North side of Burlington Street East between Mary and Ferguson Streets
Everybody who grew up in the 1930s in Hamilton’s North End remembers Eastwood Park; it was the playground of the North End. Ed Fisher, Floyd Reid and George Krekorian remember the park in all seasons.
Sixty years ago, this land-locked park extended all the way down to the bay’s shore. The City of Hamilton purchased the site in 1886 to build a new wharf. At the time, much of this site was covered by water. In the early 1900s, it was filled in with refuse and top soil and opened as the North End Park in 1908. Its name was changed to Eastwood Park in 1911.
North-Enders have always used this park for recreation and relaxation. Before it was filled in, the Wellington Street inlet was a favourite hockey rink for North End teams like the Holy Cats. In the summer, it was a popular fishing hole. In the late 19th century, the Victoria Yacht Club made its home on a pier just east of the park. Next door, local residents could rent canoes and rowboats by the day from Thomas Jutten’s Boatworks.
Once the land was reclaimed, a long concrete revetment wall marked the northern limit of the park. This area was a popular place to swim or test your angling skills on a hot day. In the evening, hundreds of area residents descended on the northern limits of the park to saunter up and down the tree-lined walk and enjoy the cool bay air. The revetment wall was also the scene of celebration; in 1931, the city’s Racalmutese community topped off its three-day Feast of Madonna del Monte with a huge fireworks display here.
The city created the park’s first baseball diamond in 1919. From this point on, the park was the centre of organized amateur sport in the North End. Football, baseball and rugby games drew hundreds of fans. In the winter, local hockey teams battled it out on one of the park’s ice rinks. Older area residents still remember acting as lookouts for illegal Sunday morning crap games, which were held behind the bleachers.
The Department of National Defence took over the northern half of the park in 1943 for its new naval base, the HMCS Star. Some playing fields were left intact, but the loss of the lakefront and all the new traffic and industry that accompanied the base changed the park forever. You can see what remains of the revetment wall and its grand old trees through the security gates of the naval base at the foot of Catharine Street.