History of Lethbridge

Lethbridge is the fourth largest city in Alberta and enjoys warm summers and mild winters. Lethbridge is the commercial, financial and industrial centre of southern Alberta and is home to a wide range of cultural venues as well as southern Alberta’s only university.  Lethbridge is the perfect blend of city and town and a great place to call home.


Here is a brief history of this unique town and how it has developed from a resource based town into a bustling mid-sized city home to a wide range of professionals and cultures.


The city of Lethbridge is named after the president of the North Western Coal and Navigation Company, William Lethbridge.  Before 1885, the area that is now Lethbridge was known as Coal Banks and was part of the Blackfoot Confederacy.


In 1869, the United States army outlawed whiskey trading, so many whiskey traders looked north to British Canada to ply their trade.  One of the new posts that was built near Lethbridge, known as Fort Whoop-Up, was one of the most notorious in all of Southern Alberta. 


By the late 1860’s coal had been discovered in the area, but it was not until 1872 that this resource was mined.  As the popularity of coal began to grow, so too did the city of Lethbridge.

The Early Years

By 1883 coal was being transported down the Oldman River to Medicine Hat in large quantities.  However, due to inconsistent water levels and shifting sandbars, rail quickly replaced barges as the main method of transporting coal.  This railway was largely instrumental in the economic success of the city and helped settle many immigrants throughout southern Alberta. 


In 1891, the Lieutenant Governor of the North West Territories signed the official proclamation declaring Lethbridge a town. Lethbridge’s first council was held on February 3 of 1891 and Charles Alexander Magrath was the first mayor.


One of the main features of Lethbridge to this day, the High Level Bridge, was constructed during this period.  At this time, it was the longest and highest bridge in the world, and a monumental task of engineering. 


The bridge is 307 feet high and spans 5,516 feet across the river valley.  It took over 3 years to complete and was constructed out of steel to prevent future repair work. The first train crossed the bridge on June 23, 1909 and it continues to be used today. 


With an ever growing population and the arrival of new immigrants, agriculture quickly became another viable source of economic activity, and by the 1900’s it had replaced coal as the dominant form of employment.

Lethbridge Incorporated

In May of 1906, Lethbridge was incorporated as a city with a population of 2,500 and a well-established downtown and commercial area.  Rapid growth of the city continued after World War 2 with the development of infrastructure east, north and south of the downtown core.  In 1967, the University of Lethbridge opened its doors, attracting students and professionals to the city.  The newly developed university on the west side of Lethbridge spurred new development and residential neighbourhoods.  West Lethbridge became the fastest growing area in the city housing over one third of our population.    

Lethbridge today

Today, Lethbridge boasts over 97,000 people and spans over 122 sq. km.  The city is home to a chain of parks and extensive green space.  Lethbridge has a great selection of cultural venues as well as a number of tourist attractions. 


The city’s rich history is still alive and well in this charming southern Alberta town.  If you would like to see why so many people have chosen Lethbridge as their home or to see some of the very reasonably priced real estate that abound in the city, please contact me today.  I would love to show you why Lethbridge is such a special place. Call my Direct Line or text me at 403-308-6613.  I’m Clark Paul.

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