Cochrane Historical Walking Tour
The Cochrane Historical and Archival Preservation Society (CHAPS) has partnered with the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) to offer a guided tour to showcase the town’s history and development over the years. A volunteer local guide can really spice it up with personal anecdotes.
I booked my tour and met my guide at the VIC, located at 521 First St W in Cochrane’s Historic Downtown . As we headed east on First Street, my guide explained that the land in Cochrane was initially owned by CP Rail in the late 1800’s. The Homestead Act gave locals and immigrants opportunities to buy land from CP Rail. Very quickly, Cochrane began to grow demographically and economically.
Landmarks from the Past
Recalling the days when roads were unpaved, my guide pointed at a spot where a horse-hitching post was installed. During the 40’s and 50’s, transportation was limited to horse carriages, buses, and passenger trains. Very few cars existed, however I heard stories about the crashes and overturned trucks on the main street that used to be the highway through town. Be sure to ask your guide to expand on the story!!
I learned about the Chapman House, built by two brothers (Andrew and Robert Chapman) who constructed many commercial buildings in town; the history of the Rockyview Hotel, one of the oldest working hotels in Alberta; along with many other stories about the landmarks in the downtown core.
Tours guides keeping history alive
Included in the walk is the history of MacKay’s Ice Cream, a family-owned enterprise from the 19th Century, now a must stop for ice cream for travelers visiting from around the world.
The tour guides provide a trip back in time, sharing their enthusiasm, pride and joy for Cochrane and keeping its history alive. Moreover, I treasured the stories my guide shared with me. It is no wonder I feel richer when I visit Cochrane. Its history is deep, the neighbourhood is enchanting, and its people… endearing.
Raeann Cheung – guest journalist and photographer