Town of Canora the First of Many Namesakes

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of two articles written by former Canora resident Johnathan Kalmakoff of Regina, relating to the Canora name and how the town was named but also how it was the first of many namesakes to share the name.)

 

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Canora School, Community and Park, Edmonton

In 1813, Fort Edmonton (after the district in Middlesex, England) was founded as a Hudson’s Bay post on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River. In 1891, the Calgary & Edmonton Railway arrived on the river’s south bank, establishing the rival townsite of Strathcona (after the Scottish river valley), which became a town in 1892 and a city in 1904. However, in 1905, Edmonton was chosen as the Alberta provincial capital, and in November that year, the Canadian Northern Railway arrived there, accelerating its growth. In 1912, Edmonton annexed Strathcona to form a single city.  

In 1948, a contest was held to name a new elementary school built at what is now 154th Street and 105th Avenue in Edmonton. The winner of the contest was a Grade eight student who noted that the school site lay within a few feet of the old Canadian Northern line. By combining the first two letters of each word of the railway name, ca-no-ra, the school name was created.  Canora School opened in 1949 and operated for 24 years before closing its doors in 1973. 

Within months of Canora School opening, the surrounding neighbourhood became known by its name. It is represented by the Canora Community League, established in 1949, which maintains a community hall, outdoor rink and tennis court and offers community programming. Today, Canora is an urban residential community in west Edmonton bounded by 107th Avenue to the north, 156th Street to the west, Stony Plain Road to the south, and 149th Street to the east. 

In 1972, the City of Edmonton enacted a ‘Canora Neighbourhood Improvement Plan’ to redevelop and revitalize the community. One of its outcomes was the establishment of Canora Park in 1975 at 151st Street and 104th Avenue. The 2.48-acre park has a playground, exercise facilities and a walking trail.    

SS Canora, Patricia Bay, B.C.

In 1911, the Canadian Northern was chartered to establish ferry passenger and freight service from Patricia Bay, Vancouver Island to Vancouver. To this end, in 1912, it bought a site at Patricia Bay to build wharves, repair shops and rail yards. And from 1913 to 1916, it built a line from Victoria to Patricia Bay. 

In 1918, an order was placed with the Quebec firm Davie Shipbuilding to build a ferry for the line. Christened the SS Canora, an anagram of the railway name, she was a double-ender steel rail car ferry, weighing 2,382 gross tons, with a triple-expansion steam engine and two propellers at each end. 

The Canora was originally fitted for passenger cars. However, by the time she arrived in Victoria in 1919, the Canadian Northern was defunct and its successor, the Canadian National, had no obligation to serve passengers. She immediately went into refit and into freight service at Patricia Bay. She operated there until her withdrawal in 1932 due to the Depression. Three years later, the Patricia Bay line was abandoned. In 1937, the Canora returned to service at Point Ellice. From 1939 to 1945, she was armed with a machine gun for wartime freight service. She was retired in 1967 and scrapped the following year.  

Canora Road, Sidney, BC

In 1917, the Canadian Northern extended its Victoria to Patricia Bay line to provide a passenger and freight link with the Victoria & Sidney Railway at Bazan Bay. By 1918, it leased the Victoria & Sidney Railway line itself. In 1919, the lines were taken over by Canadian National Railway, which operated them for 36 years. In 1935, the track was abandoned and removed.

In 1947, a section of the old Canadian Northern rail bed extending from McTavish Road at Bazan Bay north to East Saanich Road was used to build a road. The road, along with the connecting section of East Saanich Road extending north to Victoria Airport was named Canora Road to commemorate the railway by abbreviating its name. In 1963, the road was annexed by the Village of Sidney. In 1967, it was designated an Arterial Highway by the Department of Transport.  

Canora Street, Park, Green and Club, Winnipeg

Though there were fur trading posts on the site since 1738, the first permanent settlement at Winnipeg occurred in 1812 with the arrival of Scottish crofters who formed the Red River Colony. In 1870, Winnipeg (after Lake Winnipegosis) was designated the provincial capital of Manitoba and in 1873 became a city. The arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 brought rapid growth. This, along with the formation of the Canadian Northern Railway there in 1899, made Winnipeg the wholesale, administrative and financial centre of Western Canada during the early 20th century.

By 1905, the Canadian Northern had a giant presence in the city, with an office tower at Portage and Main, rail yards with roundhouses, freight sheds and repairs shops at the Forks and Fort Rouge, a bridge across the Red River connecting Winnipeg and St. Boniface, and rail lines running in all directions out of the city. That year, in recognition of the railway’s contribution, the city renamed Lendrum Street, running from Portage Avenue south to the Assiniboine River, Canora Street as a contraction of the company name.

In 1894, the six-acre St. James Park was established at Lendrum Street and St. James Avenue, after which it was named. It had open lawns, curvilinear walks, abundant trees and shrubs as well as flower gardens, lawn bowling greens and tennis courts. However, after the renaming of Lendrum to Canora Street, from at least 1917 to 1964, it was popularly known as Canora Park.  In 1966, it was formally renamed Vimy Ridge Memorial Park after Canada's historic First World War victory.

Originally an unimproved portion of Canora Street where it meets the Assiniboine River, in 1985, the City of Winnipeg established a public green space there with benches, designating it Canora Green. In 2002, the small 0.22-acre park was further improved with landscaping, tree planting and fencing.  

Between 1904 and 1908, the Canora Literary and Debating Club was a popular University of Manitoba men’s organization that held public debates with rival clubs on various political, economic and social topics. Evidently sponsored by the Canadian Northern, the club chose its name just 15 days after the opening of the Canora Post Office was published in the Winnipeg Tribune newspaper.  

Canora Road and Station, Mount Royal, Que.

Mount Royal was founded in 1912 by the Canadian Northern, which planned to build a model city at the foot of Mount Royal. The railway bought 4,800 acres of farmland, surveyed a townsite, then built its Deux-Montagnes line with a rail tunnel under Mount Royal connecting it to Montreal. Profits from the land development venture helped finance its transcontinental railroad. In 2002, the town merged into Montreal and today is an affluent suburban borough northwest of the city’s downtown.

In 1926, the roads running on either side of the Deux-Montagnes rail line between Cote De Liesse Road and Crescent Park in Mount Royal were named Canora Road, a portmanteau of Canadian Northern Railway, the original developer. In 1953, the southern lane was renamed Dunkirk Road after the Second World War battle, leaving only the northern lane identified by this name. 

In 1918, the Canadian Northern established a station on its Deux-Montagnes line, originally named Portal Heights from 1918 to 1995. Thereafter, it was renamed Canora Station as a nod to the original builder. In 2020, the rail commuter station closed and is slated to reopen in 2022 as a metro rapid transit station. 

Conclusion

Over the years, there have been many places and things named Canora, each with their own interesting and distinct history, but all of which are tied, one way or another, to the building of the Canadian Northern Railway transcontinental railroad across Canada.

To see part one of this story go to https://www.canoracourier.com/news/local-news/town-of-canora-the-first-of-many-namesakes-1.24243059.