Stratford Parks System

Dr. Edward Henry Eidt: “Grandfather” of the Stratford Parks System

Stratford owes a debt of gratitude to the dogged determination of dentist Dr. Edward Henry Eidt. Over the course of some 35 years Eidt fought for and oversaw the preservation and development of a continuous, 850-acre park system – through the city and along the water – stretching from Avondale on the city’s western boundary to Queen’s Park at its eastern limit. 

Avon river
Avon River – Photo Credit: Howard Shubert

Having watched, from his offices in the Gordon Block, as the city’s parklands degenerated, Eidt was “determined to change that state of affairs and breathe new and lasting life into the Stratford parks system,” according to Dean Robinson.  1 Eidt was instrumental in the city’s purchase of land for Queen’s Park in 1885. In 1904 he helped establish the Stratford Parks Board. And from 1909 until 1921 Eidt worked with fellow board members Thomas J. Dolan, George McLagan and R. Thomas Orr to secure the adjacent properties that today comprise Stratford’s emerald jewel.

Shakespeare gardens
Shakespeare Gardens – Photo Credit: Howard Shubert

To complete their plan, the Parks Board invited to Stratford two of North America’s finest landscape architects: Fredrick G. Todd, the first resident landscape architect in Canada, who had apprenticed with the Olmsted firm; and F. Von Hoffman, assistant landscape architect for the New York Park Commission, who observed, “The lake is worth a million dollars to Stratford. Some places, if they had it, would spend a million dollars to beautify it.”  2 Frederick Todd elucidated his guiding principals at Startford by emphasizing the visual, the importance of water and its interplay with vegetation in terms of framing vistas and creating reflections. 3

band shell
Bandshell on river – Photo Credit: Howard Shubert

Dr. Eidt’s fellow Parks Board members – Thomas J. Dolan, George McLagan and R. Thomas Orr have all been honoured by the city: T. J. Dolan Drive and the T. J. Dolan Natural Area; McLagan Drive; and the R. Thomas Orr dam. It remains for Dr. Edward Henry Eidt to be equally recognized and celebrated for his contributions to Stratford.

Howard Shubert

1 Dean Robinson. Not the Last Waltz: And Other Stratford Stories (Dean Robinson, 2019).

2 Chris Rickett. “Stratford: A City of Memory”

3 Nancy Pollock-Ellwand. “The Obscured Legacy of Canada’s First Landscape Architect: Frederick G. Todd,” Planning Perspectives, 34:2, (2019), 191-214.

Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria – Photo Credit: Howard Shubert