McCauley’s appeal include its proximity to downtown and the river valley, ethnic diversity, commercial successes with Little Italy and Chinatown, character homes, and community involvement.

Matthew McCauley arrived in Edmonton in 1881, just as the small town was forming beyond the walls of Fort Edmonton along Jasper Avenue and Namayo Avenue (97 Street). McCauley was a public figure most of his life, helping initiate Edmonton’s Exhibition, organizing Edmonton’s first school and sitting on the first school board, taking office as mayor between 1893 and 1895, then governing in Alberta’s first Legislature in 1905 before becoming a warden in Edmonton’s first federal prison. The community that bears his name is one of Edmonton’s oldest and is tied to the initiative of other newcomers to the city. It is bounded by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway right-of-way (now the LRT tracks), First Street (101 Street), and Norwood Boulevard (111 Avenue).

There was little development in McCauley at the turn of the twentieth century, but within ten years it was a well established commercial and residential district. The area has remained blue-collar since its inception with many newcomers starting stand-alone businesses along Namayo Avenue or working together in such buildings as the Lambton Block (1913-14), Hagmann Block (1913), and Hull Block (1914). Owners constructed their homes behind their shops along Kinistino Avenue (96 Street) and Syndicate Avenue (95 Street). The Charles J. Carter (1909) and George Bell (1912) residences and McCauley School (1911/1915) herald from the auspicious early beginnings of the area. Built in 1930, the city’s Immigration Hall sits at the southwest corner of McCauley on 100 Street and 105 Avenue. It was here that countless newcomers began their lives in Edmonton.

Kinistino Avenue in McCauley became the spiritual home to the numerous ethnic groups that arrived and founded their own culturally based communities. Ukrainian’s were drawn to St. Josephat’s Catholic Church (1939); those of Germanic descent found a guidance at the Rehwinkel Parsonage (1913); other early immigrants attended the Immaculate Conception Parish (1913), now the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples. Renamed Church Street, this heritage area running along 96 Street from 106 Avenue to 111 Avenue is home to over thirteen buildings of faith showcasing numerous architectural styles from different periods as early as 1903.

There is a significant percentage of residents who come from Italian and Chinese origin in McCauley, each contributing in their own way to a vibrant local economy. An Italian Village, or Little Italy, runs along 95 Street; and Chinatown North between 97 Street and 101 Street from 103 A Avenue and 105 Avenue emerged essentially from the dislocation of an original Chinatown along 101 A Avenue in the 1960s.

Many residents moved on once they were more financially established and especially after the Second World War. Prestigious suburbs and higher incomes from a newly oil-rich province drew many residents out of downtown. McCauley became known for its crowded rooming houses, vacant lots, high traffic volumes, parking nightmares, crime, and high rates of poverty and unemployment. City censuses repeatedly showed declining numbers, with a higher proportion of single males and an increasingly elderly and transient population. The area has been the focus of many attempts at renewal since the 1960s.

At one time, city planners predicted that downtown would push east and north; they drew up a grandiose plan for both the Boyle Street and McCauley areas, but a sharp economic downturn in 1982 shelved those ideas and likely saved countless heritage homes. Then a 1994 Neighbourhood Improvement Plan won a national award for its redevelopment initiatives. McCauley received new sidewalks, signage, upgraded parks and playgrounds, and upgrades to the school. Building on the 1994 successes, the city has continued to engage the community in physical, social, and economic revitalization.

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