Municipal Historic Resource designation refresher series: Provincial Historic Resources and Municipal Historic Resources

Editor’s note: Welcome to the final 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 discuss how the evaluation of a historic resource at the provincial and municipal level may result in complimentary or differing heritage values. 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: Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Adviser and Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer, Historic Resources Management Branch


Complementary and differing values

Alberta’s Historical Resources Act empowers both the Government of Alberta and municipalities to designate, or recognize and protect, a range of historic resources whose preservation is in the public interest. These resources can be places, structures or objects that may be works of nature or people (or both) that are of palaeontological, archaeological, prehistoric, historic, cultural, natural, scientific or aesthetic interest. Albertans value these historic resources because our past, in its many forms, is part of who we are as a society and helps give our present significance and purpose.

As of July 2020, there are currently 390 Provincial Historic Resources (PHR) and 413 Municipal Historic Resources (MHR) in Alberta, some 60 of which are designated both provincially and municipally. These resources merit designation for various reasons, from their association with significant events, activities, people or institutions; as representative examples of architectural styles or construction methods; for their symbolic and landmark value; or their potential to yield information of scientific value.

Heritage values are described in short Statements of Significance, which are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. In this post, we look at examples of heritage values that municipal and provincial governments recognize and how local and provincial values may align, differ or complement each other.

Plaques or markers are often used to identify designated historic resources. These plaques, affixed to Strathcona Public Library in Edmonton, show that it has been designated as a Provincial Historic Resource and a Municipal Historic Resource. PHRs are identified by a blue, enamel button or marker. MHRs can be identified by a variety of plaques and markers depending on the procedures of the municipality. Source: Historic Resources Management.

Shared heritage value

Some historic resources are municipally and provincially designated for essentially the same reasons. The people, events or themes that give these places heritage value are of such significance that they merit designation by both levels of government. A good example of this type of site is the Nellie McClung House, a 1907 Tudor Revival style house with Arts and Crafts design elements on the interior, located in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood. The property was designated as a Provincial Historic Resource in 1978 and as a Municipal Historic Resource by the City of Calgary in 2009. Both the provincial and municipal designations value the residence for its association with Nellie McClung, the author and member of the Famous Five who successfully helped fight for the legal recognition of women as persons.

Nellie McClung House, Calgary. Source: Historic Resources Management Branch.

Nellie McClung, ca. 1930. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A3354.

Differing heritage values

Other resources are designated municipally and provincially for completely different reasons. This does not mean that the designations are somehow in conflict or disagreement; rather, different values or meanings come into play when the historic place is considered locally and provincially. Annandale, a large residence in the London Road neighbourhood of Lethbridge, was municipally designated in 2008 for its association with two figures significant to the city’s development. Lewis Martin Johnstone, founder of an important local law firm, built the house in 1909 and resided there until 1935. George Graham Ross, a prominent local rancher and founder of an auctioneering company, lived in the house from 1937 to 1940.

Provincial designation of the house in 2015, on the other hand, celebrates the house’s distinctive blend of Queen Anne Revival and Arts and Crafts styles reflected in the dramatic arched porch entrance, wide eaves, and other design features. It considers architectural qualities rather than associations with individuals. As a PHR, Annandale represents the development of Alberta’s rising professional class and that group’s eagerness to adopt emerging residential design trends from other parts of North America. Lewis Martin Johnstone and George Graham Ross belonged to the business elite in Lethbridge; their importance as individuals is meaningful and relevant municipally rather than provincially. In this way, provincial and municipal heritage values are distinct but of equal merit. Together they tell a richer story.

Annandale, Lethbridge. Source: Historic Resources Management Branch, 2009.
The funeral of William Henderson, Mayor of Lethbridge, proceeds along Dufferin Street, now 4 Avenue South, Lethbridge, 1909. Annandale at the extreme left. Source: Peel’s Prairie Provinces. University of Alberta Libraries, PCO12276.

