Edmonton’s Top 10 Neighborhoods & How They Got Their Names

Each year, Avenue Magazine publishes a list of the “best” neighborhoods in Edmonton, as voted by their readers. As you probably know, the list is fairly similar each year, but do you know how each neighborhood got it’s name? We have the list of the top ten neighborhoods in 2017 below, but with an added bonus of how each community got it’s name.

1. Glenora

The development of the Glenora neighborhood began in 1906. Land originally owned by Malcolm Groat was bought by Montreal businessman and developer James Carruthers. Carruthers named the area and persuaded the city to bridge Groat Ravine at 102 Avenue. Carruthers placed a caveat on the development, dictating housing standards in the area. The regulations were implemented in order to ensure that Glenora would be an upscale development. In 1909 the Alberta Government built Government House in Glenora as the official residence of the lieutenant-governor.

 

2. Strathcona

Strathcona was named for Sir Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal (1820-1914). He was born in Forres, near Inverness in northern Scotland, and apprenticed with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in 1838. Fifty years later, in 1889, Smith became governor of the company.

In the 1870’s, Smith was a politician and railroad financier who promoted the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). In 1896 he was appointed High Commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom. Smith held this position, and the governorship of the HBC, until his death. Smith can be seen in one of Canada’s most famous photographs: he is the white-haired top-hatted gentleman driving the last spike for the CPR ath Craigellachie, B.C., in 1885.

In 1891, a town site was established when the Calgary and Edmonton (C&E) Railway reached the south side of the North Saskatchewan River. Rather than embark on the building of a bridge across the river, the C&E located its terminus on the south side. Its plan was to promote “South Edmonton” as the areas major commercial centre in competition with Edmonton, on the north bank of the river. To this end, C&E purchased land for the establishment of a town site in the spring of 1891. By the end of 1898, South Edmonton was renamed Strathcona (informally known as Scona).

The high hopes for Strathcona were never quite fulfilled, however, and by 1910 the CPR had undertaken to build the High Level Bridge across the North Saskatchewan River. Stathcona became a town in 1899 and a city in 1907. The City of Strathcona amalgamated with Edmonton in 912.

The area now known as the Strathcona neighborhood was originally part of River Lots 15 and 17. Whyte Avenue between 101 Street and 109 Street is Strathcona’s traditional commercial area, and has gone through a number of transformations over the years. Through the efforts of the Old Strathcona Foundation and many others, much of the area’s original historical character has survived.

 

3. Oliver

Newspaperman and politician Frank Oliver (1853-1933) brought the first printing press to Edmonton and co-founded the Edmonton Bulletin in 1880. Oliver came to Edmonton in 1876 and went on to formulate much of the early legislation in the North-West Territories.

He was born in Ontario and attended high school in Brampton where he apprenticed at a local weekly newspaper. It was during this time that he dropped his original last name, Bowsfield, in favour of this mother’s maiden name, Oliver. The name change apparently followed a disagreement between Oliver and his father over his plants to enter the printing trade. Oliver later worked in the composing room of the Toronto Globe before coming west in 1873, where he was employed at the Manitoba Free Press and the Manitoba Journal. In 1876 he moved still further west to Edmonton, then only a small village controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

After a telegraph line to Edmonton was established, bringing regular news from the rest of the country, Oliver went into partnership with the telegraph operator, Alex Taylor, and founded the Edmonton Bulletin. It was only the second newspaper on the prairies, the first being the Herald in Battleford, Saskatchewan. The first two-page edition of the Bulletin was published on December 6, 1880. In the paper’s editorials, Oliver was an outspoken and sometimes fiery supporter of the west. He lobbied for elected representation, protection of settler land rights and the building of schools. Between 1883 and 1885 he was a member of the Regina-based North-West Territories Council; he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories (which succeeded the council) and served from 1888 to 1896.

Under Liberal Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Oliver became the privince of Alberta’s first member of parliament in 1905. He sat in the House of Commons from 1896 to 1917, and was minister of the Interior and superintendent general of Indian Affairs from 1905 to 1911.

