History of Grande Prairie, Alberta

The City of Grande Prairie is known as the "Swan City" as Grande Prairie is situated in the middle of the Trumpeter Swan's major breeding area in Canada. In 1976, the city adopted the bird as its official symbol. A statue sits in Jubilee Park in the centre of the city on 100 Street and 103 Avenue. There is a large collection of Grande Prairie and area history displayed at the Grande Prairie Museum located Muskoseepi Park, 102 Avenue and 102 Street. There are thousands of artifacts on display plus many historic buildings.

The Swan City - more info

McQueen Presbyterian Church - more info

Hudson's Bay Company - more info

One Room School - more info
Agriculture and Forestry were the two main industries for years in the Grande Prairie area, until 1978, with the announcement of the Elmworth deep basin gas field. Oil and gas has become a major industry in the area. Grande Prairie has no sales tax and has a trading area of around 290,000 people.

Farm Machinery - more info

Miller's Taxi - more info

Post Office 1934 - more info

Safeway 1980's - more info

PHOTO: The Grande Prairie Armouries is located at 9005-101 Street and was built in 1941. When World War II broke out, this is where basic training took place for recruits in the Peace Country.


In 1881 the 1st settlement in the area was located near Cutbank Lake a few miles west of Grande Prairie. A Hudson Bay Trading Post was was erected by Thomas Kerr. The area was inhabited by Cree and Beaver Indians....buffalo and elk were also very plentiful. Years later, missionaries followed the fur trade, building the first Roman Catholic Mission at Lake Saskatoon. Father Grouard a Catholic Missionary, described the rolling plains and open prairie "a grande prairie" which led to the present day name of the City.

Settlements found their way to Flying Shot Lake a few kms west of Grande Prairie, Bezanson, east and Bear Creek which is the present location of the City. On April 30th, 1914, Grande Prairie became a village and it was that same year that the Grande Prairie Herald started printing a weekly newspaper for the area. 1916 the 1st railway connected Grande Prairie to Edmonton, and in a short while, in 1919 the population quickly grew to 1040, Town status. In 1920, the population grew to 2,500 with a total of 175 buildings. There were 5 banks, a hospital, high school, water works, electric light plant, telephone system, farmers market, fire department, movie theatre, covered skating rink, and churches. In January of 1958, Grande Prairie became known as a city. At that time it had a population of 7,227. There were 2,500 people with phones, 1,500 had natural gas, 2,000 had electricity. 90% had water service. There were a total of 8 schools in the community.

The first hospital in the Grande Prairie area was located on the banks of Flying Shot Lake on the Clifford Homestead in 1906. Later the Forbes (Reverend Forbes and his wife, the first Presbyterian missionaries of the area) moved to a location near Bear Creek and their log cabin became known as the Pioneer Hospital of Grande Prairie. In 1914 a 15 bed hospital was built replacing the Pioneer Hospital and officially named the Kathryn Prittie Hospital. In 1961 the first Auxiliary Hospital in Alberta opened in Grande Prairie. The current 450 bed Queen Elizabeth II Hospital started construction in August of 1978. Queen Elizabeth came to Grande Prairie to turn the sod. In 1984, the Acute Care Tower was officially opened followed by the Mackenzie Place, a long-term facility in 1986. Mackenzie Place was named after the Scottish Explorer, Alexander Mackenzie who passed through the Peace Country in 1792.

In the 1920's, an American Homesteader named John Bickell moved his family from Washington, USA to a farm in the Peace Country. He started his first Bush Mill built at the family farm at Debolt. The company grew forming the Northern Planing Mill in Grande Prairie in the late 1940's. 1953, Bickell joined with partners to establish Northern Plywoods, Alberta's 1st Plywood Mill. Two years later, Canadian Forest Products, a British Columbia based company bought a 50% share of the company and later Canfor assumed greater control while continuing to expand.

The Grande Prairie High School was built in 1929 (9839-103 Avenue) and was designated a historic site in 1984. The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie moved there but on March 2007 the roof collapsed. It was restored and re-opened in 2012. (enlarge plhoto)

The Grande Prairie Public School District formed in 1911. The district's first teacher was Irwin Macklin who taught school in a frame building with an old barrel converted into a stove. Montrose school was build in 1917. St. Joseph's Separate School District No. 28 was established in 1928. By 1932 students numbered at 38. Also in 1911, the 1st Post Office opened in Grande Prairie.

1919, Float Planes were introduced to Grande Prairie, landing at Bear Lake just to the west. Later a landing field was developed in the mid 1920's west of Grande Prairie. 1937 the 1st scheduled mail was flown into Grande Prairie and in 1941 Ottawa took over the Airport. It became the City's responsibility in February 1997, when a deal was made between the City and Federal Government.

