Written by: Ron Kelland, MA, MLIS, Geographical Names Program Coordinator
Under the Historical Resources Act, Alberta’s municipalities have the authority to designate sites and buildings as Municipal Historic Resources. This designation authority gives municipalities the ability to ensure that the preservation of their community’s history and heritage. Municipal Historic Resources are eligible for listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places, although there is no requirement for municipally designated resources to be listed on the Register. However, designated resources must be listed on the Register to qualify for Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women’s conservation grants. To be listed on the Register, a Municipal Historic Resource must certain documentation prepared that explain the heritage value of the resource and guide the management of the property.
Historic Resources Management of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women works with Alberta’s municipalities to list their Municipal Historic Resource Designations. A number of properties designated in previous years by a municipalities across the province have recently been added to the Alberta Register of Historic Places.
Editor’s note: With a couple weeks left in what felt like the longest year ever, this will be the last RETROactive post of 2020. Thank you to all our followers, visitors and everyone interested in Alberta’s diverse and unique history. Have a safe and happy holiday season, and we’ll see you all in 2021!
Written by: Sara King, Government Records Archivist, Provincial Archives of Alberta and Jared Majeski, Editor, RETROactive
“Where Winter’s a Pleasure” was a promotional film produced by the Film and Photograph Branch of the Department of Industry and Development in 1962 for the Alberta Travel Bureau. It features footage and narration from Hans Gmoser (1932-2006), a mountain guide and founder of Rocky Mountain Guides Ltd. (later Canadian Mountain Holidays CMH) who would tour throughout North America giving lectures and showing promotional films. He was awarded the order of Canada in 1987, among other honours. Starting before dawn for a four hour hike up a glacier to ski might seem a bit daunting for some, but you can always catch the gondola at Lake Louise if you’re less ambitious, and a trip to the Tom Tom Lounge at the end of the day can’t go wrong. Just don’t forget your mountain mixture.
The Archaeological Survey of Alberta is proud to release Occasional Paper Series No. 39, devoted to advancing archaeological practice in Western Canada. The volume contains seven articles written by archaeological consultants, university researchers, and heritage managers. The 2019 volume is dedicated to Terrance Gibson who passed away in 2018 and was a life-long advocate of improving archaeological research and practices.
Written by: Matthew Wangler, Executive Director, Historic Resources Management Branch
Alberta has a rich and fascinating history, and occasionally events in our past resonate with happenings of global consequence. That was the case in 1957, when a dedicated scientist working in a meteorite observation station in Newbrook captured the first North American image of Sputnik 1 – an object which came to embody both the fears and aspirations of a generation, and which heralded the beginning of a new age in science and geopolitics.
The roots of the Newbrook Observatory can be traced to 1946, when the United States and Canada agreed to work co-operatively on space science projects, particularly meteorite observations. The northerly situation of Newbrook – with its clear view of the night sky and its relative lack of auroral interference – made it an ideal location for establishing an observation station to assist in this joint effort. Constructed in 1951, the Newbrook observatory opened in 1952 as a field station of the Stellar Physics Division of Canada’s Dominion Observatory in Ottawa.
As Albertans begin to safely hunker down for the holiday season, you might think about picking up a project left at the side of your desk. Or maybe you’ll start something new altogether. If you’re someone thinking of learning more about your family history; if you’re a non-profit group wanting to mark a moment in your local history; or a person who wants to preserve the lived experiences of an older generation, these new resources will certainly help.
Developed by staff in the Alberta government’s Heritage Division, the Heritage Note Series so far consists of resource guides covering three topics: historical research, heritage markers and oral history. In these guides, you’ll learn skills like how to properly conduct an interview, how to write text for historical signage and how to manage research notes and materials.
Written by: Colleen Haukaas, Archaeological Survey
Join the Historic Resources Management Branch as we celebrate GIS Day 2020. GIS, or geographic information science, is a scientific framework for gathering, analyzing and visualizing geographic data to help us make better decisions. At the Historic Resources Management Branch, we have been using GIS since the early 2000s to better understand our historic resources.
GIS at the Historic Resources Management Branch
Alberta is home to tens of thousands of historic resources, and our Branch needs to be able to analyze where those resources are, if there are concerns about the resources, and the best way to address those concerns. At the Branch, we maintain several geospatial databases for our program areas: archaeology, palaeontology, Aboriginal heritage and historic structures. Each database is modified throughout the year as new information is made available (e.g. when new sites are recorded).
We investigate archaeological sites individually in research, but we also need to understand how sites relate to each other and to broader cultural and natural landscapes. GIS helps archaeologists understand these broader questions. The images below show how we use GIS to understand the broader context of archaeological sites Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and Calderwood Buffalo Jump, courtesy of Todd Kristensen. Archaeologists have investigated the sites through methods such as survey, excavation and artifact analysis. Through GIS, we can then begin to understand the context of the sites within their local topography and see the gathering area, drive lanes and kill areas. We can also see how the sites fit into the broader tradition of bison jumps, pounds, and kill sites on the Great Plains.
