"RED DEER" Top 5 Page for this destination Red Deer by Simonneeddy

Red Deer Travel Guide: 64 reviews and 99 photos

The Crossing Place
Before the arrival of the white man, native tribes migrated through this area between the eastern plains and the western foothills. They followed the seasons and the herds of elk and buffalo. A natural ford (or crossing place) in the river a few kilometers upstream of what was to become Red Deer, brought these tribes together here in our river valley to camp and hunt. There is much archaeological evidence of prehistoric campsites and burial grounds within our current city limits.
The Explorers
By the early 1700's, the Hudson's Bay Company and other great fur trading companies had moved into the Hudson Bay area and were beginning to push westward across the prairies. Between 1750 and 1775, the first white explorers (Anthony Henday, Joseph Smith, David Thompson, et al) had mapped the rich economic potential of the rivers, prairie grasslands and forests. Any by 1800, trading posts were established at Fort Edmonton to the north and Rocky Mountain House to the west of what is now Red Deer.
The Traders
The natives of the eastern plains (the Blackfoot, Cree, Assinaboine and other tribes) trading to these forts reinforced the river crossing while the tribes of the south (the Paigans and Stoneys), began to establish a north-south route to Fort Edmonton through the Red Deer area. By the mid-1800's, missionaries arrived in the area along with more white explorers and buffalo hunters. As rough camps and settlements were established, the Native tribes suffered immensely from their own tribal animosities, dwindling buffalo numbers, the scourge of new diseases and the whiskey trade.

The Settlers
The western push of settlement continued, and in 1884 what is now downtown Red Deer was being farmed by the Reverend Leonard Gaetz. The first early trappings of a more permanent enterprise began to appear; a school, church, post office and store. The first industrial development started up, milling lumber along the river. At this time there was also the original settlement encamped up the river at the Crossing. This settlement faded away with the arrival of the Calgary & Edmonton Railway (which crossed the river on Gaetz's farm) and the survey of a new town-site on the Gaetz lands in 1890.

The Railway Boom
The coming of the railway cannot be over-emphasized as the most important influence on the establishment of Red Deer's downtown. Quite literally, the railroad brought money. Stores, livery stables, hotels, homes, churches and schools exploded into existence during the first boom years from the late 1890's to the early 1900's. The town-site survey, generated by the railroad, gave a physical form to the streets, blocks and lanes we use today.

There were no zoning bylaws as we know them now, but a logical order evolved generated by the arrival and departure of the trains, (an order that can still clearly be seen in downtown today). Rippling eastward from the tracks and the river: hotels lined up across the street from the station and looked onto a park; a busy pedestrian street life and merchant core; major cultural and institutional buildings; and beyond those, the homes of prosperous merchants on the edge of the expanding farming community.

Between the tracks and the river ("the wrong side of town"), industry developed to supply the rapid growth: lumber mills, a brick plant, elevators, slaughterhouses etc. North and west of the river, workers settled into what was to become the Village of North Red Deer. The compact homes and lots of this residential area can still be seen.

Red Deer was incorporated as a city in 1913, eight years after the province of Alberta was established. By the outbreak of the First World War, the boom caused by the arrival of the railroad had subsided, but the physical framework of downtown Red Deer was firmly established

See next chapter for OIL Boom


The Oil Boom
The city grew steadily but more slowly until the need for commercial space outgrew the bounds of the city core. As recently as the mid-1960s, Red Deer was still clearly defined as a river city sitting compactly between hills to the north and south. Oil was first discovered in Alberta in 1947 and Red Deer became a major service center for the industry. Almost overnight, driven by a second, oil-generated boom during the seventies, the city expanded north and south along Gaetz Ave.

This time, it was the automobile, not the railroad, which gave form to the city: shopping plazas, strip malls, schools with huge parking lots, drive-in theaters, drive-through banks and drive-up windows at restaurants.
The town is a very historical site. It was here that "LOUIS RIEL" A "METIS INDIAN

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Near the mountains and banff and Jasper
  • Cons:none
  • In a nutshell:Worth a visit as you travel through Alberta
  • Intro Updated Nov 30, 2002
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