Bandshell reopening July 1, 1992
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from Northumberland Today 2008 by Barry King
The Port Hope Memorial Bandshell
In Port Hope, there is a tradition of outdoor entertainments
A small, round bandstand once held a prominent position in front of the Town Hall and marketplace. For a time it was located on the lawns behind the Town Hall, and later it was moved to the beach west of the pavilion until it was taken down in the 1950s.
In 1945, with the Second World War's end in sight, an idea was conceived to build a new bandshell as a memorial to those fallen. A campaign was launched in suitable fashion with a band concert, held at the Capitol Theatre in April. Subsequently, a fund was established and shares were sold at $1 each toward construction of the Memorial Bandshell in Port Hope Central Park. The Lions Club gave support with the purchase of 500 shares, and the Port Hope Brass Band conducted a successful raffle, offering a 1942 Chevrolet to the lucky winner. By April of 1946, the bandshell fund had grown sufficiently that the Port Hope Parks Commission agreed to allow the committee to begin construction.
The next month, The Port Hope Evening Guide reported, "the sawing and hammering coming from behind the Town Hall are (evidence of) the workmen busily engaged in building the new bandshell. The outside frame has been completed and the whole shell is rapidly taking shape."
The shell's design was taken from blueprints borrowed from the Canadian Bandmasters' Association by Fred H. W. Brooks, bandmaster of the Port Hope Brass Band.
Though the building was not yet completed due to a wartime shortage of materials, a preliminary test concert was held before a large crowd on a Sunday evening in July. The only one of its type in Canada, according to Bandmaster Brooks, the shell was tested with a girls' choir, soloist, contralto, Mrs. Evelyn McBride, and a male quartet composed of Messrs. Darling, Wesenger, Fulford and Roberts.
A modern, scientifically built sounding board provided the band shell with excellent acoustics, sending the music clearly to all corners of the large park. This was said to be "quite out of the ordinary in bandstands."
In a brief address, Rev. James Gordon, the Port Hope Ministerial Association's president, expressed his pleasure "that gatherings of this wholesome kind could be held in Port Hope."
Before its official opening, the dome would require 12 tons of plaster and paint. A former member of the Port Hope Citizens' Band, Major Rev. John Foote VC, conducted the formal dedication Aug. 26, 1946. Through the years, the Memorial Bandshell has served many different purposes. A speakers' platform for many of Canada's prime ministers, it also provided a stage for Santa, who arrived by fire truck.
As a background for a nativity scene at Christmas, the dome was decorated with a starry sky and evergreen background by World War I veteran Frank Walton. A favourite joke oft repeated was, "Did you see the birds nest in Frank Walton's trees?"
Many bands, including the Salvation Army and Cobourg Concert Bands, have enjoyed the shell's acoustics and have added a musical dimension to Port Hope's historical streetscape.
As the old structure began to age, a campaign to save it began, resulting in the venerable structure's move to its present location across the street in Memorial Park.
Proclaimed as "an investment in sound citizenship" and honouring those who gave their lives in two world wars, the Memorial Bandshell fund's dollar shares, purchased in 1945, have yielded countless dividends indeed.