How Prince's Island Park got its name and became an island

·2 min read
How Prince's Island Park got its name and became an island

Some Calgarians fumble the name of the large urban park north of downtown Calgary.

Often mistakenly called Princess Island Park, its actual name is Prince's Island Park.

It is not named after Prince Edward of P.E.I. fame, as some think, but after Peter Anthony Prince, from Quebec. Prince was born in 1836 near Trois-Rivières.

After learning the trade from his father, Prince spent the first 50 years of his life as a lumber worker and manager in parts of Canada and the Unites States.

Peek into the Prince's Island Park of the past in video below:

In 1886, he moved to Calgary, just a couple of years after it was incorporated as a town.

He created logging operations for the Eau Claire Lumber Mill and Bow River Lumber Company on the banks of the Bow River.

According to some, the park at that time was only a sandbank. Others described it as more of a peninsula. There were no bridges, no fountains and no lagoon for winter ice skating.

It would be decades before it became home to events like the Calgary Folk Festival.

Julie Prejet/CBC
Julie Prejet/CBC

Birthplace of the park

In order to be able to more easily receive floating timber logged in the Kananaskis region at his mill, Prince had a channel dug out which water from the Bow River flowed into.

Trees were felled in the winter, floated to Calgary in the spring and made into lumber during the summer and fall months.

The creation of that channel also birthed a lagoon, and an island.

Prince — nicknamed the "timber baron" — was a man with a strong business sense. He also expanded into producing electricity.

In 1893, Prince built Calgary's first hydroelectric power plant for his Calgary Water Power Company. It was located to the east of the lagoon.

The plant was a two-storey wooden house erected on a weir that ran across the south bank of the Bow River.

The electricity generated by the plant supplied electricity to much of Calgary in its early years of operation. But its capacity was quickly exceeded by Calgary's demand for this new source of light.

Prince died in 1925, but the sawmill remained in operation until 1944.

Three years later, the land was bought by the City of Calgary from the Prince family to eventually be turned into the popular 20-hectare park it is today.