One of Hamilton’s most iconic, historical and cultural landscapes, Gage Park is a landmark 71-acre open space located in the city's Delta West neighbourhood, built in a style reflective of the Canadian City Beautiful movement of the 1920s.
Robert Russell Gage (1840-1918), a prominent Hamilton lawyer, owned the land, which housed apple and pear orchards. Tom McQuesten handled the final negotiations for the majority of the land to be sold to the City for $320,000 in 1918, the equivalent of $4.9 million in 2017. The greenhouses were constructed in 1919 and the land formally became a park on January 23, 1922.
In 1920 designer team Howard and Laurie Dunnington-Grubb were commissioned by the Board of Parks for $10,000 to commence work on Gage Park. Howard Grubb, often called the father of landscape architecture in Canada, prepared a master plan for the park that contained a formal garden adjacent to Main Street and large vistas of open space encircled by carefully planted trees of many varieties. The original rose garden was planted in April of that year, where the tennis courts are currently. The tennis courts were opened to the public in 1924.
Eugenia Gage, daughter or Robert and Hannah Gage, fought to secure the park’s name in her parent’s memory through a substantial $20,000 donation in 1926 for a memorial fountain. The fountain was designed by architect John Lyle and completed in 1927. John Lyle had attended the Hamilton School of Art, the Yale School of Arts and L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Lyle is best known locally for his design of the High Level Bridge (now the Thomas B. McQuesten Bridge) and as the architect of Toronto’s Union Station and Alexandra Theatre.
In 1935, Tom McQuesten hired Matt Broman to continue to prepare plans for the completion of Gage Park such as the Brick Pergola on the west end of the formal garden. Following the death of Eugenia Gage, the Gage family home and remaining property was acquired by the City. The family home, known as ‘The Retreat’ is the current facility for the Children’s Museum. In 1947 the band shell was constructed and named in memory of Lieutenant George R. Robinson (1840-1917), a former bandmaster of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Regiment. Free Sunday concerts became a popular attraction.
Gage Park contributes year-round in the quality-of-life factor for the adjacent neighbourhoods. It makes the inner-city neighbourhoods more livable, it offers recreation opportunities for at-risk youth, low-income families and it provides places where neighbours can feel a sense of community.
Gage Park was selected as the recipient of the inaugural Canadian Society of Landscape Architects' Legacy Project Award (2016). The CSLA Legacy Project Award is intended to recognize distinguished landscape architecture projects which were forward-thinking for their time, contribute significantly to their communities, showed leadership and innovation and are still relevant examples of excellence in the profession of landscape architecture. This award honours projects which have left and continue to leave a lasting impact on Canada’s landscape. Gage Park is the first project to receive the CSLA’s Legacy Project Award.