King’s Park Paradox

King's Park Paradox | Alex Inspired

Joseph G. King was a prominent Port Arthur citizen and Businessman. He was known for his grain elevators and the innovative way that he handled poor, wet and soiled grain so it could be sold and used efficiently. His methods included grounding the refuse after it had been cleaned, and mixing it with a proportion of ground barley or other grain. This method was not only cost effective but also reduced waste and provided feed for farm animals.

King's Garden, Port Arthur Ontario - Alex Inspired

Today, King is most well known for his green thumb, with various documents illustrating his desire and dedication to the beautification of Port Arthur. His nickname “The Planter King” was associated with his desire to plant trees and shrubs on boulevards and beautify the urban landscape.

On February 1st, 1894, Joseph King was elected Chairman of the Port Arthur Board of Park Commissioners.

Along side him stood W.W. Russell as Secretary. As the new Chairman, King found the city of Port Arthur had an extensive amount of Parkland. In fact, he publicly stated that the expanse of parks built and proposed by former Mayor, Ruttan was too much; therefore these lands would be used otherwise.

“500 acres of park is a little too gigantic a scheme for a town of 3,000 people. Too much Future about it.”

Such a statement would hold such irony moving forward.

In 1899, King procured a large piece of property below the Algoma Street Bridge, from the McVicar family, which soon would become: “King’s Garden”. His property sprawled the bank of the McVicar Creek.

King's Park - A view from Court Street looking toward Algoma Street | Alex Inspired

Here he constructed bridges, pavilions, and pergolas with creeping vines, and manicured lawns. This land became a beautifully owned private park for King and his family. Although the backyard oasis began on private property, it sprawled further, with many walkers venturing onto the grounds.  An area within the property, “Lover’s Lane” was coined due to the romance, seclusion and wonderment the property provided.

King's Garden, Lover's Lane | Alex Inspired

The area grew in popularity, becoming a postcard sensation and tourist attraction.

What a bewildering turn of events from a man who only years before, cut parks and planning, claiming there was “too much future about it”. This man suddenly, idealized urban beautification through parks and personal example in construction of King’s Gardens around his McVicar Creek property.

Was Mr. King simply creating his own legacy?

Was he utilizing his powers of decision making to create a park for his own interest, leaving a lasting legacy through picture postcards and citizen’s memories?
Or did he simply have a change of heart? Perhaps parkland, gardens and natural beauty won him over in the long run and he was atoning for his past error?

King's Garden, Port Arthur Ontario | Alex Inspired

Whatever his reasoning, the sad paradox is this: King’s Garden no longer exists.

The park is a distant memory for a select few, an image captured on a postcard, listed on ebay. If King was indeed trying to leave behind a legacy, it didn’t work in his favour. Perhaps there was a power struggle or personal vendetta against Ex-Mayor Ruttan which King held, thus he gassed the parklands. Maybe King really didn’t see the need at that time to procure parkland and it was an honest lack of judgement?

Whatever reasoning, Port Arthur will continue to hold her secrets.  Maybe one day we will learn, there can never be “too much future” in the creation of our history.

Sources: The Internet Archive | Manitoba Morning Free Press, 02 Feb 1894, Fri • Page 1 | The Thunder Bay Museum | Thunder Bay Memories (Facebook) | Ebay

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1 Comment

  • Reply Mark Sippola December 9, 2022 at 10:48 pm

    I stumbled across your blog while searching for info on McVicar Creek. My mother grew up on Jean Street in the 30s. The last time I was in TBay I took a stroll down McVicar Creek to take a walk in her footsteps. I noticed a small concrete dam on the creek and wondered about it’s origins. Still searching for answers on that.
    I very much enjoy your vignettes on history.
    Thank you, and keep writing!

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