History of Claresholm
By Ken Favrholdt – Original History of Claresholm- Source by CLP
History of Claresholm can be found in this early promotional brochure in the Claresholm Museum’s archives extolls the virtues of the community in 1910. Only five years after Claresholm became incorporated as a town, it was a thriving place.
According to the brochure, the population mushroomed from 65 in 1905 to over 2,000 in 1910. There were waterworks, electric light, a public school, “and every line of business including four elevators, five general stores, three hardware stores, two furniture stores, two drug stores, four lumber yards, three livery stables, five restaurants, three hotels, three gent’s furnishings stores, three milliners, three solicitors, two butchers, three blacksmith shops, three barbers, two jewelers, three contractors, five implement shops, fire coal merchants, two veterinary [sic] surgeons, one bakery, one wholesale liquor store and a Cement Block Manufacturing Company.”
As well, there were three chartered banks (the Union Bank of Canada, Canadian Bank of Commerce and Dominion Bank), five churches (Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Norwegian Methodist) according to the history of Claresholm.
A new CPR station was being planned to replace the one built in 1895. A new courthouse site was purchased, two new elevators were proposed, as well as a flour mill to replace one that burnt down in 1907. The fire also destroyed the electric power plant for the town. A general hospital – actually a “cottage hospital” — was also being planned. It was recommended that the house of H.L. Wannamaker be purchased for $2,500
Many of the early structures of Claresholm’s first decade still survive. They represent the built heritage of our town, a legacy worth promoting and preserving.
The public school was built in 1903 on the east side of the CPR tracks, at the corner of 52 Avenue and 2A Street West. It also served as the first church but was moved after only two years out of town to serve a rural area, Prairieville. It is now preserved at the museum site, close to its original location.
The Methodist Church had its start in the upstairs portion of the two-storey wood frame building at the corner of 50 Avenue and Highway 2. The 1905 building, now vacant, has gone through various uses but was best known as J.M. Soby’s store. Of the churches standing in 1910, only St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church established in 1907 still survives. The first service was actually held in the Wilton Hotel where ATB Financial is today. The church, located on 52 Avenue West, was originally named St. Adian’s until it became St. John the Evangelist in 1909.
The present Shanghai Restaurant building on Highway 2 dates from 1906 and housed Claresholm’s first theatre and then a grocery store before becoming a Chinese restaurant.
The Dominion Bank occupied the corner of the Milnes Block built in 1910, now known as The Station. The two-storey brick Union Bank of Canada, basically unchanged from its construction in 1910, stands vacant across from the Milnes Block. The Canadian Bank of Commerce, now the CIBC, can boast to be the oldest operating bank in Claresholm.
Claresholm’s second post office located on Highway 2 was also a lumber store owned by William Moffatt, Claresholm’s first resident and first mayor. The building is most recently remembered as Bill’s Koffee Shoppe. Built in 1904, a hardware store, most recently the Write Source stationery store, is still standing to the south along this block.
Claresholm’s iconic water tower was erected in 1909 at a cost of $7,600 including a pump. Water was obtained via a six-mile long wooden pipe from Willow Creek. The tank was originally painted black, which absorbed the heat and kept it from freezing in the winter.
As for the population of Claresholm, the brochure contains a bit of hyperbole. The population in 1910 was actually just over 1,000. But without such boosterism, where would be today?
Ken Favrholdt is Executive Director of the Claresholm & District Museum
A photo of Claresholm in 1910, along Railway Avenue, now Highway 2. In the centre of the picture is Moffatt’s Lumber store and the 2nd post office. Teskey and Robertson’s Hardware to the left, still stands. The white building to the right is Soby’s store.