Places and Traces: The Westside
Separated by a broad river valley, west Lethbridge has always stood apart from the rest of the city.
In a wave of optimism, two subdivisions were carved out in 1910, to be known as West Lethbridge and Westmount. But the real estate market crashed in 1913 and for the next sixty years, the west side of the river Westside remained a quiet farming community. Residents called it “The Bend,” because of the loop of the Oldman River into which it was tucked.
Amid storms of protest, the University of Lethbridge chose the Westside as its new home in 1967. The opening of the campus four years later expanded activity west of the Oldman River and changed the course of the city’s development.
West Lethbridge was considered a “planners’ dream”—a chance to experiment with contoured streets and a new “neighbourhood village” concept incorporating residential, retail and recreational services. Initial sales were slow, largely because of logistics: It was an 18 km trip from city centre to the University via the Highway 3 Bridge, the only crossing at the time.
Whoop-Up Drive was finally completed in February 1975, setting off a land rush. Varsity Village, Indian Battle Heights and Mountain Heights were the first neighbourhoods to be completed, and by 1983 there were more than 10,000 residents in west Lethbridge. Today the Westside has 15 distinct communities housing some 40,000 people—more than either the south or north portions of the city.
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.