The oldest homes and trees in Spruce Avenue originate from residential development pushing north from downtown at the turn of the twentieth century.

When Edmonton was first established in the 1880s the town centred on Jasper Avenue and Namayo Avenue (later renamed 97 Street). Residential development began behind the commercial district on Namayo Avenue and eventually pushed further north along Namayo and First Street (101 Street). The Spruce Avenue community grew up along these two main thoroughfares north of 111 Avenue. Clipping files at the City of Edmonton Archives retain the story of resident Eleanor Cleary who remembers moving into her family home in 1906 and roads being cut out of the bush two years later. The streets of the new development were named after early settlers and Hudson’s Bay Company men, the avenues were named after trees. The community’s name is derived from the original name of 114 Avenue. Spruce Avenue is bounded by 97 Street, 111 Avenue, Kingsway Avenue, Princess Elizabeth Avenue, and 118 Avenue.

Older homes like the 1925 Charles Barker II/Ron Myren residence line 97 Street, 101 Street, and those streets adjacent. Newer bungalows and semi-bungalows can be found in the western portion of the community. The trees along the 97 Street boulevard were likely planted in the 1920s as beautification project by the Edmonton Tree Planting Committee which pioneer photographer Gladys Reeves took a lead hand in establishing. The community has fought to keep dwellings low density and the neighbourhood safe for their families. A pedestrian overpass was built over 97 Street in 1974.

The central location of Spruce Avenue has been ideal for the location of numerous educational buildings and institutions. The Glenrose Hospital occupies the site of the first Royal Alexandra Hospital built 1911. The North Edmonton Telephone Exchange at the corner of 101 Street and 112 Avenue subsequently housed the City of Edmonton Archives from 1960 until the building was turned over to the Glenrose Hospital in 1993. Spruce Avenue is also home to six places of worship, the red brick Spruce Avenue School built in 1928, and three other schools. The first Spruce Avenue School was a two-story house moved from several blocks north to the current school location which was set aside from nine acres of Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) reserve land. The 1928 building was added onto several times to accommodate a population explosion in the 1950s. The period after the Second World War was challenging time for the city. Returning soldiers with young families and a huge rush of immigrants needed homes. The federal government paid one million dollars to transport over 500 American military base camp huts from Dawson Creek to Edmonton to use as emergency housing. A total of 571 huts throughout the city housed more than 2,500 residents. The last of the Dawson Creek housing project was torn down in 1966. Camp 106 in Spruce Avenue housed 133 people south of 118 Avenue and west of 106 Street. The Princess Elizabeth Apartments were built around this time; its row housing a relatively new concept in quality affordable housing necessary to deal with the housing shortage. The westernmost portion of Spruce Avenue now features Kingsway Mall, built on land once occupied by the Skyline Trailer Court. Constructed in 1975 it was seen as an alternative to downtown shopping with less traffic and plenty of parking.

NAIT, the current Royal Alexandra Hospital, and the former Municipal Airport have all influenced the community by their proximity to Spruce Avenue along Kingsway Avenue. This three kilometre thoroughfare was constructed in 1914 by the HBC as a way to promote the sale of the remaining lots of their 3,000-acre reserve land. The HBC reserve was established north of the river around Fort Edmonton as part of the HBC land deal with the Dominion of Canada in 1870. The company financed all the improvements on the thirty metre wide street and advanced the city the money to construct two street railway tracks down the middle. It was originally named Portage Avenue and was meant to be one of two main thoroughfares creating a distinctive ‘X’ through the reserve. The other avenue was called Kingsway but was never finished. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the city in 1939 Edmonton swapped the names of these avenues and the paved road became Kingsway Avenue as a memorial to the occasion. The other avenue that became Portage Avenue for a while was renamed Princess Elizabeth Avenue in honour of the princess’ visit in 1951. Most interestingly, to spite the efforts put in by the HBC and the city, the streetcar tracks were never used. The reserve land remained relatively undeveloped and people used Kingsway Avenue only sporadically until after the Second World War when the population increase brought further residential development.

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