W-MCP7-1.170 TO THE CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE NIAGARA PARKS COMMISSION from Maxim T. Gray, General Manager--A detailed document about Post War Work and its Justification
Feb 19 1944
To: T.B. McQuesten, Chairiman, Niagara Parks Commission. The Chairman (T.B. McQuesten) and Members of the Niagara Parks Commission. Ontario
Post War Work
February 19. 1944
To the chairman and Members of the Commission:1
I beg to submit herein list of post war projects which this Commission might undertake, or sponsor, during the immediate post war period. I have described this project briefly as to its extent and estimated cost and, in some cases, where we were able to, I have included a general plan in order to show you more clearly the location of the work suggested and a general idea of the type of the project.
Justification for Post War Work
The main reasons for proceeding with construction work immediately after this war are plain enough, being the necessity for providing employment for the returning service men and for men presently employed by war industries whose services will not be required by industry immediately following the war until such time as factories are readjusted to producing articles for civilian consumption and use. This will be a national problem and, therefore, the concern of all. In due course it almost goes without saying that the manufacturer of consumer and civilian goods will provide normal employment for all coupled with the development of our natural resources, which have been neglected during the war period, except those natural resources which have been directly necessary to the war effort. During the war, inventions have been made of new machines, new processes, and, therefore new articles for manufacture and new jobs to manufacture distribute these articles of trade. Then, of course, stocks of civilian goods ordinarily used are practically non-existent and the work involved in replenishing these goods will be tremendous providing employment for years, once factories get back to a normal operating schedule.
However, sober thinking people know that there will be a transitory period to go through--a gap to be filled and at least temporary employment of the men so that there will be a minimum of unemployment during the immediate post war period for those who want to work.
The construction industry can very well fill this gap as far as the mechanics of the problem are concerned. No industry can get into high gear so quickly--almost overnight. In connection with most construction jobs there is usually preliminary work to be done, requiring no materials and providing general plans for the work involved are prepared in advance and approved by the authorities sponsoring the work, minimum delay is entailed. In addition to this the members of the armed forces returning to civilian life will find outside work more satisfactory, I think, than immediately going into factory work. These men have been out in the open doing practically manual labour for a considerable time and a period during which they can continue on outside work will give them an opportunity to decide what they would like best to do in the way of future employment.
Again, no construction work can be started as quickly as the improvement and construction of parks. Grading, planting and general cleaning up of neglected areas can be proceeded with at once. As an example--in our own park system 100,000 man hours of work can be provided doing necessary work of this nature, that is equivalent to providing 100 men with five months steady employment and does not include, of course, the more extensive labour, both direct and indirect required to complete the structures involved to complete the program laid out on the following pages.
I am sure you will agree that no justification is necessary for the improvement and construction of parks system. Parks are national assets, whether in their natural state, such as our large provincial parks and provincial forests in the northern part of this province, or where they are in a developed condition such as our Niagara Parkway system. They contribute so much to the general well being of all who visit them, providing as they do a place where people can congregate and visit, to view the beauties of nature and to take part, in restful surroundings, of games and sports of all kinds. These periods of rest and relaxation are high points in the lives of citizens of any country.
As far as the Niagara Parkway system is concerned, it embraced all of the land adjacent to the Falls of Niagara and the Niagara River on the Canadian side comprising 2,600 acres all told. In addition to the natural attractions in which the area is unrivalled in the world, this Commission has formally developed the area to a great extent in the planting of formal gardens, the founding and development of a School for Apprentice Gardeners, the reclaiming of land for park purposes at several points, the restoration of several old historical sites and the development of new park areas as finances have permitted so that this area is a Mecca and will be even more so in the future, I think, for people from all over the continent and, in fact, from all over the world. There is no doubt that the improvement of aviation facilities after the war will bring more people from far distant points to this area, to visit Niagara Falls, the entrance to the province of Ontario and to this Dominion. Some of the works described herein are designed to provide something for visitors to do while they are here and certainly to provide increased park areas which will be made accessible by the work involved in this program.
Then, too, the restoration of historical sites on the frontier should be continued as has been done in the past. The existence of these restored buildings provides a means of showing students of history actual conditions as they existed at the time the events took place--much more forcibly than hours of reading. Restoration work is one of the prime duties of this Commission.
