In 1885, The Niagara Parks Commission was established to create public parkland adjacent to the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The gardens there became world-renowned. In those early years Canada was still a young country dependent on skilled tradesmen hired from Europe, but as early as 1908 the Commission felt a need for a school to train their own gardeners to care for its parkland and gardens.
By the early 1930s Niagara Parks had expanded considerably along the Niagara River Parkway which now extended from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. But the years after the First World War were difficult; the early thirties was a time of low morale with economic depression and a drop in immigration. European gardeners were no longer available. The Niagara Parks commission decided to take positive action and in 1936 established The Niagara Parks Commission Training School for Apprentice Gardeners.
The story of the School’s history in many ways mirrors that of the Niagara Parks – a story of “the struggle for their genesis, the romance of their growth and the achievement they represent.”1 A struggle indeed as just eight young men in that first year arrived from various parts of southern Ontario and literally carved a school and botanical garden out of the rugged rocky terrain that was the Niagara frontier. A romance undoubtedly, of passion for horticulture, of camaraderie and hijinks, and dedication of individuals who soldiered on despite the challenges to contribute to the growth of a unique School. And the achievements represented by the creation of a reputable place of learning world- renowned for its high standards and enthusiastic graduates, who have gone on to enjoy careers not only in the Niagara Parks but around the world.
On June 12th, 1959, the School was renamed The Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture. A further name change took place in June 1990, when the School was renamed Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture to reflect the level of horticultural development on the School property. In 1993, a long-range Master Plan for the Botanical Gardens and School was completed. Endorsed by the Commission, the $34 million program and landscape development included a new greenhouse production facility as well as North America’s largest Butterfly Conservatory which opened in 1996.
- 1. Charles Daley, Chairman, the Niagara Parks Commission. Excerpt from the Foreword in the book Park history (sic) by Ronald Way. 1996