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Ritchie: History of A Community

Posted by Transcend Staff on

As Transcend moves its original location, and the Roastery, to the northeast corner of 76th Ave and 96th Street, we thought we'd take a closer look at the community known as Ritchie. Two and a half years ago Poul Mark, our founder, did not hesitate to being involved with the Ritchie Market. The Ritchie Community is a community that speaks to the same values as Transcend: they value the relationships with each other. Moving to Ritchie is something that we’re all quite excited about, and to share this excitement, we thought we would spend a few blog posts discussing what we think is great about Ritchie.

In this post, we’ll look at some of the amazing things we discovered about Ritchie’s unique history.

The farthest edge of Ritchie looking east across the bridge to King Edward Park (University of Alberta)

Robert Ritchie, former Mayor of Strathcona

The area we now know as Ritchie had its humble beginnings in 1891 as a small commercial area on Whyte Avenue to service the newly arrived Calgary and Edmonton Railroad lines. At the same time a man named Robert Ritchie came from Ontario to help his brother John construct a mill at the corner of 102nd Street and Saskatchewan Drive, where it still stands today. While the location wasn’t in the Ritchie area, it and the rail lines that fed it, were important to the growth of the area as labourers and engineers moved in with their families. As the neighbourhood grew, so did the need for local, convenient shops. Blacksmiths (like A. Minchau at the end of this article) and grocers began to appear and by the 1950s the signature design of the neighbourhood began to take shape.

But as new malls were erected and cars became cheaper, people's shopping habits shifted away from the locals. The local shops saw little foot traffic and over several decades struggled to make ends meet. Some even disappeared. By the end of the 20th century, the shops fell into further disrepair, new businesses were hard to attract and old ones made do with their surroundings. Ritchie seemed to sit forgotten.

The site of the Ritchie Market not so long ago

It was not forgotten, however, by its residents. In the last 10 years the neighbours all worked together and fought for funding with the plea that they needed to bring back the values of Ritchie back into the open and make it an area about bringing together community.

This work, combined with the City of Edmonton’s Corner Store Pilot Program would keep those small businesses in communities and attract new ones. Laura Cunningham-Shpeley, Ritchie Community League President, told the Edmonton Journal that the change, specifically at Four Corners would, “...bring neighbours together, meeting together, having coffee together.” It was a change that was needed to reflect those values of Ritchie, values that were threatened to be lost.

Ritchie has started to see a renewed interest. It’s hard to say whether this is due to the re-vitalization project, or whether people are keen to use the trails of the Edmonton River Valley to get to key areas of Downtown, or whether people are in love with the dozens of unique shops appearing in the area. Whatever the reason, Ritchie has surged up Avenue Edmonton’s Best Neighbourhood contest, from not even placing in 2013 to 3rd in 2016.

We’d like to think that the resurgence is due to people seeing what we saw in Ritchie: a sense of community and the importance of connecting to your neighbour. A value that has existed for over 100 years.

A. Minchau's Blacksmith still stands today.

Have any old photos of Ritchie? Share them on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #oldritchieyeg

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