NO PART OF THE FOLLOWING
MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT
PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©
This began on lands called "Oaklands", which was a crown grant of 800 hectares to Lieutenant Alexander McDonnell in 1796. 360 hectares of this were sold to William Applegarth in 1809. He farmed part and built homes on the rest. A pier was built around 1840 to accommodate travel to and from locations on Lake Ontario. The property in turn was bought by Charles Davidson in 1872. He built a gate house on Plains Road at the intersection of Howard Road as an entrance to the estate.
Next the land went to John Fuller who built a large, 26-room house there. In 1889, Thomas Townsend bought the property, which remained with the family until 1952. Townsend was a developer and engineer, having designed the Welland Canal's locks, gates and bridges, and rebuilding Desjardins Canal bridge after an accident. He also designed a custom rail car for Kind Edward VII for his 1860 cross-Canada trip when Edward was still Prince of Wales.
In 1915 (1912 from another source), neighbouring Hamilton's Parks Board of Management bought part of Oaklands for recreational purposes. They leased a portion to Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) who were just getting into the amusement park business. The company also bought Grimsby Park around this time. CSL wished to run ferries to the area and having some attraction to which to travel, would bolster business. They named the new place "Wabasso Park".
CSL invested $150,000 to upgrade the pier and to make improvements to the park with athletic fields, a dance hall, picnic grove, and restaurant. A concrete bathhouse was erected to provide for swimming facilities. The large residence and entrance gate remained, and would stay until being torn down in 1956. Total area for the park exceeded 24 hectares. Amusement rides included a Figure 8 roller coaster. (As the 1910s are a bit late for this model coaster, it may have been purchased used.)
|This shot of the midway features the Figure 8 roller coaster. Note the close parking of vehcles around the structure. The tower above the trees is for an Ingersol Swing Around.|
Also in the park was a Ingersol Swing Around, a version of the Traver Circle Swing. (See pictures and a full description of the latter in the Scarboro Beach article.) There is no information regarding other amusement rides, although there appears to be a carousel in the above photo. One source states there were a "variety of thrill rides", so there must have been more than research has currently turned up.
The City of Hamilton continued to support the area and erected a community building for the 1917 season. The name was "La Salle Park Pavilion", but that may not have been associated with this building until after the park was renamed in the 1920s. The pavilion survived into modern times. In 1995, a fire destroyed the second floor, but the building was rebuilt to its original design two years later.
In 1669, explorer Rene de La Salle had supposedly landed and camped at this location, so in 1923 or 26, the park was renamed to honour him. Despite this, the "Wabasso" name seemed to survive to some extent after this.
There is no reference yet as to the middle years of this park, but researcher Jim Abbate of Chicago contributes that for 1936 the park advertised four rides, a penny arcade and pool. One of the food concessionaires was from the Burke Brothers. They had a large company in Hamilton and made ice cream under a Uneeda Ice Cream license. They also were distributers for soda fountain equipment as well as bottlers of their own soft drinks.
Burke Brothers Token
|Note the spelling of "Wabasso".|
Not much else has surfaced about the park, but it's likely that competition from other area parks and possible loss of business during the depression caused La Salle to decline in the 1930s. It may have closed late in that decade or in the 1940s. Although it is non-definitive evidence for this closure date, a mid-1940s amusement park directory lists neither La Salle nor Wabasso Park.
Today, the dance pavilion is still there and the concrete-shell remains of the bathhouse may be explored, but it is essentially a nature park with walking trails and a small beach, but also includes sports fields, a playground, wading pool, splash pad and picnic facilities. Plus it has a marina.
|Appreciation goes to Larry Laevens of Cambridge, Ontario for the park token scan.|
Return to the
Closed Canadian Parks Index