust clears, the city will end up with 17,000 square feet of greenhouse space compared to the 15,000 there now.
There is also a tropical greenhouse in the city yard. But that will not be affected by the construction this year.
The Gage Park Master Plan calls for the tropical greenhouse to be eventually replaced as part of a central hub complex that will include an aviary (moved from Churchill Park) and a new children’s museum that will be relocated from its current address closer to Main Street. Costing and funding for those projects still has to be worked out.
“The idea is to maintain that which is good and revitalize it for contemporary times,” said Morelli, adding that redoing the fountain and sprucing up the bandshell are also part of long-term plans for the park.
Gage Park fast facts
• Was created on land that had previously been used for vegetable gardening and as an apple and pear orchard.
• Was named for its previous owner Robert Russell Gage (1840-1918), a prominent lawyer whose family was a major land owner in east Hamilton.
• The park covers 28.8 hectares (71 acres) and is seen by some to be Hamilton’s Central Park — as in Central Park, Manhattan — because it offers a large green space in the middle of urban sprawl.
• Gage Park is the second-largest park in lower Hamilton next to Confederation Park.
• The land was sold to the city for $320,000 in 1918, the equivalent of nearly $4 million in current dollars. The land formally became a park on Jan. 23, 1922.
• The Gage Park fountain was designed by architect John Lyle and completed in 1927.
• The current children’s museum was previously the Gage family home that was acquired by the city and made into the museum.
• The bandshell was constructed in 1947 and named in memory of Lieutenant George R. Robinson (1840-1917), a former bandmaster of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Regiment.
• In 1958, the public works yard and the greenhouse complex were added.