St Ives was a fairly isolated community until about the end of the First World War, when sealed roads and electricity first began to arrive. At that time, households were growing their own produce and raising animals and poultry. Orchards and market gardens supplied local families and businesses, with the St Ives district described as “particularly renowned for the sweetness of its oranges”.
The St Ives Agricultural and Horticultural Association was formed in 1920 by a group of local farmers, who had been displaying their produce at Hassall Park on Mona Vale Road. They held their first show there in 1921. In 1926, the Association was granted 53 ha of Crown Land in St Ives to establish the Northern Suburbs Showground, now known as the St Ives Showground.
Shows and horse events were held there regularly until the Second World War, when it was occupied by the Australian Defence Forces. From 1941 the 18th Battalion, known as the Ku-ring-gai Regiment, were based at the Showground until the end of the war. Relics of their occupation, such as old army buildings and footings for mess huts, wash houses and headquarters, can still be seen throughout the Showground.
In 1949, the Annual St Ives Show recommenced at the Showground but financial difficulties forced its suspension from 1968. In 1975, the newly-formed Northern Suburbs Agricultural and Horticultural Society ran its first Show which has been a regular annual event ever since, now held each year in May. The Society also stages twilight, winter and spring horse shows at the Showground across the year.
In 2001 the Showground was classified by the National Trust and included on its register. Improvements to the Showground’s facilities include the equestrian arena named after Princess Anne, who visited in 1979, and the Jim Powell Pavilion, named for a member of the Society who co-founded the Northern Suburbs Dog Training Club in 1967. The Showground is now home to this and a number of other local clubs such as the Ku-ring-gai Model Flying Club and Northside Riding Club who use purpose-built facilities in a natural bushland setting.
The area is a haven for local wildlife and part of the Showground contains relics of an endangered ecological community known as Duffys Forest, where a number of threatened plant species such as the Port Jackson Heath can still be found.
Information contributed by the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society, Northern Suburbs Agricultural & Horticultural Society, Northern Suburbs Dog Training Club, and Ku-ring-gai Library.