Airdrie, located in the Nose Creek Valley, began as
a stopping point that was one day's journey north of Calgary in the late 1800s.
The area was named after a village northeast of Glasgow, Scotland. The name "Airdrie"
means "The King's Height." William McKenzie, a contracting engineer for the
Calgary and Edmonton Railway, named the village in 1889. A unique feature of
Airdrie is that its elevation makes it the highest city in Canada. It was
incorporated as a village in 1909 with a population of 250.
Airdrie's first inhabitants were railway workers of
the Calgary and Edmonton Railway, who lived in the station house. The railway
also brought in settlers to live in Airdrie. The locomotives would stop in town
and could pick up water because Nose Creek remained ice free year round. This
created jobs for people who, in turn, created a need for housing and services.
In 1891, the Calgary and Edmonton Railway came
winding up the coulee from Calgary. The valley was 11/2 miles wide,
with a stream winding through it. Many freight engines took on this water
through the years. The Airdrie water was good for engines, as the alkali content
was low; however the Carstairs point was avoided because of the foaming caused
by alkali. Over time, features of a new town were built, including a water
tower, which had suitable piping for transferring water underground from creek
to reservoir. The high water quality of Nose Creek brought the railway to
Airdrie and subsequently more settlers. In essence, Airdrie owes its existence
to the railway.
It was not until 1929 that the first Pool grain
elevator, a 40,000-bushel structure was built in Airdrie. In August 1923, J.E.
Gustus of Yankee Valley signed a marketing contract No.1 with the Alberta Wheat
Pool and within a few days, many of the area's farmers had signed up. During the
early years, Airdrie was regarded as one of the strongest Alberta Wheat Pool
points in the province.
Interest in the highway to Edmonton was revived
with the invention of the automobile after 1900. In 1906, the first auto trip
was made from Calgary to Edmonton over a decaying trail system. The new province
of Alberta was already in the midst of a wave of public works development, and
the new Provincial Highway was added to the list, becoming Highway No. 1,
following the railway line to the many towns that had sprung up as sidings,
section points and grain elevator service centres.