The history of the Village of Sylvan Lake

The year of 1912 was a very exciting one for Sylvan Lake.

The community was enjoying one of the greatest booms in its history. Two railroads, the Alberta Central and the Canadian Northern Western, were building rail lines through the area on their way to the rich coalfields west of Rocky Mountain House.

All of the rail construction meant that were lots of good paying jobs. Farmers had a great local market for their hay, produce and livestock.

New settlers began to flood into the community to start new farms and businesses.

According to a news report of the time: “The clatter of hammers is most deafening. You can see piles of lumber anywhere you look which is soon tackled by carpenters. The next time you look, you see a new building going up. The place is full of tradesmen, merchants and manufacturers of all kinds looking for one of Sylvan Lake’s best spots. With hardly an exception, they say they believe that Sylvan Lake is destined to be one of the principal cities of the northwest in the near future.”

In addition to all the new residents moving into the community, the number of summer tourists surged as well. New cottages were constructed in Upper and Lower Camps. New lakeshore subdivisions for further cottage developments were created at Jarvis Bay, Northey’s Point and Whitewold Beach.

The community boasted a large new hotel, the Alexander, which had all the modern conveniences including gasoline lighting.

The older Sylvan Lake Hotel underwent extensive renovations and several more rooms were added. Soon, there was also a local opera house, two public halls, two pool rooms and a number of restaurants.

There was talk of a large moving picture theatre being built. There was even talk of the C.N.R. constructing a mammoth summer hotel, similar to the ones which had been built by the C.P.R. at Banff and Lake Louise.

With the free-wheeling pastimes often associated with a summer resort, Father Henri Voisin, the head of the Roman Catholic Priests of Ste. Marie of Tinchebray, wrote that “The time had come to enliven the completely materialistic atmosphere by the salutary presence of a church.”

Consequently, Sylvan Lake’s first church, Our Lady of the Assumption, was constructed in the summer of 1912.

Attention was also paid to the educational needs of the growing number of children in the community. Previously, children on the east side of Sylvan Lake went to the Finland School, while those on the west side went to Kuusamo School.

Now, a new school, Sylvan Dell, was constructed in the burgeoning hamlet. When the school opened on Sept. 23, 1912, there were 27 students listed on the register.

As the fall progressed, there was increasing consideration given to having the community incorporated as a village.

A petition was circulated and sent to Edmonton. Approval for incorporation was granted by the Provincial Government on Dec. 30, 1912.

The start of 1913 was celebrated with a large New Year’s Eve dance at Heenan’s Opera House. Despite bad weather, the hall was packed and the evening was judged an outstanding success.

The first elections for the village were held on Jan. 20, 1913. Earl Grimson was elected mayor with Alexandre Loiselle and Albert A. Godden as councilors. R.P. Jones acted as both returning officer and the first secretary treasurer. Jones had also been both the first secretary treasurer of the Sylvan Dell School District and the first passenger to ride on the new C.N.R. train into Sylvan Lake.

By March, Sylvan Lake acquired its first newspaper The Sylvan Lake Times. Because of the large numbers of Francophones living in the community, The Times was published half in French and half in English.

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