Municipal Heritage Forum 2011

You are invited to our 5th annual Municipal Heritage Forum,“Roadmap to Success!” It is scheduled for October 27th and 28th Ÿin Edmonton, at the Prince of Wales Armouries.

This event is intended for municipal staff, councillors and heritage committee members interested in learning how to identify and protect local historic places. Registration is free, but we only have room for the first 100 registrants at the Forum, and the first 75 for the evening reception – so please register early!

Click here for event details and a copy of the registration form.

The keynote presentation will be, “The Other Side of the Rockies: BC’s Experience with Community Heritage Context Planning” by Berdine Jonker, Senior Heritage Planner. Berdine Jonker is Senior Heritage Planner with the BC Heritage Branch, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. She has worked in the heritage conservation field since 1998, focusing primarily on building local government capacity for heritage conservation planning. Berdine has also worked with groups such as Smart Growth BC to further develop the connection between heritage conservation and healthy community development. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Art History) (1998), a Diploma in Cultural Resource Management (2003), and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (2010) from the University of Victoria.

We look forward to seeing you at the Forum in October!

Putting Names on the Map?

Preparing a Naming Proposal 

The Historical Resources Act gives authority to make geographical naming decisions jointly to the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation and the Minister of Culture and Community Spirit. However, over the last number of decades, the Government of Alberta has not generally been proactive in naming geographical features. The responsible authorities believe that it is more appropriate for the citizens of Alberta to play the key role in making naming proposals. So, how does a person suggest a name for a geographical feature? The short answer is to submit a proposal.

Applications or proposals to name a geographical feature are made to the Alberta Geographical Names Program. The application form is available on the program’s website along with the Geographical Names Manual, which will help guide applicants through the application process and provide some details about the research standards and principles that guide geographical naming in Alberta. It is highly recommended that applicants read the manual before starting the application to ensure that the proposed name is appropriate and meets the “Principles and Guidelines for Geographical Naming” (more on these in a future blog post).

On the application are a number of questions that should be completed as thoroughly as possible. This remainder of this blog post will walk you through the application form. Read more

New MHPP Projects Funded for Communities!

Congratulations to four communities that have recently been awarded grants by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation for heritage planning projects!

The Town of High River will receive a $20, 000 matching grant from the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (MHPP) to undertake a Heritage Inventory project, evaluating potentially significant historic places in this growing southern Alberta town. This is the first collaboration of the Town of High River with MHPP.

Heading up north to another “River” town, Peace River has been awarded a matching grant of $6, 000 to develop a Heritage Management Plan. This plan will build upon the previous Heritage Inventory work funded by the Foundation through MHPP.

Lacombe, Alberta’s newest City, will receive a matching grant of $24, 500 to continue its program of evalating its significant collection of historic places in a second phase of Heritage Inventory work.

And, last, but definitely not least, the Municipal District of Bighorn, located on the cusp of Banff National Park, has been approved for a matching grant of $20, 000 for the creation of its own Heritage Management Plan. This project will build upon years of previous partnership with MHPP, which yielded both a Heritage Survey and Inventory.

These municipalities join numerous others – both rural and urban – that are currently partnering with MHPP to help create a future for Alberta’s historic places. These communities include:

We are looking forward to working with these municipalities to help protect, conserve and celebrate the places that matter most to Albertans.

Applying for Historic Resource Conservation Funding

Do you own a Municipal Historic Resource? Would you like to learn how to obtain funding to conserve your historic resource? The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation operates several grant programs to help underwrite the conservation of Alberta’s heritage. The Historic Resource Conservation category of the Foundation’s Heritage Preservation Partnership Program offers grants to defray the cost of conservation work on Provincial and Municipal Historic Resources.

A grant can finance up to half the cost of conservation work that complies with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. No grant to help conserve a Municipal Historic Resource will exceed $50,000 (although most grants are less than this).

