Situated in the heart of the city is the “Jewel of the Prairies”, Crescent Park. It is located one block east of main street and encompasses approximately twenty-eight acres, more than six city blocks. The park is rich with history. It embraces various activities for rest, play, and enjoying arts and culture.
Due to the foresight of the early residents of Moose Jaw, land was set aside for the purpose of creating a city centre park, what is now known as Crescent Park.
George Champion, Superintendent of Winnipeg Parks, drew up the original plan for Crescent Park in 1911. The design was later updated in 1922 to find a placement for the cenotaph. Over the next few years, the west side of the park was developed under the leadership of Carl Nielsen. Born in Denmark, Mr. Nielsen apprenticed in landscape architecture. He immigrated to Moose Jaw and joined the Parks staff in 1926 and in 1929 became Parks foreman. He later was appointed Superintendent of Parks, Moose Jaw in 1930. He was instrumental in the further development of Crescent Park.
By 1922, the grounds facing Langdon Crescent, from Athabasca Street East to Fairford Street East, that were originally developed in 1912, were beautifully landscaped with trees, shrubs, lawns, flowerbeds and wide pathways. A playground was also established in 1922, complete with swings, teeter-totters and a sandbox. In that same year, a wading pool was constructed with a large fountain in the centre. The present day playground remains in roughly the same location as the original. Over the years the playground equipment has been updated on several occasions and the wading pool replaced by the pool beside the present large outdoor pool.
The Cenotaph, or Cross of Sacrifice, the World Wars memorial, was designed by Reginald Bloomfield and constructed by Moose Jaw Marble and Granite Company in 1923. It was unveiled at the first Armistice Day ceremony. The site of the cenotaph was chosen so as to be visible from Main Street, in line with Cordova Street, to serve as a constant reminder of the people who gave their lives for our freedom. The dates of the wars that involved Canadians are engraved on the sides of the cenotaph base in lead. Later, the dates of the Korean Wars were added.
In 1930, Nielsen began making plans for the development of the east side of the park. There wasn’t anything east of the cenotaph except for the band shell. He described the Serpentine as a ravine full of bulrushes and willows bordered by thickets of chokecherry bushes. His idea was for the park to resemble nature as much as possible. Rocks picked from surrounding fields by hand were carried down to the Serpentine and were then used to build up the banks. The Serpentine itself was created by clearing and digging out the banks of a muddy little river called Spring Creek. The development of the park was a relief project, funded by the federal government, to provide work for people during the Depression. The project employed up to 200 men, working for 25 cents a day plus a meal ticket.
In approximately 1911, the Tennis Club was formed. The courts are still in their original location. Moose Jaw had the highest percentage of British people in any Canadian city according to 1929 statistics, and as a result tennis was a favorite sport.
The Public Library was built in 1912. It was built from special plans and was considered to be a “jewel of architecture”. Some of the many beautiful architectural features included: large windows for good lighting, marble pillars and stairways. Highlighting this “jewel” was a stunning rosette, stained glass dome above the main foyer. In the book rooms, unique glass floors, dividing the first and second floors, were also built to improve lighting.
The lawn bowling club was organized in 1918. Although not originally located in Crescent Park, it was later moved from the old city hall park, on Fairford Street West, into Crescent Park in 1953. It has been there ever since.
The Natatorium opened in 1932. It was developed as a result of the find of hot mineral water following an attempt to drill for oil on Manitoba Street East in about 1928 – 32. It was to be a public and therapeutic pool, and included baths similar to the ones at Watrous, Saskatchewan. After the deterioration of the well, mineral water use was discontinued and it was replaced by city water.
Outdoor Pool & Art Gallery
In 1966 two major projects were constructed. The Phyllis Dewar Swimming Pool opened, situated just west of the Natatorium and the Art Gallery was built, situated directly south of the Public Library.
Phyllis Dewar Pool
Built to accommodate swim meets and competitions, the pool was built to an Olympic size. It is also used for public and instructional swimming purposes. The name sake of the pool was a Moose Jaw girl who learned to swim and later trained at the Moose Jaw Aquatic Club. She later went on to win first place in the women’s national competition. In 1934 Phyllis Dewar won four gold medals in the British Commonwealth Games.
Moose Jaw Art Gallery and Exhibition Centre
The doors of the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery opened tn 1967 in a building attached to the Moose Jaw Public Library in Crescent Park. In 1992. the organization moved into a greatly expanded and improved state-of-the-art facility in the same location. The Art Gallery features a diversity of visual art exhibits throughout the year. The Museum interests locals and visitors alike with its exhibits relating to the history of Moose Jaw and area. Gallery and Museum hours are 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.
