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Northlands Park - Memories Worth Keeping
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Northeast Edmonton

Exhibition vistiorsDuring the relocation period of Northlands Park’s history, the organization settled into the northeast Edmonton site that would eventually become its permanent home. Although it did not initially seem like an ideal acquisition, it became one with the hard work of EEA members and partners.

James Kirkness, a local old timer, owned the plot referred to by city planners as River Lot 26. Before EEA development on the site, the triangular parcel was covered by swamps and marshes, and known as the Kirkness Lake property.

Historical map of EdmontonKirkness purchased the land as a speculative investment. The lot lay outside City of Edmonton limits, but like other residents of the area, Kirkness was aware that existing boundaries would be stretched as Edmonton’s population and businesses continued to grow. The lake ran east and occupied much of what was known as East End Park, later becoming Borden Park. Despite challenges posed by the site, Kirkness did not have trouble selling it.

In Aerial photograph of racetrack1910, the land’s sale was solidified following the EEA’s search for a new home. The City of Edmonton bought the Kirkness Lake property for the organization and leased it to them for $1 CDN per year. Marshy and difficult, the site came cheap, making it a thrifty choice. These savings paid off as money was allocated to the creation of permanent facilities.

For momentum to be kept up, construction had to be performed quickly in preparation for the following year’s exhibition. Soggy earth had to be drained and the land solidified so it could be built upon. This required the transportation of river gravel that was spread across the expansive space. Eventually the land was filled up, but an oval hump was left to contend with. In a stroke of ingenuity an oval racetrack was built atop the protruding earth.

Aerial photograph from Manufacturers BuildingAlso rising from the once sodden land were the Manufacturers Building and Livestock Pavilion. Dotting the landscape and providing continuity within the large property were gravel walkways, manicured grass and trees, and colourful blooms. The Borden Park area was also beautified and a bandshell for live music was constructed in 1913.

Northlands Park midwayA new era for the organization was heralded in by its permanent home. The site and its lasting facilities proved to be the bedrock on which activities could be diversified and new members, guests, and partners attracted.

To this day, Northlands Park resides on the site, and just as some of its neighbouring landmarks such as Borden Park have changed over the decades, the old northeast home site of the organization continues to transform. Land expansions have been planned and performed in increments to meet organizational needs. 

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