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Did Johnny Burke design Bannerman Park?

Archival Moment

May 9, 1891

Bannerman ParkOn April 11, 1891 the St. John’s Municipal Council posted in the Evening Telegram an advertisement (notice) inviting the people of the town to submit plans and specifications for the design of Bannerman Park.

The notice read:

“The Municipal Council being desirous of laying out the grounds of Bannerman Park in a tasteful and economical manner, invite plans and specifications for that purpose, and for the plan which they select a prize of $50.00 will be rewarded.”

The deadline for the completion was set for April 29, 1891 with all submissions being forwarded to W. KELLY, Secretary, at the Municipal Offices, on Duckworth Street.

The talk about the town was all about Bannerman Park and what it should look like in the future. Some of the questions that had been proposed included: Should there be a public hall in the park? Should some land lots be made available for housing? Should some of the park be allotted for the cricket teams? What type of trees and should the trees line the walkways or surround the perimeter of the park?

Those who entered into the design completion had only a short eighteen days to develop a concept and submit their proposal.

On May 9, 1891 the Municipal Council made known to the local papers the winner of the competition. Under the headline “A Laurel in Another Field”  the Evening Telegram declared that:

“Mr. John Burke, Prescott Street, has been awarded the first prize ($50) for the best design of laying out Bannerman Park.”

John Burke was better known in the town as Johnny Burke (1851–1930). A Newfoundland songwriter and musician from St. John’s nicknamed the ‘Bard of Prescott Street’. Burke earned his living at a variety of service jobs (grocer, salesman) and amateur theatrical positions (talent show producer, opera producer); he was also the proprietor of a cinema, and on two occasions a theatre manager. He is perhaps best known for his songs, such as Cod Liver Oil, The Trinity Cake, and The Kelligrew’s Soiree, they all remain popular to this day.

No one realized that he had design talents, a laurel in another field.

Recommended Reading: Stories About Bannerman Park: http://www.bannermanpark.ca/stories/

Recommended Action: Support the Garden of Memories in Bannerman Park: People who enjoy the park can contribute to the park‘s revitalization through by sponsoring various fixtures, flower gardens, and commemorative granite stones, which will be used for the pathways in the Garden. For more information: http://www.bannermanpark.ca/the-garden-of-memories-open-to-the-public/