The Bowness Road NW main street is a busy traffic street running through the northwest community of Bowness, with a central historic main street dating from 1932. The main street area includes most of the former streetcar route, streetscapes, views to surrounding hills, and schools and civic buildings which date to the existence of Bowness as an independent town (1948-64).
The Bowness Road NW commercial strip is the symbolic civic, commercial and social heart of Bowness. The broad street with angled parking and a low-scale collection of vernacular 1930s-60s commercial buildings, reflect Bowness’ image of an independent prairie town distinct from other commercial streets in Calgary.
In 1890, Thomas Stone, a prominent social and civic figure, established the Bowness Ranche from which the town of Bowness and road eventually took their name. Bowness Road’s layout follows the original 1911 subdivision design by H.L. Seymour, a notable Canadian town planner who believed that plans must fit their topography. His design, deliberately integrates the natural features, islands, riverbanks, hillsides and escarpment of the area.
Bowness Road also has important associations with developer John Hextall, who, following his vision of an upscale suburb, laid the groundwork for successful future growth. His bridge and streetcar line enabled Bowness to become a garden suburb, and the park and golf course established the area as a destination.
Two key components of neighborhood planning have been seamlessly integrated from the original subdivision plan into the Bowness we recognize today. The first is neighbourhood unit planning - central located parks with public buildings, and the location of small shopping centres and apartments near a main road. The second is a neighbourhood unit style commercial centre and adjacent community-oriented areas such as the library and former town hall, which contribute to the feeling of a true ‘town centre’.
The street evolved during the 1930’s from a mainly residential street to a commercial street when the Bowness Realizations Company sold land at greatly reduced prices and eased land use restrictions to attract people to the area. A number of historic buildings and spaces still exist in the area today including the Bowness Composite High School, Bowness Community Centre, and Bowglen and Queen Elizabeth Parks.