Photo Du JourWindsor

Park Surprise

It’s not very often that a building nerd like myself can stumble across something new in this City, but a bike ride Saturday afternoon led to my discovery of this great architectural treasure.

Tucked in a back corner of Memorial park, and well vandalized, I spied this great restroom building.

I don’t really know anything about the building other than it appears to have some prairie style architectural influences in the brick work, but with a more traditional mid 1920’s roof.

Nearby this manhole cover is dated, 1926. Probably a safe guess for the date of construction of the restroom building.

Inside the walls are covered in a glazed tile.

Without a doubt a unique structure in the city, and a pleasant surprise to find. Even when you think you’ve seen it all a hundred times sometimes something can surprise you.

A brief history of Memorial Park:

Optimist-Memorial Park
Commonly known as: Memorial Park, Optimist Park, Optimist-Memorial Park
Former/other names: Senator Kennedy Park
Location: along Ypres Boulevard, between Elsmere and Gladstone Avenues
Property acquired: 1925; 1949
Acreage: 34.14 (Memorial); 17.44 (Optimist)
Official designation: Community park

Originally named Senator Kennedy Park, Memorial Park was first established in 1925. The site was more like a nature reserve than a recreational park, boasting a magnificent stand of mature oak trees. Various other trees were also present and read like the appendix in a forestry manual: soft maple, white ash, walnut, red cedar, spruce, pine, basswood, wild cherry, witch hazel, thorn apple, elm, hickory, silver maple, and wild crab apple.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of them were seriously diseased and Windsor’s Board of Parks Management had to weed out these layers of blighted underbrush. Except for a few healthy, young elms, which were transplanted along City streets, and several uniquely shaped trees, the area was almost totally thinned out. As a result of this stewardship, there are approximately 2,000 oak trees presently growing in the park’s vicinity.

The City spent $82,000 to acquire the first 32 acres of Memorial Park, adding an additional 10 acres over the next few years. In 1927, an unobtrusive drainage system was completed, allowing the natural setting at the park to remain relatively undisturbed. That same year, the Essex Real Estate Board, which had lent the City a professional hand in the initial 1925 land transaction, donated $2,700 in order to construct a sweeping, brick and stone pillared entranceway to the park.

In 1939, the City acquired an additional 20 acres of land. Located east of Howard Avenue between Memorial Drive and the C.P.R. tracks, this property was the final piece in the Memorial Park puzzle. Baseball and softball diamonds were laid out and a multi-purpose (soccer/football/rugby) field was established. At the same time, a tree nursery on the west side of the park was already flourishing, containing over 6,000 trees.

Optimist Park was developed as an extension of Memorial Park in 1949. The Optimist Club, an organization that has for many years generously supported youth sports in Windsor, was the driving force behind the park’s creation. In 1954, The Frank L. Mallory Optimist Rink was built, thanks in part to a $35,000 donation by the Optimist Club. In 1974, the Optimist Community Centre was officially opened, and it quickly established itself as an integral part of both the South Walkerville community and the Memorial-Optimist Park complex.

In 1996, the Goodwin Family donated $12,000 for a picnic shelter in Memorial Park. The donation represented a memorial for John Goodwin’s late wife, Helen. The Goodwins lived in Windsor for a number of years and spent time with their children in Windsor Parks during the late 40’s and early 50’s. A memorial plate is in the park to acknowledge the donation to the park.
Today, Memorial and Optimist Parks provide more than 50 acres of diverse, community-scale parkland to the area. Available facilities normally include a variety of playground equipment, a picnic shelter, plus a softball diamond, cricket pitch, sand volleyball area, and a toboggan hill.

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