A brief history of a brief Maple Leaf Park

Crown Point once hosted an amusement park at the corner of Ottawa and Barton Streets and neither Enock the Man Fish nor Hardy the High Wire King could save it.

It all began with a “Driving Park” opened on the land bounded by Ottawa, Cannon, Rosslyn and Barton in the mid-1880s by Simon James. The park held Horse races and other events on its quarter-mile track until the Hamilton Jockey Club opened in 1893.  Then, in 1906, George A. Truman opened the Driving Park Hotel at 1078 Barton Street and adjacent to James Park. The inn catered mostly to the jockey club crowd and people travelling to and from the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. On the grounds of the park Truman held sporting events including bicycle and foot races as well as baseball games. A crowd favourite was the Boston Bloomer Girls, a barnstorming team of female baseball players who toured the continent. 

The next year, in 1907, a group of American businessmen chose the Driving Park to be the future home of the Maple Leaf Amusement Park which was to be built in the style of New York’s Coney Island. Construction began in early spring of that year and the amusement park opened two years later in the summer of 1909. On the opening day, at 3 p.m., a Union Jack was unfurled and the Thirteenth Regiment Band played the national anthem to mark the occasion. Present at the opening were Wentworth County councilors and Hamilton aldermen who arrived at the park in a specially outfitted Hamilton Street Railway car.

After the formal ceremonies, more than 20,000 people entered off Barton Street through the park’s castle-like façade. The opening day crowd was treated to a wild west show that featured May Cody, the sister of the famous Buffalo Bill Cody. A large fireworks display capped off a successful first day. Guests of Maple Leaf Park enjoyed a midway, a miniature steam railroad, a shooting gallery, a photographic studio and several ice cream parlours. There was also a carousel, a figure-8 roller coaster, and a structure known as Katzenjammers Castle.

As the summer of 1909 went on fewer and fewer people visited the Park due to poor weather and the rebuilding of the street rail line on Barton. To draw customers back, the owners added shows like Enock the Man Fish and Hardy the High Wire King, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The park closed that Labour Day and never reopened.

After weeks of negotiation the land was sold to developers for $25,000. In 1910 the Maple Leaf Park survey was registered with the city and the land was divided into building lots. The only remaining structure, the Driving Park Hotel, closed in 1919 due to the enactment of prohibition.

[layerslider id=”12″]

Leave a Reply