Types of Projects
In addition to general improvement of our Park System and new planting of several areas which have been neglected due to the lack of help in the war years and which, as mentioned above, are desirable post war enterprises, I am suggesting several projects for your consideration which might be proceeded with. All of these suggestions are not recommendations by me. I am leaving the matter of final recommendation for your consideration. The complete list will follow in detail at the end of this report, but a few general remarks here will give an outline as to the types of projects.
Some of the structures included might be termed self-liquidating and others not. It must always be a matter of design in a park system whether any one particular concession or enterprise would call for a fee to be charged or not. In the Niagara Parks System the only places where fees are charged are at the Table Rock House (for visits to the tunnel), Maid-of-the-mist, Spanish Aero-Car, Whirlpool Rapids Elevator, the two restored forts and Brock's Monument for a trip up the tower of same. All other facilities are free. Very few of the projects on the list appended hereto could be termed self-liquidating except the swimming pools, the new cafeteria at the Park Restaurant, restored Fort Mississauga, the greenhouses on certain occasions and possibly the Bridge to Navy Island.
I might point out, also, that one or two of the projects described and included in the attached list, for instance, the bridge over the railroad tracks on Central Avenue, Fort Erie, might not be considered works that this Commission should concern themselves with. I consider, however, that the Commission has an interest in every project mentioned and include them, as they occur to me.
This consists of the restoration of Fort Mississauga at Niagara-on-the-Lake and the blockhouse Fort Riall at Queenston Park. The restoration of these two historical places, you will note, does not involve nearly the expenditure as that required for Fort Erie and Fort George, due to the difference in the size of the projects. Also included is the restoration work in connection with Butler's Barracks, which is a project that the Commission has had under consideration for some time.
In my opinion an expert greenhouse architect should decide on the location of these after considering the park system as a whole. The greenhouses considered by me in collaboration with Mr Broman and greenhouse manufacturers are quite pretentious, but will be necessary to properly carry out the park work in the future and to further the experimental work presently being carried on and which will be continued extensively during the years to come. The greenhouses will be a national asset. Adequate Park greenhouses will pay this Commission, also, in the years to come. The purchase of bedding plants and flowers for decorative purposes involves annually an outlay of considerable money, for park systems without adequate greenhouses. This money can be saved. In addition, as far as we are concerned here, we are conducting a Gardeners School from which graduates will go out to all parts of the country. They should be given the most thorough training possible, day by day, feasible only with good greenhouse facilities. In this connection I might point out that practically all of the student body at the Gardeners School have expressed in writing their desire to return to School and complete their courses. I believe the student body there might very well be doubled.
Beginning at Fort Erie we have the completion of the sea wall and its extension northerly to Bertie Street, except for the break at Princess Street where I am suggesting a bathing beach. Then there is the filling in at Fort Erie, approximately 150,000 yards of earth fill and top soil and planting to be done there to complete Mather Park. We have the parcel of land at the intersection of Albany Street and Lakeshore Road to level off, landscape and plant and the construction of a work building there. Not mentioned above is a six foot path next to and throughout the entire length of the seawall, which is included in the list of projects.
There is the proposed new Mather Memorial building and landscaping for which complete plans are already drawn and the money available. There is the proposed bathing beach at the foot of Princess Street. This is very urgently needed in the Town of Fort Erie and involves the hauling and placing of sand, the construction of a short weir extending into the river, etc.
Extension of Park at this point
In this area there are a dozen or so old frame buildings extending to the Ferry Dock which I am suggesting be purchased, with the land, and demolished. The ferry itself runs now only during the summer months. Its usefulness is decreasing and its ability to continue operating at all is due to the lack of commuters' rates on the Peace Bridge. Its use should be discontinued and this waterfront area reclaimed for park purposes.
Mention might be made here that, if this were done, the only private enterprises on the river from Lake to Lake would be the Michigan Central Railroad, serving two lumber yards between Bertie Street and Gilmore Road (one-half mile) in Fort Erie and the Fort Erie Dock Company at Fort Erie North. I am not referring to a few other privately owned water lots in Fort Erie, in the north end of the town.
