Stunning footage from history shows the creation of the tourist resort of Scarborough as engineer Harry Smith’s vision is honored

Yet it was one man’s vision that defined the drawing board for which much is now famous.

The late Harry Smith, as Borough Council engineer, was responsible for the design of the town’s open-air theatre, its Peasholm Park, colorful beach huts and popular promenade.

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Gradually, in the heyday of the post-Victorian spa town of Scarborough, it had rewritten its tourist facade, as well as eradicating its lesser-known slums.

Peasholm station. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.

Today, as an exhibit opens at the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center to honor ‘a local hero’, volunteer curators hope to celebrate his legacy.

For Les Shannon, who helped amass research and photographs, they show only a fraction of what this mastermind and visionary achieved.

He said: “It’s amazing what’s still there when so much is gone. Harry Smith was definitely ahead of his time. And reading between the lines, I think he loved Scarborough as much as anyone in Scarborough.

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Miniature ships at Scarborough’s Peasholm Park ready for battle once again

The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.

Born in Warwickshire in 1867, Mr Smith was apprenticed to an architect and engineer at the age of 14. At the age of 29, he was appointed Borough Engineer of Scarborough.

One of his first jobs was a public shelter on Victoria Road, which still stands today. Another was for a new fire station, hailed as “worthy of any city.”

Then came extensions to create the Town Hall, opened in 1903, and the Saint-Nicolas Gardens as its first foray into a public park.

Opening of Marine Drive. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition on Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933. He oversaw many transformational projects in the town, including the South Bay Swimming Pool, the Open Air Theatre, the conversion from City Hall, Cliff Lifts, Beach Huts, War Memorial, Peasholm Park and South Cliff Gardens. Bruce Rollinson

But he was just getting started. Marine Drive, the City’s Floral Hall, Boating Lake, Peasholm Park Pagoda and Waterfall, and consolidation of North and South Bay cliffs.

Below, a small terrace of beach huts and the promenade below, along the country’s first large saltwater swimming pool in 1915.

And of course, Northstead Manor Gardens. Work began there in 1928, with tennis courts and a roller skating rink, followed by a recreational lake and a now listed slide.

The model railways had to have a destination, he had determined, and so he extended to Scalby Mills. Then, with a stage in the lake and seats, the Open Air Theater was born.

Volunteers from the Les Shannon Heritage Center prepare the exhibition which opens on January 12th. January 6, 2022. Photo Bruce Rollinson Author: Bruce Rollinson

Mr Smith, a father of three, died six months after his wife Jessie died in 1944.

He reportedly once said to a colleague, “If you don’t do anything else, as soon as you can, plant a tree. He will be there when you are gone.

Today, a century after his first trees were planted, many still stand, while the attractions he designed remain the ‘jewel in Scarborough’s crown’.

Mr Shannon said: ‘He built Scarborough as tourists know it. From a Japanese garden in Peasholm Park to an outdoor theater and a model railway.

“He was just a wonderful man, so ahead of his time. A real visionary. Some people have asked for a statue, but in my opinion his parks are a better tribute. He’s a local hero, in my opinion, and in the eyes of many people.

Peasholm bandstand. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.

The three-month exhibition on Harry Smith, an engineer from 1896 to 1933, features photographs of the ski lifts, parks and attractions he created. It also hints at a lesser-known side of Scarborough’s history, in slum clearances up to the 1960s.

Mr Shannon said: ‘Scarborough was very much regarded as a holiday destination, like a Victorian spa town. When Mr. Smith came to town, that was about to change, as the workman could spend his money here. Scarborough wouldn’t be Scarborough without its heritage.

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Peasholm opening day. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition on Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the town. Bruce Rollinson.
Beach cabins on the bay. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.
The Sands, North Bay. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.
Open air theatre. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.
Open air theatre. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.
Children’s lake and outdoor theatre. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.
Boating lake. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.
North Bay Miniature Railway. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Center is launching an exhibition about Harry Smith, the borough’s former engineer from 1896 to 1933, who oversaw many transformation projects in the city. Bruce Rollinson.
North Bay Pleasure Gardens.

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