Thar’s Hair on Them Thar Hills!

Origin of the name of the Hamlet of Hairy Hill

Recently the Edmonton Journal ran a photo essay and article about the Hamlet of Hairy Hill, which included the story about the origin of the name (see the Further Reading section below for links).  Hairy Hill is undoubtedly one of the most unusual place names in Alberta. It is a name that frequently raises questions, not to mention more than a few eyebrows.

The region around what is now Hairy Hill has been historically known as both the Whitford District and the Soda Lake District.  In November 1903, a post office by the name of Soda Lake was established with A. E. Boutellier as the first postmaster. The post office name was in reference to a highly alkaline lake located nearby (which has since dried up). However, in February 1907, a new post office was opened closer to the lake. Probably in recognition of geographical realities and to avoid confusion, the new post office was given the name Soda Lake, meaning the older post office needed a new name. (Click on the above image for a larger view.)

The new name chosen for the post office was inspired by a strange phenomenon the region’s early settlers had observed. In the 1940s, folklorists recorded this story told by George Chrapka, an early resident of the area:

The first settlers, on moving into this district … chose the site for their new homes on a large flat hill.  This hill, however, was somewhat different from any other they had seen.  Everywhere they looked they saw large mats of hair covering the ground.  Naturally they were puzzled, but with the coming of the spring also came an answer.  One bright morning they saw a hundred or more buffalo roaming lazily along the slopes of the hill.  On going to the spot they found fresh mats of hair.  This solved the “hairy mystery,” and also suggested a name for the locality – Hairy Hill.

Many mammals grow a shaggy coat during the winter, which they shed in the spring. North American bison, commonly referred to as buffalo, are known to rub themselves on the ground and against foliage to rid themselves of their winter coats.  Jack Brink, a former archaeologist with the Alberta Archeological Survey and now a curator at the Royal Alberta Museum, has commented:

Bison, or buffalo as they are commonly known, have lived in central Alberta for thousands of years. The area around Hairy Hill would have been an especially attractive region because it straddles the boundary of two eco-zones: the plains to the south and the parkland and forest to the north. As such it offers access to and advantages of both regions. Hilly areas offered lush grass, greater moisture and some protection from extremes of weather. So it is reasonable to suggest that Hairy Hill was a popular spot for bison herds. This could account for the historic records of great amounts of buffalo hair found on the hill by early settlers.

Year after year, while there was still bison roaming the plains, they would return each spring to this hill, leaving new deposits of hair over its surface. The settlers called the place Hairy Hill. The unusual name stuck, gained a following and in 1907, the regional post office was given the name Hairy Hill.

As the writer of the Edmonton Journal article points out, Hairy Hill’s history is a common one for many of Alberta’s rural communities – a promising and optimistic start followed by disappointment and decline.  The population of Hairy Hill grew, slowly but steadily, over the first few decades.  In 1928, the Canadain Pacific Railway built an east-west line through the community. Soon after the completion of the rail line, Hairy Hill boasted a large school, numerous stores, and up to six grain elevators.  By 1946 the population had reached 235 and the community was erected as a village.  The population continued to grow, reaching a high of 250 in 1948 before beginning a steady decline, falling to 136 by the late-1960s.  The population dropped precipitously through the 1970s and 1980s, reaching a low of 54 people by 1993.  In 1996, the village was dissolved and Hairy Hill became a hamlet under the jurisdiction of the County of Two Hills No. 21.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographic Names Program Coordinator


National Topographic System Map Sheet: 73 E/13 – Hairy Hill

Latitude/Longitude: 53° 45′ 48″ N & 111° 58′ 43″ W

Alberta Township System: Sec 23 Twp 55 Rge 14 W4

Description: Approximately 18 km northwest of the Town of Two Hills and 11 km southeast of the Village of Willingdon. 