Editor’s Note: November 15- 21 is Métis Week: an opportunity to recognize the culture, history and contributions of Métis people to Alberta and across the country. The following post is written by Matt Hiltermann on behalf of Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3. Through extensive research of census records and archival material, Matt tells the story of the many Métis families who lived at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers, and who contributed to the social fabric of Rouleauville—one of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods.
Communities do not spring from the soil fully formed; rather, they tend to coalesce around existing population centres, important trade routes, and/or vital resources, among other things. As a fording place for the buffalo herds, the area that would become Calgary and its environs was an important gathering place for the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and their Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda allies since time immemorial.  Due to its status as a gathering place rich in resources, by the mid-19th century, Métis freeman bands with kin ties to the Tsuut’ina or Niitsitapi began to visit these peoples along the Bow.  These Métis freemen acted as middlemen in the ever-important pemmican trade that fueled the Hudson Bay Company’s (HBC) northern trading posts, brigades and the fur trade more broadly.
Written by: Ron Kelland, MA, MLIS, Geographical Names Program Coordinator
November 11 is Remembrance Day. The day that Canadians are called to set aside in honour and recognition of its military service personnel that paid the ultimate price in their defence of our nation and its values. Canadians have fought in numerous wars and as the memories of some of those wars are fading as decades pass and the last surviving veterans of those wars pass away, it becomes even more important to remember those that fought and died and those that fought and lived to preserve the memories of their fallen comrades. Canada’s Commemorative Map is one of the ways to keep the memory of those sacrifices alive.
Commemoration of Canada’s war casualties have taken many forms. Following the end of the First World War, there was a national effort to erect plaques, cenotaphs and other memorials in cities, towns and villages across the country. These memorials of the First World War are often the sites of our Remembrance Day services and ceremonies to this day. Some communities built needed infrastructure and facilities, such as arenas, performing arts centres, libraries and community halls dedicated to memory of those that gave their lives in military services.
Written by: Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Advisor
Recently, I visited the Maccoy Homestead in High River after seven long years of flood repairs and conservation. Nestled in Sheppard Family Park near the south edge of High River, this was the farm and home of well-known local resident Ruth Maccoy for over 70 years. Upon her passing in 1995 and at her bequest, the farm became Sheppard Family Park with the homestead as its nucleus.
The home is a charming 1883 whitewashed log building, the earliest structure on the site, with a frame addition and porch built by her parents in the 1920s and surrounded by a garden and picket fence lovingly tended by Ruth Maccoy over the years. Behind the house are a garden shed, a small guesthouse, and a root cellar set into an embankment, while the garage is located nearby. A path leads west through the trees to a footbridge over the Little Bow River, usually a shallow creek, to the historic water source in a natural spring.
One of High River’s first municipal designations, the Sheppard/Maccoy House was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource in 2009 by the Town of High River for its association with Ruth Maccoy and early settlement in the area. An exceptional example of an early farm, the site also exemplifies the contribution of women’s labour to homesteading and agriculture in rural Alberta and was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2015. The site is a good example of how complementary municipal and provincial heritage values tell a richer story and was the subject of a RETROactive post earlier this summer.
Written By: Pauline Bodevin, Regulatory Approvals Coordinator.
As the leaves change and the temperatures begin to dip in October, it’s naturally the perfect time for sharing tales of ghostly sightings, unexplained phenomena and spooky places. This year our haunted heritage feature looks at historic theatres associated with legends of unexplained paranormal activity, mysterious happenings and superstitions. These majestic old historic buildings are often well-known locally as the sites of alleged supernatural phenomena and ghost-ridden performances.
Here are a few allegedly paranormal playhouses:
The Walterdale Playhouse, Edmonton
The Walterdale Playhouse is known locally for tales of ghostly hauntings and mysterious unexplained phenomena. Originally completed in 1910, the building served as the Strathcona No. 1 Firehall and was occupied by the Edmonton Fire Department until 1954. It was later used as a warehouse to store unused furniture and equipment when the fire department moved to a new location. Over the course of the next 20 years, the old building fell into disrepair and its condition deteriorated badly. In 1974, the Walterdale Playhouse group took over the lease on the condition that the old fire hall would be restored. Reborn as the home of the Walterdale Playhouse amateur theatre group, the building was converted into the theatre we are familiar with today.
According to local lore, the theatre is allegedly haunted by a friendly ghost affectionately known as Walt. The apparition is rumoured to be one of the original fire department volunteer members who is thought to have perished after a fatal accident occurred inside the building. Visitors have been known to describe seeing objects mysteriously moving, lights flickering on unexpectedly, and often experience unsettling feelings of being watched. Other have heard inexplicable sounds of a ringing bell, the smell of horses and the sounds of phantom hoof beats occurring regularly on the cement floors. Many still believe the restless spirit of Walt continues to roam the building to this day.