By Bob Grainger –
Did you know that one of the most successful lawn bowling clubs in eastern Ontario is right here in Kitchissippi?
It was exactly one hundred years ago, in 1914, when a group of gentlemen from the Village of Westboro and the Township of Nepean approached John E. Cole to request permission to construct a lawn bowling green and tennis courts on part of his farmland. The proposal met with a positive response and the property was leased from Mr. Cole for many years.
In 1941, Mr. Cole put a price on the land, and the Club members at that time took up shares and purchased it. This transaction was recorded in the Club’s minutes of October 30, 1941. It was agreed that Mr. Cole be made a lifetime member of the Club in gratitude for his years of generosity.
A newspaper article published in the Ottawa Journal in the spring of 1914 (shown here) describes a very rapid process of the development of the club. The physical work of creating the club had not yet started in the middle of March of 1914, (there was still snow on the ground), and yet it was expected that the club would be in active operation in the first week of June. Truly amazing progress!
The club would become known as the Highland Park Lawn Bowling and Tennis Club and it’s still there today. It has occupied the same property between Byron and Ravenhill Avenues for its entire 100-year existence. Two tennis courts were laid out on land immediately east of the lawn bowling green and they were in operation until 1954 when that part of the property was sold for housing.
The clubhouse is original, but has been modified over the years. Quite a large screened porch was added to the front of the clubhouse in the late 40s. In the mid-70s this porch was totally enclosed and became part of the main structure. To current members of the club, the present clubhouse must seem small, but the interior space is actually double the size of the original building.
The newspaper article also mentions that club membership would be restricted to less than 120 members. (As a point of comparison, the playing membership of the club in 2013 was approximately 65 members.) It’s worth noting that in 1914, the sport of lawn bowling was very popular, and the scores from lawn bowling tournaments were regularly published in the local papers. It was also not unusual for a big fan of lawn bowling to build and maintain a private bowling green for personal use.
And now, 100 years later, the Highland Park Lawn Bowling Club is proving to be one of the most successful clubs in eastern Ontario. In a time when lawn bowling clubs are closing and membership is declining, Highland Park is experiencing increasing membership.
The current membership of the Highland Park Lawn Bowling Club is excited about the special events planned for the celebration of their Centennial. The HPLBC Centennial High Tea and Strawberry Social will take place on July 5, from 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Dignitaries have been invited and everyone is welcome to attend.
Bob Grainger is a retired federal public servant with an avid interest in local history. KT readers may already know him through his book, Early days in Westboro Beach – Images and Reflections. He’s also part of the Woodroffe North history project and is currently working on the history of Champlain Park and Ottawa West. Do you have any memories to share about the Highland Park Lawn Bowling Club? If so we’d love to hear them! Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org.