106th Street and Jasper Avenue, Edmonton
One of the hidden treasures of downtown Edmonton, in an alley off Jasper Avenue, is a giant leafy chestnut known as “The Holowach Tree” planted almost a century ago by Ukrainian pioneer entrepreneur, Sam Holowach, behind his shop and home. Landscaped with an inviting bench, it is magnificent in spring bloom.
Saved by the City of Edmonton, concerned citizens and public-minded businesses from being chopped down in 1998, a huge horse chestnut tree enclosed within a wrought iron fence dominates a parking lot in the alley between 105 and 106 Streets just south of Jasper Avenue. Bare branched and defiant during the long and bitter prairie winter, it is glorious in full bloom in the late spring and is a leafy green canopy amidst skyscrapers and concrete in the city’s short summer. A bench strategically placed at the base invites strollers, office workers on their lunch break and local tree lovers to stop and sit. The accompanying plaque identifies this local landmark as “The Holowach Tree,” planted around 1920 by Sam Holowach behind his shop and home, but provides no additional information about the man responsible for this gift to Edmontonians. In fact, Samuel Holowach was a Ukrainian immigrant who soon abandoned homesteading in the growing Ukrainian bloc settlement east of Edmonton, for life in the city; he first appeared in the Henderson Directory in 1908, listed as the proprietor of the International Pantorium living at 528 Kinistino Avenue. Subsequently as a tailor and then the operator of his own dyeing and dry-cleaning business (lastly at the Jasper Avenue location), he became one of Edmonton’s pioneer Ukrainian entrepreneurs. The extended Holowach family left a lasting imprint on the larger community. Son Walter, who had brought the chestnut seed home from Vienna where he studied the violin, became a concertmaster with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Son Ambrose represented Edmonton for the Social Credit party in both the House of Commons in Ottawa (1953-58) and the Alberta legislature (1959-71), and in 1962 became the first cabinet minister of Ukrainian origin in the province. He served successively as provincial secretary and minister of youth, culture, and recreation.