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W9861a TO MATT BROMAN from T.B. McQuesten
Feb 18 1936
To: Matt Broman
From: Office of the Minister of Highways, T.B. McQuesten Toronto, Ontario

[ONTARIO CREST-shield and animals]

Memorandum for Mr. Matt. Broman,1 2

In the Morton Arboretum Bulletin for February, 1936, at the bottom of page 6, there is a descripton of varieties of plants with coloured stems. I think we should go into this a good deal and plant extensively along the river's edge and in rough spots where we can use low planting. Close by the river it will not obstruct the view. I am also interested in the reference on page 8 to the Cotoncaster and Willows.

T.B. McQuesten [Thomas Baker McQuesten]

1 This document was originally numbered 986.1.001 but has been renumbered for cataloguing purposes to W9861a. The series of Whitehern letters beginning with "986" are all Broman's.

2 Matt Broman (1895-1989) worked very closely with Thomas B. McQuesten on many of his projects in Hamilton and in Niagara, including work done at the RBG. He served as the Principle for the Training School for Apprentice Gardeners in Niagara and was also named Superintendant of Arboriculture for the Niagara Parks Commission. The Niagara Parks Rose Garden established in the 1940's is an excellent example of Broman's rather grand style of landscaping. Tom, who greatly respected Broman (W9865d), also trusted him to inspect the Trans-Canada Highway between Port Arthur and Longlac.

The Hamilton Spectator ran an article on June 29, 1978 on the occasion of Matt Broman's retirement (quoted here in full):

Matt Would Like to See a Flag in Every Park

Matt Broman has put beauty into the lives of thousands. As the designer of the rock gardens at Royal Botanical Gardens, Mr. Broman, 82, has brought pleasure to countless visitors. City dwellers can obtain some relief from the concrete and steel world in other parks he has helped to landscape. Golfers too enjoy the results of his craft. But Mr. Broman thinks there's something missing from the Hamilton parks that he has helped to design. "In every large park there should be a flagpole with a big Canadian flag," said Mr. Broman, 83 [sic]. "It gives you a feeling, when you see the flag. You think: It's a beautiful country," he says.

Standing beside a 1 1/2-acre rose garden he helped redesign 20 years ago in Gage Park, Mr. Broman contemplates his retirement this week. As he spoke, he surveyed the visitors who came to enjoy his creations. "I never cared for money in my life," he said, "It's the pleasure of doing things and to have people appreciate and enjoy what you're doing." "That's been my aim--to do some good landscaping and do something for people to enjoy."

Mr. Broman came to Canada from Sweden in 1927, joined a firm in Toronto for a couple of years, then learned golf course design from Canada's only specialist at the time--Stanley Thompson.


Mr. Broman finished the rough sketches his tutor created for, among others, the courses at Jasper Park Lodge and the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta. Since 1928, when he oversaw the creation of the Royal Botanical Gardens' rock garden and the city's western entrance, Mr. Broman has been a major influence on just about every piece of public garden in the city.

He's also been supervisor of the Niagara Parks Commission, landscape designer for many Ontario Hydro plants, creator of a gardening school in Niagara Falls, and the architect of King's Forest Golf Course, to name a few accomplishments.

He offered one piece of advice to city planners before settling into semi-retirement. "Make sure no garbage or fill is dumped in the gullies and valleys. They're most important for greenery. They're like the city's blood veins."

They might also see what they can do about getting some flags for city parks.

The article is accompanied by a photo of Broman, leaning against a tree and sketching. Photo by Paul Hourigan.


Ernest R. Seager, long-time secretary of Hamilton Board of Park's Management and later chairman of the Crystal Palace committee recalls Mr. Broman in an obituary in the Hamilton Spectator, dated c.1989:

Matt poured out his labor [sic] of love

Landscape architect Matt Broman, designer of the Rock Gardens, Hamilton's magnificent western entrance on York Boulevard, King's Forest golf course, the Gage Park rose garden, the Niagara parks system and other parks in Ontario, Quebec and Europe, died recently at the age of 94. Ernest R. Seager, long-time secretary of Hamilton's board of park management, now Crystal Palace committee chairman, recalls Mr. Broman and his profound influence on Hamilton.

