|Downtown Regina is located in an area that in the late 1800s was known as Assiniboia and is covered by Treaty 4, which took effect in 1874.
Regina was first incorporated as a city in 1903 and was later decreed the capital of Saskatchewan in 1906 following the founding of the province in 1905.
Originally set aside as public green space in 1883, Victoria Park (then called Victoria Square), did not take shape until 1907 when Montreal-based landscape architect Frederick Todd was hired to design the new park. In its early days, local farmers brought produce and sold it in a market located in Victoria Park. In 1895, the park was the site of Regina’s first Territorial Exhibition and Fair, which later moved to its present location due to size.
The park was filled with grass, flowers and shrubs in 1905. It was also in 1905 that Victoria Park filled with thousands of people for Saskatchewan’s inauguration as a province. On September 4 of that year, hundreds of school children led a parade to Victoria Park to celebrate the occasion. That afternoon, Governor General Earl Grey and Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier addressed thousands of people that had gathered for the celebration.
Three years later in 1908, a fountain donated by Nicholas Flood Davin was placed in the middle of the park, where it remained until it was moved to Rotary Park in 1925. The cenotaph that today anchors Victoria Park and honours local soldiers killed in World War I was erected that year.
In 1885, the courthouse Downtown (which was located where the Federal Building stands today on the northeast corner of Victoria Avenue and Scarth Street) played host to the trial of Louis Riel.
Downtown was also home to Regina’s first City Hall, which was completed in 1908.
|The city’s population grew significantly between its incorporation and 1913, giving way to a building boom that saw the rise of a number of Downtown’s buildings including what are now the Knox-Metropolitan United Church and the First Baptist Church.
Union Station was built in 1911 and was used by both the CP and CN railways. It is near here that the early settlers coming to Regina would have disembarked. Rail service was the accepted way to travel up until the 1960s. Thousands of service men also passed through here during WW II. Passenger service is no longer available in Regina and the station now houses Casino Regina.
In 1912, Regina’s first high-rise building, the McCallum Hill Building, was opened. The ten-storey building had three elevators, its own well and a power plant. This same year, the Assiniboia Club, which was founded in 1882, moved to its current location on Victoria Avenue.
On June 12, 1912, Downtown Regina and area were devastated by what is today known as the Regina Cyclone. The cyclone killed 28 people, injured hundreds and destroyed more than 400 building, including the then Metropolitan Methodist Church, the Knox Presbyterian Church, and the First Baptist Church. The event is still known today as one of the deadliest tornado events in Canada’s history. Damage was pegged at $5 million and took two years to repair.
The building that today houses Viterra (formerly the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool) at the corner of Albert Street and Victoria Avenue was built in 1913 and originally housed the C.W. Sherwood Department Store until the Pool purchased it in 1926.
Hamilton Street was known as the business centre of Regina and housed the old City Hall, the Leader Building (home of the Leader Post), the R.H. Williams Department Store, and the Hudson Bay Store.
The iconic Hotel Saskatchewan was opened in 1927. Much of the steel used in its construction came from the former Chateau Qu’Appelle Hotel, which had been partly built on the present site of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and then dismantled.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s thousands of men were without work. In 1935, 1,300 men boarded trains in Vancouver that were headed to Ottawa to demand work from the federal government. This trek came to be known as the On To Ottawa Trek. By the time the trekkers reached Regina, their ranks had grown to 1,800.
The Prime Minister at the time, RB Bennett, heard of the trek and ordered that the protest be disbanded. On July 1, a public meeting was held in Downtown Regina’s Market Square to provide the public with information about the trek, but what ensued became known as the Regina Riot. The police department arrested 120 trekkers and citizens. In the mayhem, one plainclothes police officer was killed and the police claimed 39 injuries. While the police at the time said the trekkers fired first, no such evidence that they fired a single shot was ever found.
In 1949, the city’s streetcar system was replaced by electric trolleys and supplemented by gas-powered buses.
The Regina branch of the Royal Canadian Legion was established in 1926, and was the first Legion branch in Canada to be issued a charter. The Legion’s Memorial Hall located on Cornwall Street was designed by Van Egmond and Storey Architects of Regina and constructed in two phases between 1947 and 1951. It was officially opened on October 17, 1951, with then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in attendance.
In 1963, the City of Regina moved its administration into the old Post Office Building at the corner of 11th Avenue and Scarth Street. That same year, the SaskPower building on Victoria was completed.
Construction of the new Royal Bank Tower and the $100 million Cornwall Centre (which was to include Saskatchewan Government Insurance and SaskTel complexes) kicked off in 1977.
The former Post Office and Customs House underwent extensive renovations in 1980 to become the home of the Globe Theatre and the Plains Historical Museum (now the Regina Plains Museum).
The McCallum Hill building was demolished in 1982 to make way for the Tower 1 of Regina’s two Twin Towers. The Bank of Montreal building joined the Regina Downtown skyline in 1983.
In 1985, R. Reid’s sculpture “Western Spirit” was unveiled on the corner of Hamilton Street and 11th Avenue.
For more information on Downtown’s heritage buildings, please visit the City of Regina’s website for a complete listing.
Heritage Regina and the City of Regina have also put together a number of self-guided walking tours for several of Regina’s historical districts, including two tours of the Downtown. REGINA HERITAGE WALKING TOURS
Regina Tornado Legacy Project
The Regina Tornado Legacy Project will commission a number of public sculptures and murals that commemorate the 1912 Tornado and celebrate the strength and resiliency of the community of Regina. This project is organized by the Regina Tornado Legacy Group, comprised of the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District Association and the Regina Warehouse District Association, together with the Regina Plains Museum. MORE INFORMATION
- City of Regina Archives
- “Regina before yesterday a visual history 1882-1945”
- “Regina from Pile O’Bones to Queen City of the Plains: An Illustrated History” by William A. Riddell
- Heritage Regina
- Heritage Saskatchewan
- Regina Plains Museum
- Royal Canadian Legion
- “Saskatchewan: A New History” by Bill Waiser
- Saskatchewan Genealogical Society