Niagara Parks Commission’s Oakes Garden Theatre and Rainbow Gardens Artwork

Image of Niagara Parks Commission’s Oakes Garden Theatre and Rainbow Gardens Artwork

The Niagara Parks Commission's Oakes Garden Theatre officially opened on September 18, 1937. It is located
on the north side of Clifton Hill between Falls Avenue and River Road on the site of the former Clifton House
and Lafayette Hotels. It was named in honour of the late Sir Harry Oakes who donated the property to the
Niagara Parks Commission.
Oakes Garden Theatre was designed by early prominent landscape architects Dunington-Grubb and Stensson,
the architect was William Lyon Somerville. Noted Canadian artists Florence Wyle, Frances Loring and Elizabeth
Wyn Wood created the artwork for the site. The design of the theatre is patterned after Beaux Arts principles.
It consists of a fan shaped stage, limestone staircase, fountains, urns, statues, and bas relief panels and
medallions. Eight bas relief sculptures of Canadian bird life created by Loring and Wyle are located on either
side of the arches.
In 1941, Rainbow Gardens was constructed to tie together landscaping around the new Rainbow Bridge with
the formal style of neighbouring Oakes Garden Theatre. It consists of broad terraces with formal planters and
carved balusters in the Art Deco style. Bas relief carvings designed by Loring and Wyle represent a distinct
Canadian focus and include reliefs of indigenous flowers, farming and industry. The reliefs also record phases
of settlement: a stagecoach, a farm, a rainbow arching over a hayfield, turbines and cogwheels to represent
the harnessing of Niagara. Three limestone fountains designed by Wyn Wood include a drinking fountain
modeled as a group of owls, a decorative fountain with arching salmon, and a corner fountain in relief of
Canadian Geese in full flight.
Oakes Garden Theatre and Rainbow Gardens are very much a part of the rich culture of Niagara Falls and
Ontario. The site continues to be a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
Ladies and gentleman, please put your hands together as we recognize the Niagara Parks Commission’s Oakes
Garden Theatre and Rainbow Garden’s Artwork and their contribution to the culture of Niagara Falls.