Preamble: I’m taking a a break on regular posts from January through March, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting things to read!
In lieu of regular content, I’m highlighting some of my favorite primary source materials from the last three years. Read a little, read a lot, skip through and look at the photos, it’s up to you! These are all online, so you don’t even have to venture outside into the cold.
Regular posts will resume in April.
It’s a short read this week (and lots of photos) in the National Parks promotional pamphlet, The Banff-Windermere Highway.
When the Banff-Windermere Highway was officially opened on 30 June 1923, it was kind of a big deal. First surveyed all the way back in 1911, and predating the auto road through Yoho to Golden, it connected the Windermere Valley with the very popular Rocky Mountains Park across the mountains in Banff.
The road was part of the first wave of enthusiasm for automobile tourism, which was recognized even in these early years as something altogether new on the Canadian landscape. Where travellers were previously limited by the schedules and very limited geographical reach of railways, the automobile served to democratize travel. One could travel where one wanted, when one wanted, and in the process the automobile made it possible for the middle class to travel for the sake of travel.
A boom of automobile road construction spread across the continent. Motor roads were different than wagon roads – they were wider, and their corners were more gradual. When it was started, the Banff-Windermere Highway was the first such planned motor road in the area, and one of the first in western Canada. As it was completed, it was a feat of engineering – by early 1920s standards, this road was luxury!
Ghost written by Mabel Williams, the booklet The Banff-Windermere Highway is one of a series of similar works produced by the National Parks branch in the 1920s. It traces a journey along the Banff-Windermere Highway from its western end, in the Columbia Valley, across the mountains and into Banff and Lake Louise. There are loads of photographs, and some rather romantic descriptions – see if you can reconcile what things looked like then with what you’re familiar with now. Plus, get a jump on the upcoming centennial of the opening of the highway, which is coming up fast this June!
The Banff-Windermere Highway is available to view for free on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/embed/P010898