An early community landmark – the Michener Fountain

Michael Dawe

Michael Dawe

Over the past century, Red Deer has sported several beautiful historic buildings and notable landmarks.

Unfortunately, many of these structures and objects have been demolished and/or sent to the local landfill.

One beautiful community landmark, which was literally saved from the scrap heap, was the Michener Fountain. It used to be located in the centre of the old C.P.R. Station Park on the west end of Ross St. along 51 Ave.

The Station Park was first created in 1905 as a rest stop for passengers who were tired or wanted relief from the smoke and grit of early steam trains.

Mr. Nash, a ‘practical gardener’, was hired to do the landscaping. Mayor Edward Michener donated more than 100 spruce, poplar and ‘experimental’ trees from a large tree nursery that he owned on the East Hill.

Edward Michener was not only the mayor of the town. He was also one of the wealthiest men in the community. He and his partner, Stan Carscallen, had created the highly successful real estate and land development firm, Michener Carscallen.

Michener Carscallen developed such subdivisions as Parkvale, Grandview and Highland Park (now better known as Michener Hill).

They also later created Whitewold Beach, one of the first lakeside subdivisions at Sylvan Lake.

A grand event occurred in the Station Park in April 1906.

The Lieutenant Governor, Premier and all the members of the Legislative Assembly of the newly-formed Province of Alberta were invited to Red Deer as part of an unsuccessful pitch to make Red Deer the provincial capital.

During the visit, the provincial dignitaries each planted a ceremonial spruce tree in the Station Park to commemorate the creation of the Province of Alberta.

The brutal winter of 1906-1907 took a terrible toll on the plantings in the park. Consequently, in the spring of 1907, the Town invested $225 to renew and refurbish it.

A decision was made to plant native tree species and hardy perennials to make it less likely that winterkill would hit hard in the future.

The crowning centerpiece for the renewed park was a large ornamental fountain, which was donated by now-former Mayor Michener. It soon became a landmark for travelers coming to Red Deer on the train.

Ironically, while the park meant to be a permanent beauty spot in the community, in the summer of 1960, it was turned into a parking lot.

The trees were all cut down. The Michener Fountain was discarded.

Fortunately, Russell McFaul, a local contractor, salvaged the fountain.

It was later sold to Ken Martin, who used it as a centerpiece in his yard at Penhold. In 2001, Mr. Martin very generously decided to donate the fountain back to the City of Red Deer, on the understanding that it would be put in an appropriate park setting. He also had the City promise that the fountain would not be discarded again in the future.

Consequently, a new park was created, with the fountain as centerpiece, on a new site south of the Medican complex, along 52 Ave.

The designation of Centennial Park was given to the site, to mark the fact that much of the work was completed during the centennial of the Province of Alberta in 2005.

Unfortunately, a second ornamental fountain, which used to stand in front of the old Post Office on Ross St. was not as lucky. This second fountain had been donated to the Town of Red Deer by the Presbyterian Young Peoples group in 1911.

One of the notable features of the Young Peoples’ fountain was that it had an outlet for people, a small step up for children, a large street-side trough for horses and a small overflow basin for dogs.

Eventually, Red Deer City Council decided to remove the Young Peoples’ fountain and replace it with a small porcelain one. The old fountain was hauled to the City Yards for storage. Over time, people began to forget what it was. Eventually, the remnants of the fountain were hauled off to Harper’s Metals for scrap.

On Friday, June 17, at 11:30 a.m., the annual Red Deer Heritage Recognition Awards ceremony will take place at the historic St. Luke’s Anglican Church on the corner of Gaetz Avenue and 54 St.

For more information, please call Janet at 403-309-6270.