Gateway Gazette

Government of Canada Commemorates Reader Rock Garden as National Historic Site

Calgary, Alberta – Admired for its beauty and botanical diversity, Reader Rock Garden was considered one of the most successful horticultural gardens in Western Canada. It showcased the horticultural, ecological, and aesthetic possibilities of gardening in the cold winters and dry summers of Calgary.

Today, Kent Hehr, Member of Parliament for Calgary Centrecommemorated the national historic significance of Reader Rock Garden with a special plaque unveiling ceremony in Calgary. This commemoration was made on behalf of the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.

Built into a steep hillside south of Calgary’s downtown, Reader Rock Garden is an arts and crafts-style alpine rockery, a garden type popular in Europe and North America at the beginning of the 20th century. It features rock paths, steps, and walls forming numerous planting beds that contain thousands of native and non-native plant specimens.

Reader Rock Garden was laid out between 1913 and 1942 by William Roland Reader, Calgary’s most influential parks superintendent. Its creation was driven by two factors: the encouragement of European settlement at a time when southern Alberta was considered hostile to agricultural and horticultural development; and the City Beautiful movement, which linked civic beauty with social progress. The resulting garden was well appreciated for its beauty and design, and inspired private citizens to follow Reader’s example in their own gardens.

The Government of Canada is committed to connecting Canadians to the significant people, places, and events that contributed to our country’s diverse heritage. The commemoration process is largely driven by public nominations and to date, more than 2,150 designations have been made.

The Government of Canada is celebrating families with free admission to Parks Canada’s places for youth 17 and under, and free admission for one year for new Canadian citizens. We invite Canadians to learn more about our history – from lighthouses to battlefields, historic neighbourhoods to Indigenous contributions to Canada, there is an amazing array of places and stories to discover. 

Quotes

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to commemorate the national historic significance of Reader Rock Garden. In addition to its beautiful design and intricate details, this landmark continues to be a reflection of the confidence and optimism of the people and the city of Calgary. Historic designations like Reader Rock Garden reflect Canada’s rich and varied history. I encourage all Canadians to learn more about this national historic site and its important contributions to Canada’s horticulture.”

Kent Hehr
Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre

Quick facts

  • Reader Rock Garden was established in 1913 and developed until 1942.

  • William Roland Reader served as Superintendent of Calgary Parks for nearly 40 years. He was one of a small number of municipal parks superintendents in Canada who significantly shaped their cities through professional skill, personal energy, and dedication.

  • In designing the garden, Reader drew from British gardening influences popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and adapted them to the dramatically different environment of the Canadian prairies.

  • Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national historic significance of places, people and events that have marked Canada’s history.

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