Spruce Avenue’s Jane’s Walk is now online for everyone to enjoy

When Wesley Andreas was planning Spruce Avenue Community League’s Jane’s Walk back in March, he was just hearing about the pandemic. 

“A couple of days after that, everything got locked down,” says Andreas, co-founder and lead of Spruce Avenue’s History Project.

The route was initially scheduled for Winterfest and involved a horse and buggy ride, but a cold snap resulted in him rescheduling it to May 9. Then of course the pandemic happened and a traditional guided Jane’s Walk wasn’t possible.

Jane’s Walk is named for Jane Jacobs, an activist, urbanist, and author who encouraged people to walk in their communities. It’s worldwide and unique in that it’s led by citizens who want to share aspects of their community.

Edmonton has other Jane’s Walks for different areas of the city and they’re loosely based at the City of Edmonton. Some organizers had resources from previous walks and were able to put them online for a virtual walk.

“In Spruce Ave, we weren’t set up for that,” Andreas explains. He took on the challenge to make the walk virtual and self-guided instead.

When he normally leads the Jane’s Walk, Andreas has notes he uses. In order to make it a virtual walk, he decided to create user-driven Google maps with the material. Participants with smartphones can use the maps. He also created separate material that people can print off instead to take with them on the walks.  

And the Google maps have the bonus of images, photos, and a few videos. “This is intended for people who can’t go on the walks.”

The walk has 10 stops and includes most of the material Andreas usually covers, along with new material such as general Indigenous history (north of the river), colonial history, and a brief mention of the impact of Edmonton’s settlement on the Métis. Participants can expect to learn about history spanning from 1910 to the 1970s, and several local houses are included on the route.

“I find Spruce Ave has one of the most interesting histories,” says Andreas, explaining that the area had three main growth periods in its history. “The big boom in Spruce Ave was during the Second World War.” 

Completing the walk should take about an hour and 15 minutes at a leisurely pace. The route is about one-and-a-half kilometres long and starts at Spruce Avenue Community League. 

Putting everything together and online took him about six weeks. 

“A lot of the content was writing down what I would say verbally.” Placing the information for the walk online has also resulted in recording that history. “It’s been a blessing because COVID has formed to make this history a lot more permanent. I’m hoping this will add a little more interest and help people learn more.”

And Andreas isn’t stopping there. Over the summer, he plans to add more houses and placard signs along the route. The Spruce Avenue Celebrates History Project has been working on compiling the histories of neighbourhood homes for some time, along with placards placed at the respective homes. 

“The houses demonstrate some of the neighbourhood history,” he explains.Find Spruce Ave’s walk here: sites.google.com/view/spruceavejaneswalk/home.

Featured Image: Spruce Avenue’s Jane’s Walk will feature some unique buildings and history in the area. | Wesley Andreas