Why Doesn’t Regina Have A “Main Street”?
· 5 min. read
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More often than not, a city or town has a "Main Street" somewhere in it. Moose Jaw has one, Saskatoon has one, Calgary has one and Disneyland has one, but Regina doesn't. Many people probably have never thought about it, or just accept that Albert Street is our version of a main street, but still the question remains.
The answer lies back to the earliest days of Regina's history. Prior to the railway arriving in Regina in 1882, Regina was a splatter of houses north of the then much-less developed Wascana Creek. The Canadian Pacific Railway laid the groundwork for their railway system, and marked their new station to be near Wascana Creek, which was far from the current capital of the Northwest Territories, Battleford. Since the train wouldn't be travelling that far north, Sir John A. MacDonald instructed the CPR to pick the location for the new capital. They chose the area that is now Regina.
Lieutenant-Governor Edgar Dewdney owned land near the proposed railway station and grew a community around it. Rapidly, the area around his property grew and had several stores, saloons and stables. This increased the wealth of the property and made it much more attractive for the CPR to use for their new station.
East of Dewdney's thriving community was another smattering of houses which had slowly grown together into a small town. Main streets had been established, additional stores, saloons and stables were constructed and people were creating their own communities.
By 1883 these two townsites together were home to 15 stores, two banks, four feedstores, two carriage shops, and four hotels.
The CPR saw these two townsites ? Dewdney's Regina and the other one to the east ? and compared their prices of land. The land on Dewdney's property was much more expensive than the land to the east, so the CPR chose the cheaper area to build their train station instead. Unsurprisingly, within the next few years, denizens on Dewdney's property slowly drifted over to the new thriving community to the east, and his townsite became primarily government based.
Once Regina became the capital of the Northwest Territories, an administration building was required. Built in 1886, the Northwest Territorial Administration Building would host the Territorial Council from 1891 to 1905, and the Saskatchewan provincial government from 1905 until 1910. This building was a very early version of what the Saskatchewan Legislature is today. The construction of the Leg made the Northwest Territorial Administration Building obsolete.
Today, the building still stands on 3304 Dewdney Ave, and is the only remaining structure of "Dewdney's Regina". It has been restored twice, and survived a fire in 1922. Between 1910 and 1922 it was Ruthenian Training School, a school for Eastern European immigrants, and from 1922 to 1971 it was Grace Haven, a hospital and home for unwed monthers. It held the Saskatchewan Express until the early 21st Century and today is used for storage, labelled as a "provincial heritage property". While the building is an outdoor museum, it would be easy to overlook it while driving down Dewdney Avenue.
The temporary division of Regina between the two townsites prevented a "Main Street" from ever being established. Nobody knew at the time which townsite the CPR would choose for their train station, nor how the city would grow. While the peculiar placement of Government House and the RCMP Depot on Regina's far west end seems out of place today, it wouldn't that far from Dewdney's townsite.
Have you ever wondered about why Regina doesn't have a Main Street? Have you ever noticed the Northwest Territorial Administration Building on Dewdney Ave? Tell me about it in the comments below!
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Categories: Canada, History, Regina, Saskatchewan