Saturday, December 10, 2011

Calgary City Development, Fun Facts from 1883-1914

Beverly A. Sandalack and Andrei Nicolai's The Calgary Project: urban form/ urban life (2006) plots the planning and development of Calgary from its beginnings to the present and even speculates on the future for the sprawling metropolis.  The initial stage of Calgarian development was shaped by the Canadian Pacific Railway's selection of the southern route through the new city, and the later placement of major mechanical shops in Ogden.  The fire of 1896 punctuates the early period of urban growth, which ended with the end of large-scale immigration at the outbreak of the Great War.

An interesting feature of Calgary's planning in the early days was the offsetting of Calgary's street grid from the dominion lands survey by three degrees.  As the authors note, the correction of these two grids at certain points in the city makes for interesting spaces. (Sandalack, p.8)  One such correction can be observed in 17th Avenue's Tomkins Park.  The City of Calgary's website notes, "Tomkins Park was established in 1915 on land donated by Henry & Elinor Tomkins."
This map of the streets binding Tomkins Park shows 17th Ave S as a correction line for the offset grid system. Google maps.
 Another interesting factoid of early Calgarian development was the lack of regard for the Bow riverfront as a valuable green space.  In 1886, Peter Prince set up his Eau Claire Lumber Company on what was to become Prince's Island park.  He excavated the head of the peninsula to divert water to a waterwheel which ran the sawmill.  This situation drew other manufacturing interests to nearby lots, and town council would grant remarkable control to the sawmill over the banks of the Bow.  As Sandalack and Nicolai write, "by the end of the century, this attitude of civic indifference to the river was reinforced by periodic floods, log jams, and the tendency of nearby residents to use the south bank of the Bow River as a dumping ground for refuse." (Sandalack, p.9)

Eau Claire lumber mill, Calgary, Alberta. 1880s. Glenbow Musuem and Archives. Image No: NA-1015-2

The Calgary Project provides an interesting overview of the city's development, and contains a number of interesting maps of the greater city and representative neighbourhoods.

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