Friday, January 15, 2021 - 8:45 AM

Neighbourhood Profiles Series: Bowring Park

Peter Pan Statue

The Bowring Park neighbourhood - located in the west end near Kilbride, Cowan Heights, and Waterford Valley - hosts a variety of landscapes featuring residential, agricultural, and recreational spaces, the largest being Bowring Park itself. 

Boasting over 81 hectares (200 acres), Bowring Park is a jewel in the crown of the City’s park network. It includes some of the City’s most recognizable and important landmarks, including war memorials, the Ove Arup Cantilever Bridge (which recently received St. John’s Heritage designation) and the Peter Pan statue.

Located at the southwestern side of the Duck Pond, Peter Pan was designed by renowned sculptor Sir. George Frampton and was commissioned by Sir Edgar Bowring to create a statue that embodied the spirit and playfulness of childhood, in memorial to his granddaughter Betty Munn.  Four-year-old Betty drowned when the SS Florizel bound to Halifax on February 23, 1918 was struck by a violent storm that forced the ship to crash against rocks off the coast of Capahayden. Betty and her father, John, were among the 94 passengers who tragically lost their lives in this terrible accident.

Here is an excerpt from “The History of Bowring Park” by Gil Shalev that describes the history of this beloved municipal park:

The original area which was later to become Bowring Park was a 50-acre piece of land obtained from the Newfoundland Government in 1847 by William Thorburn who had turned it into a successful farmland. The Crown Grant Land was later leased to the Neville family who formally named the property Rae Island Farm. The farm’s perimeter was largely encompassed by two main bodies of water, the Waterford River and Southbrook River, giving the impression of a small island.

In 1911, The Bowring Brothers, an established and successful Newfoundland trade and shipping firm in Newfoundland and the UK, commemorated their 100th business anniversary in Newfoundland by offering the city of St. John’s a recreational park as a token of appreciation to the local community. The firm purchased Rae Island Farm from the Neville family as the land on which the park was to be built. 

The park’s original design and construction, carried out by Frederick Todd and Rudolf H. Cochius, commenced the following year. 

The Park was officially declared open on July 15, 1914 by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught who remarked: “May it ever be a source of pleasure and enjoyment to the citizens of St. John's and to Newfoundland in general.” 

For more on this and other neighbourhoods, please visit our Neighbourhood Profiles section.