A fascinating fairytale within Hamilton’s heritage, York Blvd.’s Memorial Garden Ruins – though not at all a building – are mysterious and wonderful.
Part of an area once considered only “wasteland” (now respected as Cootes Paradise) comprises the enchantingly rewilded “Sunken Garden” site on the south side of York Blvd. From its creation in 1930 until the late 1960’s when the widening of York Blvd lead to its partial destruction, this stunning garden conservatory was part of Hamilton’s claim to glory.
Founded primarily by Thomas McQueston – whose name you may recognize from commemoration at the York Blvd. bridge or McQueston Theatre within the RBG – the project challenged interests to have the precious ecological land filled or expanded for industrial uses. Instead, this lush wild space was successfully saved for what became the initial site for the Royal Botanical Garden during beautification efforts at Burlington Heights.
Designed by Canadian landscape architects H.B. and L.A. Dunnington-Grubb, the park developed to attract McMaster University during early talks of its location, but also to satisfy ornithological interests of local conservationists.
The Memorial Gardens were the majestic height of Hamilton’s York Boulevard, serving as an elevated retreat upon the promontory and celebratory welcome for incoming motorists. Pristinely manicured geometric landscaping and a stunning reflecting pool, symbolized Hamilton’s ambitions as a modern, forward-thinking, yet small city.
This incredible space also became integral to our city’s identity, eventually helping to secure McMaster University, which not only of course ended up in Hamilton but also used the Memorial Gardens as its main entrance way onto the campus! Imagine a version of McMaster that not only boasts a sprawling, biologically beautiful backyard, but whose campus grounds include a luxurious, mid-century futurist conservatory.
Now completely overgrown, an early summertime visit to the site offers incredible views westward, and a wizened sylvan nod to Hamilton’s past.
Amelia Herman, dpai