A Walk Down Calgary’s Historic Boulevards

contributed by Sarah Ebbern is a Heritage Management Consultant and a Director of the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society and contributor to Heritage Inspires YYC

Caragana shrubs, Elm trees, Green Ash, and Lilac, Honeysuckle, and Dogwood. If these trees and shrubs are familiar friends on your daily walk, you are likely traveling through one of Calgary’s historic boulevards, deliberately planted to bring beautifying elements into the daily lives of working Calgarians. Spread across eleven inner-city communities, these historic boulevards were primarily planted at the direction of William Reader, Calgary’s Superintendent of Parks and Cemeteries from 1913 to 1942. Reader was inspired by a growing trend of the City Beautiful Movement, an urban planning tradition that believed cities and people, particularly working people, would be their best if the natural world was brought into the urban landscape. Reader took particular interest in planting and maintaining tree-lined boulevards on what was once bald prairie, to foster civic pride.

Visit these communities to see if you can spot the historic trees and shrubs:

Garden Crescent SW in Elbow Park was planted in 1911 and was the first historically designated streetscape in Calgary. The tall trees in the meridian, Poplars, Willows, and Spruce, are complemented by Caragana, Japanese Lilac, Black Cherry, and Crabapple.

Three landscaped boulevards on Riverdale Avenue in Elbow Park and Elboya run from 5A Street SW to Elbow Drive SW, and from 9 Street SW to 10 Street SW. Planted in 1929, they feature stately Elms interspersed with Honeysuckles that survived the post 1947 development boom.

Two historic landscaped boulevards on 5A Street SW in Cliff-Bungalow were planted with Green Ash trees in 1915.

The Lilac meridians of Hillhurst along 11 St NW, 6 Ave NW, and Bowness Road NW were installed between 1919 and 1932, drawing the park atmosphere of the adjacent Riley Park into the surrounding neighbourhood.

The landscaped boulevards of Ramsey run along 9 St SE between 17 Avenue SE to Adelaide Street SE. Planted in 1929, the boulevards feature Green Ash, Lilac, and Honeysuckle.

9th Ave SE in Inglewood is planted with Poplar trees. This species of tree was specifically chosen for planting in Calgary as it was one of the few shade trees able to survive the climate and is known to diffuse street noise. With a lifespan of 150 years, these trees will live for another half-century.

Eight landscaped streets in Rosedale feature 1932 plantings of regularly spaced Green Ash, Elm, Honeysuckle, Caragana, Cotoneaster, and Lilac lining both sides of portions of 4A St NW, 5 St NW, 6A St N, 7 St NW. This network of park-like avenues truly fulfilled the vision of the City Beautiful Movement.