Eight decades after vandals forced the site’s former tea house to shutter, a new pavilion now open at Esquimalt’s Gorge Park restores a deep-rooted history.
On Saturday, the public and local officials celebrated the grand opening of Gorge Park Pavilion—an over 6,000 sq. ft space covering two floors, each with views of the water and renewed surrounding gardens.
According to township officials, the building’s design is inspired by the original tea house, The Japanese Tea Garden, a popular park spot around 80 years ago.
It was designed in 1907 by Isaburo Kishida for his son, Yoshihiro Kishida and Yoshihiro’s business partner, Hayato Takata, after being contracted by the BC Electric Railway Company build an authentic Japanese Tea Garden.
However, in 1942, the tea house was vandalized during the Second World War when Japanese Canadians were forced into internment, the township recalls.
Years later, after public consultation showed community support for a new facility on the site, the project moved forward with the pavilion funded through a portion of the $17-million McLoughlin Amenity Funds.
By the summer of 2020, construction was underway after Esquimalt received funding from the Capital Regional District in exchange for using McLoughlin Point for the region’s wastewater treatment plant.
The township says the pavilion and grounds, accessed via Tillicum Road, are intended to be a community gathering space and notes that programming like art and yoga classes will be provided, as well as renting the building for events.
Today, the garden remains the oldest Japanese Garden in North America, with Kishida also known for designing the Japanese Gardens at Royal Roads and Butchart Gardens.