Davey’s Field / The Green Space
By: Akseli Virravuori
Davey’s Field is a small empty lot located in Georgestown, St. John’s. It is situated between the houses that line Hayward Ave, William St, Monkstown Rd, and Maxse St. Davey’s field can be accessed by three alleys. Two of them are located on Hayward Ave and one of them on William St.
Davey’s field is an excellent example of the numerous layers the neighbourhood of Georgestown has. The plot has been in use since the middle of the nineteenth century and has housed paint and carpentry shops, a car mechanics garage and Davey’s Construction Company. According to neighbourhood stories, for a while a reportedly “spooky” caretaker used to “give a boot up the arse” to anyone trespassing.
After it was no longer in commercial use, Davey’s field became a landfill, as seen by the hills on the lot. Due to the plot being used as a landfill, as well as a site for local industry, the soil is thought to be contaminated with lead and contain various pieces of metal that sometimes come out of the ground. For this reason playing in the field barefoot is not advisable.
According to the locals there are two cars buried under the hills of Davey’s Field. The exact models of the cars seem to be in question. Some suggest that they are Volkswagens while others claim that the hills contain a Ford and a Chrysler. While some residents dismiss the existence of buried automobiles as just local folklore, a local who grew up next to the lot claims to have found auto parts in the ground. One reason given for the cars being buried under the hills is the proximity to the Basilica Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. The story goes that the cars have been buried close to the Basilica so that they may yet be resurrected on Judgement Day when Gabriel blows (or honks) his horn.
Regardless of the soil itself, Davey’s Field has been, and continues to be, a popular place among the children in the neighbourhood, who come to play there year after year. Bill and Ellen Power grew up on Hayward Avenue with their back yard opening onto Davey’s field. Many of their childhood memories are closely connected to the green space. Bill recalled, “Mostly we would just chase each other around [in Davey’s field]. Like tag and stuff. You’d use whatever you had. Some of us had various toys and stuff. Some would just have sticks and you’d just invent.” Ellen added, “We played a lot of make-believe-kind of games. But I also remember because – If you’ve been out there you’ve seen the two hills. So if there’s two or three of you it naturally becomes forts. A couple of times we’d have like a snowball fight where you’d have this fort and this is the other fort. We used to go sledding down the back of the steeper hill too but then they put a fence there.”
In the past the city of St. John’s planned on fencing the lot and turning it into a backyard for the nearby houses. The plan was met with opposition from the Georgestown Neighbourhood Association, as well as local residents old and young. Because of this Davey’s field still remains a public space and is the site for neighbourhood events, such as the annual barbeque held by the Georgestown Neighbourhood Association that includes food, musical acts and storytelling.