Did you know the town of Fort Macleod is older and was once larger than Lethbridge? That prior to 1900 there was not one community that was obviously the regional centre for southwestern Alberta? So what caused it all to change?
Part of the reason was that in 1905 the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) chose Lethbridge as the Divisional Point for its Crowsnest Line, moving it from Macleod to Lethbridge. This decision helped Lethbridge to become the main marketing, distribution and service centre in southwestern Alberta.
We’d like to say that the CPR made the decision because Lethbridge was the only obvious choice. But it likely had more to do with the incentives the Town of Lethbridge offered the CPR, including a 20-year tax exemption on 120 acres (48.6 ha) of land and 200,000 gallons (909,000L) of water daily at cost. In return, the CPR agreed to build a new train station, rail yards, roundhouse, machine shop and freight sheds. By 1908 the Union Train Station was constructed; the building was expanded and changed over the years.
A huge rail yard developed in Lethbridge, separating north and south Lethbridge. The yard ran from approximately where Scenic Drive is to 13th Street. The 9th Street bridge was constructed to provide access over the rail yards, and later the 13th Street subway was built as another way to get safely between the two sides of the community.
The rail yard was a major part of Lethbridge until it was moved to Kipp in the mid-1980s. The train station was converted into the Lethbridge Health Unit and places like the Park Place Mall, Chapters, and seniors’ homes were constructed on land made available from the relocation.
Later this year the Galt Museum & Archives will present the exhibition “Changing Places: Immigration & Diversity.” It will gather the stories of why, post-Second World War to very recently, people left their home country, and how Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta have changed because of their contributions. A number of these immigrants arrived at the local train station.
For more information on current and upcoming exhibitions, visit www.galtmuseum.com.