Places and Traces: The Southside

Curator Aimee Benoit shows Richard Amery, Editor of LA Beat, the Southside portion of the exhibit.

Curator Aimee Benoit shows Richard Amery, Editor of LA Beat, the Southside portion of the exhibit.

Did you know that west Lethbridge was once known as “The Bend” and had its own red brick school? That Whoop-Up Drive follows a river crossing long used by Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot People)? Or that some Northside homes still had outhouses in 1950?

Throughout its history, Lethbridge has been shaped by planning policies and decisions. Despite the best laid plans, however, cities are complex places and people have a way of making them their own. Grid plans and concrete roads may overlay ancient trails or wagon ruts—but traces of the past always remain, just as new shortcuts and footpaths defy the logic of the city. 

In the 1880s, Lethbridge went from coal mining camp to boomtown. The population shifted in 1885 from the river valley into a newly surveyed townsite on the prairies informally known as The Terrace—an area that is now the city’s commercial core.

The town boundaries were extended in 1890, pushing residential growth away from the centre. London Road, to the south and east, was dominated by middle-class, British-Canadian cultural values in contrast to the more ethnically diverse Northside communities. The neighbourhood had a strong connection with the business core and featured the stately homes of early community leaders such as druggist J. D. Higinbotham, lawyer C. F. P. Conybeare, and entrepreneur William Henderson (also mayor from 1908 to 1909).

Queen Victoria Park, east of 13 Street, was home to the agricultural fairgrounds from 1897 until 1910 when they moved to their present location near Henderson Lake. A streetcar line ran along 6 Avenue to bring passengers to the lake after it was developed in 1912, while 7 Avenue became the primary route for traffic heading east and south along Mayor Magrath Drive.

The Southside boomed between 1906 and 1913, but languished through the next three decades of economic downturns and war. Following the Second World War, development picked up swiftly. Existing neighbourhoods filled in, while new suburbs extended southward.

The temporary exhibit Places & Traces: Our Neighbourhoods is on at the Galt Museum & Archives until September 8. This exhibition is a collaboration between the Galt Museum & Archives and the Lethbridge Historical Society.