Additional Resources: 

More information about Hairy Hill can be found in:

Chrapka, George. “How Hairy Hill got its Name,” Alberta Folklore Quarterly, Vol. 2 no. 1 (March 1946), p. 34, available from the Alberta Folklore and Local History Collection, University of Alberta Libraries

Lucas, John. “Gallery: Hairy Hill,” Edmonton Journal, 29 October 2011, Available from  

Mah, Bill. “Hamlet of Hairy Hill Fading Slowly Into Alberta’s Past,” Edmonton Journal, 30 October 2011, Available from   

What’s New with the Alberta Heritage Survey? (11.01)

Special Exhibit: Photographic Memory

The Alberta Heritage Survey is a collection of data and photographs documenting over 100,000 historic resources across the province. The database is still growing, and is accessible online via HeRMIS, the Heritage Resources Management Information System: Heritage Survey on HeRMIS. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the Heritage Survey is the thousands of images that have been taken for it since 1968. This column will feature stories about images that are being added to HeRMIS, and the sites they illustrate, so check back for updates. Meanwhile, you can take in an exhibit that features the Heritage Survey photo collection, Photographic Memory, at the Provincial Archives of Alberta until December 2011. (Click on the image below for more information.)

The PAA is located at 8555 Roper Road, in Edmonton. Map  Driving Directions


Phone: (780) 427-1750  Reading Room Phone: (780) 427-1056  (Toll Free: First dial 310-0000, then dial the full ten-digit phone number of the office you wish to reach.)

Please Note: The Heritage Survey exhibit can be viewed during regular open hours, Tuesday through Friday from 9 am to 4:30 pm, and until 9 pm on Wednesdays. It will be up until the end of January. Please note that the Provincial Archives of Alberta will be closed December 26-28, 2011.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator

New Heritage Conservation Adviser

Greetings stewards of Alberta’s heritage,

I am a new Heritage Conservation Adviser working for the Historic Resources Management Branch at the Ministry of Culture and Community Services.  Having just moved here from New Brunswick, I am looking forward to learning more about Alberta’s distinct heritage and adapting my architectural knowledge to help you conserve it for future generations.

Carlo assessing the foundation of the main barn located on Minister’s Island Provincial Heritage Place, New Brunswick.

Prior to my current position, I was a Project Executive for the Government of New Brunswick’s Heritage Branch.  I provided technical advice on conservation methods based on the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. I worked with government owned sites and processed applications for historic designations under the New Brunswick Heritage Conservation Act.  Before working in heritage, I dealt with Building Codes and Capital Maintenance issues as an Architectural Technologist for the Community Colleges and Employment Counselling Offices in New Brunswick, and as an Operations Coordinator for a property management firm in Ontario.  These experiences have enabled me to see both sides of the coin in terms of the challenges faced in maintaining and upgrading our historic resources, while at the same time conserving heritage values for the future.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts and Honours degree in the combined majors of Art History and Architecture from Carleton University, as well as a diploma in Architectural Technology from Algonquin College.  In my job experience I also obtained certifications as a Professional Technologist and as a Qualified Building Code Official.  From a heritage perspective, I also represented New Brunswick in the review of the second edition of the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada and provided examples for a Parks Canada study on how the Building Code can affect or is applied to heritage buildings.

Leaving my family, friends and colleagues in New Brunswick and Ontario wasn’t a very easy decision, but I am certain that the new experiences I will have in Alberta will make me glad that I did.

Best regards,

Carlo Laforge

NOTE: Carlo will be responsible for serving the Edmonton Region. Please click here to view a map of Alberta showing the areas serviced by all of the Heritage Conservation Advisers.

All the Presentations: 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum

Recent blog posts featured the presentations shared during the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum. The complete collection is accessible via the following links:

“Roadmap to Success” – Thank you for a great FORUM! – A brief overview of the two day event.

“The Other Side of the Rockies” – The keynote presentation, which featured case studies from British Columbia.

What information did you miss? – Presentations from the four breakout sessions.

