Travel back in time — as far back as 1867 — with these vintage, bird’s-eye view photographs and postcards of Alberta’s capital.

Jasper Avenue looking west, ca. 1930

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

In the 19th Century, 97 Street and Jasper Avenue began to develop as the centre of town. It started out with just a few wooden, false-fronted stores, but then brick, steel and concrete started becoming the average building materials for new developments along the Avenue.

Downtown Edmonton, ca. 1909

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

Edmonton’s bustling downtown core nine years into the 20th century. At that time, The Big E was home to an estimated 23,000 people. Over the next 105 years, the population swelled to 877,926, according to the 2014 municipal census.

Low Level Bridge over the Saskatchewan River, date unknown

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

The Cree name for the Saskatchewan River was “Kisiskatchewanisipi,” meaning “swift-flowing river.” Over time, this word was shortened to Saskatchewan.

East-facing view of downtown, date unknown

Edmonton history aerial photo Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Librarie

The above photo was taken from the historic Hudson’s Bay building along Jasper Avenue between 102nd and 103rd streets. When the site was first developed in the late 1800s, the original HBC building consisted only of a single street-level retail floor with living quarters upstairs for the manager, his family and an assistant.

Downtown Edmonton looking north, date unknown

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

The Hotel Macdonald (the grand-looking building seen in the right-hand side of this postcard) opened its doors in 1915, and will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Downtown looking north, ca. 1910

Edmonton historic photo-2 Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

A century ago, “Mrs. McC” sent the above postcard to her friend, a Mrs. George Wright of Portland, Oregon, with a note on the back that read: “Dear Friend, I write you a letter a long time ago did you get it. I tow in little trucks. I hope you are all well. Is Mr. W. in the same place. I guess there has been some changes there. We are getting on fine. The baby is well. I have never had any pictures framed but when I do I will send some A Happy New Year. Mrs. McC.”

College Avenue looking southwest, ca. 1910

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

See those letters painted on the side of the barn in the foreground? J.H. Morris & Co. was a company owned by Joseph Henry Morris, a politician and merchant who came to Edmonton from Ontario in 1896. He said to have been the first person to own a car in the city.

The early town of Edmonton looking north, ca. 1867

1867 Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

While Lower Canada (Quebec), Upper Canada (Ontario), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were busy celebrating confederation in 1867, Alberta would still have to wait until 1905 to be amalgamated into Canada as a province.

Jasper Avenue, ca. 1940

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

Edmonton’s downtown core was transformed during the 1940s when the city began to bounce back from an economic slump brought on by World War II. The city recovered partly because it became the base of construction for the Alaska highway and partly because oil was discovered at Leduc in 1947.

103 Street near Jasper Avenue looking northeast, ca. 1903

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

At the time this photo was taken Edmonton still hadn’t yet been incorporated as a city. It would be one more year before the Town of Edmonton became the City of Edmonton.

Downtown and Rossdale, date unknown

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

The year 1920 saw Edmonton’s population reach 61,045, and by the end of the decade, it had grown to 77,557. That’s a big jump from just 148 in 1878.

The Alberta Legislature Building, date unknown

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

The Alberta Legislature Building (identified by the University of Alberta site as the Parliament Building) opened on September 3, 1912, when Edmonton was still a frontier town full of tents and wooden shacks. The first-storey exterior and front steps are made of granite shipped from Vancouver Island, while the rest of the exterior is made of Paskapoo sandstone from the Glenbow Quarry in Calgary.

Downtown, ca. 1944

Edmonton historic photo-1 Photo: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

By the early 1940s, Edmonton was engulfed by new urban development and was one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

Municipal Airport, date unknown

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

Edmonton’s Municipal Airport was built in 1929 for $35,000, and was considered Canada’s first licensed airfield.

High Level Bridge, date unknown

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

The 2,550-foot long High Level Bridge was constructed between 1910 and 1913 and cost more than $2 million to build. Adjusted for inflation, that would be about $42.1 million today.

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