March 05, 2021 | Andrea Cox
A town that became a community, Bowness still has an independent vibe all its own
The northwest community of Bowness offers plenty of diversity, thanks to the area's long and varied history. Just take a stroll along the main street and you will feel as though you have stepped back in time.
"Bownesians have this incredible sense of pride. They are proud that they are a small town in the big city," said Jacqui Esler, executive director of the Mainstreet Bowness Business Improvement Area and former main street business owner.
Bordered by 16th Avenue in the south, the Bow River in the north and east and Stoney Trail to the west, the lands that now comprise Bowness were originally owned by a prominent ranching family. In 1911, local developer, John Hextall, purchased the lands and registered the subdivision plans that became the framework for the village and town of Bowness.
In the 1940s, the town was connected to Calgary by a streetcar that trundled across prairie grasslands. In 1964, with a population of 9,100, Bowness was annexed by the City of Calgary.
Almost sixty years later, the population hasn't changed much at just over 11,000 residents. And the small town vibe and historical streetscape still exists.
Bownesians have this incredible sense of pride. They are proud that they are a small town in the big city.
Many families have lived here for generations, owning homes in the community and businesses along the main street, which runs along Bowness Road for approximately three blocks from 62nd to 65th Street.
Others residents are new to the area. They're a diverse group, but they all blend together to form a separate breed from the 'big city' types. Some residents even call themselves Bownesians, not Calgarians.
Tabatha Wood is a fourth generation Bownesian. She stepped into the family business, Bowness Health Foods, located on the community's main street. Wood's great grandparents were entrepreneurs, as were her grandparents, who started Bowness Taxi in the 1950s and then later opened Bowness Auto Parts in the 1960s. In 1990, she and her grandfather opened the health food store and a few years later Wood's sister joined the business.
Wood says that she made a very conscious choice to work, live and play in Bowness. "It's cosy and friendly. I know everybody and feel secure. It's like it is its own little town and it is a great place to raise a family."
And that seems to be a consistent sentiment among residents. Bowness has become a coveted community. Scenic and quiet, it still offers a small town feel. Here, life offers greater simplicity: it is slower and more connected. People know each other. Whether attending events at Bowness Park or simply chatting with local business owners while shopping, there are plenty of opportunities to be neighbourly.
Mom and pop stores, and '50s-style diners along with free angle parking create a charming vibe. "There is just this really local feeling," said Esler.
There's plenty of artistic vibe too. The main street features ample public art, from murals on the buildings to planters adorned with old black and white photos showing the original village of Bowness.
It's cosy and friendly. I know everybody and feel secure. It's like it is its own little town and it is a great place to raise a family.
Local festivals contribute to the community spirit. The annual Bow Cycle Bike Race, called The Tour de Bowness, and the yearly August long weekend Bowness festival ramps up the excitement with food, music and frolic.
Spurred on by the 2013 floods, which devastated the area, rejuvenation is occurring everywhere from home designs to the rebuilding of Bowness Park where a new restaurant, Seasons of Bowness, recently unveiled its eclectic menu.
And for those looking to make the move, the area offers a smorgasbord of home choices. Homes run the gamut from early 20th century Craftsman designs to architecturally-inspired, glass-sheathed contemporary abodes and pretty much everything in between.
Esler says that the secret is out.
"Bowness is a great place. People are wanting to live and move here, and new businesses are rolling in because rent is less expensive than it is closer in to the core."