by Bev Wagar
Our home-before-Hamilton was an old wooden farmhouse on an acre of land intended to fulfill my pastoral dream, which included a whole lot of gardens and a greenhouse. My greenhouse was small, unheated (although I did try, and fail, with natural heat from a manure pile) and inexpensively built from a garage kit. I was proud of building that thing—the cross-bracing, the vents, the automatic temperature-controlled window. I always worried it would blow away with every storm (it never did) but I loved that greenhouse, especially in April. Eventually, I learned how to keep the seedlings warm at night and it was a wonderful place of refuge on cold sunny days.
After moving to Crown Point I was happy to have a “real” greenhouse a few blocks away in Gage Park. Like a Victorian museum, it had a lot of stuff crammed into a small space. There were caged birds and palm trees trying to burst through the ceiling. For me, greenhouses are functional: places to grow plants for a garden, not heated jails for exotic tropicals in a foreign land. Despite its weirdness, the Gage Park greenhouse became a welcome refuge when winter had outstayed its welcome. I was intrigued by it—a structure once reserved for nobility who wanted to eat cucumbers in December, quietly hiding out in east Hamilton.
Gage Park is a century old. A year after acquiring the land in 1918, the City of Hamilton began constructing the greenhouses to grow flowers for the city’s many public parks and monuments. As well, an affluent, ambitious industrial town needed grand public spaces and awe-inspiring gardens. It may be difficult to imagine the civic pride, duty, and even competitiveness that motivated council members and industry leaders at the time.
When I spoke with Ward 3 councillor Matthew Green about the greenhouse reconstruction project, his enthusiasm suggested that this kind of civic spirit was still alive and well.
Read the rest of the story with your copy of The Point coming in February.
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