Winnipeg cemetery designated a national historic site

The Federal Government yesterday announced the designation of Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg, Manitoba as a national historic site.

More than 100,000 burials have taken place at Brookside Cemetery since 1878 and its Field of Honour is one of the largest veteran burial sites in Canada with over 10,000 military service members.

Brookside Cemetery was first laid out between 1877 and 1883 in the garden (or rural) cemetery style by English-born surveyor and architect Thomas H. Parr.

The transformation of the open prairie landscape into a site which exemplified this Euro-American, picturesque approach to landscape design gained momentum in 1896 when the cemetery was transferred to Winnipeg’s recently founded Public Parks Board. This group envisioned a place where all classes could escape the crowds and noise of the city in locations designed to appear like “pleasing rural scenery.”

Left photo: Brookside Cemetery’s “Tear Drop” section of the Field of Honour, 2020. Photo: Parks Canada, Jeffrey Thorsteinson. Right photo: A roadway running through the cemetery, 2020. Photo: Parks Canada, Jeffrey Thorsteinson (CNW Group/Parks Canada)

Between 1899 and 1904, David D. England, the first superintendent of Winnipeg’s Public Parks Board, altered and enlarged Parr’s plans and directed the planting of thousands of trees at Brookside. The succeeding superintendent of Parks, George Champion, added a pond and a bridge, planted additional trees, and developed the northern part of the site in keeping with the garden cemetery style.

The Field of Honour features a collection of upright military monuments that cannot be found on this scale anywhere else in Canada. The design is used in the largest Fields of Honour across the world to commemorate veterans of the two World Wars.

Also, the Tear Drop section of the Field of Honour is the only section in a cemetery in Canada where so many war dead can be found interred together in one section.

Scott Gill, mayor of Winnipeg, said, “As one of the largest and most important veteran burial sites in Canada, Brookside Cemetery is very deserving of the distinction of being a national historic site. The Field of Honour at Brookside Cemetery is a resting place to over 10,000 of our veterans. It has long been a respected and honoured place where we remember the sacrifices of those who have served.”

A number of other important monuments and historic elements are located throughout Brookside Cemetery, including early 20th-century Manitoba limestone and wrought-iron entry gates; a Korean Veterans Cairn; a Hong Kong Veterans Cairn; a monument to the victims of the 1947 Dugald train disaster; the Winnipeg Fire Fighters Memorial Monument; and the University of Manitoba Medical Monument.

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