Edmonton | No comments yet.
By: Trevor Robb, Edmonton Examiner
The Greater Edmonton
The early 1900′s marked a time of great optimism for the two bustling cities of Edmonton and Strathcona. Both were experiencing tremendous growth, but for two cities separated only by the North Saskatchewan river it was only a matter of time before the two became one.
On February 1, 1912, Strathcona and Edmonton merged together forming a newly forged community known as the “The Greater Edmonton”. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the merger that saw Edmonton grow from a city that had a population of 8,000 in 1904, to a city with a combined population of 75,000-80,000 by 1913.
However, before the merger the two cities were in a state of competition. A railway, which ran all the way north to the river but without crossing the river, was hoped to be the catalyst that would propel Strathcona as the main hub.
“They expected Edmonton would just kind of waste away and Strathcona would become the big centre,” says Tim Marriott, board member of the Edmonton Heritage Council and president of the Edmonton and District Historical Society. “But Edmonton had been there a long time and instead of withering, Edmonton started to grow.”
The funicular railway was built into McDougall Hill at the foot of 101st Street in 1908
It was the citizens who determined that they would run a railway line south across the low level bridge, over the river and connect to the CP Railway near Mill Creek. This ultimately paved the way for unprecedented growth.
As late as the 1880′s it was still generally believed that the land in and around the Edmonton area was unsuitable for farming. That theory was proved to be drastically incorrect as early Edmontonians began branching out into farming communities, cultivating the rich soil surrounding the city.
But for all of Edmonton’s agricultural advantages, Marriott says that Edmonton’s growth was largely attributed to being known as a ‘transportation hub’.
“To go north, south, west and to go back east, Edmonton made a lot of sense,” says Marriott. “The railways sort of mimicked the way the rivers ran and so you had railways coming from Prince Albert, Saskatoon and ultimately from Calgary.
“Although agriculture is the basis why people stopped to live here after the fur trade, it’s the transportation that made a lot of sense and kept Edmonton growing.”
To this day, Strathcona-ites still cling to the pride and history of their former city, that amazingly only existed between 1891 and 1912, reaching a pinnacle population of 5,579 people.
“They built, literally out of nothing, a community that had some staying power,” says Marriott. “People think of it in terms as if it had been there for decades because it has such a strong identity, but it wasn’t.”
For more information about Edmonton and Strathcona’s history visit edmontonheritage.ca or visit the oldstrathconafoundation.ca.
Have a good and healthy season.
Follow Zdenko’s Corner on Facebook !