Thursday, July 5, 2018

Elaborate Bandstands for Special Events

Bandstand. Elevation rendering in color, with plan and side elevation, 1849 March 7. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Although the above drawing doesn't look like the bandstand, or gazebo that we're familiar with today, if you look at the artist's side view sketch on the bottom right you see how it resembles the modern version in a majestic way. This is the sketch was the architectural drawing examination submission by student Richard Morris Hunt in 1849 at the Ecole des beaux-arts in Paris. We don't know what mark Hunt attained for his submission, but he must have passed since he went on to become an architect. 

When the 1900 World's Fair was held in Paris, the Exposition had its share of musical venues including an elaborate wooden bandstand with lacy fretwork where the American composer, John Philip Sousa, led his band in his own 1896 composition of Stars and Stripes Forever. 

Paris Exposition 1900--Sousa's band--"Stars & Stripes forever", c1900. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

The Iolani Bandstand in Honolulu, Hawaii was built in 1883 for the coronation of King Kalakaua. Twenty-five feet across and constructed of wood, the bandstand featured a domed roof of green tiles with recessed dormers featuring international crests. 

Iolani Bandstand, King & Richards Streets, Honolulu, Honolulu County, HI, 1883. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

After the second time the structure was repaired from heavy insect damage from termites and other insects, the balustrade and wood pillars were replaced with ones cast in concrete. As of 1972, the pavilion was still in use as a bandstand while the lower level is used for the storage of grounds maintenance equipment. 

Iolani Bandstand, King & Richards Streets, Honolulu, Honolulu County, HI, after 1933. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

We find a similar domed style in Calgary, Alberta, albeit without the false dormers, when this bandstand was built at the streetcar terminus in Tuxedo Gardens. It was one of several elegant additions to the city's park system when in 1910, the Board hired Richard Iverson as park superintendant. A self-professed landscape artist who had previously worked in the German Imperial Gardens after graduating from the University of Berlin with the highest honors, Iverson had a dream to create expansive parks lined with shady boulevards and filled with gardens, nurseries, statuary, bandstands and playgrounds to help the public enjoy their leisure time.

Streetcar terminus, Centre Street North, Calgary, Alberta, 1913-1919. Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Calgary, Alberta

The domed bandstand in Calgary's Tuxedo Gardens was only in use from 1913-1916 and had disappeared by 1919. Although I couldn't find a reason why it was demolished, I wondered if it had been due to a structural issue. (I suppose it was a doomed bandstand and not just a domed one.)

The Board considered park development to be a necessity to Calgary's success and went along with Iverson's extravagant plans, including a bandstand fit for royalty. Built on St. George's Island on the Bow River which runs through Calgary, the 2-tier bandstand was started in 1910 and finished in 1911. 

Bandstand on St. George's Island, Calgary, Alberta, ca.1912. Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Calgary, Alberta

Bandstand on St. George's Island, Calgary, Alberta, ca.1913. Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Calgary, Alberta

By 1913 however, the dreamer Iverson had proved himself a terrible administrator and had a problem taking advice. Faced with over-budget and half-finished construction jobs, the Board hired a local gardener, William R. Reader to take over as Park Superintendent. Reader believed that parks were for the people and had a passion to use park space for activities that didn't taxpayers sweat to worry over. Among his simple achievements were loudspeakers around a lagoon so people could enjoy music while boating in summer and skating in winter. With the real estate crash of the 20's, Reader brought forward the idea of using St. George's Island as the location of the Calgary Zoo. 

St. George's Island Park, Calgary, Alberta, ca.1935. Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Calgary, Alberta

Yes, the same place where the glorious 2-tier bandstand stood became part of the Calgary Zoo. For twenty years they both survived. Today, the zoo is still there. But in 1949, the bandstand was demolished. 

St. George's Island Park, Calgary, Alberta, ca.1940. Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Calgary, Alberta

I suppose I've strayed off topic since the Calgary bandstands weren't built for a specific event, however, they were built on a grand scale. 

I've found some more interesting images of 2-tier and square bandstands, as well as bandshells, which I'll be posting on my upcoming days (the 5th of each month) here at HHH. I do hope you're enjoying this series. 

Other posts in this historical bandstand series can be found:

So what do you think about the bandstands shown here? Or even ones from my previous posts? Do you think bandstands should be taken down after each event? Or do you like ones that are built to last and are made of concrete and iron?


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are written under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details.  Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience.  Discover more at:


  1. Bandstands are a wonderful idea! If they are built on public property they should be well maintained and considered landmarks. Sometimes that is the only exposure to broader spectrums of music than what is played on Ipods and phones that children get. They should know what other generations listened to even if they don't prefer it themselves. And sometimes those concerts and events centered in bandstands spark a lifelong love of music in general, or a specific instrument! I am thinking it's sort of like going to a parade on the 4th, that's where you hear patriotic music. Thanks for the interesting post!

    1. Thank you, Connie. I love your informative comment since it's been proven that music helps children learn better and even those who struggle with rhythm know which music soothes their soul.

      Thanks so much. Your visit is a great way to start my blogging day. :)

  2. These bandstands are beautiful and well crafted with some of the elaborate work. Bandstands should be allowed to remain as it's part of historical events. Our area has more of a amphitheater in one of the community parks for the community band to play at during the summer along with other special events from time to time.

    1. Marilyn, I'm glad you mentioned the amphitheater type because the large, one-sided, open-faced band shells are the focus of my next post in this series.

      Thanks for stopping by with your kind words. Always a pleasure.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this, Anita. One of our small towns here in Nebraska celebrated a re-dedication of their renovated bandstand not long ago. It's in the middle of the town square and well used.

  4. Thanks for sharing that, Stephanie. Very encouraging to hear they're still being used and giving everyone an opportunity to hear great music.

    I'm sorry for the delay in answering... I thought I'd answered a couple weeks ago, but don't see my response here. I really did enjoy your comment.

  5. Thanks for the history about Calgary!