The C.P.R.'s Influence on Calgary Neighbourhoods

Posted by on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 at 11:48am.

readymadefarm_550The latest page up on our site is about Cliff Bungalow real estate.  Like many Calgary neighbourhoods, Cliff Bungalow was built on land annexed directly from the Canadian Pacific Railway. 

The CPR heavily influenced the development of Calgary, being a driving force in the city’s growth, economy and layout.   It also had a significant influence on the development of Calgary neighbourhoods, establishing boundaries and layouts that linger on, even today.

Canadian Pacific Railway in Calgary: The Beginning

In August 1883, the banks of the Elbow River were lined with merchants and businessmen who had come to take advantage of the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  The CPR was to open Calgary up to the East and provide a corridor for goods and people to travel back and forth more quickly than any other form of transport at the time.  The cattle ranching business flourished, so much that in 1884, Calgary had enough population to be incorporated as a town.  After the CPR relocated its stockyards to Calgary in 1898 the local economy boomed.

C.P.R. Drives Up Residential Construction

Due in part to significant amounts of advertising by the CPR, more and more people headed west to Calgary.  This, of course drove up the demand for residential construction to house the burgeoning population of residents who provided services within the city and who worked for the CPR – the area’s largest employer. 

Between 1888 and 1895, roughly $300,000 a year was spent on the construction industry in Calgary.  Attention was turned to infrastructure, such as sewage, water, parks, a fire department; even electric streetlamps and a telephone system – new and wonderful technology at that time.

C.P.R. and Calgary Neighbourhoods

The CPR was inseparable from Dominion land policy – the land it received in exchange for building railroads out West made it a formidable contender in the land grab race.  Having this much power enabled the CPR to establish its own requirements for Calgary neighbourhoods and districts.

Downtown Calgary was not originally the centre of the city – Inglewood was once considered the focal point of Calgary until the CPR came to the area.  When the CPR established its headquarters in the spot where the Calgary Tower now stands, many of the people and businesses followed in its wake.  Inglewood was left a much smaller mixed-use neighbourhood that would come into its prime a century later, having fought off developers’ attempts to turn it into a cloverleaf interchange or a strip of chain stores.

Bridgeland was once slated as a strictly working class neighbourhood, due to its proximity to the manufacturing areas in east Calgary.  Today, it’s known as an artsy, walkable community and one of the most livable neighbourhoods in Calgary.

Mount Royal, still one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Calgary, was established as such by the CPR, its standards for construction ensuring that this area would be the enclave of Calgary’s wealthy and powerful.

Cliff Bungalow, at the bottom of Mount Royal, was the home of CPR employees and was subdivided with this in mind.  It wasn’t known as Cliff Bungalow until the 1970s, being saddled with the somewhat uninspiring name “Addition to the City of Calgary”.  It was probably just known as “down there” to the CPR moguls and wealthy businessmen living on the top of the hill, but it shares just as much history with the CPR as that august neighbourhood.

Further Information/Sources:

University of Calgary

FFWD Weekly

Alberta Online Encyclopedia

The History of Cliff Bungalow-Mission (PDF)

Picture from Royal Alberta Museum

3 Responses to "The C.P.R.'s Influence on Calgary Neighbourhoods"

Jolenta Averill wrote: It's interesting to hear how much the Canadian Pacific Railway influenced the development of housing and neighborhoods in Calgary. Love the photo of the vintage poster, too! Posted on Monday, October 4th, 2010 at 7:08am.
Daniel Osorio wrote: I would like to know if you have information on the history of Tuscany area in the NW. Its origins and how the land became what it is today. Thank you. Posted on Friday, February 11th, 2011 at 8:19am.
Smart Calgary Homes wrote: @ Daniel. Sorry we haven't done any research on Tuscany at this time. Tuscany is a relatively new community and there are still new homes being built. Posted on Thursday, February 24th, 2011 at 11:47am.

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