A moment in history: May 1, 1965

A moment in history: May 1, 1965

· The Pulse

On this day in 1965, Edmonton was preparing to celebrate Canada's centennial.

With just two years to go before the country's 100th anniversary, plans were well underway in Edmonton by 1965. Like many cities and towns across Canada, the city was eager to capitalize on grants and funds that were offered for centennial projects. While some places in Alberta earmarked the money for a 30-tonne landing pad for extraterrestrials, Edmonton's project was a bit more terrestrial. It planned a new downtown library.

Almost all the funds the feds offered to Edmonton went to the library project, originally estimated at $3.5 million (it would rise to $4 million by the time it was finished.) The Centennial Library opened in May 1967, sandwiched between two other centennial projects: A large park to the north, and a smaller plaza to the south of the building. The park would later be renamed Sir Winston Churchill Square and redeveloped. (The library was subsequently renamed after Stanley Milner in the '90s. The plaza south of the library is still named Centennial Plaza, but it's different from the other Centennial Plaza that's a few blocks away on the Legislature grounds.)

The library isn't the only centennial legacy that survives in Edmonton. The provincial and federal governments had been working on a plan for a museum to showcase Alberta's natural and human history since 1950. But it wasn't until the early '60s that things moved into high gear and a site was chosen along the river valley. The museum opened in December 1967 as the Provincial Museum of Alberta with exhibits on Indigenous history and early European settlement. Over the 1970s and '80s, the museum expanded to cover more of Alberta's natural and ancient history. In 2005, it was renamed the Royal Alberta Museum (as part of Alberta's centennial year, in fact.)

In addition to receiving grants, the city offered its own funds to community groups to mark the centennial. Many were temporary, including dozens of events, brochures, books, and one really big cake. But others can still be experienced today. The Kinsmen Field House, which opened in 1968, is one such project.

It's been more than another half-century since the flood of centennial projects arrived to change the city. And many of the surviving centennial projects have changed significantly over the years. The downtown library was rebuilt and reopened in 2020 with a controversial new design. Likewise, the Royal Alberta Museum was moved to a new facility closer to the city core.

Changes continue. Work is now underway on a child-friendly revamp of Centennial Plaza south of the library, including the removal of its underused amphitheatre. Landscaping on the project is expected to start this month and finish in the summer.

This clipping was found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse of @VintageEdmonton.

Correction: This story has been updated with the correct reopening date for the Stanley Milner Library.