The Rock Park
The Rock (Girouard/Jacques Park)
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Rock Park comprises a prominent rocky hill at the west end of downtown northwest of 30th Avenue and a small city park at the southeast base of the hill.
The Rock Park is valued for its association with the process of human settlement in Vernon. In the pre-European era, a First Nations trail crossed the creek just south of the rock. It was known as Nintle-Moos-Chin, the anglicized version of the original Interior Salish name, which meant 'Jumping Over Place'. In 1860, the Oblate missionaries established a priest’s house on Swan Lake Creek, a temporary residence used when the priest visited from the mission at Okanagan Mission. In 1871, the trail was upgraded to form a wagon road connecting Kamloops and the head of Okanagan Lake to White Valley and Cherry Creek. With the laying out of Centreville as the first Vernon townsite in 1885, the wagon road became Coldstream Avenue, a distinctive road that cut across the formal grid of the town plan.
The site is further valued for its association with Luc Girouard, a Quebecer who came from the California gold fields around 1861 to prospect for gold on Cherry Creek. In 1867, he pre-empted 160 acres west of Swan Lake Creek. He was Vernon’s first permanent resident, building a log cabin at the northeast corner of his pre-emption, just below the Rock. He cleared the land and planted Vernon’s first commercial orchard. His ditch to the creek was Vernon’s first irrigation system. In 1884, a post office was established for Priests Valley, and Girouard was appointed the first postmaster. The post office was in his log cabin from 1884 until 1891, when he resigned. In later years, Girouard built a wood-frame cottage and the cabin became a chicken coop. Girouard donated land in 1884 for Vernon’s first cemetery. He was buried there in 1895.
The Rock Park is also associated with other pioneer families. Girouard sold this part of his property to Gideon Milligan, co-lessee of the Okanagan Hotel and later owner of the Victoria Hotel. He built a brick cottage which was purchased in 1891 by F. B. Jacques, an early jeweller in Vernon. The house and large garden became a renowned beauty spot in Vernon. Girouard’s original orchard was on the property, as were mulberry trees he had brought from France. It remained in the Jacques family until 1975, when the City bought the property to extend a roadway. In 1983, the site was zoned as a city park.
The Rock Park is also valued for its aesthetic and ecological value. It forms an important visual landmark at the west end of the main street. It is comprised of igneous rock, some of which was quarried in the early years of the city for building stone. It also contains a variety of indigenous flora and fauna and is valued as a rare area of native habitat in the centre of the city.
Source: City of Vernon Planning Department
Key elements which define the heritage character of the Rock Park include its:
- native flora and fauna
- relationship to historic transportation routes
- relationship to Swan Lake Creek
- relationship to historic buildings on Coldstream Avenue and Barnard Avenue
- visual landmark
- mature trees
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Canada's Earliest Inhabitants
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Nature Element
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vernon Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection