Municipal Historic Resource designation refresher series: character-defining elements

Editor’s note: Welcome to the fifth post in a series of blog posts developed with municipalities in mind who either have or are considering undertaking Municipal Historic Resource designation. In this post, we will continue to discuss Statements of Significance as the primary tool for summarizing the significance of designated historic places. You can read the previous post here.

For more information, please review the “Creating a Future” manuals available here or contact Rebecca Goodenough, Manager, Historic Places Research and Designation at rebecca.goodenough@gov.ab.ca or 780-431-2309.


Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Coordinator, Sandy Aumonier, Heritage Conservation Adviser and Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer, Historic Resources Management Branch


As previously mentioned, a Statement of Significance (SOS) is a one- to two-page summary document written as a clear, concise and brief narrative of a historic resource. It is written for a broad audience that is not familiar with the resource. The SOS has three sections: description of historic place, heritage values and character-defining elements.

An SOS is central to understanding a resource and any of its elements that might be protected and why.

If a historic resource is designated, the SOS will thereafter be an important planning and property management tool and essential for developing a conservation plan for ongoing management of the resource.

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Municipal Historic Resource designation refresher series: heritage value

Editor’s note: Welcome to the fourth post in a series of blog posts developed with municipalities in mind who either have or are considering undertaking Municipal Historic Resource designation. In this post, we will continue to discuss Statements of Significance as the primary tool for summarizing the significance of designated historic places. You can read the previous post here.

For more information, please review the “Creating a Future” manuals available here or contact Rebecca Goodenough, Manager, Historic Places Research and Designation at rebecca.goodenough@gov.ab.ca or 780-431-2309.


Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Coordinator, Sandy Aumonier, Heritage Conservation Adviser and Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer, Historic Resources Management Branch


As previously mentioned, a Statement of Significance (SOS) is a one- to two-page summary document written as a clear, concise and brief narrative of a historic resource. It is written for a broad audience that is not familiar with the resource. The SOS has three sections: description of historic place, heritage values and character-defining elements.

An SOS is central to understanding a resource and any of its elements that might be protected and why.

If a historic resource is designated, the SOS will thereafter be an important planning and property management tool and essential for developing a conservation plan for ongoing management of the resource.

Read more

Municipal Historic Resource designation refresher series: Statements of Significance

Editor’s note: Welcome to the third post in a series of blog posts developed with municipalities in mind who either have or are considering undertaking Municipal Historic Resource designation. In this post, we will introduce Statements of Significance as the primary tool for summarizing the significance of designated historic places. You can read the previous post here.

For more information, please review the “Creating a Future” manuals available here or contact Rebecca Goodenough, Manager, Historic Places Research and Designation at rebecca.goodenough@gov.ab.ca or 780-431-2309.


Written by: Peter Melnycky, Historian and Gary Chen, Heritage Conservation Adviser, Historic Resources Management Branch


A Statement of Significance (SOS) is a one or two page summary document written as a clear, concise and brief narrative of a historic resource. It is written for a broad audience that is not familiar with the resource.

The SOS is comprised of three sections:

  • Description of Historic Place – concisely describes the resource
  • Heritage Values – explains the reasons why the resource is valued
  • Character-Defining Elements – lists the physical elements of the resource that are central to the site`s significance, features which would be essential for preservation upon designation

An SOS is central to understanding a resource and any of its elements that might be protected and why.

If a historic resource is designated, the SOS will be an important planning and property management tool, and essential for developing a conservation plan for ongoing management of the resource.

Read more

Municipal Historic Resource designation refresher series: determining significance

Editor’s note: Welcome to the second post in a series of blog posts developed with municipalities in mind who either have or are considering undertaking Municipal Historic Resource designation. In this post, we will be discussing how to determine if a historic place is eligible for designation.You can read the first post here.

For more information, please review the “Creating a Future” manuals available here or contact Rebecca Goodenough, Manager, Historic Places Research and Designation at rebecca.goodenough@gov.ab.ca or 780-431-2309.


Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator, Sandy Aumonier, Heritage Conservation Adviser and Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer.


Determining significance

Typically, most folks agree that preserving significant historic resources in our province is important. While it is relatively easy to identify the ‘old’ stuff, how do you go about determining which historic resources are significant and should be considered for protection?

In order to be considered for protection as a Municipal Historic Resource (MHR), a site needs to:

  • be an eligible resource type
  • possess historical significance
  • have sufficient material integrity

If a site meets all three of these of these criteria, it can be considered for MHR designation.

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Train kept a rollin’: a brief history of the (in)famous 1970 Festival Express

Editor’s note: Fifty years ago tomorrow, a trainload of famous rock, blues and country stars rolled into Calgary for one of the most unique music festival experiences ever…The Festival Express. The article below focuses mainly on the Calgary stop of the festival. Along with rare archival photos, we’ve included likely never-before-seen surveillance video of the festival from the skies above McMahon Stadium.

Written by: Ron Kelland and Jared Majeski, Historic Resources Management Branch

The 1970s were a good time for the City of Calgary. People came in droves to call Cowtown home, as its population increased by a third. Construction permits rained down like confetti as the city’s skyline shot mightily to the heavens. The famed Husky Tower (now simply known as the Calgary Tower) had recently been completed, giving Calgary’s skyline a truly distinctive look and providing a symbol of civic pride and optimism for decades to come. The famous, architectural award winning +15 Skyway pedway system, one of the most extensive systems in the world, was constructed and plans for a new and innovative urban transportation network, including the Deerfoot Trail freeway and what would become the LRT/C-Train system, were underway.

This is what Albertans call, “the good times”, the boom of our familiar economic cycle. Perhaps it was this optimistic feeling that convinced the city to approve a permit to host a now-infamous, “rock music festival” at McMahon Stadium in early July.

Newspaper advertisment, presumably from the Calgary Herald. Safe to say this is a pretty stacked lineup. Source: gratefulseconds.com.
Newspaper advertisment, presumably from the Calgary Herald. Safe to say this is a pretty stacked lineup. Source: gratefulseconds.com.

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Municipal Historic Resource designation refresher series: Determining eligibility

Written by: Peter Melnycky, Historian, Historic Resources Management Branch

Editor’s note: Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts developed with municipalities in mind who either have or are considering undertaking Municipal Historic Resource designation. This series is intended to serve as a refresher on how to evaluate sites, develop Statements of Significance, determine periods of significance and develop Statements of Integrity.

For more information, please review the “Creating a Future” manuals available here or contact Rebecca Goodenough, Manager, Historic Places Research and Designation at rebecca.goodenough@gov.ab.ca or 780-431-2309.

Determining eligibility

In our first post, we will be discussing how to determine if a historic place is eligible for designation.

Historic resources include structures, buildings, landscape and archaeological features, all of which can be considered for protection by a municipality. Under the Historical Resources Act, municipalities have the ability to designate historic resources under a bylaw to ensure their protection.

historic-resources-act
The Historical Resources Act (Source: Historic Resources Management Branch).

In order to be considered for protection as a Municipal Historic Resource, a site needs to:

  • Be an eligible resource type
  • Possess historical significance
  • Have sufficient material integrity

If a site meets all three of these of these criteria, it can be considered for Municipal Historic Resource designation.

Read more

“Our record in stone”: Blackfoot perspectives of Okotoks

Written by: Blair First Rider and Laura Golebiowski, Aboriginal Consultation Advisers

Editor’s note: Oki! June is National Indigenous History Month, an invitation to honour the history, diversity, strength and contemporary achievements of Indigenous peoples. Aboriginal Consultation Advisers Blair First Rider and Laura Golebiowski, both based in Treaty 7 territory, met at the Okotoks Erratic this spring to discuss the significance of the site to the Blackfoot Confederacy.

IMG_5666
Blair First Rider at the Okotoks Erratic.

If you’ve ever travelled southwest of Calgary and witnessed a towering mass of quartzite stand out among the prairie landscape, you are continuing a tradition that Indigenous peoples have done since time immemorial. The 16,500-tonne boulder is colloquially known as the “Big Rock,” but in Blackfoot it is Okotoks—the direct translation of the word “rocks.”

The erratic is a wildly impressive and imposing sight. However, there is more here than immediately meets the eye. For the Blackfoot, this is a location where the world began; where supernatural mischief-maker Napi was pursued by the rock as he traveled from south to north, creating the mountains and rivers.

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International Archives Week: Plotting the course of the pandemic

Written by: Michael Gourlie, Government Records Archivist

Editor’s note: The International Council of Archives has designated June 8-14, 2020 as International Archives Week. Its theme, Empowering Knowledge Societies, highlights the ways in which archival institutions contribute to sustainable knowledge, trust and evidence, and the challenge of emerging technologies.

