Bowring Park in St. John's: Tuesday Travels #8
It's safe to say that virtually every person living in any St. John's home in the 80 years or more has visited Bowring Park
at one time or another. No trip to the city is complete without a walk through its scenic boundaries. Unlike any other place in Newfoundland and Labrador, Bowring Park showcases exactly why you’d want to keep checking the latest real estate listings in St. John's! Winter, spring, summer, fall — every season of the year the park continues to attract thousands of visitors along its footpaths. You’ll want to come back often and do it all!
Before the area came to be known as the Bowring Park we know now, it was obtained from the Newfoundland Government in 1847 by William Thorburn. He turned the 50 acres into a successful farmland. The Crown Grant Land was later leased to the Neville family who formally named the property Rae Island Farm. In 1911, an established shipping firm, The Bowring Brothers, bought the land and commemorated their 100th business anniversary by offering St. John’s a recreational park as a token of appreciation to the local community, and construction began the following year. The park was officially declared open on July 15, 1914 by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught.
The Bowring Brothers commissioned landscape architect Frederick Todd of Montreal to head up the project, but it is said that the design and layout of the park was truly brought forth by fellow landscape architect, Rudolf H. Cochius. Cochius lived and worked in the park for several years before and after the opening. The land was chosen for its rich natural beauty, the perimeter beset by two rivers, the Waterford River and the Southbrook River. While the park was opened in 1914, it continued construction up until 1921 when it was formally given over to the city, and has continued to be under the care of the municipal government ever since. Development continued in the following decades to include some of the many fantastic features we get to enjoy today.
Bowring Park is home to a number of unique trees, shrubs and flowering plants. The original greenhouse, built in 1947 was turned into a Conservatory that hosts a number of traveling botanical exhibits and a popular butterfly exhibit. Walking trails, bike paths and bridges were built along the two rivers which converge at the Duck Pond, a picturesque place to enjoy feeding the ducks, swans and pigeons that inhabit the area.
There are a number of areas for leisure and sport activities. Crossing the vehicular bridge, families can take a refreshing dip at the park’s swimming pool, and young people come to enjoy the nearby skate park as well as the playground. Tennis courts, lawn bowling, and large open spaces such as the Bob Whelan Field provide ample opportunity for frisbee or football. In winter the sloping field is the perfect location for sledding.
Past the outdoor pool is the fountain pond, a wonderful site surrounded by a trail for walking and benches for relaxing. It was recently reconstructed through the efforts of The Bowring Park Foundation
, Husky Energy
, and the City of St. John's
. The pond is turned into a lovely skating area in the wintertime. South of this pond is Cabot Theatre, an amphitheatre constructed to commemorate Cabot’s 500th anniversary of his discovery of Newfoundland.
There are a number of statues and monuments around the park. The Fighting Newfoundlander honours the Newfoundland Regiment who fought bravely in World War I. The Caribou is a further tribute to these brave soldiers and is a replica of the original located at Beaumont Hamel, France. The Peter Pan statue located by the Duck Pond is in memory of Sir Edgar Bowring’s granddaughter, Betty Munn, who tragically died at the age of four, along with 94 other passengers, when the SS Florizel capsized during a violent storm. The statue serves as a fitting celebration of childhood.
There are still many more beautiful areas to explore while visiting Bowring Park. It truly is a gem in the middle of busy St. John's, so be sure to stop in with a handful of birdseed to feed a duck or two, or with a picnic lunch in tow. You’ll be sure to want to stay awhile.