The Latta Bridge and Tree
Boyle Street landmarks gain new recognition.
Two historical plaques have been installed on and near the small concrete and steel bridge over the ravine at Jasper Avenue and 90-91 Street.
The first plaque is on the south side of the bridge at its eastern end. It reads: “City of Edmonton Archives and Landmarks Committee. Latta Bridge. Named in honour of David Gilliland Latta, Pioneer Businessman, 1897-1948. Alderman, Second Council, 1906.”
The second plaque, at the western end of the bridge, is on a fence in front of a very large and old tree near the riverbank. It reads: “Heritage Tree. Manitoba Maple, 1906. Heritage Tree Foundation.”
I am excited to share what I have learned about why the bridge is named after someone called Latta and why the tree is designated as “heritage.”
The Latta business
David Gilliland Latta (1869-1948) was born in Ireland and came to Canada in 1889. He was a member of the North West Mounted Police, stationed in Battleford, SK.
In 1897, while passing through Edmonton on his way to the Klondike gold rush, Latta decided to stay and earn a living with his much-in-demand blacksmithing skills. He opened a blacksmith and carriage shop, and for the next three decades he owned and operated various businesses on 97 and 98 Streets, between 101 and 102 Avenues.
When World War I broke out in 1914, many of Latta’s staff enlisted, so he shifted his focus to the wholesale business. His company began to sell iron and steel, heavy hardware, and supplies for mines, mills, blacksmithing, machine shops, and welding. In 1923, a new company called D.G. Latta Co. offered blacksmithing, carriage painting, wrought ironwork, and woodwork for wagons and sleighs.
Latta’s sons carried on the business tradition. They built the brick warehouse at 9510 105 Avenue, currently the location of Quasar Bottle Depot.
Latta’s family and home
In 1899, after his first wife had died in childbirth, Latta married Emily Decoteau, sister of the athlete and officer Alex Decoteau. (An Edmonton neighbourhood and park are now named in Decoteau’s honour.)
In 1907, Latta built a two-and-a-half-storey brick house on the riverbank just west of the ravine. Latta lived there with his large family until he retired and moved to Vancouver in 1931. Family members continued to live in the house until the early 1950s. It is thought that the house was converted to apartments in the mid-1950s and demolished in 1986.
The Manitoba Maple that Latta planted on his property in 1906 still survives and has been officially recognized.
The Latta Bridge
The original bridge at this location was wooden and only 21 feet wide. Consequently, the streetcar line along Jasper Avenue to the Highlands built in about 1912 had to be routed to the north at this point. The bridge was also affected by subsidence caused by several mine shafts nearby, including one beneath the Latta residence.
In 1928 the City’s attempts to fill in the ravine and eliminate the bridge proved unsuccessful. So the current steel bridge was constructed, opening in June 1936. In 1952, the plaque that inspired my research was installed and the bridge, which had been informally referred to as the Latta Bridge for many years, was officially named after David Gilliland Latta.
Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who moved to Boyle Street three years ago and loves her new community.