The Grande Prairie Ski Club began operating Nitehawk Ski Area in 1960. Over 35,000 skiers each year.

Grande Prairie Museum. The governing body: Pioneer Museum Society of Grande Prairie and District incorporated in 1961. Was later formally opened by Premier Harvey Strom in 1970.

2001 to Present VIEW PAGE

PHOTO: Located in Bear Creek in the centre of the city, along 100 Avenue, is the Edmonton and BC Railway wooden trestle crossing built in 1924.


The first Hotel in Grande Prairie opened in 1907 named the Hotel Breeden. The York Hotel was built in 1948 and was operated by the same family for more than 50 years.
In 1921 horses and buggies began to share the road with automobiles. It was around that time the Provincial Government brought in telephones. One party lines was shared by 17 users. The 1st Traffic Lights were introduced in 1953. Richmond Hill Golf & Country Club located west of Grande Prairie, was built in 1929 and in 1965 moved to the present location on the southeast part of the City along Resources Road.

Since 1937, 1050 CFGP was the only Radio Station in Grande Prairie. (In 1996 it changed to FM and changed its name to SunFM.) It wasn't until 1979 that another radio station came to town. CJXX was known for its country music format and owned by Monarch Broadcasting Ltd. It was bought by the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group in June of 2000 and in November of the same year changed from AM to FM. Now known as Big Country 93.1 XXFM. In 2006, the CRTC approved 3 new radio stations which included Q99 (Bear Creek Broadcasting Ltd), Free FM (Vista Radio Ltd) and Shine FM a Christian music FM Station. In February 2013, Local business owner of Happy Trails, Peter Teichroeb purchased Shine FM and changed it to Reach FM. In July 2014, FreeFM changed its music format to Top 40 and also dropped the FreeFM brand and became known as 2DayFM.

The Daily Herald Tribune started in 1913 as a weekly newspaper and became a daily in 1964.
Daily Herald Tribune History - check this page for photos etc VIEW PAGE

At one time, CFGP Radio was the only radio station in Grande Prairie. View Ken's Radio Scrapbook. CFGP Grande Prairie, - check this page for radio clips of the 1970's

Spotlight on Grande Prairie Radio Stations 2010. (listen to some audio clips from that year). Q99, Big Country, Free FM and Shine FM. VIEW PAGE

Grande Prairie hosted the Alberta Winter Games in 1980 and the Alberta Senior Games in 1986.

Grande Prairie Boxing Champ, Willie deWit from Grande Prairie won Gold at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Australia. There after winning Silver at the Olympics. Grande Prairie named a street after Willie. Harry Snatic was Willie's trainer.

Grande Prairie's Dan Balisky piloted his Hot Air Balloon to take 1st place in the Canadian Championships in 1982. In 1982 Premier Lougheed opened the Provincial Building and Courthouse. in 1982 and in the same year the new Fair Grounds opened southeast of the City at Evergreen Park. Previous to that the Fair Grounds were located near the Crystal Park School.

The year was 1995, when Grande Prairie hosted the Canada Winter Games. The 14 day event saw 3000 athletes from 10 Provinces and 2 Territories. It was opened by Prime Minister Jean Chretien on February 19, 1995. Alberta finished 3rd in the medal count while Quebec placed 1st.

October 5, 1996, the Premier Ralph Klein officially opened Highway 40 south of the City to Grand Cache. The final few km of road was paved to complete it. Paving started on the north end of Highway 40 in 1982.

In 2000, the Alberta Summer Games were held in Grande Prairie with more than 2500 athletes and coaches. In 2024 Grande Prairie hosted the Alberta Winter Games that kicked off with Opening Ceremonies followed by many events including Downhill and Cross Country Skiing, Archery, Judo, Fencing, Swimming, Wrestling and many other events.

Beaver Lumber was located along 100 Street Grande Prairie for many years. (10921-100St) In 1999 Beaver Lumber was sold to Home Hardware and the Grande Prairie location also changed its name. (enlarge Photo)

MORE ARCHIVED PHOTOS: Photo of the Golden Inn: View Photo. 1995 Photo of Smitty's: View Photo

NOW POSTED Events of the Peace Country

Grande Prairie MAYORS
2021: Jackie Clayton, 2017: Bill Given, 2013: Bill Given, 2010: Bill Given, 2007: Dwight Logan, 2004: Wayne Ayling, 2001: Wayne Ayling, 1992: Gordon Graydon, 1986: Dwight Logan, 1983: Huey E. Impey, 1977: Al Romanchuck, 1974: James A. May,- 1968: Elmer Borstad, 1958: George Repka (more info on George Repka - Election Advertising ad)

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