CPR Station Park once
of Red Deer
reprinted from Red Deer Express June 24, 2009
This year marks the 100th
anniversary of the creation of the City Parks Department.
However, while a formal Parks Department commenced with the donation
of the six-acre Gaetz Park along the Red Deer River, there were two
public parks space created before 1909.
In 1901, the newly-formed Red Deer Town Council created a town
square where City Hall Park is now located.
However, this was meant to be a public assembly area and sports
field and not a park in the usual sense of the word.
In 1905, a small park area was created by the CPR train station, as
a rest area for passengers who were tired or wanted relief from the
smoke and grit or early steam trains.
There had been a grassy area next to the station soon after the
first station building had been built in the early 1890s. However,
Town Council felt that a more formal park was needed.
A "practical" gardener, Mr. Nash, was hired to take care of the
changes and new plantings. More than 100 spruce and poplar trees
were acquired from Mayor Edward Michener, who had started Red Deer
Nurseries, a large tree nursery in what is now the Grandview
Nash re-leveled the lawn areas and reseeded them. He also dug metre-wide
borders along both sides of the walkways and planted large numbers
of colourful flowering perennials and annuals.
A grand event occurred in April, 1906. The Lieutenant Governor,
premier and all the members of the Legislative Assembly of the
newly-formed Province of Alberta were invited to Red Deer as part of
a pitch to make Red Deer the provincial capital.
There was a lavish banquet at the Arlington Hotel where the speeches
went on until four in the morning.
The next day, or more accurately, later on in the morning, the
provincial dignitaries were roused out of bed and taken to the CPR
They each planted a ceremonial spruce tree to commemorate the
creation of the Province of Alberta.
The dignitaries then boarded the train, extolling the many charms of
Red Deer and the wonderful time they had enjoyed during their visit.
However, once back in Edmonton, the overwhelming majority voted to
make that city the permanent capital of the province.
The brutal winter of 1906-1907 took a terrible toll on the plantings
in the CPR Station Park.
Particularly hard hit were the experimental trees and plants that
had been used.
In the spring of 1907, the Town invested $225 to renew and refurbish
Nash was rehired to do the work. Many of the lost trees and
perennials were replaced by Red Deer Nurseries with native
The crowning centrepiece for the renewed park was an ornamental
fountain, which was donated by now-former Mayor Michener.
It soon became a landmark feature for travelers coming to Red Deer
on the train.
RED DEER'S PIONEER JEWEL
- CPR Station Park on Holt (51) Ave. and Ross St. in 1911.
Note the ornamental fountain which had been gifted to the
Town of Red Deer by former Mayor Edward Michener in 1907.
courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives -
George Fleming photographer.
Ironically, in 1955, while Alberta was
celebrating its fiftieth anniversary as a province, a proposal was
made to turn the beautiful CPR Station Park into a parking lot.
While initially nothing happened, in the summer of 1960, the park
was finally paved over, the trees were all cut down and the fountain
Fortunately, Russell McFaul, a local contractor, salvaged the
The fountain was later sold to Ken Martin, who used it as a
centrepiece in his yard at Penhold. In 2001, Mr. Martin very
generously decided to donate the fountain back to the City of Red
Deer, on the understanding that it would be put in an appropriate
park setting. He also had the City promise that the fountain would
not be discarded again in the future.
Meanwhile, the parking lot on the old CPR Station Park location was
sold off for a commercial building site as the City determined that
there was not a need for so many parking lot spaces in that part of
The Clarica/Sun Life Financial building was constructed on the old
park/parking lot site.
Consequently, a new park was created, with the fountain as
centrepiece, on a new site south of the Medican complex, along 52
In the past year, the Central Alberta Historical Society, which has
been planning a major historical interpretive feature for the
downtown area since 1999, began work on a set of historical arches
around the edge of the new Michener Fountain Park.
Resembling the old roundhouse, which used to stand west of the old
CPR station, it will become a landmark for the community, much as
the Michener Fountain has been.
If people wish to have
more information on the Central Alberta Historical Society's
historic arches project, or if they would like to donate to its
completion, they can contact Dr. Robert Lampard at
Themes, Alexander Way and 'The Arches' page