The Oshawa Metropolis Council awards two main landmarks to the town’s historic monuments
The Oshawa City Council has named two major city landmarks as cultural heritage sites.
The council, at its meeting on March 29, 2021, approved a heritage award for the entire Lakeview Park and Second Marsh under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Regional and City Councilor Brian Nicholson says this is a “signature motion” for the city to preserve these sites, stating that the community’s response in support of the designations has been universal.
Jane Clark, Oshawa resident and heritage advocate, says these heritage labels are a “step forward in preserving Oshawa’s cultural heritage.”
She says these two lakeside properties together tell the story of the city’s early days – its settlers, industries and forms of recreation, and in the case of Second Marsh, its indigenous past.
“Heritage preservation ensures that our heritage resources are protected so that future Oshawa residents can learn from and enjoy them,” says Clark. “These irreplaceable qualities and their stories help to preserve not only the history of our community, but also its identity and its sense of place.”
Clark notes that a full heritage designation protects such traits by determining which aspects are important to the community and should be preserved in the future.
Lakeview Park covers approximately 28 acres or 69 acres of urban parkland at the end of Simcoe Street South on the shores of Lake Ontario.
Established in 1920, Lakeview Park contains many identifiable features including Lakeview Park Beach, Pioneer Cemetery, Oshawa Museum, and its three historic homes – Guy, Robinson, and Henry Houses – the Jubilee Pavilion, and extensive passive and active recreation areas, including Jim Lutton Legion Field, Ted Stone Field and Ted McComb Field.
“Lakeview Park is an excellent example of an early 20th century urban park on Lake Ontario, a gem in the city of Oshawa that includes several historic buildings and structures, a cemetery, extensive landscaping, and both active and passive recreational facilities,” said it further report.
Specifically, Lakeview Park is said to be culturally significant to its relationship with the development of the adjacent harbor in the early 19th century, according to the report; his relationship with the Scugog Carrying Place-Portage; its association with General Motors of Canada as well as the McLaughlin family; and its relationship with the Oshawa Museum and the Oshawa Historical Society.
In addition, Lakeview Park is associated with prominent early settlers and city founders such as Benjamin Wilson, Oshawa’s first settler of European descent.
Lakeview Park is home to Robinson, Guy, and Henry Houses, three of the city’s earliest residential buildings in close proximity, with their unique architecture that includes Dutch Colonial, Georgian, and Regency architectural styles.
The Jubilee Pavilion, built in 1927, is another major landmark in Lakeview Park. It was built to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.
Lakeview Park is also home to many historical monuments, including the Gordon Conant plaque, the Little Lady of the Lake Fountain, the bandstand, and the Pioneer Cemetery, which contains a tombstone pile, various headstones of early settlers, and a plaque for Benjamin Wilson on the Buried cemetery.
The council instructed staff to carry out the process of naming the second march at its February 2020 meeting.
Second Marsh is a 137-acre coastal wetland on the north shore of Lake Ontario east of the port of Oshawa.
According to a city report, Second Marsh and its surrounding land encompass a variety of habitat types, such as meadow, tree, open water and ponds that form a “complex biological and hydrological system for a variety of species.”
As one of the best remaining examples of coastal wetlands in Southern Ontario, Second Marsh has been designated by the province as a Provincial Wetland and Life Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest.
According to the report, there are several key features of Second Marsh’s legacy that reflect its value as an important link in Oshawa’s history, including Second Marsh’s connection and its adjacent landscape with many of Oshawa’s founding families and their commercial endeavors, including the Wilsons, the Farewells, the Conants, the Woons, the Beatons and the Giffords.
The report also notes the naturally occurring barrier beach and views of the harbor, Gifford Hill, Lakeview Park, and Bonnie Brae Point, as well as the extent of the natural vegetation.
By 2020, 588 plant species had been identified in the Second Marsh – eight provincially significant and 136 regionally eradicated, rare and unusual.
In addition, the high diversity of wildlife, including 288 species of birds identified as of 2020, as the wetland is on the Atlantic flight route and is therefore an important resting and nesting area for waterfowl.
There are also 32 species of mammals and numerous species of fish identified in the Second Marsh.
The Second Marsh is also home to a network of walking trails, boardwalks, and observation decks with connections to other natural coastal features such as Darlington Provincial Park and McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve.
Clark says the Oshawa community understands the many benefits of preserving its cultural heritage, including supporting the economy, attracting visitors, contributing to the city’s character, strengthening its identity, and communicating pride in the community.
“A Heritage List under the Ontario Heritage Act protects properties like this that support our shared identity and enables the city to manage change for the benefit of all,” she says.
Clark notes that the naming doesn’t block change, but rather helps identify which parts of the city are important to the community so that those stories can live on.
Compared to the neighboring communities of Oshawa, however, Oshawa has a “relatively poor record of monument preservation”.
Although the importance of protecting the architectural heritage of Oshawa is anchored in the city’s official plan, Clark believes the administration has been “reluctant” to preserve its landmarks.
She says repurposing a property is a good option for the city.
“Many properties are located in sought-after areas and on spacious plots. They attract builders who are more interested in reaping the value of the land itself than protecting the value of the historical resource it stands on, ”continues Clark. “As a result, conservationists often have to act quickly to try to protect properties that the city has not proactively protected through designation.”
Clark says those working to identify and preserve Oshawa’s cultural heritage are delighted that the city now includes not just Lakeview Park and Second Marsh, but Robert McLaughlin House and South Field at Oshawa Executive Airport – Oshawa’s first Heritage Conservation – designated district – among other things.
“These are good steps,” she says. “We hope that the city will decide to expand its conservation policies and proactively manage changes so that heritage assets can be identified and protected for the benefit and enjoyment of Oshawa’s current and future generations, despite their own property.”