Ponoka Main Street Project

Ponoka, Alberta

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The Alberta Main Street Program was initiated by Alberta Culture in 1987. Ponoka was one of the communities selected for the second round of main street projects. The purpose of the program is to assist the revitalization of historic town and city central business areas by preserving and restoring the remaining historic buildings and developing a comprehensive economic and marketing plan for ongoing viability of the historic commercial core. Ponoka was chosen as an early Main Street project because of the extent and originality of its historic commercial core buildings.

Ponoka means “elk” in Blackfoot. The community originated in the 1880s as a delivery point along the Calgary-Edmonton Trail. When the CPR arrived in 1891, the town site was known simply as “Siding 14” until an unknown railway employee wrote the name Ponoka on a sign to identify the community. Ponoka was incorporated as a town in 1904 and grew as settlers arrived from Eastern Canada and the American Midwest.

Ponoka is a short distance from Lacombe in central Alberta, one of the first set of Alberta Main Street projects. Like Lacombe, Ponoka retains a significant number of its early Edwardian commercial buildings, making it a strong case for a main street project. Several dozen downtown building facades were restored or reconstructed helping the the downtown ambiance to retain its historic integrity. The Ponoka Main Street project started in 1994 and was completed by 1997.

Before and after photo credits: James Dow