Amphitheatre/Crescent Park Bookings
For bookings at the amphitheatre or any area of Crescent Park, please contact Parks & Recreation at (306) 694-4430 or firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1967, funds were raised from the “Heritage on Review” celebration that were used to construct the Crescent Park fountain. The unveiling ceremony took place in 1969. The fountain was set in the centre of a star shaped flowerbed and can be lit up at night.
In More Recent Years (1970-Present)
In 1971-1972 the amphitheatre came to fruition. It is a summer stage built on the north side of the park. It was built as a direct result of a 31 member committee that wanted to establish an outdoor theatre facility similar to those found in other cities. Since its official opening June 10, 1972, many have been entertained from this facility.
The waterfall was constructed in 1974. It was created as a direct result of the 1974 flooding of Spring Creek and to reduce any future algae problems by recirculating the water in the creek and adding air to it.
Also in 1974, the YM/YWCA was constructed next to the Natatorium after the closures of both the YMCA and YWCA. This was done so that it could share the pools of the Natatorium and aid in programming of swimming and recreation.
In 1978, Moose Jaw’s Diamond Jubilee, our city’s coat of arms was fashioned into a flowerbed as part of the celebration. This was also the summer that Queen Elizabeth II visited Moose Jaw. Due to the favourable reaction to the flowerbed, it was kept as a permanent park fixture and is situated at the Langdon Crescent entrance.
The time capsule that contains past and present items of Moose Jaw up to 1982, the year it was originally put in place, is to be opened in 2083. The exterior is constructed of brick salvaged from the old Victoria School, demolished in 1978 due to age. Victoria School was a two story, eight room building, and the first of its kind in the Northwest Territories, (later to become known as Saskatchewan). S.T.I. students did the masonry work on the time capsule as a class project under the direction of their instructor.
The beautiful sandstone arch that stands at the Fairford Street East entrance to the park also has a rich history. It originally came from the entrance to King Edward School on south hill. The school was built in about 1905 and demolished in 1980. The arch was purchased from the demolition company. In 1985 it was completed and erected at its present site. This was one of the Crescent Park Foundation projects and was used to commemorate Saskatchewan’s Heritage Year and the Centennial of Parks Canada.
In 1986, the comfort station (public washrooms) that was part of the old city hall property, was relocated to the park. This convenience was the last one of its kind left in Saskatchewan and played a major role in downtown life since about 1920. For this reason, it was deemed a heritage building. Brick by brick, it was reconstructed at its new location in Crescent Park where, to this day, it provides public washrooms, dressing rooms and storage for the park.
Also in 1986, on the south embankment across from the Amphitheatre, a water fountain was newly constructed from the upper part of an original light standard from the Fourth Avenue viaduct that had been damaged. This fountain was built to replace the original brass fountain.
On Arbor Day, 1987 trees and shrubs were planted in a bed southeast of the Langdon Crescent and Fairford Street entrances. The bed was planted to recognize the contribution Mr. Carl Neilsen made to the development and design of Crescent Park. Included in this bed were two of Mr. Neilsen’s favourite flowers, roses and lilacs. The Neilsen bed is marked by a granite stone.
In the summer of 1991, the new water park was ready for use. It was built in Crescent Park’s playground area, and is a welcome addition to the existing playground and paddling pool. The park included water cannons, water slides, spray fire hydrants, fire boats, spray arches and spray nozzles embedded in boulders. The two small slides run from the paddling pool down to the water park area.
In 1993 a major expansion was completed on the old Library and Art Museum. The vastly improved the service to the community. State of the art computer systems, vast increases in space and a modern heating and ventilation system greatly enhanced the Library/Art Museum experience.
There is so much to see and do in our “Jewel of the Prairies”. For recreation one can play in the water park, swim at the Natatorium, play tennis, or lawn bowl. If it’s arts and culture you want, one could explore the Art Museum, investigate the Library and check out a book, or when the season’s right, enjoy some live outdoor entertainment at the Amphitheatre. Nothing can beat a stroll around the park, through its winding pathways, over its bridges and past the waterfall and Serpentine. Sit a while and ponder while you find welcome shade under one of the abundant trees. Watch the swans, geese and ducks paddle around. Better yet, let your gaze wander over the many gorgeous flowers, shrubs, grasses and trees. All of this is judiciously cared for on an ongoing basis by the Parks staff. It is hard to believe when you look at our beautiful park today, just how humble its beginnings were. Due to the hard work and dedication of many, Crescent Park can be enjoyed and admired by all who choose to visit.