Remembrance Day – A photo essay featuring the venue – the beautiful Prince of Wales Armouries.

“Show and Tell” – A Learning Exchange! – Presentations about municipal heritage projects.

Do you want to be memorable? – A presentation about making your community visitor friendly.

Thank you for your interest and attendance at the 2011 Forum. Planning for the 2012 Municipal Heritage Forum is already underway!

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Do you want to be memorable?

What makes a community memorable? How can a community encourage tourists to return? Shelia Campbell spoke about these issues at the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum. Promoting a community’s historic resources is one way a community can distinguish itself.

Shelia Campbell, a Tourism Product Development Coordinator with Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, challenged us to think about what makes a trip memorable. Is your community visually appealing? Can visitors find their way easily? Are services offered of good quality? Can visitors find good information about your community? How can historic resources contribute to these goals?

Click here for a copy of the presentation.

For a complete collection of the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum presentations, please click here.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

“Show and Tell” – A Learning Exchange!

Members of the Village of Holden Historic Resources Committee

The 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum on October 27th and 28th featured “Show &Tell” sessions. Several municipalities working on municipal heritage planning projects with the assistance of the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program shared their experiences with the attendees. A mix of rural and urban municipalities spoke about their heritage projects, showcasing the opportunities, challenges and rewards that can result from identifying and evaluating potential historic places.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yellowhead County – Debbie Charest, Director of Community & Protective Services

Yellowhead County’s Municipal Heritage Program – talked about how the County prepared to complete a Municipal Heritage Survey.

City of Lacombe – Peter Bouwsema, Councillor/Heritage Steering Committee

Overview of Lacombe’s Heritage Program – spoke about some of Lacombe’s historic resources and how the City is working to conserve them.

City of Edmonton – David Holdsworth, Principal Heritage Planner

Neon Light Museum, Historic Resource Management Program – talked about Edmonton’s plans to develop a museum of historic neon signs.

Smoky Lake County – Twila Bauman, former Planning & Communications Manager

Smoky Lake Region: Survey and Inventory Project and Heritage Management Plan – talked about the final year of their three year regional project.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Village of Holden – Katherine Whiteside, Chief Administrative Officer

Village of Holden Heritage Program – an overview of their Municipal Heritage Survey and Inventory, and future plans.

City of St. Albert – Ann Ramsden, Director of Heritage and Ian Morgan, Associate with HIP Architects

Conservation of St. Albert’s Grain Elevators – talked about the recently completed conservation work on two municipally owned grain elevators.

City of Calgary – Clint Robertson, Heritage Planner

2011-12 Calgary MHPP Project – Bridges – an overview of Calgary’s inventory of all the bridges and crossings located in the city.

Municipal District of Big Lakes – Cathy Wilcox, Grants Manager

Heritage Site Survey – talked about how GIS assisted with planning their Municipal Heritage Survey.

These presentations provide insights and inspiration to other municipalities interested in developing a local heritage conservation program. If you have any questions about how your municipality can participate in the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program, please contact MHPP staff.

Note: For a complete collection of the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum presentations, please click here.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Remembrance Day

Several buildings constructed for Canada’s military are designated historic resources. These places can help us understand how soldiers preparing for service lived and worked. Tomorrow being Remembrance Day, we thought it appropriate to feature a piece of Alberta’s military history – the historic resource that Municipal Heritage Forum attendees experienced firsthand at the end of October.

The Municipal Heritage Forum was held at the Prince of Wales Armouries in Edmonton. Most participants enjoyed meeting in this historic place. The Prince of Wales Armouries is a great example of how to adaptively repurpose a historic place.

Several City of Edmonton staff members provided an excellent behind the scenes tour of the facility. We learned how the building was rehabilitated to meet its new role as an archive, museum and meeting facility. As part of the tour, we had the opportunity to hear Timothy O’Grady (Archivist, City of Edmonton Archives) speak about the history of the building. Click here to view Timothy O’Grady’s photo essay.