The proposed work must preserve, rehabilitate or restore the historic resource’s character-defining elements. The Foundation will also consider funding architectural or engineering studies that help develop a long-term conservation plan. The Board of the Foundation will only consider an application from an owner of a Municipal Historic Resource if:

  • The Municipal Historic Resource is listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places;
  • The proposed work complies with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada; and
  • The municipality has reviewed the proposed work, certified that it meets the Standards and Guidelines and issued written approval to undertake the project (pursuant to section 26 of the Historical Resources Act).

Although a provincial Heritage Conservation Adviser can help your municipality complete the approval-documentation, municipalities are responsible for reviewing the proposed work themselves. Municipalities have the legal authority to prohibit any changes that, in their opinion, detract from the heritage value of the site. Municipalities are best situated to evaluate how proposed work impacts the heritage value of the sites they themselves designate.

You can find a Historic Resource Conservation grant application package here. Because of the documentation needed, it is best to begin working on an application as soon as possible. The next application deadline is September 1st, but it is never too early to start thinking about the conservation work you would like to do next summer. Applications submitted for the February 1st deadline should be adjudicated before the snow melts.

For more information on the grant programs of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, contact Carina Naranjilla at or 780-431-2305.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Heritage Conservation in the Spotlight!

On Thursday, August 11, 2011, Access Television’s current affairs program, Alberta Primetime, aired a segment on the preservation of historic buildings in Alberta. A webcast of this segment can be found here.

The segment included a panel discussion consisting of me (Larry Pearson, Director of the Historic Places Stewardship Section), Darryl Cariou, the City of Calgary’s Senior Heritage Planner and Edmonton architect Shafraaz Kaba, Senior Partner with Manasc Issac Architects. Our discussion explored the benefits of adaptively reusing heritage buildings and some of the funding support available to their owners.

During the panel discussion, I noted that there are approximately 700 historic places listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Of these, 508 are designated as Municipal Historic Resources or Provincial Historic Resources. These places are legally protected under Alberta’s Historical Resources Act and are eligible for funding from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. Beginning with the February 1, 2012 grant deadline, Provincial Historic Resources will have an annual eligibility for up to $100,000 in cost shared funding to support eligible conservation work. For Municipal Historic Resources, the annual eligibility will be $50,000. Darryl Cariou outlined the City of Calgary’s grant funding and illustrated how other strategies, such as defering tax increases that would normally occur when a building is signficantly upgraded, could be used to support the rehabilitation of historic places legally protected by the City.

In exploring the benefits of adaptivly reusing historic places, the panel illustrated how heritage conservation is an excellent example of “sustainable developmant”. The reuse of existing buildings is environmentally sustainable. Shafraaz noted that the “greenest building is the one that is already built”.  This is because the reuse of an existing building saves a landfill from the waste created by demolition and conserves the energy that was invested by a previous generation during its construction. A study prepared for the Government of Alberta showed that the rehabilitated historic Lougheed Building in Calgary would use about 10% less energy than a typical new building of similar size. The study also revealed that the overall energy saved was equivilant to the annual energy use of 1,591 homes. Recycling historic places also contributes to “economic sustainability”. A higher percentage of the money invested in rehabilitation projects represents labour costs rather than material costs. The labour investment reflects the work of skilled tradesman and, because it is spent locally it is also more likely to stay in the community. Heritage conservation also helps a community maintain its sense of place, therefore, it supports cultural tourism and contributes to viable communities and a high quality of living.

For more information on the heritage programs of the Government of Alberta, click here.

Information about the City of Calgary’s heritage programs can be found here.

Written by: Larry Pearson, Director of Historic Places Stewardship

Happy Anniversary St. Peter’s Church!

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and Cemetery is the newest Municipal Historic Resource listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. It is located in Special Area 2, in the former Hamlet of Scapa. On Saturday, August 13th, the parishioners are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the church’s construction. If you are in the area, stop by for a visit.

