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Friday, May 11, 2012

Celebrating Bowness Park's Historical Significance

Built before the First World War by John Hextall, Bowness Park was originally used as a weekend retreat for nearby Calgarians. After Hextall gifted the park to The City in 1911, the island was turned into a picnic and recreation area complete with swimming pool, refreshment centre, dance hall and boating lagoon. Regular street car service provided transportation to the park from downtown.

All features of the park were popular, but two made family outings especially memorable: the merry-go-round and the music piped in through an orthophonic device. The merry-go-round was purchased in Winnipeg and now resides at Heritage Park. The orthophonic was a small structure located in the centre of the lagoon. Gaping caverns on three sides contained loud speakers while inside was a phonograph.  The park attendant would row out to change the record, a 78, to keep the music playing.

These memories are cherished by many Calgarians as evidenced in public engagement sessions hosted by The City in 2008 to hear what citizens waned for the redevelopment of the park. They said celebrate its history while meeting current needs. We listened. We heard. And now we’re responding.

The $10.5 million redevelopment project recently announced by The City ensures the historical significance of Bowness Park is preserved as modern and up-to-date amenities are installed. The careful balance of old and new assures families will continue to enjoy Bowness Park for generations to come.

The redevelopment is made possible by the community investment fund ($10.1 million) with additional monies from the existing Enmax Legacy Fund ($327,000). Bowness Park is the first of many exciting community investment projects The City will undertake over the next five years through the community investment fund.

Onward/ City Council has created a long-term sustainable funding pool to address both new and existing community infrastructure needs. | imagineCALGARYvision: By  2036, Calgary repairs facilities, increases the number of amenities and spaces that encourage human interaction, and upgrades personal protective equipment for emergency responders.


  1. While skating on the lagoon during opening day Feb 7, 2015; I noticed that, while there was ample room to don one's skates, there was no place to stow one's gear without fear of having it stolen.

    Therefore, during 4 hours or so I was forced to skate with a backpack on, not wanting to drop it lagoon-side somewhere, while being elsewhere and not wanting to leave my boots on a bench.

    Could I suggest that there is some means established to secure one's gear, either though some lockers (which could soon to prove too big for the demand) or better still, either through a Parks booth (with a paid employee) or better still, have a concessionaire who will issue a ticket for your gear, which you present upon retrieval.

    The cost of checking one's gear at $1.00 or $2.00, profits going either in the General Fund or to the concessionaire.

    This is particularly crucial for weekends and holidays in winter, when the lagoon is in heavy use for skating.

  2. Regarding the Orthophonic, As a resident of Bowness from 1937 to 1958, I wish to point out a blatant error in the description of the orthophonic building. It was a tall closed in square building with two large doors on the west face that opened up exposing a vee shaped vertical "horn" with a vertical coloumn of six or more big loudspeakers. These were driven by a hefty vacuum tube amplifier within the lower floor where the operator manned a turntable and the record selection.Local students were employed for this task. They arrived by canoe to the deck on the north side where a door provided access. Les Hamilton Bowness resident from 1937 to 1958.

  3. Looking forward to the new Orthophonic structure the City has on the drawing board.

    Les Hamilton