Historic West Hillhurst still embodies can-do spirit of its founders
Residents in the inner-city, northwest community of West Hillhurst cherish the values of yesteryear – community, connectedness, family friendly programming and volunteerism.
“There is such a great camaraderie here,” said longtime resident Chris Koper. “There are so many older community members that love to tell stories that connect us to the past.”
She and her husband have lived in the area for decades, purchasing a vintage, wartime bungalow in the mid-1980s. The couple is now raising their teenage daughter there.
Koper recounts the story of her neighbour, one of the original West Hillhurst residents, who is now in her 90s. “She remembers that when they first moved in, it was mostly open field with few houses, and they could hear the lions at the zoo roaring at night,” she said.
“There is such a great camaraderie here. There are so many older community members that love to tell stories that connect us to the past.” – Chris Koper, West Hillhurst resident
Koper enjoys hearing tales like these, and says that many are shared during warm, summer afternoons at the community centre – the heart of the neighbourhood – or over a cappuccino at one of the funky coffee shops or eateries on 19th Street N.W.
The West Hillhurst Community Centre, located centrally on Sixth Avenue and 19th Street N.W., is home to the community preschool, a top-notch figure skating club, a recreational hockey league, a before- and after-school care program, fitness facilities and an outdoor pool. And thanks to Koper, who is a landscape architect, the centre now showcases 40 garden plots, where community members can grow everything from sweet peas to pumpkins. The gardens came online in 2012, thanks to the initiative and can-do attitude of community residents.
Looking back, Koper says that can-do spirit is much like the attitude of the original West Hillhurst founding fathers, fondly referred to as the Grand Trunk Hot Shot League – a group of community residents who, in the early 1940s, travelled on the Grand Trunk Streetcar together (West Hillhurst was originally named Grand Trunk). They formed the community association with a goal of creating playgrounds for children and a sense of unity for residents.
“They had some great slogans, like ‘we can make our community big if we all help out a little’ and ‘people who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves seldom lose their shirts,’ ” said Koper.
West Hillhurst Community Association president Craig MacLellan agrees that the association is the hub of the community. “It’s a gathering point for so many different user groups, and it’s as strong as our tenants and users,” he said.
Upping the recreational ante, the community centre’s indoor ice rink boasts a slew of new upgrades, including a new ice pad, bleachers and roof.
MacLellan and his wife have lived in the area for more than six years and are raising two young daughters there. They purchased a duplex built in the 1980s.
They love the area for the ease of access to downtown and the hospital, where they work, as well as because of the connections they have made with other young families in the area. “Even though the housing mix is changing, as older post-war lots are being converted into duplexes and larger corner lots are being densified, the community still maintains that charming quality,” said MacLellan.
Koper also relishes the community’s charm. “I love the fact that the houses are not all the same – that there are a variety of styles – and that the demographic is so varied, from original residents to brand-new families,” she said.
West Hillhurst fast facts Quadrant: NW
Median Household Income: $89,655
SOURCE: 2017 Calgary Civic Census and 2011 National Household Survey