Designing Stanley Park for “the whole English-speaking race”

Postcards celebrating the natural beauty of Stanley Park tried to emulate the kind of pleasing scenery cultivated and popularized through generations of poetry, painting, and travel books about such places as the Lake District.

To help manicure Stanley Park forests into landscapes “fit for a picture,” city officials sought guidance for park improvements from leading Cumbrian landscape architect Thomas Hayton Mawson (1861-1933). Most of the designs were never implemented but Mawson’s innovative thinking on civic space made a lasting impact.

Influenced by ideas about improving nature through art, particularly through Lake District resident and art critic John Ruskin, Mawson designed public and private gardens in England, Europe and North America. From his gardening and landscape business at Windermere, Mawson renovated gardens at Rydal Hall near William Wordsworth’s Rydal Mount home.

In Vancouver, Mawson promoted landscape design as a solution to the split between “lovers” and “destroyers” of nature. Linking the city to British Empire, Mawson declared that stewardship over Stanley Park was Vancouver’s civic duty toward “the whole English-speaking race.” 



Springtime - Stanley Park, published by Timms Photography, Vancouver, B.C., 1906.

The practice of altering landscapes to improve views dates back to landscape artist and travel writer William Gilpin.




Brockton Pt., Stanley Park by B.C. Photo Card Co., no date.

Thomas Mawson designed the lighthouse that was built here in 1914.







"The Lions and Brockton Point, Stanley Park." Published by Edwards Bros., Vancouver, B.C., printed in Germany, no date.





Stanley Park is often regarded as a pristine wilderness, but this image demonstrates that people lived in the park until well into the twentieth century.