In 1893, an Act of the NB Provincial Legislature incorporated the Saint John Horticultural Association (SJHA) 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 prominent Saint John citizens started what would become decades of searching out and acquiring properties surrounding Lily Lake. By 1897 when a tea house was built, the “Gardens and a Park and Pleasure Resort” authorized by the Act were well underway.
For 75 years, the SJHA managed the still-growing Rockwood Park. By 1907, advertisements boasted a Refreshment Pavilion, Ferris Wheel, Automatic Swings, a Merry-go-round and Boating. Historic photographs on display at the Lily Lake Pavilion show crowds picnicking, cycling, swimming, skating, and using the massive wooden ‘Shoot the Chutes’ waterslide.
In 1967, the SJHA gifted Rockwood Park to the City of Saint John and transferred legal ownership. The Association continued managing the Public Garden and running the Rockwood Park Campground as a service for the City and to offset operating costs at the Garden. A registered non-profit organization, the SJHA also generates revenue from selling bedding plants and flowers, charging a fee for wedding and graduation bookings, giving group tours of the greenhouses, and gratefully accepting public donations.
Today, the SJHA continues to ensure that the land acquired so long ago “shall forever be held and enjoyed solely for the purpose of a Public Park and Gardens” as mandated in the original Act. Thanks to the farsighted vision of local citizens more than 125 years ago, Saint John residents and visitors continue to enjoy an oasis of tranquility and the beauty of nature in the heart of the City.
Want to know more about the SJHA and Rockwood Park 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