Noted Landscape Architect Frederick Law Olmsted Designs Montebello Park
William Hamilton Merritt, Jr., intended to build his home where Montebello Park is today. However, he died suddenly in 1860. For the next quarter century the Merritts allowed city residents to use the property for gardening, recreation, and major community events.
In 1887 Council voted to establish the city’s first public park and chose the Merritt property as its site. To design the park, the City consulted with noted American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Mount Royal Park in Montreal and Central Park in New York City. Montebello Park was the first and only public park in Ontario designed by Olmsted.
The Park’s pavilion was added in 1888, the band stand in 1904, and the rose garden in 1919.
Although roses were planted in the park at an earlier date, the rose garden itself was not created until 1919. The rose, a Duchess of Wellington, was donated by Mr. W.B. Burgoyne.
Burgoyne, in addition to being the founder of the St. Catharines Horticultural Society, was instrumental in the planning and creation of the civic rose garden over 100 years ago.
In 1921, the Canadian National Railway organized a tour of St. Catharines for the Toronto press which featured a stop at the civic rose garden in The Garden City. The press of the day described the young garden as “now a mass of bloom set off against a background of Dominion and lacy cut-leaf maples.”
Today, more than 1300 rose bushes are on display every summer in the northwest corner of the park between the children’s play area and the Pavilion. The vibrant roses are an integral part of the experience of an urban oasis where children laugh, music plays and festivals are enjoyed every year.
During its 127 years of existence, Montebello Park has become a beloved part of the city’s life.