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History of Elbow Park

Elbow Park has a diverse and vibrant heritage

Early History

Most of the area comprising modern Elbow Park was homesteaded in the late 19th century by William Scollen as early as 1875, and James Owens and James Morris in 1882-83.

The City of Calgary annexed the area in 1907 and real estate developer Freddy Lowes and his associates bought and surveyed it. Lowes intended to create an exclusive residential suburb with spacious lots and lovely homes, situated on the pleasant banks of the Elbow River. The first few houses were built in 1909, including Lowes’ own residence. Construction began in earnest the following year.

The boom in Calgary was short lived and ended with World War One. By then the neighbourhood of Elbow Park was firmly established as one of the city’s first purpose designed residential suburbs and one of the last to be built before the war.

Elbow Park Swim Shack

First Public Swimming Facility was located near Elbow Drive and 30th Ave SW in 1914; first with safety ropes then the construction of the dressing rooms building in 1922. The building doubled as a skate change shack in winter. 

Calgary Heritage Initiative - Take a Dip Into the Elbow River's Past

City of Calgary - Elbow Park Swimming Pool and Grounds

Historical Figures

The Social History of Elbow Park is the story of notable and prominent people who lived in Elbow Park from 1910 to 1960, written by David Mittelstadt in 2000. It comprises the history of the neighbourhood from its earliest beginnings through the explosive growth of Calgary’s first great boom, the First World War, the return to economic prosperity in the twenties, the difficult years of the thirties, the upheaval of another war and the tremendous boom created by Alberta’s oil industry in the post war years. 

The Elbow Park Residents Oral History Project is a series of sound recordings of interviews undertaken with 29 long-time residents of Elbow Park in 1999. 

Samaritan Club collecting bottles and cans for prisoner-of-war fund on 40th Avenue SW (Mrs. William Ardern; Mrs. J. H. (Leonora Christine) Woods; and Mrs. Eddie Taylor).


AGT Telephone Exchange


Located across the street from the Elbow Park Community Association, at 3604 7A Street SW, is the former Alberta Government Telephones (AGT) exchange building, now a private residence.

In 1910, the first telephone exchange in Elbow Park was opened on 14 Avenue SW. By 1928 this second exchange was opened to serve Elbow Park’s rising population the 1920s. This building was designed to fit with its residential surroundings, an AGT policy in the 1920s, and was the only one of that type built in Calgary, and one of the most elaborate designs. Architect Peter Rule designed a one-storey cottage with a hipped roof and clad in clinker brick. (A major addition was added to the back of the the cottage in 1951, doubling its size.) It was used as a telephone exchange until about 1970, when it was replaced by a new exchange across the street. 

Prior to the disposition of the property, ideas were floated around on how to repurpose the building. A public library was suggested, as well as demolishing the building, but ultimately the building was sold off to the highest bidder.

Heritage Calgary - AGT Elbow Park (Peter Rule)

City of Calgary Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources - AGT Elbow Park (Peter Rule)

Considering Designating Your Heritage Home? 

Long time Elbow Park resident John Heffer advocates for heritage home owners to consider designating their homes as a heritage resource, as he recently did in 2019.

Designation of Historic Resources

By John Heffer

February 5, 2020

I love Elbow Park! The varied architecture of its older homes gives this century-old neighbourhood a charm that few can match. I have owned one of those older homes since 1970, and as I have watched older homes replaced by new ones, not always in compatible styles, I have wondered how to preserve the character of the neighbourhood for current and future residents, and how to preserve my own home.

I had heard about the process of designating a home as a ‘Heritage Resource’, and to get more information, I attended in November 2018 a workshop called ‘Demystifying Designation’ hosted by Calgary Heritage Initiative. The speakers represented the City, the real estate industry, buyers, sellers and owners of designated ‘Municipal Heritage Resources’. I was so reassured by these speakers that I proceeded with Designation and now am the proud owner of a ‘Municipal Heritage Resource’. I’ll be making improvements (to non-designated features), but they won’t be wasted on a tear-down.

Now my reason for writing this piece: If you have an older home that you cherish, anywhere in Calgary, I encourage you to attend the next ‘Demystifying Designation’ workshop (they are held periodically) and learn what it’s all about.

Heritage Calgary - Designation

Researching Your Heritage Home

Starting to research the history of your home can be a daunting task. Here are some resources to help you get started:

Calgary Heritage Initiative - Researching a Property
City of Calgary - How to Research Building History

Tell us about your heritage home

Contact if you would like to submit an article on the history of your home.

Then and Now: A History Through Photos


Blast From the Past

Photo credit: Google (April 2016)

William Reid School Almost Closed Down Twice
By Tracey J. Johnson
February 24, 2020

In 1984, the Calgary Board of Education was proposing to close down William Reid School. A few years prior to this it appeared that the school would have to close due to lack of enrollment. The French Bilingual Program was then introduced and was very successful. At the time, William Reid had a capacity of 150 and was 90% full. Residents opposed the closure of the school and fought to keep it open.

