In 1889, Colonel James Walker and fellow members of the Calgary Agricultural Society bought four hectares of land for their group's annual exhibition. At first, exhibitors and patrons felt the site was too far out of town. But it wasn't long before the city grew and the site was established... eventually becoming the home of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede.
The Calgary Stampede was once a draw for Victoria Park which is located just north of the grounds. But Stampede Park expansion has been its downfall. Newspaper headlines over the past 30 years hint at the issue that has troubled many Victoria Park residents. "Low income homes at risk." "Community association warned." "Stampede dreams shunt residents aside." "Stampede plan may put many on streets." But this community wasn't always so troubled.
In the early 1900s, Victoria Park was populated with merchants, working class families, business people, and small factories. It was known as East Ward until 1905 when the ward system of local government was abolished. Second Street - what is now Macleod Trail - was the retail centre for the little community. Victoria Park was home to the Second General Hospital - actually Calgary's first hospital - which opened in 1895 with room for 35 patients. When the new General Hospital opened in 1910, the Second General Hospital became an isolation hospital, and then a senior citizen's home until it was demolished in 1973.
Today, some residents are hoping that, if successful, Calgary's 2005 World's Fair bid will rejuvenate the area.