The Prince of Wales Armouries was built in 1915 to give the Department of National Defence a place in Edmonton to train men for service in the militia. Essentially a huge drill hall, the soldiers who trained here served Canada in both world wars and in many other operations. In recognition of the building’s historic use and its distinctive architecture, the armouries was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1979 and then a Municipal Historic Resource by the City of Edmonton in 2004.

The City of Edmonton acquired the facility in 1977. In 1989 the city began constructing a new archive facility in the centre of the drill hall. The Armouries is now home to the City of Edmonton Archives and several museums.

For a complete collection of the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum presentations, please click here.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

What information did you miss?

Municipal Heritage Services Staff, L-R: Michael Thome, Brenda Manweiler and Matthew Francis.

At the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum, “Roadmap to Success,” four concurrent breakout sessions provided by staff of the Historic Places Stewardship Section, Culture and Community Services allowed attendees to learn about managing a successful municipal heritage conservation program. Find out what you missed: click below to obtain PDF versions of the presentations.

“Creating Heritage Advisory Bodies that Work for your Community” – Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Heritage Advisory Bodies (HABs) are boards, committees or commissions established through municipal bylaw. The community members appointed to the HAB advise council on heritage conservation matters and assist with the implementation of heritage initiatives (such as a Municipal Heritage Survey or a Municipal Heritage Inventory). This presentation discusses the ingredients necessary to establish an effective HAB.

“How to Designate and Approve Interventions to Municipal Historic Resources” – Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

A Municipal Historic Resource may not be destroyed, disturbed, altered, restored or repaired without the written approval of the applicable municipal council, or their designate. This presentation provides an overview of the designation and alteration approval processes.

“Getting your Municipal Historic Resources Listed on the Alberta Register” – Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services

The Alberta Register of Historic Places is a listing of formally recognized historic resources in Alberta. Owners of Municipal Historic Resources and Provincial Historic Resources listed on the Register may apply for cost-shared conservation funding through the Historic Resource Conservation category of the Heritage Preservation Partnership Program. This presentation reviews the eligibility and listing process.

“Understanding the Standards & Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada” – Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Advisor

The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada provides practical guidance on the preservation, rehabilitation and restoration of historic resources. This presentation is a general introduction to the principles and recommended/not recommended actions contained in the Standards and Guidelines.

NOTE: For a complete collection of the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum presentations, please click here.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Bobbin Lace?

Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site in Edmonton is delighted to host a bobbin lace demonstration. Join Jamie Graham as she reveals the delicate and complicated nature of this historic craft.

Sunday Nov. 13, 12:30 – 4:30 pm

Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by weaving, braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow. The placement of the pins is usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow.

Jamie will be at Rutherford House all afternoon. Feel free to drop by to see what this is all about. (Good highways permitting as Jamie is coming to Edmonton from Innisfail.)

Read about the significance of Rutherford House by visiting the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

“The Other Side of the Rockies”

On Thursday, October 27, at the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum, “Roadmap to Success,” Berdine Jonker, Senior Heritage Planner with the BC Heritage Branch, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, travelled over the Rockies to share her expertise and the experiences of the BC Heritage Branch. As the keynote speaker, Berdine discussed how values-based heritage conservation is completed in British Columbia. She showcased a heritage context study completed for the City of Prince George, featured a cultural tourism workshop conducted with the Nisga’a Lisims Government and discussed design guidelines that were developed for the City of Grand Forks, all through the use of a values-based approach.

For a copy of Berdine’s presentation and supplementary information, please click on the following links:

“The Other Side of the Rockies: B.C.’s Experience with Community Heritage Context Planning”

Prince George Heritage Context Study

City of Grand Forks Heritage Program

BC Heritage Branch

Thank you, Berdine, for travelling to Alberta and presenting at the Forum! MHPP staff and Forum attendees really appreciated learning about some of the municipal heritage initiatives occurring in British Columbia.

For a complete collection of the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum presentations, please click here.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer