September 8, 1898
In September of 1898 two factions in St. John’s were looking to control property in the town known as ‘The Parade Ground’. The property, now the site of “The Rooms” was of interest to two groups, “the sports enthusiasts” who wanted the grounds converted into sports fields and those that wanted to see a park established on the site.
Those supporting the concept of establishing sports fields on the Parade Grounds were well organized; they had the support of the local member of the House of Assembly and the support of the athletic clubs of the city. Trumpeting the idea of a park were the neighboring residents.
In 1898 the Municipality St. John’s was expanding, there was a move away from the downtown core (following the Great Fire of 1892) two new neighborhoods that were emerging “the Cookstown and LeMarchant Road districts.” These new neighborhoods many argued should have a park. Writing under the pen name “Demos “ on September 8, 1898, he wrote that there should be a park on the Parade Grounds, like Bannerman and Victoria Parks. A park:
“for the benefit of the people on the higher levels and the central part of the city, on the same footing as a place of recreation, like Bannerman and Victoria Parks are for the welfare of the people of the East and West ends of the town. “
Demos felt strongly that this new neighborhood should have a park for:
“The aged, the infirm, and children under the care of servants, (that) cannot conveniently go to Bannerman and Victoria Parks, and are dependent, on the Parade Ground as a place of rest and recreation. This dependence will increase more and more with the spread of population in the Cookstown and LeMarchant Road districts.”
Demos, in his letter to the local newspaper argued that people were moving into the Parade Ground neighborhood because they had access to “ this open space” that:
“ formed a reason for the purchase or lease of the neighboring real estate and the building of their houses thereon by the residents of the locality, and their right of liberty of resort to the Parade Ground at all times cannot in equity be infringed upon…. “
The general sentiment in the neighborhood was that it would be rash to deed the Parade Grounds “to an irresponsible company of ball-players.”
The residents of the area had some definite ideas, they wanted nothing less than “the embellishment of the Parade Ground “they wanted a care taker for the grounds, the planting of grass, a few clumps of trees, winding walks and benches and seating area.”
It took some time (118 years) but with the official opening of the Fortis Courtyard and Amphitheatre at the Rooms on July 1, 2016 what were the Parade Grounds are now “the place of recreation” originally proposed on September 8, 1898.
Explanation: Typically in the 19th century most people in Newfoundland used a pen name when writing letters to the Editor. “Demos “ is a Greek term – meaning for the populace of a democracy as a political unit.
Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database for descriptions of our archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. – https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections . In the search bar type “Parade Grounds”.