Assiniboine Park

 Designing and Developing a People’s Playground

Reviewed by Joanna Dawson

Posted September 18, 2019

By the early 1900s, Winnipeg was a booming city sometimes called the “Chicago of the North.” In response to a rapid increase in population and industry, residents and city officials alike called for an extensive green space that would provide a reprieve from the noise and pressure of city life.

In 1909, Assiniboine Park officially opened, offering residents a park setting that reflected — or upheld — the social morals of the time. The park emphasized the natural landscape, limited commercial activity, and followed the province’s Lord’s Day Observance Act, which prohibited organized picnics, recreation, and play on Sundays.

A new book, Assiniboine Park: Designing and Developing a People’s Playground, by historian and retired Parks Canada researcher David Spector, provides a comprehensive look at the over-one-hundred-year history of the park, with a focus on infrastructure, major projects, operations and management, and — the park’s crown jewel — its zoo.

An accessible and detailed read, the book features plenty of photographs to illustrate the park’s evolution. With his book — and at a time when the park has entered a new period of rapid change, under the private management of the charitable Assiniboine Park Conservancy — Spector has made a significant gift to Winnipeggers and their beloved park.

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Joanna Dawson is the Director of Programs at Canada’s National History Society. 

This article originally appeared in the October-November 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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