Complimentary heritage value

Elsewhere, municipal and provincial heritage values may align closely and differ mainly in nuance and emphasis, as they do at the Maccoy Homestead in High River. Established in 1883 by Andy Bell as a fishing lodge and guest house near the Highwood River, this former rural property is now enveloped by the growth of the town. The site consists of a whitewashed log cabin with a frame addition, a guesthouse, garage, root cellar and other elements that speak to its former agricultural use. The property was municipally designated in 2009 as the Sheppard/Maccoy House for its heritage value as one of the town’s oldest residences, for its ties to the settlement of the High River region, and as the home of notable High River families and individuals. These include Clydesdale breeder William Ikin, subsistence and dairy farmers Henry and Evelyn Sheppard and, especially, the Sheppards’ daughter Ruth Maccoy, who owned and ran the farm for many decades until 1995.

In 2015, the province designated the Maccoy Homestead as an excellent example of the development of agricultural farmsteads in the foothills region and for the site’s association with the contribution of women’s labour to homesteading and agriculture in Alberta. Where the municipal significance is rooted in individuals and the role of the place in local and regional history, provincial designation references province-wide themes of agricultural development and the role of women in agricultural society.

Maccoy Homestead, High River. Source: Historic Resources Management Branch, 2018.

Conclusions

PHRs and MHRs share a Canadian, “values-based” heritage framework based on widely adopted significance criteria. Differing values, where they occur, often reflect differences of context rather than degree of significance.  For example, MHRs are more likely to be locally recognized historic landmarks, where as on a provincial level, designation with heritage value as landmarks are applied more rarely and only to resources, places and landscapes widely recognized across  the province, such as the Frank Slide or the Legislature Building, or metaphorically to regional icons with widespread provincial recognition like grain elevators. Whether they align, differ or complement each other, municipal and provincial heritage values are equally protected when sites are designated under the Historical Resources Act. In both cases, the objective is the same: to conserve heritage value recognized by Albertans for future generations.

Municipal Historic Resource designation refresher series: Statements of Integrity

Editor’s note: Welcome to the seventh 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 talk about the importance of developing Statements of Integrity, and how they help to both increase understanding and manage change to historic resources over time. 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: Carlo Laforge, Heritage Conservation Adviser and Tom Ward, Manager, Heritage Conservation Advisory Services, Historic Resources Management Branch


Statements of Integrity

The process for evaluating if an historic place merits designation under the Historical Resources Act (HRA) starts with determining if and why it is significant. Then, determining whether it retains sufficient physical integrity to convey that significance. Earlier blog posts described how to develop a Statement of Significance (SOS). The next step works through whether enough of the physical features that relate to the heritage values exist, and are in acceptable condition to convey heritage values. Not all places merit designation as historic resources, especially if integrity is in question.

Below is an outline of what goes into determining integrity and how to summarize findings in a Statement of Integrity (SOI). It is important to remember that the development of an SOS and SOI are complementary processes. The information and facts discovered by each related investigation help to compliment, influence and improve each document to enable the best decision possible in terms of proceeding with a designation.

Understanding what is of value

A review of the heritage values expressed in the SOS provides the person analyzing the integrity of a place with a reminder of why it is potentially of historic significance and what details may be important. The heritage values and the period of significance are critical to keep in mind when observing and evaluating the historic place.

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Innocuous Modern: Edmonton’s hidden urban design

Written by: Dane Ryksen (History undergraduate, University of Alberta)

Editor’s note: Since 2017, Dane Ryksen has been documenting Edmonton’s built heritage on Instragram. Follow @_citizen_dane_ for even more of his research and photography. All photos below were taken by Ryksen.

There are minuses to living in a largely post-war city like Edmonton. Ask any urban planner and they’ll point to the era as the antithesis to good urban design.

New suburbs were built around the private automobile, not a streetcar or trolleybus. Roads became wide and winding; lots large, density low. More and more, basic needs became further and further out of reach for anyone who didn’t drive. Malls replaced traditional shopping corridors. Downtown struggled, stagnated and effectively died. The inner core rotted. There’s no denying that the post-war push saw a shift in lifestyle that most North American cities have yet to recover from.

7918 144 Avenue

But perhaps one minuscule caveat to the era exists: the architecture that dots these car-centric subdivisions. It’s a style one could almost dub “Innocuous Modern” — pieces of Modernism that sit largely ignored or unnoticed, passed by thousands each day without a second thought. They’re often restrained, but still unique, examples of a mid-century era styling that are perfectly inoffensive and never draw the eye with any semblance of gaudiness.

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