In 1893, an Act of the NB Provincial Legislature incorporated the Saint John Horticultural Association for “the establishment and maintenance of public gardens, and the encouraging of the cultivation of flowers and planting of trees in the City of Saint John.” A volunteer Board of Saint John citizens started searching out and acquiring properties surrounding Lily Lake until the Park eventually reached from Marsh Creek to Millidgeville.
By 1897, the “Gardens and a Park and Pleasure Resort” authorized by the Act were well underway. The people of Saint John voted to name the Park ‘Rockwood’, and by 1907, advertisements boasted a Refreshment Pavilion, a Ferris Wheel, Automatic Swings, a Merry-go-round, and Boating for the enjoyment of locals and visitors. Historic photographs on display at the Lily Lake Pavilion show crowds picnicking, cycling, swimming, skating, and using a massive wooden ‘Shoot the Chutes’ waterslide.
For 75 years, the Saint John Horticultural Association managed Rockwood Park. In 1967, with Canada’s Centennial celebrations providing funding for cities to work on public spaces, the Association transferred legal ownership of Rockwood Park to the City of Saint John.
The Saint John Horticultural Association continues to own and manage the Public Gardens on Seely Street and the Rockwood Park Campground as part of the Park amenities. A registered non-profit organization, the Association generates operating revenue from Campground fees, bedding plant and flower sales, and nominal fees for wedding and graduation bookings in the Gardens. The Association also gratefully accepts donations and provides charitable tax receipts.
Today, the Saint John Horticultural Association continues to help ensure that Rockwood Park “shall forever be held and enjoyed solely for the purpose of a Public Park and Gardens” as mandated in the original 1893 Act. Thanks to the farsighted vision of Saint John citizens more than 125 years ago, residents and visitors can continue to enjoy the beauty of nature in the heart of the City.
Want to know more about the Saint John Horticultural Association in the early days? Check out the CBC story “Rockwood Park’s history told through century-old photos, documents” at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/rockwood-park-history-1.3537092