Minto Park is designated as a municipal historic site for its social, historic and aesthetic values. Designed to complement the neoclassical architecture of the OTAB, the legislative and administrative headquarters of the Yukon Territory from 1902 until 1953, Minto Park is Yukon’s first formal park and a landmark within the community. Established in 1904, Minto Park was named after the first Governor General that visited the Yukon, Governor General Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, the 4th Earl of Minto.
The formal landscape and expansive green space contribute to the heritage character of the OTAB, emphasizing its stature and architecture within the community. The designed green space surrounding the OTAB is typical of the federal government properties constructed during the early twentieth century within the Government Reserve.
Minto Park was developed in cooperation with the Dawson Horticultural Society to provide a formal green space and recreation area that showcased a strong federal presence. Beginning in 1903, the drainage, leveling and landscaping of the area around the OTAB along with the construction of a grandstand, ball park and tennis courts helped reinforce the site not only as the administrative centre of the territory, but also as the social and recreational focal point of the community.
Since its inauguration, the park has been the town’s venue for athletic games, military drills, community celebrations and events, and represents an important aspect of the community’s history. One of the few formal green spaces in Dawson, Minto Park contributes to the heritage character of the Government Reserve area and continues to play an important role within the community.
In 1910, a central flower bed was installed in the park north of the OTAB that was replaced by a granite cenotaph in 1924 to honour Yukon soldiers who fought in the First World War. Thereafter this area was known as ‘Victory Garden’. A community initiative reconstructed the Victory Garden and lawn in 1992 using a period landscape plan. The garden was compressed into the western half of its former space and the geometric design with paths, central flower bed and lawn bordered by alternating poplar and spruce trees along Fifth Avenue and Church Street were restored. The cenotaph remains in its original location in what was once the center of Victory Garden and is flanked by two field guns that were installed in 1924 as part of the memorial. The Victory Garden and Cenotaph provide a tangible link to the sacrifices Canadians made in the First and Second World Wars.
Minto Park has been recognized for its heritage and social value by the City of Dawson, Bylaw #13-07.
The formal green landscape with the Old Territorial Administration Building as its centerpiece includes a front lawn with mature trees, and a charming Victorian style garden on the north side. The building is oriented with its long side facing 5th Avenue and set back from the street, in the tradition of capitals elsewhere in Canada. The Victory Garden is rectangular with a geometric design that features a central planting bed of shrubs, perennials and annuals including primarily indigenous species such as delphiniums and poppies. The flower bed is surrounded by a circular white gravel path from which diagonal paths radiate outwards, forming triangular quadrants of manicured, flat lawn. To the east of the flowerbed, adjacent to the alley is an obelisk-shaped Cenotaph war memorial, flanked by mature spruce trees. The garden and front lawn is bordered by indigenous deciduous and coniferous trees, poplar, birch and spruce. The front lawn has a central walkway from the boardwalk which leads to the front entrance of the Old Territorial Administration Building.
The original landscape was drained and leveled. The open area of land to the south includes a baseball diamond with associated bleachers and refreshment building is the central feature on the south side. A children's playground is south of the baseball diamond and there is a cement surface skate park and tennis court south of that. The land slopes down from southeast to northwest. The park features short grass and planted deciduous trees along the 5th Avenue perimeter.
Character Defining Elements
• Victory Garden with central Victorian style garden planted primarily with indigenous species such as wild rose, delphiniums, poppies, pansies and snapdragons and bordered by a 19-sided picket fence
• Geometric design containing the garden with a circular white gravel path from which diagonal paths radiate outwards to the corners of the lot, forming triangular quadrants of lawn north of the OTAB
• Location and setting of the Obelisk-shaped Cenotaph war memorial flanked by trees and field guns on the east side of Victory Garden
• Formal landscape bordered by wooden boardwalk along 5th Avenue and Church Street with the OTAB prominently centered
• Balsam poplar and white spruce bordering Fifth Avenue and Church Street
• Open, level area south of the OTAB including playing field and expansive lawn
Historical Sources Location
City of Dawson- Municipal Designation Nomination Form- Minto Park
Old Territorial Administration Building National Historic Site of Canada Commemorative Integrity Statement, 2005,
Dawson City Museum- Historical photographs
19188.8.131.52- Victory Garden c1920s
1994.123.43- Cenotaph, August 1929
1995.345.22- Flood in Dawson City, Victory Gardens, c1930
1996.39.13- Baseball game at Minto Park, 1900
1996.39.58- Flood of May 1925, people canoing through Minto Park between 5th and 6th Avenues
19184.108.40.206- OTAB c1918 showing Minto Park
19220.127.116.11- Discovery Day celebrations, Minto Park, 1920
1918.104.22.168- Discovery Day Celebrations, Minto Park, 1920
1997.299.5- Baseball Game Minto Park, c1904
1922.214.171.124- Baseball Game Minto Park, c1905
19126.96.36.199- Baseball Game in Minto Park, c1910
19188.8.131.52- Slow bicycle race, c1910
19184.108.40.206- A gathering in Minto Park, c1925
1983.186.5- Minto Park during flood of May 7, 1944
1984.138.2- Tennis Club at Minto Park, July 1901
1990.43.200- Hammering Contest at Minto Park, c1910
1995.155.2- Canadian Rangers, c1920
1994.259.1- South Dawson City, c1910 (showing victory garden and Minto Park)
The site is located in the original Government Reserve of Dawson City and the green space around the Old Territorial Administration Building (OTAB) was demarcated three years after the building was completed. The setting was designed to complement the classical detailing of the Old Territorial Administration Building and showcase federal power. Established in 1904, it was comprised of a formal park on the north, formal landscaping on the west, and informal landscaping on the south and east of the Old Territorial Administration Building. The central flower bed was installed around in the centre of the formal park in 1910 and replaced by the Cenotaph in 1924, and thereafter the formal park was known as Victory Garden. Minto Park is currently and has been since its inception, an important public space for public gatherings, including sports events, military drills, and parades. Victory Garden was reconstructed in 1992 and is a site of commemoration and community use.
The Royal Canadian Legion and Dawson Rangers hold a portion of the Remembrance Day ceremonies every year at the Cenotaph on the east side of Victory Gardens. This tradition acknowledges Yukoners' courage and contributions to Canadian military efforts, and has deep meaning to many Yukon families who made great sacrifices during the two World Wars, Korean War and subsequent wars. For these reasons it also a site of pilgrimage.
In summer, Dawson City Museum interpretive programs spill out to the exterior of the OTAB. The museum plays host to the annual and highly attended Canada Day celebrations on July 1st and other community events which are held on the surrounding landscaped green spaces.
Minto Park was named after Governor General, Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, the 4th Earl of Minto (1898 - 1904), the first Governor General to visit the Yukon.
J.H. Sutton was awarded the contract for grading and leveling the area south of the Old Territorial Administration Building in 1904. William Horkan, an Irishman and naturalized American came to the Klondike in 1897 and was awarded the initial landscaping contract. In 1903, the federal government began to make plans to improve the grounds of the OTAB in a manner creditable to the City of Dawson and to the whole territory and the Horticultural Society passed a resolution to form a small park as a desirable place of recreation in the summer.
The Royal Canadian Legion has been associated with Victory Garden since the 1920's. Frank Berton father of well-known author Pierre Berton was instrumental in raising funds to install a memorial at the site. The Great War Veterans Association dedicated the Cenotaph on September 24, 1924. This organization later became the British Empire League and then the Royal Canadian Legion, and remains active in the Dawson community.
File 3630-40-03, Historic Sites, Cultural Services Branch, Government of Yukon.