Pop-Ups: turning underused spaces into public places for Victoria Park.

History

The Story

 

Take a walk through Victoria Park and you will find an area unlike any other. Victoria Park, now an established urban oasis, dates back to the early 20th century and is rich with history as one of Calgary’s oldest communities.

 

Originally open prairie used as a grazing ground by the North-West Mounted Police, the area (then known as the East Ward) began to boom when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) purchased plots of this land from the Mounted Police. The CPR began to sell 25 x 100-foot properties in lottery type sales, and many of these parcels were quickly sold.

By the time World War I was declared, Calgary had grown from a collection of small shacks in 1883 to a bustling modern city with a population of 90,000 in 1941.

Calgary's First CPR Station, 1884.

 

After the Second World War, many Victoria Park landmarks fell with change. A disastrous fire in December 1950 destroyed the Calgary Transit Bus Barns, and in March 1951, the building was leveled.

 

In 1954, the Victoria Park Power Plant was declared out-of-date, and the offices moved out in 1957.

 

In 1962, Haultain School - once the largest school in the city with a capacity of more than 500 students - saw enrollment drop to only 135 students as children grew up and others were swept away to the rapidly growing suburbs. The school was officially closed. On May 12, 1964, a three-alarm fire engulfed the larger 1907 three-storey building and destroyed it completely, leaving only the original two-room school house behind.

 

Between 1960 and the oil boom of the ‘70s, a number of factors resulted in a serious decline in the community's overall health. Decreased property values, depopulation, absentee ownership, uncertainty regarding expansion of the Calgary Stampede grounds, competition with other areas and the classic cycle of urban decay all took a toll on the area.

 

The oil bust hit Calgary in 1981, essentially putting an end to urban development for the next 20 years. The recession and the constant uncertainty regarding the Stampede expansion continued to afflict the area. Over the next few years the community's continued deterioration strongly influenced proposals for future development of the area.

 

In an effort to encourage development and revitalize a long neglected community, a group of local business owners came together in 1997 to form the Victoria Park Business Improvement Area (BIA). Victoria Park became Calgary’s ninth BIA, and the second largest BIA in the city. It helped steer the way to a new period of growth and development.

 

Today, Victoria Park is redefining what urban living is for Calgarians as it transforms into one of Calgary's most vibrant and thriving urban neighbourhoods.

 

Behind the Name

 

In the late 1880’s a portion of land was purchased and allocated for the development of agricultural fairs in Calgary, which would become known as the Stampede. These grounds were named after Queen Victoria in 1889. The success of the grounds paired with economic forces of the railway’s development resulted in immediate residential and commercial activity.

 

The area located around the Stampede was originally called the East Ward but was referred to as Victoria Park by the neighbouring community.

 

The Victoria Park name soon became official and was adopted by the people in the area after the abolishment of the ward system in 1905.