Description of Historic Place
Located at 25 Wilson Avenue, Labatt Memorial Park is situated on the east side of Wilson Avenue, west of the Thames River and north of Riverside Drive, in the former Village of London West, in the City of London. The property consists of a baseball diamond, a grandstand and bleachers that were constructed in 1877 and renovated in 1990.
The property was designated by the City of London in 1994 for its heritage value under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law L.S.P.-3237-544). The By-law was amended in 1996 to include the clapboard clad Roy McKay Clubhouse.
Labatt Memorial Park is London's oldest sporting facility and is believed to be the oldest and most continually used baseball ground in the world. In 1877, local pioneer W.J. Reid bought a swampy river flat, in London West, drained it, laid out a baseball diamond and named it Tecumseh Park.
The site was home to several baseball teams, including, London's earliest team, the Tecumsehs. The park also hosted amateur and professional bicycle races, London's first moving picture, in 1895, and, in 1932, a huge civic reception for “Silent Sandy” Somerville, the first Canadian golfer to win the U.S. amateur title.
By the 1930s, interest in baseball waned and the park went into decline. It was rescued by the Labatt family, who bought it, in 1936, and donated it and $10,000 for improvements, to the City of London. The site became known as Labatt Park to commemorate the family's contribution. The flood of 1937 swept away the existing grandstand, and a new grandstand and bleacher seats were immediately built. The park was renovated in 1990, and in 1991, it was voted the best baseball grounds in Canada. The property's composition is significant as it is laid out in the plan of an old fashioned baseball park, which speaks to its continued use as a baseball park, for over 130 years.
Built in circa 1937, the tongue-and-groove clapboard, Roy McKay Clubhouse is one of the few remaining structures, of its kind, in the region. The clubhouse is home to the London Majors and was re-named the Roy McKay Clubhouse by owner Arden Eddie, in 1996, in memory of the former London Majors pitcher, manager and coach, Roy McKay.
Source: City of London By-law L.S.P.-3237-544.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of Labatt Memorial Park include the:
- original layout and location of the baseball park, including the field, the grandstand, and the bleachers
- inscription, “Labatt Park”, located at the entrance, which recognizes the Labatt family's contribution to the City and association with the park