The church was constructed in 1911 and moved to its present location in 1921. The residents of Special Area 2 value this place for its historic use as a Lutheran parish church, particularly by the settlers who homesteaded the Hamlet of Scapa. The Church was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource by the Special Areas Board in 2009.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Tonight on ALBERTA PRIMETIME – “Preserving the Past”

Tune in tonight at 7pm or 11pm to see Larry Pearson, Director, Historic Places Stewardship, join other key stakeholders to discuss the state of heritage conservation in Alberta.

Alberta Primetime is a daily current affairs show airing weeknights from 7pm MST to 8pm MST. Airing on ACCESS and seen across all of Alberta, Alberta Primetime drills through the surface of current issues to explore the ideas and concerns of Alberta’s real energy sector – its people…

Alberta Primetime can be seen on ACCESS on the following channels:

  • Calgary: Channel 13, Cable 13
  • Edmonton: Channel 9, Cable 9
  • Express Vu: Channel 267
  • Shaw Direct: Channel 351
  • TelusTV: Channel 9

Vulcan: A Regional Collaboration

Over the next nine months the Vulcan region will be a hive of activity. Vulcan County has partnered with the Town of Vulcan and the villages of Carmangay, Champion and Milo to complete both a Municipal Heritage Survey and a Municipal Heritage Inventory. Working collaboratively, and with the services of a heritage consultant, a range of potential historic places within these municipalities will be documented and a number of places of interest will also be evaluated for eligibility, significance and integrity.

Completing these projects will allow municipal staff, councillors and residents to better understand the older places that make their communities unique and livable. From this understanding, municipal officials will be able to make informed decisions about which sites may merit protection and conservation for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

Pictured from Left to Right: Racille Ellis, Champion Community Representative; Paul Taylor, Town of Vulcan Councillor; Marjorie Weber, Vulcan and District Historical Society; Cody Shearer, Vulcan Business Development Society; Katie Walker, Village of Milo Councillor; Richard Lambert, Vulcan and District Historical Society; Amy Rupp, Village of Champion CAO; Kym Nichols, Village of Carmangay Mayor; Leslie Warren, Vulcan Business Development Society; William Roebuck, Kirkcaldy Community Club; Liza Dawber, Vulcan County. Missing: Bill Lahd, Milo Community Representative.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Reader Rock Garden, Calgary

One advantage the major cities of the Canadian prairies had over their eastern counterparts was that, when they entered periods of frantic development in the early 20th century, they could see what pitfalls in urban planning the earlier established eastern cities had already encountered.  Urban design was, therefore, probably undertaken with a greater sensitivity towards landscaping and park space than would otherwise have been the case.  Though commonly regarded as unsophisticated towns of the wild west, both Edmonton and Calgary made sure they had ample space set aside for parks and gardens, in both their suburbs and their downtown cores, and planted trees along many of their streets, and, in many cases, provided extra spaces for flowers and lawns.  The two cities were thus able to avoid the image of an urban jungle which had initially prevailed in many industrial cities of the East.

In Calgary, the City created the position of Superintendent of Parks and Cemeteries in 1913.  For the position, it hired a horticulturalist from England, William Reader, who had recently been the gardener for Pat Burns and his commercial empire.  Reader had actually been trained as a school teacher, but he developed a personal interest in gardening, and designed the gardens of several large estates in England before migrating to western Canada in 1908.  Upon his appointment in Calgary, he embarked on a vast planting project, lining many of the streets with trees and expanding the park space from 520 to over 1,300 acres.  Over the next 29 years, he would create several public parks, such as Central Park, Tuxedo Park and Victoria Park.  He would also create a number of children’s playgrounds, golf courses, tennis courts and outdoor skating rinks.  His work occasionally took him out of Calgary as well, for example, his landscaping of the EP Ranch for the Prince of Wales.

