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  CPR park 1919

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Michael Dawe
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CPR Station Park once
shining jewel of Red Deer

 
reprinted from Red Deer Express June 24, 2009
 
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the City Parks Department.

However, while a formal Parks Department commenced with the donation of the six-acre Gaetz Park along the Red Deer River, there were two public parks space created before 1909.

In 1901, the newly-formed Red Deer Town Council created a town square where City Hall Park is now located.

However, this was meant to be a public assembly area and sports field and not a park in the usual sense of the word.

In 1905, a small park area was created by the CPR train station, as a rest area for passengers who were tired or wanted relief from the smoke and grit or early steam trains.

There had been a grassy area next to the station soon after the first station building had been built in the early 1890s. However, Town Council felt that a more formal park was needed.

A "practical" gardener, Mr. Nash, was hired to take care of the changes and new plantings. More than 100 spruce and poplar trees were acquired from Mayor Edward Michener, who had started Red Deer Nurseries, a large tree nursery in what is now the Grandview subdivision.

Nash re-leveled the lawn areas and reseeded them. He also dug metre-wide borders along both sides of the walkways and planted large numbers of colourful flowering perennials and annuals.

A grand event occurred in April, 1906. The Lieutenant Governor, premier and all the members of the Legislative Assembly of the newly-formed Province of Alberta were invited to Red Deer as part of a pitch to make Red Deer the provincial capital.

There was a lavish banquet at the Arlington Hotel where the speeches went on until four in the morning.

The next day, or more accurately, later on in the morning, the provincial dignitaries were roused out of bed and taken to the CPR Station Park.

They each planted a ceremonial spruce tree to commemorate the creation of the Province of Alberta.

The dignitaries then boarded the train, extolling the many charms of Red Deer and the wonderful time they had enjoyed during their visit.

However, once back in Edmonton, the overwhelming majority voted to make that city the permanent capital of the province.

The brutal winter of 1906-1907 took a terrible toll on the plantings in the CPR Station Park.

Particularly hard hit were the experimental trees and plants that had been used.

In the spring of 1907, the Town invested $225 to renew and refurbish the park.

Nash was rehired to do the work. Many of the lost trees and perennials were replaced by Red Deer Nurseries with native varieties.

The crowning centrepiece for the renewed park was an ornamental fountain, which was donated by now-former Mayor Michener.

It soon became a landmark feature for travelers coming to Red Deer on the train.
 

 
railway station, park and coal chutes


RED DEER'S PIONEER JEWEL
- CPR Station Park on Holt (51) Ave. and Ross St. in 1911. Note the ornamental fountain which had been gifted to the Town of Red Deer by former Mayor Edward Michener in 1907.

Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives -
George Fleming photographer.



 

Ironically, in 1955, while Alberta was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary as a province, a proposal was made to turn the beautiful CPR Station Park into a parking lot.

While initially nothing happened, in the summer of 1960, the park was finally paved over, the trees were all cut down and the fountain discarded.

Fortunately, Russell McFaul, a local contractor, salvaged the fountain.

The fountain was later sold to Ken Martin, who used it as a centrepiece in his yard at Penhold. In 2001, Mr. Martin very generously decided to donate the fountain back to the City of Red Deer, on the understanding that it would be put in an appropriate park setting. He also had the City promise that the fountain would not be discarded again in the future.

Meanwhile, the parking lot on the old CPR Station Park location was sold off for a commercial building site as the City determined that there was not a need for so many parking lot spaces in that part of the downtown.

The Clarica/Sun Life Financial building was constructed on the old park/parking lot site.

Consequently, a new park was created, with the fountain as centrepiece, on a new site south of the Medican complex, along 52 Avenue.

In the past year, the Central Alberta Historical Society, which has been planning a major historical interpretive feature for the downtown area since 1999, began work on a set of historical arches around the edge of the new Michener Fountain Park.

Resembling the old roundhouse, which used to stand west of the old CPR station, it will become a landmark for the community, much as the Michener Fountain has been.

       An early community landmark - the Michener Fountain
(Red Deer Express June 2011)
      
Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge now 100 years old (Red Deer Advocate June 2009) 
       Red Deer's downtown hotels have celebrated history
(Red Deer Express June 2009)
       The history of Red Deer's CPR station
(Red Deer Express April 2007)
       Red Deer becomes a divisional point for CPR
(Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
       The Michener Fountain
(Red Deer Express July 2005)


Red Deer once had four railway stations
Canadian Pacific Railway Stations in Central Alberta
Red Deer 1910 CPR station 'jewel' still dominates Ross Street

Calgary and Edmonton Railway (CPR)
Calgary and Edmonton Railway at Red Deer (CPR)


       News article: Arches mark influence of railroad on city
(Red Deer Advocate Oct.2013)
       News article: A new face for the old station
(Red Deer Life July 1996)

 

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