When historians decades from now look back at society during the COVID-19 pandemic, what will they see? Artifacts, documents and various media will certainly tell the story of how we dealt with an historic event. With the pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts, it seems timely to examine the holdings at the Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA) that document other public health crises. Alberta has experienced pandemics such as the worldwide 1918-1919 flu pandemic (often referred to as the Spanish grippe or Spanish flu epidemic) as well as a series of more localized poliomyelitis epidemics in Alberta that occurred in 1927 and 1953. While history books in the reference library tell one author’s version of events, what do the original archival records preserved at the PAA tell researchers about other widespread outbreaks of disease in the twentieth century, and can they inform our current circumstances?

1918-1919 pandemic resources at the PAA

Starting in 1905, a branch of the Department of Agriculture managed the Government of Alberta’s public health programs until the province established a separate Department of Public Health in 1919. For reasons that are unclear, few records of the Department of Public Health appear to have survived prior to the 1940s. However, one incredible survivor of that era is a scrapbook created by Public Health that contains newspaper articles tracking the progress of the 1918 influenza pandemic across Canada, with a special focus on developments in Alberta. The articles detail the number of cases, the preventative measures (including the closures of schools and restrictions on public gatherings), announcements from medical officers of health and the death toll.

Excerpt from Public Health Scrapbook, 1918.  GR1975.0454
Excerpt from Public Health Scrapbook, 1918. GR1975.0454

While an overarching and comprehensive information resource, the scrapbook does not provide the entire story of the Government of Alberta’s response to the pandemic or the impact on the citizens of Alberta. So, without other records of the Department of Public Health, where can that story be found in the PAA?

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Revival of a Prohibition-Era Landmark in the Crowsnest Pass

Editor’s note: You can read more of Fraser Shaw’s series on heritage conservation on RETROactive.

Written by: Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Advisor

Gunshots shattered the stillness of 18 Avenue in Coleman on the afternoon of September 21, 1922.

Local bootlegger Emilio Picariello and his accomplice Florence Lassandro sped off in a cloud of dust as Constable Stephen Lawson lay dead outside the Alberta Provincial Police barracks, a cottage-like office and residence where he worked and resided with his family. Hours later, “Emperor Pic”—as he was known locally—and Lassandro were apprehended and charged with Lawson’s murder. Both were later convicted and hanged. Lassandro became the first woman to be executed in Canada since 1899 and the only woman to be hanged in Alberta.

The Alberta Provincial Police Building as it appeared in late 1922 after the murder of Constable Stephen Lawson. Source: Crowsnest Museum.
The Alberta Provincial Police Building as it appeared in late 1922 after the murder of Constable Stephen Lawson. Source: Crowsnest Museum.

The Alberta Provincial Police (APP) Building, a Provincial Historic Resource within the Coleman National Historic Site, is significant for its association with the infamous murder of Constable Lawson and, more generally, with its role in the maintenance of law and order in the mining communities of the Crowsnest Pass during Prohibition until the 1930s.

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Burdett-Coutts: Aristocracy, Activism, Railway Investing and Alberta Place Names

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer

Back a few weeks ago, in the early days of COVID-19 pandemic response, I, like many Albertans, was closely watching news coverage. One news story that caught my attention was about the lines of traffic of returning Canadian travelers at the Coutts/Sweet Grass International Border Crossing. The story really jumped out at me because I had just read about novelist Charles Dickens’ involvement with the philanthropic work of Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts. Being the geographical names guy, I was aware that the village of Coutts and the hamlet of Burdett were named for the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, so I started to think about how was it that these two communities ended up with names honouring and commemorating a Victorian-Age, aristocratic philanthropist and social reformer.

Angela Burdett-Coutts. Baroness Burdett-Coutts, artist unknown, oil on panel, ca. 1840.  Source: National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 6181. Used under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Baroness Burdett-Coutts, artist unknown, oil on panel, ca. 1840. Source: National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 6181. Used under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Angela Burdett-Coutts, the 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts was born Angela Burdett in 1814, the daughter of radical reformist politician and anti-slavery advocate Sir Francis Burdett and Sophia Burdett (née Coutts). In 1837, upon the death of her step-grandmother, the actress Harriet Mellon, Angela inherited the entire Coutts estate of £1.8 million ($191 million in 2020 Canadian dollars) including a substantial interest in the Coutts Bank, making her the second-wealthiest woman in the United Kingdom after Queen Victoria. In accordance with the conditions of the will, Angela Burdett sought and received royal license to combine her ancestral names to become Angela Burdett-Coutts.

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