I lost a friend the other day, one that will be sadly missed from that circle of companions that helped to make up the form and the direction of my life.

Matt Broman was a teacher, advisor, and confidant, but above all, he was a landscape architect extraordinaire.

I first met Matt some 35 years ago, in the offices of the Hamilton Board of Park Management. He was a soft-spoken, quiet man, and in many ways self-effacing. Yet there is not a park in Hamilton that cannot attest to the touch of this gentle man's talented skills. Visit Gage Park. See its wide perennial borders, trimmed with Cooper Beech and cedars, its "Giant Meadow", the traditional fountain, bowling greens, tennis courts, or quiet nooks for restful repose and re-creation of the spirit. Visit Dundurn, and Dundurn Castle, Churchill Fields, Mountain Brow Boulevard. But do not miss Sam Lawrence Park with its magnificent view, and where the lowly petunia was made to shine forth in all of its glorious colors[sic].

Matt designed and prepared plans for the Mohawk Sports Park, the Chedoke Civil Golf Course, the Beddoe Course, and for one of Canada's first publicly owned ski slopes. Perhaps one of his most noted accomplishments will be the complete designing, engineering, and construction of the "King's Forest Golf Course", within the 800 acre park in the east end of Hamilton. A park purchased years earlier by his friend and colleague, T.B. McQuesten.

Matt's association with T.B. McQuesten, the "Forgotten Builder", is synonymous with his own unheralded accomplishments. He had been working with a firm of landscape architects laying out plans for the North-Western entrance to Hamilton, and was persuaded by McQuesten to join him as a planner and designer, in forming (what is now) the Royal Botanical Gardens. Matt's beautifully laid out plans and designs for that area are still to be seen in the archives of the world renowned institution.

Matt took great delight in this work, for he was, at heart, a gardener. He could, for instance, tell you where each stone came from, where it was placed, and which one was the last, in the building of the RBG's famed Rock Gardens, a desolate old stone quarry transformed into a dazzling display of flowers, and visited by thousands of visitors each year.

And so it was with the Spring Gardens, the Rose Gardens, the Hendrie Gardens, the plans for the arboretum, the Lilac Gardens, the broad open spaces, and green swards. Whatever McQuesten's mind conceived, Matt's skilled hand devised. Their combined efforts produced a nucleus which has been developed by other dedicated torch bearers, into North America's only "Royal Botanical Gardens".

But Matt now had another task. The Niagara Parks Commission needed a man to found a school for gardeners, a residential school that would teach the theoretical aspects of horticulture as well as the practical training and studies. Matt built the foundations of this school so well that the Niagara School of Horticulture provides practically every Canadian city, and horticulture industry with its graduates.

Finally, Matt had his own personal home garden. An "Old English Style" garden on the high banks of the Niagara River at Queenston. Here, he poured out his labor[sic] of love on the many trees, shrubs, plants and seeds, gathered from all over the world. A beautiful garden at best, but now a little overgrown due to the failing hand of the master gardner [sic].

One of God's final creations on that sixth day so long ago, was a park, "The Garden of Eden". Regretfully, mortals are no longer permitted entry. However, when finally in that 'twinkling of an eye' the gates are thrown open, and we stand before a "Far Greater Architect", I am sure we will find Matt, peacefully working at what he loved best - a garden.

There is a plaque commemorating Matt Broman's work at the RBG near the Thomas B. McQuesten High Level Bridge. There is also a small lookout park named after Broman on the brow overlooking King's Forest Park in Hamilton.

3 For more information on Thomas B. McQuesten see his biography

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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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