Coming down the Boulevard, I refer next to the shore protection work between Fort Erie and Chippewa which might be called urgently necessary at several places to protect the property of the Commission. There are several miles of this. It should be proceeded with on a considerable scale.
Bridge on Central Avenue, Fort Erie over Railroad Tracks
This work can [sic] to the attention of the Commission, about twelve or thirteen years ago, as it was felt, at that time, that the Commission should contribute to the cost of this project because its construction would relieve the Niagara Boulevard of considerable north and south traffic, in the Town of Fort Erie, itself, and also through traffic travelling from Buffalo and Fort Erie to Niagara Falls. There is only one connecting north and south street in the entire Town of Fort Erie and that is the Niagara Boulevard. I am informed that, when the Railroad first installed tracks in Fort Erie and blocked access from north to south, except by the River Road, it was understood that another crossing would be provided. Such crossing was subsequently made at the Thompson Road, where a subway exists, this being about a mile and a half from the river and is entirely inadequate. The Central Avenue Bridge is very necessary and I think the cost of same should be contributed to by the Town of Fort Erie and by the railroads themselves by the direction of the Board of Railroad Commissioners for Canada. The estimated cost of this project is shown in connection with the attached list of projects.
Bridge to Navy Island
If Navy Island is to be developed as a public park, access must be had to it from the mainland by means of a bridge. Use of a ferry would be impractical. It would seem, also, that the logical course of events would lead to another bridge from Navy Island to Grand Island, and thus, to the Niagara Thruway. You will recall that in a former communication from me I mentioned the projected Niagara Thruway, which will be built after the war from the Rainbow Bridge through Niagara Falls, New York, utilizing the Grand Island Bridges and the highway on Grand Island, and thence along the river and lakeshore in Buffalo to connect with the existing lakeshore road at Hamburg Park or the junction of New York State Highways 20A and 50 and the United Sates Highway 62. I am informed that Niagara Thruway is a settled matter and that plans are at present being completed for its construction, including the acquisition of right-of-way. Also being considered is the establishing of a large regional airport on Grand Island to serve the entire Niagara Peninsula and to be one of a gigantic system of regional airports on this continent. The above proposal (the bridge to Navy Island) then would provide another vehicular access over the Niagara River, and this would seem to be warranted in view of what we expect in the way of increased travel in this area after the war. There are at present only four vehicular bridges crossing the Niagara River.
It is difficult to estimate the cost of this bridge without making a decision as to the design: example--as to whether it should be a series of steel arches or consist of through trusses. Consideration of ice conditions will effect the design but, in any case, I am presuming no allowance will have to be made for any portion of the bridge to be movable but that it will be essentially a low level bridge. At the main shore, where it connects with the Niagara Boulevard, unless the bridge is really low, provision would have to be made for a subway or a considerable diversion made in the Niagara Boulevard in order to join up the two grade lines. I have estimated the cost of the bridge based on a series of steel arches with an approximate span of 150 feet between piers. I have shown on attached plan a proposed highway connection with this bridge to the Queen Elizabeth Way by means of a new road over to Usher's Greek road and via the Lyon's Greek road.
Planting and Cleaning up Navy Island
Included in these projects is considerable planting on Navy Island and cleaning up this entire 350 acre park. No highway or paths on Navy Island has been considered, in this report, although, obviously these will have to be constructed in order to complete the general scheme
Resurfacing of Niagara Boulevard between Chippewa and Fort Erie
I have included the over covering of the entire boulevard with 1 1/2 inches of black base with stone ships. This road shows definite signs of disintegrating in places, although m the general condition of the surface is fair. When the bridges were widened and curves straightened in 1935, the relocated roadway was not permanently paved.
Work Buildings in Queen Victoria Park
Improvements have been made in connection with these buildings in the past two years, and I have considered nothing more here than the enlargement of the garage to include a small machine shop.
Concreting in Table Rock Tunnel
There is a continual falling away of rock on the roof and sides of these tunnels, and logically the tunnels should be concreted, as in time there may be some breakthroughs between the outside wall of the tunnel and the gorge. In any even, before these tunnels can be used again by the public, there will gave to be several months work done in the way of cleaning up and the building of new supports. The best way would be to remove the existing temporary supports and concrete the sides and roof throughout.
