On This Spot has tours in the major cities of almost every province. Alberta is no different; we have tours and dozens of then-and-now photo sets in both Calgary and Edmonton, along with many of the smaller towns in the province. Today, to celebrate the nation-wide initiative of Culture Days, we are featuring two of our Edmonton self-guided walking tours. These tours are available for free online and through the On This Spot app.
Some 14,000 years ago, the First Peoples are believed to have crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Asia to North America. As they travelled south, they came to an open vista of grasslands that stretched to the horizon. This was somewhere near modern Edmonton. They had discovered the prairies, one of the largest bodies of grassland on Earth. It was here that many of them made their homes, following the herds of buffalo. Some used the North Saskatchewan River to travel, fish, and trade.
It was not until many millennia later that the first Europeans arrived at this place, hardy traders in search of furs. They established the trading post of Fort Edmonton in the 19th Century, and in the decades that followed, a multicultural community of First Nations, Europeans, and Métis grew up around the fort. In 1891, a railway branch line was extended north from Calgary to Edmonton, causing a population boom. When Alberta became a province in 1905, Edmonton’s central location in the province contributed to the choice to make it the new provincial capital. Edmonton continued to grow, and by the 1930s, it was the largest city in the province, a title it would hold until the 1980s. In addition to being the political capital, Edmonton is today the northernmost major city in North America. It is home to a number of cultural institutions like the Royal Alberta Museum, as well as a wide range of heritage buildings.
On This Spot’s tour “The End of the Line” dives into the early history of Strathcona, a historic Edmonton neighbourhood on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River. Explore this community’s early history, the arrival of the railroad, the incredible changes brought on by the Klondike Gold Rush, and the lives of the people who have called this place home. The route begins at Strathcona’s old train station and follows a small circuit around the neighbourhood before returning to about the same spot.
Our second tour, “John Walter: Edmonton’s Business Entrepreneur“, follows the triumphs and defeats of one of Edmonton’s most influential historical figures: John Walter. Walter was a genial, enterprising Orcadian from Scotland’s Orkney Islands who was one of many who helped take Fort Edmonton from its adventurous, fur trading infancy into its maturity as Alberta’s foremost city. This five-stop mini-tour follows not just Walter’s story but the story of those who laboured, traded, settled, lived, and died on the Western frontier, and of those who were forced to make way for them to do so.