Spring of 1913 across Central Alberta

Spring is perhaps the most welcome season in Alberta.

Most winters are cold and snowy. The return of warmer weather, the disappearance of the snow and the appearance of new growth and the spring blossoms always give a lift to people’s spirits.

Spring of 1913 was not much different. The winter of 1912-1913 had been a typical one. There were a few days of -40C in January. There was a modest amount of snow. The usual signs of spring emerged in March and April. One difference was that the spring was quite a bit drier than usual.

There were also some strong spring winds. As a result, most of the ice on Sylvan Lake broke up on April 26.

Unfortunately, the winds blew large drifts of ice onto the shore, causing quite a bit of damage to any buildings located close to the water. Pine Lake also broke up with the strong winds, but there were no reports of damage like there was at Sylvan Lake.

The dry conditions and high winds created a serious fire hazard. One bad blaze in early May threatened the new Village of Delburne.

Fortunately, the wind changed direction just as the fire approached the edge of the village. Consequently, no houses or businesses in Delburne were damaged, although a number of nearby farms were not as lucky.

Seeding proceeded throughout the early part of May with the hopes that the usual spring rains would eventually follow. A heavy spring snowstorm on May 6 and 7 near Rocky Mountain House did not cause much consternation. A local newspaper wrote, “The old saying is that snow in May assures good crops”.

Local horticulturalists welcomed the extensive improvements to Red Deer Nurseries. New greenhouses were constructed. Large boilers were also installed to allow the local production of more tender plants such as tomatoes. The manager, Richard Mawson-Mattocks (the nephew of the famous planner and architect, Thomas Mawson) also planned to bring in stock from England to add to the nurseries’ offerings.

The dry spring allowed an early start to construction.

Several new homes and businesses were constructed in the brand-new villages of Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House and Delburne. However, the onset of a sharp recession meant that the amount of new construction in Red Deer dropped off substantially from what the new city had experienced in 1912.

Sylvan Lake and Gull Lake continued to grow as resorts. Several new cottages were constructed and new camping areas created at both locations. Gull Lake also benefited from the construction of the Thistle Inn which included a store, restaurant and ice cream parlour in addition to rooms for summer tourists.

Sylvan Lake already boasted two large new and renovated hotels – the Sylvan Lake Hotel and the Alexander Hotel. Consequently, many people felt that the community would be well supplied with attractive facilities for the coming tourist season.

Moreover, a large pier was constructed in front of the McClusky boathouse on the main beach. Tennis courts and a baseball diamond were created on the western edge of town. The Sylvan Lake Trading Company and others bought modern boats, including some motor launches, to add to the tourist attractions.

By early May, plans were well underway for the first annual Sylvan Lake Regatta on July 11-12. Several generous donations were made to help ensure that the event would be a success.

In order to facilitate automobile travel to Sylvan Lake, the Red Deer Auto Club paid for improvements to the main road (not quite a highway yet). The road was graded and several very large potholes were filled, mainly with brush topped with a heavy layer of clay.

Everyone was confident that a long, warm and enjoyable summer season lay ahead.

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