This is an article that appeared in John Best's The Bay Observer, of July 2013 with a comprehensive description of the restoration work being done by Hamilton Parks with landscape architect Lawrence Stasiuk.Box 15-017 GAGE PARK RESTORATION ON TARGET: An article in The Bay Observer
Jul 9 2013
To: Whitehern Museum Archives Whitehern Museum Archives Hamilton, Ontario
From: THE BAY OBSERVER, Hamilton, Ontario
GAGE PARK RESTORATION ON TARGET
Posted by: John Best July 9, 2013.
Lawrence Stasiuk makes no bones about it--he loves his job. As a landscape architect in the Hamilton Parks system he has worked on some exciting and satisfying projects, but nothing to compare with the project he is overseeing at Hamilton's Gage Park. Stasiuk is supervising the rebuilding of the terrace and formal gardens that surround the historic Gage Park fountain and connect it to Main Street. It's all part of the Gage Park Master Plan that was approved in 2005 and has already brought about significant changes in the street view of the historic park.
The Gage Park fountain was largely restored last year under the supervision of Therese Charbonneau with the re-installation of the cherub-decorated centre cylinder which had been removed thirty years ago because the fountain plumbing was inadequate to provide sufficient water pressure to make it work properly. Stasiuk now is turning his attention to trying to make the fountain plaza a dignified space that is accessible to personals of all ages and states of mobility.
In addition there will be the addition of formal gardens around the fountain, something that is more in keeping with the vision of the Park's first landscape architects Howard and Lorrie Dunnington-Grubb. "We are trying to preserve key elements of their style, while recognizing that there have been big changes in the park since the mid 1920s," said Stasiuk. The plan calls for flower beds surrounded by low boxwood hedges surrounding the sides and back of the fountain facing south. This will replace the towering beech hedges which provided shade and privacy but also acted as cover for the vandals whose handiwork had nearly destroyed the decorative features of the fountain. Now the fountain will be visible from all sides, much as it was when first installed. Seferian Design Group was selected for the terraces redevelopment project. Haig Seferian and Meredith Plant (BLA, GRP), and the Seferian Design Group team created a design that allows for ramp accessibility through the fountain terraces. New formal gardens have been designed with mass plantings that will reflect a modern twist on the Beaux Arts style, including native grasses and drought tolerant species. Monolithic paving was also implemented to reduce instances of vandalism.
There are many other plans for upgrading Gage Park. The Master Plan calls for the paving of the major roadways in the park to allow greater access for pedestrians, especially those who are using scooters or other walking assistance devices. The paved roadways will also require less maintenance than the limestone aggregate that is currently in place.
Gage Park occupies a unique place in Canadian horticulture in that it serves as a kind of living museum of the City beautiful Movement that sprung up in the late 19th and early 20th century. City Beautiful proponents believed that parks and formally designed buildings and streetscapes had the power to elevate the masses socially and spiritually. In Gage Park we see the handiwork of some of Canada's pioneer city planners, designers, landscape architects and artists. At the centre of it all in Hamilton was Thomas Baker McQuesten, who as a member of Hamilton City Council proposed the purchase of the Gage Property for a park, and then assembled the team of creative people who brought it to fruition. He started with the town planner Noulan Cauchon who saw parks as the "lungs of the city," and who promoted the widespread use of green space to improve the habitability of the industrial town. The Dunnington Grubb's laid out the park with the blend of formal gardens and open space that persists to today. Architect John Lyle brought his Ecole des Beaux Arts training to the design of the Gage Park Fountain, and enlisted Canadian sculptresses Frances Loring and Florence Wyle to decorate the fountain with the iconic turtles and ducks which survive today. Long before the Royal Botanical Gardens (another McQuesten concept) came into existence, Gage Park became something of an arboretum. Even today it boasts more than one hundred varieties of trees.
1 John C. Best is the owner, publisher and president of The Bay Observer. His book: Thomas Baker McQuesten: Public Works, Politics and Imagination (Corinth Press 1991) is highly regarded. Best has continued his research into the McQuesten family and has written and published many articles on the McQuestens and the museum that was formerly their home, Whitehern Historic House and Garden, in Hamilton.