[handwritten note added:] New tunnel work of [??] concrete old one
Steel Surge Tank
I refer here to the steel tank just north of the Park Restaurant. This was to have been removed five years after the last war, but was not done. It was to have been removed by the hydro. I have not included any sum of money for this work.
I have included a swimming and diving layout for Queen Victoria Park and also for Queenston Park. This subject has been before the Commission before on different occasions but no accurate estimate has been prepared. I have estimated the cost of a layout for Queen Victoria Park consisting of a swimming and diving pool and a wading pool, together with a service building, locker rooms and a covered stand, the whole surrounded by a fence. This might be termed a self-liquidating project as a fee could be charged for the use of the same. I have included the cost of the swimming pool, also, at Queenston Park consisting of one unit together, also, with a service room and locker rooms.
Remodeling of Cafeteria, Park Restaurant
The lunch room here will be entirely inadequate when this is open for full scale business after the war. Originally this lunch room was designed only for the dispensing of ice cream and soft drinks. In the past four or five years lunches have been served here, and in the past two years a low priced full course meal could be obtained. This is a profitable business, and will be, without detracting from the dining-room business upstairs in the main dining-room and on the balcony. I propose here an entirely new layout of an extensive nature, properly designed by an architect familiar with the design of restaurants and cafeterias, and I am satisfied that it will pay for itself after the war. Lacking any detailed plans for a layout of this kind, my estimate of the cost for this work will be approximate only, but I believe will cover the cost of the new walk-in refrigerator in the main kitchen upstairs. What we have there now are old boxes which have been installed for over twenty years and they are inefficient and inadequate.
Apprentice Gardeners' School
At this point I have included the enlargement of the dormitory at the Gardeners' School to accommodate sixteen more students. This would be attached to the rear of the present dormitories. I have included, also, here, the completion of the roads and paths in the arboretum plan. We have a complete plan attached hereto for the eventual completion of the arboretum which includes a complete system of roadways and paths and greenhouses.
Flagstoning in Oakes Garden Theatre and Curbing in Queen Victoria Park
This work will release the Park of continual maintenance necessary to keep the paths, roadways and verdures in good shape in these areas.
There are some other smaller items included in the list of proposed works such as the re-location of the roadway at the Trading Post Niagara-on-the-Lake, the installation of a ventilating system in the bedrooms of the Commissioners' Quarters at the Park Restaurant, the installation of a new sewer at the Apprentice Gardeners' School and, as mentioned before, various planting and landscaping jobs at sixteen (16) different locations throughout the park system.
I might mention here also, but I have not estimated cost of same and the matter of a new roadway and planting along Chippawa Creek from Chippawa to Queen Elizabeth Way. This is the property which was acquired by the Hydro for protective purposes during the war period, and it has been suggested that it might be turned over to this Commission for the above purposes.
I might mention, also, the matter of a new highway along the shore of Lake Erie, Fort Erie to Port Colborne. I believe this should come to pass some day, but its location and scope, which would include considerable property purchases, seems to place it in a different category and no doubt should be a job for the Department of Highways to take hold of.
In computing the cost of the various works, a basic wage rate for labour of 50 cents per hour has been used. Costs of materials used are those normally incurred for similar work. As stated before, lack of detail plans has in most cases prohibited the estimation of costs probably not closer than ten or even fifteen percent. An estimate is also given in each case of the number of man hours involved in indirect labour as well as for labour directly involved in construction.