Today, thanks to that community effort more than 35 years ago, William Reid is still in operation with a capacity of 320 students, more than double than before. It still maintains the 90% full rate, though there is now, due to high demand, a waiting list every year with a lottery in place for kindergartners.

*Fun fact - William Reid (for whom the school is named) was very active with the EPRA in the 1940's.

Walking Tour Guide of Historic Elbow Park

Take a walk back through history on a self-guided tour of the neighbourhood.

Elbow Park Historic Walking Tour.pdf

Double Murder on Elbow Drive

By Tracey J. Johnson
November 30, 2020

Tucked away on the northwest corner of Elbow Drive and the Elbow River sits an unassuming two story home that belies it's sad history. 

Sometime during the night of June 4th, 1945, Francis Byrne, successful oilman and prominent business leader, murdered his wife, Winnifred age 42, and their 15 year old daughter, Brenda, in their home on Elbow Drive. Byrne then took his own life. 

Their two other children, Ann, age 12, and John, age 8, were sleeping outside in a summerhouse and were left unharmed. The Byrnes had lived in that home since 1940. 

Francis Philip Byrne (born January 24, 1900), originally from Montreal, came to Alberta in 1919 to join the Alberta Provincial Police Force, serving with them until 1922. Byrne went back to Montreal, returning to Alberta again in 1925, working in a brokerage firm, and then at his own investment banking business, Gray, Byrne and Company, in 1931. 

Prior to the tragedy, Byrne had suffered a nervous breakdown and had been under professional medical care.


Historic Streetscapes

Sifton Boulevard and Riverdale Avenue have been listed as an historic resource as part of the city’s Conserving Calgary’s Historic Streets Plan.

Click here to

Elbow Park’s Historic Boulevards

By Tracey J. Johnson

December 14, 2020

The Calgary Heritage Authority evaluated streetscapes in 2011 to determine if they had historic significance, to add to Calgary’s Inventory of Historic Resources. 27 historic streetscapes located in 10 Calgary communities were chosen as meeting the criteria to be a Calgary historic streetscape by meeting the following conditions prior the evaluations:

  • Association with William Reader - all streetscapes were planted under the direction of William Reader, Parks Superintendent.
  • Documented planting date.
  • Demonstrated integrity - enough plant material is remaining to effectively illustrate the intent of the streetscape development - continued use of the original plant material along with regularly spacing between plant materials.

Two Streetscapes from Elbow Park were included - Sifton Boulevard SW (from Elbow Drive to 7 Street SW) and Riverdale Avenue SW (from 9 Street to 10 Street SW); both were originally planted in 1929.

The Sifton stretch consists of two landscaped boulevards and includes the regularly spaced pattern of green ash trees (Fraxinum mandshruica) with a “manicured turf understory that separates the sidewalk from the south side of the carriage way with a manicured turf understory that is adjacent to the carriage way on the north side”.

The Riverdale stretch consists of two landscaped boulevards and includes the regularly spaced pattern of elm trees (Ulmus Americana) with remnants of honeysuckle shrubs (Lonicera tatarica) on the south side with a “manicured turf understory that separates the sidewalk from the carriage way on both sides of the street”. There is a historic sidewalk stamp at 10 Street.

Heroism in Elbow Park

In the mid 1950’s, long time Elbow Park resident John Heffer was witness to two separate acts of life-saving heroism in Elbow Park: 

In December 1954 I remember walking home from school along Wood's Park with my buddies, when we saw smoke pouring out of a house across Elbow Drive. We wondered how to get help, because nobody had a cell phone! (Was there even 911?). Then the face of an elderly woman appeared in the upstairs window, and the bravest of us, quick-thinking David Johnson, ran across the street and entered the house, where he managed to save one little boy and help with the evacuation of the other residents.

Then again, as a boy of 13 in August 1955, I remember walking along the Elbow River pathway right by the historic home of Freddie Lowes, and arriving at a scene of great drama and possible tragedy. Jim Rogan was resuscitating a boy, Dale Scully, who was close to death from drowning in the river. I remember Jim's name because he worked with my father, Arthur Heffer, at the Bank of Commerce in Calgary. Back in June 2018 I wondered if the story was in the Calgary Herald archives, so I looked Jim up on the internet and found out that he had passed away just two months before, in Winnipeg. His obituary made no mention of his heroism so I searched for, and then attached the Herald article about the event to his obituary for the benefit of his family, who were thrilled to know the story.  

In December 1954, 13-year-old David Johnson (944 38 Ave SW) carried a 3-year-old out of a burning house on 3213 Elbow Drive. Click here for full story… 

In August 1955, Alfred Petzold* (4010 Elbow Dr). Jim P. Rogan (1415 2 St SW) and James Little (226 25 Ave SW), pulled a drowning 12-year-old out of the water at the Elbow Park swimming hole and resuscitated the blue, unconscious boy until the fire department arrived to finish the job. Click here for full story… 

*“Fun” Fact – Alfred Petzold may have committed murder 18 years later in Hamilton.

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