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Fred Charles Lowes

Fred Charles Lowes, 1880-1950, was born in Brampton, Ontario and came to Calgary in 1902 as a salesman for the Canada Life Assurance Company. In 1905, he resigned from the company and used his $400 to start his own business. In 1906 he set up his own development firm, F.C. Lowes and Company which quickly established branches through Alberta and offices in major North American centres.

Lowes was an avid salesman, an optimistic booster, and a real estate developer. He attracted investors to the west by setting up offices in major financial centres like Toronto, New York, and London. Lowes spent a lot of money on advertising his business and the benefits of western living. He also attracted buyers by development cutting edge residential areas like the Brittania subdivision, touted by the Calgary Herald as "one of the best laid out subdivisions around Calgary" and the lavish Rosborough Place neighborhood, meant to rival Mount Royal.

Aside from his real estate ventures, Fred Charles Lowes was active in the business and social communities, joining Calgary's first Town Planning Commission in 1912, and donating a lot of money to charities like the Ladies' Hospital Aid Society and Holy Cross Hospital. In 1911, he donated $10,000 to the YMCA to wipe out the organizations' debt.

Lowes made a fortune by buying and selling choice lands across Alberta. In 1910, he completed the largest single transaction to date in western Canada when he paid $775,000 for two sections of land by the proposed Canadian Pacific Railway shops in Ogden. He continued to buy lands throughout 1912 and 1913, holding over 7 million dollars worth of land. He was warned by financial advisors to sell off his land in 1912, but he was optimistic about the future.

Unfortunately, the real estate boom went bust. By 1916, European investment cease, and immigration west had tapered off. Property values sunk and no one was buying real estate. Lowes went bankrupt and he survived the next fifteen years on occasional real estate deals.

His physical and mental health deteriorated after 1930; he became an alcoholic and he spent most of his remaining years in Ponoka Mental hospital, dying at the hospital on September 9, 1950.

For further information see Max Foran's article "Fred Lowes, Booster Extraordinaire" in Alberta History. - vol. 37, no. 2 (Spring, 1989).

This biography is adapted from the Fred Charles Lowes fonds of the Glenbow Archives. Copyright © Glenbow Archives


AForan, Max. Fred Lowes: Booster Extraordinaire. Alberta History, pp. 11-20, 1989

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