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Grand Trunk Pacific Railway

Downtown Edmonton 1915

The negotiations between the City of Edmonton, the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Canadian Pacific were far more complex. In 1903 Charles Melville Hays approached Edmonton City Council for an expression of support for the proposed railway. The resolution passed in response to this request stated that: "Whereas the Edmonton District is rich in deposits of coal, timber and other natural resources which at the present time remain undeveloped and settlement eastward has already proceeded one hundred miles in anticipation of a throughline of railway, whilst settlement of the equally fertile land to the West is so much spoken of as to confidently warrant the assertion that it will be equally rapid and extensive as soon as railway facilities are in sight."

After the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was incorporated, it asked the City of Edmonton to buy land bounded by MacKenzie Avenue (104th) on the north; First Street (101st) on the east; Athabasca Avenue (102nd) on the south and Block sixteen of the Hudson's Bay Co. Reserve to the west.

Map of Edmonton

In November 1904 the city began to obtain options on land for the proposed terminal. This land acquisition program, however, ran into problems when a number of owners refused to cooperate. As a consequence of the difficulties in acquiring land, the Council gave up on the idea of buying land and decided on a cash grant instead. In 1905, Council agreed to pay the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway $100,000. It also allowed the company to follow a right-of¬ way into the city that the Canadian Northern also intended to use. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was allowed to build tracks south of MacKenzie Avenue and was exempted from municipal taxation for five years. The company then purchased the land where Calder Yards are now located, north of the Hudson's Bay Co. Reserve.

The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway also built what was then the most important commercial structure in Edmonton, the Hotel Macdonald.

In 1905, the Canadian Pacific Railway expressed interest in building into the City of Edmonton. In May of that year it filed plans that showed a crossing at 109th Street. By November 14, 1906, a tentative agreement was reached. It suggested turning part of Peace (103rd) and Athabasca (102nd) avenues into the railway yards, building railway bridges over Jasper and Saskatchewan avenues and highway bridges on Victoria (1 OOth) , McKay (99th), and Hardisty (98th) avenues. The City of Edmonton agreed to pay for the traffic portion of the High Level Bridge. Unlike the Low Level Bridge, the High Level went from top of the river bank to top of the river bank.

The High Level Bridge was intended to be a multipurpose structure which could be used by the Canadian Pacific, the street railway, pedestrians, and automobiles.

This article is extracted from John Gilpin, Responsible Enterprise: A History of Edmonton Real Estate & the Edmonton Real Estate Board. (Edmonton: Edmonton Real Estate Board, 1997). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation would like to thank John Gilpin and the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton for permission to reproduce this material.

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