 

4. Westmount

Westmount, one of the oldest areas in Edmonton, may have been named for a Montreal neighborhood of the same name. Malcolm Groat settled here in 1878. In the early 1900’s, Groat sold his land and Westmount was quiclky developed. Most of the area’s homes were built around 1910. Marketed towards young professionals, the Westmount neighborhood was a popular location because of its proximity to downtown Edmonton. Beginning in 1910, residents could easily travel to and from downtown on the electric streetcar that ran from Jasper Avenue to 110 Avenue via 124 Street. The portion of Westmount located from 107 Avenue to 11 Avenue and 124 Street to 127 Street has also been known as West Ingle; the first settlers here were Malcolm Groat and John Norris.

 

5. Ritchie

Robert Ritchie (1848-1932) arrived in Edmonton from Ontario in the early 1890’s, just as development in South Edmonton was being spurred by the arrival of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway. In 1893 Ritchie and his brothers established the Edmonton Milling Company and built the Ritchie Mill. Ritchie went on to become the mayor of the Town of Strathcona in 1901, and again in 1906; he was also an alderman and school trustee. He retired in 1920. Ritchie School, built in 1913, was named in his honor. The area, present-day Ritchie neighborhood, was known as Richmond Park until the late 1950’s. In 1959, the name Ritchie first appeared on a city map.

 

6. Highlands

Now, in the early 21st century, the Highlands neighborhood can boast some of Edmonton’s best preserved historic homes and street-scapes, dating from 1912. In the 1880’s this area was known as the “lower settlement” and was originally owned by three Hudson’s Bay Company employees who were bought out by J.A. McDougall in 1888. By 1910 the real estate developers Magrath, Holgate, and Company, acting as brokers for McDougall, sponsored a contest to select a name for the district. The judges awarded the prize of $50 in gold to a 19-year-old law clerk, S. Loughlin, who suggested the name “The Highlands”, which is descriptive of its position on the banks above the North Saskatchewan River.

In 1910 William J. Magrath and Bidwell Holgate advertised the area as Edmonton’s newest “high class” neighborhood. Its selling features included the healthful, beautiful setting, large lots, and a $2500 minimum cost per house to ensure the standards of building would be high. So enthused were they about the area, they bought out J.A. McDougall’s interest in the land in 1913. Messsrs Holgate and Magrath also build houses next to each other on the Ada Boulevard in 1912-1913. Their houses were worth $49,000 and $76,000 respectively.

 

7. Garneau

Laurent Garneau (1840-1921) was of Metis descent and is believed to have been born in Michigan. He later moved to the Red River Colony in Manitoba, and in 1869 took part in the Red River uprising under Louis Riel, which led to the formation of Manitoba in 1870. By 1874 he had moved west to Fort Edmonton and by 1883 had been granted River Lot 7 in the Edmonton Settlement, on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River. He was active in local affairs and politics. After 1901, Garneau moved to St. Paul. His property, known as “The Garneau,” became part of the Town of Strathcona, and later, in 1912, part of Edmonton. That part of Garneau south of Whyte Avenue was part of a subdivision formerly known as Strathcona Place.

 

8. Downtown

In the late 1800’s, as the town of Edmonton began to develop outside Fort Edmonton, Edmonton’s downtown was established to the east of the Hudson’s Bay Company Reserve. At the turn of the 20th Century, Jasper Avenue and 97 Street were the hub of downtown activity. Much of the Downtown neighborhood is now located to the west, within the southern portion of the original Reserve. By the late 1980’s, Edmonton’s downtown was being challenged for its position as the city’s center of business and commerce by suburban shopping malls and commercial trips. Nevertheless, the Downtown neighborhood continues to be an important cultural, historic, governmental, and business area.

 

9. Crestwood

Crestwood neighborhood was developed around 1952. It had formerly been know as the Jasper Place and Capital Hill subdivisions. City council allowed the local community league to help choose and vote on the new name.

 

10. Bonnie Doon

The neighborhood of Bonnie Doon was named around 1912. The name is Scottish for “pleasant, rolling countryside.” In the early 1900’s, Canadian-born Premier Alexander Cameron Rutherford owned a portion of land east of the Mill Creek which later became part of the Bonnie Doon neighborhood. Rutherford is believed to have subdivided the land in 1906 and then named it Bonnie Doon in memory of his ancestral homeland, Scotland. He also named a second, nearby subdivision Scona Brae (the subdivision no longer exists under this name). In keeping with Rutherford’s fondness for reminders of Scotland, his second home, located along Saskatchewan Drive, was named Achnacarry, after a castle in the County of Inverness, Scotland.

 

Resource:
Naming Edmonton, From Ada to Zoie, published by the University of Alberta Press.

 

 

 

 

 

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