What was it like to walk down Edmonton’s bustling Jasper Avenue in the early part of the 20th century? Scroll through to find out.

Jasper Avenue looking east, ca. 1924

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

The Hudson’s Bay Company store on Jasper Avenue was a significant landmark in Edmonton until it relocated to the Edmonton City Centre in the 1990s. As they still are today, HBC’s Christmas windows were a big hit with children and adults alike. On December 24th, 1908, the Edmonton Bulletin reported, “The displays of Edmonton’s stores for Christmas this year are triumphs. Christmas shoppers on Jasper, Namayo (97th Street) of First Street (101st) are tempted on every side by a most attractive display of goods.”

Jasper Avenue looking west, ca. 1914

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

In 1891, Edmonton’s first electricity generating station was established, and that same year, streetlights were installed along Jasper Avenue. The lights were on from sunset until 1am and from 5:30pm to sunrise in the winter. In 1905, Edmonton Power Customers were gifted with free power for a week to celebrate Alberta’s amalgamation into Canada.

Jasper Avenue looking west, ca. 1910

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

In the late 19th century, a motion was passed to make the first Monday of each September an official holiday dubbed Labor Day. The Royal Commission of the Relations of Labor suggested the idea due to the poor working conditions, low wages and child labor they discovered across Canada. This photo of the Labor Day Parade along Jasper Avenue sheds some light on what the holiday would have been like in the early 20th century.

Jasper Avenue, ca. 1908

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

If you think winter driving is hard today, try trudging through the piles of snow along Jasper Avenue in the year 1908. Most cars didn’t have roofs, heaters or wind screens, which meant they had to be put away for the winter. During the colder months, residents could only use horse-drawn carriages to get around, which proved to be much more efficient as they could navigate through the snow more easily.

Jasper Avenue looking east from McDougall, ca. 1910

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

Jasper Avenue was named for Jasper Hawes, the manager of a trading company in the 19th century. Hawes, originally from Missouri, is most well-known for his role as the commander of a trading post on the shores of Brule Lake. The post came to be known as “Jasper’s House” and proved to be an important stop for traders passing through because of the rocky, dangerous terrain along the way.

Jasper Avenue looking east, ca. 1920

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

The Imperial Bank of Canada on Jasper Avenue was designed by prominent Toronto architect Arthur J. Everett. Built in 1891, the bank was one of the first branches established outside of Ontario. In 1966, the bank merged with the Canadian Bank of Commerce, creating CIBC. Today, the bank is a massive institution with 1,129 branches, 11 million clients and over 44,000 employees.

Jasper Avenue looking east, date unknown

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

During the 1930s and 40s, Jasper Avenue was a hub of nightlife hotspots, vibrant attractions and a dynamic theatre scene. With hangouts such as the Corona Hotel, Empire Theatre, Dreamland Theatre and the Macdonald Hotel scattered throughout the area, Jasper Avenue earned the nickname “the Great White Way,” a term that evokes New York City’s vivacious Broadway scene.

Jasper Avenue looking west, ca. 1910

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

Regular streetcar service — Monday to Saturday — began in Edmonton on November 9th, 1908. One of the cars operated along Jasper Avenue and charged a fare of only five cents, rising to 10 cents after 11pm.

Jasper Avenue looking west, ca. 1915

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

In 1912, the amalgamation of Edmonton and Strathcona meant that Jasper Avenue wasn’t the city’s only prominent street anymore. Whyte Avenue to the south and Jasper Avenue to the north began sharing the title of Edmonton’s largest, most bustling street.

Jasper Avenue looking west, ca. 1907

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

Across the street from the lady in the foreground is a sign advertising local real estate. As a result of a population boom in the early 20th century, Edmonton’s real estate market was absolutely thriving, especially along Jasper Avenue.

Jasper Avenue looking west, date unknown

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

The back of this postcard provides a fascinating glimpse into what life must have been like for Edmonton residents during the first half of the 20th century. It reads: “July 25th, Received your card this AM. I see by it you are having a good time. I slept at your place Wed & Thursday nights. My brother & his wife left here for the coast this morning. I am sure glad to be alone again. I seen Bill come in Wed & Thursday early 12 PM very quiet. I asked him in the morning for breakfast but he did not come. I did not see him to day. I was up early 6.30 AM. We had a nice rain last night & its not so hot to day., Are you coming down for the Wedding? I met Mrs Fraser on the street & she thinks you should. May be you will change your mind yet. I thought I would go in & put the dust mop over the floor next week in case company comes. It will be getting dirty by that time.”

Jasper Avenue looking east, ca. 1913

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

In 1913, the idea to change Edmonton street names to numbers began circulating around town. The idea took flight in 1914 and while most streets were given a new, numerical designation, Jasper Avenue was one of the few that kept its original name.

Jasper Avenue looking west, ca. 1919

JasperAvenue Photo: BiblioArchives/Flickr

Edward, Prince of Wales, took a two month tour of Canada in 1919, hence the decorations along Jasper Avenue in this photo. During his visit, Edward (later King Edward VIII) purchased a 41-hectare ranch in Alberta for breeding livestock like cattle, ponies, sheep and Clydesdale horses. He continued to visit the ranch well into the 1950s after he abdicated the throne.

Jasper Avenue looking east, ca. 1920

JasperAvenue

Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

It’s not hard to recognize the majestic, chateau-style building in the background of this photo as the iconic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. The building is known as an Edmonton landmark because of its beautiful architecture, but something less widely-known about the building is that a boxy addition was attached to it for 33 years. From 1953 to 1986, the 16-storey, 300-bedroom addition was connected to the hotel, much to the dismay of Edmontonians who began referring to it as “the Mac and the box it came in.”

Jasper Avenue looking east, ca. 1910

JasperAvenue Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

Picture this: it’s the early 20th century in Edmonton. Only one mile of Jasper Avenue is paved and only a handful of your neighbours own cars. There are no traffic lights and horses always have the right of way. It was indeed a simpler time.

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