502 2nd Ave Bassano, Alberta
403-641-3788
403-641-2585
Office Hours: 9:00 - 4:30 Monday - Wednesday & Friday.
Closed Thursday's to Public

“Best in the West by a Damsite” – a brief view into the history of Bassano

"The best in the West by a damsite!"

Like many Prairie communities, Bassano sprang to life as the Canadian Pacific Railway was laying steel westward. General Superintendent John Egan had issued a circular fixing all the stations between Medicine Hat and Calgary. Thus, it was that Bassano was located as a siding 97 miles west of Medicine Hat and indeed midway to Calgary.
Bassano’s history would begin in a modest way sometime in late September of 1883. It is accepted that this siding would be named after the Marquis de Bassano, a native of Bassano, Italy, who was a Canadian Pacific Railway shareholder. He died in 1906 and it was unfortunate that the Marquis would not live to see his namesake town develop.
Bassano would share its growth with nearby Lathom and Crowfoot and like all new communities would experience many firsts. Businessmen from other areas became aware of new opportunities as did settlers from the east and south. Stores would be opened, a post office would be established in 1903 soon to be followed by a pharmacy, newspaper, and lumber yards. Records would soon be set for record crops. Residents would discover the soil excellent for gardening as well.
Real estate offices and general merchants were attracted to the new community. Bassano’s varied resources would grow to include natural gas production and coal mining nearby. There was an influx of home-seekers and town lots were attracting the attention of investors.
Bassano would soon begin to boom as the Canadian Pacific Railway Company began construction on the Bow River south of Bassano of a dam to provide irrigation to a large area and subsequently attract more settlers to the area and to promote the Town the phrase “best in the west by a damsite” was coined.
The ‘village fathers’ did not forget the importance of religion and education and by 1910 two churches were built, a temporary school was opened with a new four-room building completed in 1911. The tiny hamlet had grown to village status by 1910 and the following year in 1911 Bassano acquired town status.
It would be 1914 before a hospital was constructed and this was accomplished by Dr. Alexander G. Scott who is credited with being Canada’s first flying doctor. It should be noted there was no other hospital between Medicine Hat and Calgary.
There grew an awareness for fire protection and so equipment was purchased and a fire brigade organized. At about this same time a cemetery would soon be surveyed into proper lots.
Life was never boring for those first citizens of Bassano. Many touring groups of entertainers from far and near brought their performances to Bassano. The local hall was often comfortably filled by concert goers. The local churches held concerts there and dances were frequent. Bowling alleys and pool rooms attracted many patrons and soon there were competitions.
Service clubs began to be formed in town. First among these were the Order of Odd Fellows soon to be followed by the Masonic Order. Several of these service clubs are still around today.
A North West Mounted Police barracks was erected near the western edge of town to provide headquarters and cells for the officers who had a large area to patrol.
Although Bassano did not become the city our forefathers envisioned, we are striving to become the most attractive and affordable urban community under 2,500 in Alberta where industry leaders want to invest, where tourists come for a new experience, and where people choose to live, work and play!
Copies of the Best in the West by a Damsite are available for purchase at the Town office for $75.00, where you will receive a Book on Bassano Families and a Book on the History of Bassano.
– Courtesy of the Bassano Historical Society
The Chronological History of Bassano Volume One is available to order email: tom1942@hotmail.com
– Courtesy of Tom MacPhail

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