Public history students honoured for work on Labatt Memorial Park

April 20, 2023

Bleachers at Labatt Park - Photo by Deb Van Brenk

Photo by Deb Van Brenk

Public history students from Western’s Department of History were among the partners honoured with a Local History Award from the London Heritage Foundation, for their work creating historical waking tours of Labatt Memorial Park.

Held on April 13th, the 16th annual London Heritage Awards are given out each year by ACO London and the Heritage London Foundation in recognition of outstanding leadership excellence in heritage conservation across the London region.

Led by Professor Mike Dove, Director of Public History at Western,two PhD students - Jonathan Bayer, and Liam Clifford – and Dryden Choban, an MA student, researched the history of Labatt Memorial Park, and led public tours through the past two summers.

"Our graduate students enthusiastically greeted visitors of all ages throughout the past two summers. Their passion for the park and for the numerous stories they shared brought this site's history to life and really prompted folks to nominate the project for this award," said Dove.

The park is the world’s oldest, continuously operating ballpark. Begun in 1877 as Tecumseh Park, the field has been home to football, steeplechase, lacrosse, rugby and cycling races. It was host site to baseball teams called the Tigers, the Werewolves and the Eager Beavers. The site was renamed Labatt Memorial Park in 1936 when the famous London brewer family bought the field and gave it to the city under the condition it remain a public park in perpetuity. It is currently home field for the London Majors of the Intercounty Baseball League and of the Western Mustangs and Fanshawe Falcons baseball teams. The field has been certified by Guinness World Records as the oldest, continuously operating ballpark in the world.

Since the tours began in 2021, the City of London as submitted an application for the park to receive National Heritage designation.

“If awarded, it would be only the third sports-related site in Canada to be recognized as a National Historic Site, the other two being the Montreal Forum and Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens,” said Dove. “The tours really helped put the park on the map and helped the City in this effort towards designation.”

The project team also includes the City of London, Tourism London, London Majors of the Intercounty Baseball League, Friends of Labatt Park and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Professor Dove is excited to keep this wonderful collaborative relationship with the City and other community partners going: “As for our role in the public history program, we will continue to provide research and tour guide recruitment services as we further enhance the experience and build a strong case for national designation.”

Related stories:

Labatt Park historical tours swing for the fences - June 2021