The project to which Reader is most closely associated, however, is called the Reader Rock Garden, which was built in his own back yard, which was City owned space at Macleod Trail and 25th Avenue SE.  The space included an area for the residence of the Superintendent of Parks & Cemeteries.  Reader was inspired by the City Beautiful movement which had taken hold in Europe and North America towards the end of the 19th century.  Envisioning Calgary as a “showplace city” he embarked on a plan to make the space next to his residence into a model garden, featuring a wide range of flowers, trees and other plant species.  Areas were spaced off with rock fences, with other colourful rocks also interspersed among the plants and trees.  Reader also experimented with plant and flower varieties, with his garden becoming part of the system of Dominion agricultural research stations.  As a result, his reputation grew with time, as seeds from his garden were used by a number of prestigious gardens in England and North America.

Most of Reader’s creative work was done during the 1920s.  The Depression did much to curtail park expansion and the landscaping of boulevards.  Reader himself was forced to retire in 1942 at age 67, and, the following year, he passed away.  In 1944, his garden was named in his honour, but its upkeep in the years that followed did not live up to his reputation.  His cottage was removed in 1944, and, in later years, furnishings and other buildings were removed.  Foreign and unsympathetic plants were allowed to invade the garden.  Recently, however, efforts were made to transform the site back to its original condition of horticultural excellence.  In 2006, the Reader Rock Garden was designated a Provincial Historic Resource.  Its historical significance lies in its representation of the efforts of its developer, William Reader, to transform the bustling City of Calgary from a sprawling western metropolis of office blocks and redundant suburbs into a showplace city filled with parks, landscaped boulevards and recreational facilities.

Written by: David Leonard, Historian

Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the heritage value of the Reader Rock Garden in Calgary. In order for a site to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource, it must possess province-wide significance. To properly assess the historic importance of a resource, a historian crafts a context document that situates a resource within its time and place and compares it to similar resources in other parts of the province. This allows staff to determine the importance of a resource to a particular theme, time, and place. Above, is some of the historical information used in the evaluation of the Reader Rock Garden.

Insurance and Historic Places

“I’d like to see my house designated as a Municipal Historic Resource, but would that not make insuring it really expensive?” This is a common concern. Many believe that once a place is designated as a Municipal Historic Resources (or a Provincial Historic Resource) insurance premiums go up, but this is uncommon. If you are a homeowner with replacement-cost insurance, your current policy should cover the conservation work needed if something should happen.

Homeowners normally insure their property for its replacement cost. This means that your insurer is responsible to pay for repairing, or if necessary replacing, your home if it is damaged or destroyed in a way covered by the policy. Most home insurance policies cover replacement cost, making the insurance company responsible for repairing (or if necessary replacing) the insured property in “like kind and quality”.

Designated as a Provincial Historic Resource, the Museum of the Highwood in High River was damaged by a fire in July 2010.

Insuring a historic place for its replacement value is important. Features that were once common can now be difficult and expensive to re-produce. Some once-common skills (like working with plaster) are now rare; many once ordinary and inexpensive materials (like hardwood) are now uncommon or expensive. Repairs to character-defining elements should match materials and design details. If you carry insurance that covers replacement in “like kind and quality” you likely have all the coverage needed. If a home is only partially destroyed, then ideally as much historic material as possible should be saved; unsalvageable elements should be reinstated as much as possible.

Your insurance premiums should not increase simply because your home is designated a Provincial or Municipal Historic Resource. Remember, when you originally purchased your policy and your insurance provider asked questions about the age of the home and the quality of the workmanship? The company was gathering information to assess what exactly they might have to repair or replace should a disaster occur. In fact, some companies now make visits to your home to note its features so there are no discrepancies at the time of a claim.

As always, reviewing the Statement of Significance for a designated site will help you understand why it is valued and what about it must be conserved. If you have specific questions, you can discuss the matter of insurance coverage with a Heritage Conservation Adviser.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer