You can walk past Edmonton’s deep connection to Canada without even knowing it. But you wouldn’t want to do that. For your adventurous spirit, as our country celebrates 150 years, here are some links to the bigger story.
1. Commodore Restaurant
A gold rush attracted the first throng of Chinese settlers to Canada, in 1858. Twenty-five years later, 6,500 Chinese workers helped build the railroad across Canada. And in 1890, the first Chinese settler, Chung Gee, arrived in Edmonton, via Calgary, to open a laundromat located between 105 and 106 Street, off Jasper Avenue. In 1942, two blocks away from the original laundromat, the Gee family opened Commodore Restaurant, one of the longest-operating Chinese cafés in Edmonton. Although most head to Chinatown for Chinese food, we suggest heading to Commodore for “Western” Chinese dishes like chop suey and egg foo yung—and don’t forget to say hello to David and Wilma Gee, relations of Chung Gee.
2. The banks of the North Saskatchewan River
Years before the Klondike Gold Rush, prospectors staked their claim along the North Saskatchewan River. Though the waters weren’t awash with gold nuggets, you could find particles, known as ‘gold flour.’ At the peak of Edmonton’s rush, from 1895 to 1897, about 300 miners came to the city. Most could not resist the tales of more substantial finds in the Yukon, though, and by the end of 1897, they had moved to the Klondike. Today if you want to strike it rich, you can make your way to Ezio Faraone Park at 110 Street, take the stairs down to the river below and pan on the sandbanks and gravel bars with hobbyists.
3. 110 Street in Grandin
The first European language spoken in what became Alberta was French. French-Canadian voyageurs arrived in the North West Territories for the fur trade, married Cree women and established the first Métis communities. Soon thereafter Francophone missionaries followed and built churches across Alberta. Edmonton’s Grandin neighbourhood is home to St. Joachim’s Church, one of the first French-speaking parishes in Edmonton, originally established at the first location of Fort Edmonton (where the Alberta Legislature building now sits). Further south down 110 Street, Grandin School, built in 1915, is another reminder of Edmonton’s French roots. It was intended to offer instruction in French only, but with a growing English population in the core, the sisters from the Les Fidèles Compagnes de Jésus taught students in both languages. St Joachim played an important part in helping other Roman Catholic churches get built. Parishioners helped organize the fundraising efforts for St. Joseph’s Basilica, on 113 Street. •