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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.