Description of Historic Place
Memorial Square, located just a few blocks north of Water Street, is the oldest public park in the City of Summerside. It is historically significant not just for that reason, but also because of its links to many of the factors that have shaped the history of the community. It has brought forward from the past the desire of citizens to have a spot of natural beauty in their midst.
Memorial Square is valued as a reminder of the sacrifices made by Islanders during past conflicts and as a green space in an urban area.
The park is bordered by Summer Street on the west, Spring Street on the east and is centred in the block framed by Church Street on the south and Winter Street on the north.
The colonial government established a militia building known as the Drill Shed on the property in 1866. The Drill Shed was used for military purposes and as a skating rink, concert hall, and the annual Prince County Exhibition. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1906.
The land became known as the Drill Shed Square. In 1889 the townspeople were permitted to use the land as a public square. A Parks Committee was formed, the property fenced and trees were planted. In 1895 Town Council assumed management of the park.
The 1906 fire left a large gap where the Drill Shed had stood. The Town purchased the park in 1908 and the Parks Committee began improvements the following year. In 1911 the public garden or square was officially named Dominion Square.
In July 1919 a group of Great War Veterans paraded into the square for a program of speeches, music and fireworks. A year later citizens gathered for a ceremony to mark the arrival of a German gun, presented to the town for winning a provincial competition for Victory Loans and a second German gun, a larger one that was part of a countrywide distribution, was placed on the Square. In July 1922 a memorial to commemorate the Prince County lives lost in the Great War, known as the Soldier's Monument was unveiled and dedicated.
A bandstand has existed in the park since 1900. These small buildings were used for concerts and Remembrance Day services. Eventually the traditional wooden style gave way to a large concrete platform with an iron railing. Considerable work was done in 1937 to improve the appearance of the park for Coronation Day, the crowning of the British monarch, King George VI. Two concrete pathways were laid diagonally between Summer and Spring Streets and the concrete circle surrounding the monument was enlarged.
In 1938 the park was officially renamed Memorial Square in honour of those whose names were inscribed on the war memorial. The names of local men who lost their lives in the Second World War and Korean Conflict have been added to the memorial on a stone plaque that rests immediately in front of the World War I memorial. The unveiling ceremony took place May 6, 1956.
The park was enlarged in 1950 when the town acquired the lot on the northeast corner of Summer and Church Streets.
The City of Summerside carried out a major rejuvenation between 2002 and 2004. The park was redesigned to emphasize the cenotaph and brick walkways, new lighting and raised flowerbeds were installed. The centennial fountain was removed and replaced with water-shooting fountains in a circular area surrounded by benches and flagpoles carrying the flags of each province and territory. A small pond with waterfall and curved bridge was installed to mark the transition from the fountain area into the larger green section of the park. The official opening of the newly designed Memorial Square took place July 2, 2004.
A special monument to commemorate the deaths of young airmen who died while training in Prince Edward Island as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan of the Second World War was unveiled in 2000.
Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profile
The heritage value of Memorial Square is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- The property's park like landscape, with numerous mature trees, shrubs, raised flower beds, water features, seating area and walking paths
- The war memorials located in the square: World War I guns, 1922 Soldier's Monument and the 2000 monument commemorating the World War II airmen who had trained in Prince Edward Island
- The continued use of the square as a public space