Bowness

Community continues to hold its own 50 years after annexation

* Old neighbourhoods, new Calgary takes a look at some of Calgary’s earliest communities and how they’re evolving with the times

Having never lost its small town roots, the community of Bowness continues to be a destination for Calgary homeowners.

Going back in time to before the First World War, Bowness was a “suburb perfect” vision of Englishmen John Hextall. Hextall was the visionary behind Bowness Park, originally a weekend retreat for nearby Calgarians, and today a mainstay for those craving nature, relaxation and activity, especially in the winter for skating on the lagoon.

“But for Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, Bowness might have been one of Canada’s most exclusive residential communities,” wrote John Taylor for the Calgary Herald in 1959.

After the war however, lots Hextall once sold for $1,500 were going for as little as $100 and the then town didn’t even get sewer and water services until 1959.

The area retained its small town charm through the ‘50s and ‘60s, from an elusive cougar dubbed Slippery Joe, who not even 30 residents armed with high power rifles could dispatch of, to the last run of the infamous No. 62 trolley in 1950.

As early as 1953 rumours began circulating that “Calgary’s kid brother” would be annexed.

“…The eyes of Calgary are on Bowness,” wrote Myron Laka in 1953. “Its next step is amalgamation with the city of Calgary.”

Less than 10 years later, after Bownesians were charged double for riding the street car across the Bow River into Calgary, the town of Bowness was annexed in 1964.

“Bowness takes its place in history tonight as the town a street car built, and a transit bus led into oblivion,” wrote Sid Bursten in an Aug. 14, 1964 edition of the Calgary Herald. If not for that “transit discrimination” Bursten suggested the annexation vote might not have passed at all, at that time.

Bowness had some ups and downs into the ‘70s and ‘80s, with complaints duplexes were being illegally converted into four-plexes and talk of leaving Calgary for the District of Rockyview for among other reasons, the extension of Sarcee Trail and a proposed land-use bylaw that wasn’t designed for the large lots of Bowness.

“Ours is a family-oriented community,” said then community association vice-president Susan Watts in a 1995 interview. “A lot of people think the place is full of bikers. It’s not. The bikers who do live here no longer cause problems and since they spruced up the old hotel (the River Inn at that time), the whole look to main street has improved.”

These days Bowness is a thriving northwest community. From the partial reopening of Bowness Park Nov. 10, after two years of redevelopment and upgrades, to a continually increasing population from 10,733 in 2010 to 11,611 as of the 2014 Civic Census.

There were 20 single-family and condo sales in the community for the month of October, a 66 per cent increase of the 12 single-family and condo sales in October 2013.

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