I must mention here, also, the apprenticeship program of this Commission which consists, not only of the apprentices which we presently have under contract at the Apprentice Gardeners' School, but also other apprentices which we have, and could have, in other trades. The apprenticeship term at the School for Apprentice Gardeners is three years as you know, the boys being paid $5.00, $6.00 and $7.00 per week for the first , second and third year respectively, as well as being supplied with board and room and laundry, etc. A year ago we placed our first apprentices under the Apprenticeship Act, R.S.O. 1937, Chapter 192, under the auspices of the Department of Labour for Ontario. Under this arrangement the apprentice enters into an agreement to serve the specified number of years required by the particular trade concerned and he is paid an hourly rate based on the proportion of the rate of a journeyman in that particular trade, and this rate is on a raising scale as the apprenticeship progresses. We now have four apprentices, one in each of the following trades, namely, stone masonry, carpentry, plumbing and motor mechanic. We could very well place another apprentice in the iron working trade, and this might be increased to two apprentices in each trade. I am definitely of the opinion, and I think you agree, that this apprenticeship program, both in the gardening work and other trades, is an effort of first magnitude on the part of this Commission as it would seem to be the only feasible method of providing good artisans to replace older men in the various occupations as they reach retirement age, as well as ensuring that the boys, as they grow up, have a definite means of earning a livelihood in a competent and self respecting manner. All this without putting any burden on the Commission, as these apprentices all do their daily practical work in connection with learning their trade, work which would have to be otherwise done by others.
You will appreciate that it is difficult to estimate the man hours of labour involved in the various projects, both direct and indirect. I have had recourse to the experience of contractors in doing particular jobs, building bridges, etc. Some of these are contained in the brief prepared by the Canadian Construction Association and from other briefs presented to the Turgeon Committee at Ottawa and these estimates of man hours are also based on my own experience in connection with similar work projects. I believe they are fair estimates.
I hope that the information given herein is sufficient for discussion purposes by you and that it will serve as a guide to you in you deliberations on the subject, when the same comes for consideration.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
[Handwritten notes recognizable as being in McQuesten's hand:]
1. Hydro lands on Chippewa River
2. Rebuild see plans
3. Working Greenhouse
4. Glass in reception room
5. Add swimming pools
1 This report is best understood within the context of several other letters and within the context of the political climate of the time which led to Chairman, T.B. McQuesten's, resignation from the Niagara Parks Commission: McQuesten was a Liberal and George Drew was the newly-elected Progressive Conservative Premier of Ontario.
Nov 5 1943,W-MCP7-1.146, George Drew, attempts to force T.B. McQuesten to resign as Chairman of the Parks Commission with various threats, one of which criticizes T.B. for the handling of the work at Niagara and without considering the labour that will be needed in the post war era. He also demands an audit of all of the Commissioners.
Feb 19 1944, W-MCP7-1.170 Three months later, this present report is drawn up. It is a very thorough document about the work being planned for post war work at Niagara and justification for same. It appears to have been compiled combining the details of several discussions underway at the Niagara Parks Commission. Its presentation at this time and its thoroughness may have been prompted by George Drew's letter to T.B. McQuesten questioning his handling of the work at Niagara on several counts and in view of consideration of the post war work that will be necessary. The report also notes in several places that these items have been under discussion for some time which suggests that T.B. McQuesten has already thoroughly planned for this initiative.
May 4 1944, W-MCP7-1.148. Drew asks for the resignation of the Chairman and the Commissioners because they are not members of the present Govt.
May 20 1944, W-MCP7-1.150, T.B. McQuesten resigns as Chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission.
Aug 11 1944, W-MCP7-1.151. Drew accepts McQuesten's resignation but also suggests that T.B. might be willing to share his experience with the new commission.
For more about T.B. McQuesten's issues with partisan politics, search on the "Carillon Controversy."
This present document represents and combines several pages on the microfilm numbered as W-MCP7-1.170; W-MCP7-1.171; W-MCP7-1.172; W-MCP7-1.173; W-MCP7-1.174; W-MCP7-1.175; W-MCP7-1.177. Several of these pages have not been transcribed or entered here, but they are very thorough. They list detailed items and their costs, such as: Fort Riall, $3000; Butler's Barracks, $18,000; Fort Mississauga, $55,000, to name only a few. The complete five pages consist of approximately 50 detailed items and their costs including Manhours, Labour and Total Costs. The final Total Cost is $1,908,940.00.
The added notes in T.B.'s handwriting suggests that he was likely instrumental in compiling this document. Gray was a more recent addition  as General Manager after Kaumeyer resigned to become GM of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (Seibel: Ontario's Niagara Parks 100 Years (1885-1985).