Like many provincial towns and cities, the early history of Strathcona was inextricably tied to the railways. In 1891, the Calgary & Edmonton Railway Company laid track from Calgary to a site opposite Edmonton on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River. The company subdivided the unincorporated Town of South Edmonton and largely directed early development in the community by grading roads and erecting some of the first buildings, among them the Strathcona Hotel, built in 1891.
The railway company's activities helped the fledgling settlement to grow and in 1899 South Edmonton was incorporated as a Town and renamed Strathcona; eight years later, the City of Strathcona was incorporated. The economic and cultural development of the community between 1899 and 1907 is embodied in the Gainers Block constructed in 1902 and the Orange Hall built in 1903. The years between 1907 and 1912 represented a period of dynamic and robust growth in Strathcona, as the population swelled and business expanded. The rapid development in these years is embodied in the Canadian Pacific Railway Station constructed in 1907 to serve as the Northern Alberta terminus of the company's rail network and in the South Side Post Office, built between 1911 and 1913 to provide federal services to the burgeoning population.
Though the years from 1891 to 1912 had witnessed appreciable growth in Strathcona, it nonetheless continued to lag behind the pace of commercial development set by its cross-river rival, the City of Edmonton. In 1912, Strathcona amalgamated with Edmonton, marking the end of the district's independent development. The Strathcona Public Library was paid for and built by the newly expanded City of Edmonton in 1913, thus reflecting the shift in civic authority in the district.