The birth of Victoria Park in Cobourg
By: Ciara Ward, B.A.H., MLIS - archivist with CDHS Archives - Northumberland News, March 3, 2011
The story of how Cobourg became a town is intertwined with the story of how Victoria Park came to be.
Cobourg is generally agreed to have been founded in the late 1700s when settlers began to move in and clear lots of land to build their homes. The earliest record we have pertaining to Victoria Park dates back to 1824, when the land was mentioned in a collection of reminiscences. The description outlines the usage of the beach and harbour fronts as a camp site for the numerous British and Irish immigrants who were waiting to clear land to build their own homes.
The half moon-shaped harbour made it possible for groups travelling by boat to stop easily along the lake. During this period of settlement, the immigrants who camped along the beach and harbour wore a bridle path through what we know today as Victoria Park, toward King Street West, in the course of building their homes.
In 1837 the Town of Cobourg was incorporated, and formal Town boundaries were set. Including those for Cobourg's waterfront shoreline, the boundaries totalled almost 3.5 kilometres. At that time, the beach was mostly limestone rocks and clay, but over time more sandy areas developed as the shoreline was scoured for limestone chunks which could be used in the construction of house foundations.
The grassy area which makes up today's Victoria Park was dense forest land full of cedar trees and shrubs. This land was presented the land to the Town, for the purpose of a community park. By 1894 the land had been cleared and Victoria Park was born. Over the years, more land was added to the park. At one time hotels lined the King Street end of the park. It was with the tremendous effort of interested citizens that when these properties were demolished, these were the properties added to the park land.
In 1902, a bandstand was constructed at the corner of Queen and McGill streets. By 1933, the structure was deemed unsafe and on Aug. 5, 1934, Mayor Jack Delanty opened the new shell-shaped Bandshell (designed by Percy Climo) in Victoria Park, with the Cobourg Kiltie Band playing. This was one of the first bandshells in Ontario to open, and it preceded Toronto's by two years (Photo right).
As the years went on other structures were built and taken down. In 1907, the Lawn Bowlers' Club was formed, and members chose Victoria Park as the perfect location for their club house, where it remains to this day.
In 1919, an additional pavilion (sometimes referred to as the 'Pav') was built in Victoria Park, funded by Mrs. Tracy and Mrs. Spear, along with some individuals belonging to what has commonly become known as the "American Summer Colony". This dance pavilion was located where the miniature golf course is located today; it was very popular between the 1940s and 1960s. The dance pavilion gave locals a place to enjoy music, meet new people and form new friendships, as well as dance the night away while enjoying the beach front.
It was closed on April 24, 1976, bringing a favourite tradition to an end. Cobourg's Victoria Park continues to flourish.