Written by: Ron Kelland, MA, MLIS, Geographical Names Program Coordinator
Under the Historical Resources Act, Alberta’s municipalities have the authority to designate sites and buildings as Municipal Historic Resources. This designation authority gives municipalities the ability to ensure that the preservation of their community’s history and heritage. Municipal Historic Resources are eligible for listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places, although there is no requirement for municipally designated resources to be listed on the Register. However, designated resources must be listed on the Register to qualify for Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women’s conservation grants. To be listed on the Register, a Municipal Historic Resource must certain documentation prepared that explain the heritage value of the resource and guide the management of the property.
Historic Resources Management of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women works with Alberta’s municipalities to list their Municipal Historic Resource Designations. A number of properties designated in previous years by a municipalities across the province have recently been added to the Alberta Register of Historic Places.
MacKenzie Residence, Banff
Located in Banff at the intersection of Beaver Street and Caribou Street, the MacKenzie Residence is a one and one-half storey residence. It has heritage value for its association with Flora and George MacKenzie and the Luxton family.
The residence was built by Flora and George MacKenzie in 1945 on land they had leased since 1922. Flora MacKenzie was born in England and emigrated to Canada with her family in 1890, settling in Red Deer. In 1902, she moved to Banff after marrying Charles Stenton, the owner of the Park Hotel and the Alberta Hotel, both located in Banff. Following Charles’ death in 1918, Flora married George MacKenzie, the bellhop at the Alberta Hotel. Together Flora and George held the leases on this land, which was occupied by a number of cabins built earlier in Banff’s development.
In 1974, four years after the death of Flora MacKenzie, the residence was acquired for use as a rental property by Eleanor Luxton, daughter of prominent local political figures and developers Norman and Georgina Luxton. Eleanor Luxton is a noted local historian and avid promoter of Banff’s heritage and arts and cultural sector. Trained as a historian and teacher at the University of Alberta, Eleanor returned to Banff as a teacher in 1936. During the Second World War, she studied mechanical drafting and worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway doing locomotive design. She has written numerous books on Banff’s natural and cultural heritage. She established the Eleanor Luxton Foundation, with a mandate to preserve and promote the history, culture and ecology of Banff, the Bow Valley and Alberta. This foundation works to preserve the Luxton family home in Banff and supports a scholarship program in Western Canadian History at the University of Alberta and University of Calgary.
The MacKenzie Residence, which is owned by the Eleanor Luxton Foundation, was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource in September 2019.
Leitch Residence, High River
Located in High River on 2nd Avenue SE between 2nd and 3rd Street, the Leitch Residence is a single-storey residence built in 1929. It has heritage value partly as an example of the Arts and Crafts style, but primarily for its association with the Leitch family.
Evelyn Rachel Leitch (nèe Limoges) was from one of High River’s founding families and the owners of the Highwood Ranch. She was one of the first graduates of the High River Municipal Hospital’s nursing program. She is also noted as one of the first female reporters in the province, working with the High River Times.
Heavily involved in community activities, Evelyn was the principle organizer and editor of the local history Leaves from the Medicine Tree. Evelyn married Alfred Alexander Leitch, who was originally from Manitoba and had been living in High River since 1924. In 1917, Alfred joined the Royal Flying Corp. (precursor to the Royal Air Force), served in France and was awarded both the Military Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. Following the war, he was selected for trials on HMS Argus, the first full-length, flat deck aircraft carrier, and he was the second pilot to land it its flight deck.
Back in Canada, Leitch worked as a mechanic in Winnipeg, eventually moving to High River where he worked as a pilot on forest fire patrols and on surveying missions in the Canadian Arctic. At the start of the Second World War, Leitch served in command and training positions at air training bases under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
The Leitch Residence was designated a Municipal Historic resource by the Town of High River in 2016. As of 2015, four generations of the Leitch family had lived in the house.
Bow River Bridge, Banff
The Bow River Bridge is a steel-reinforced stone and concrete girder traffic and pedestrian bridge in Banff. It is part of Banff Avenue and crosses the Bow River and provided the connection between Banff’s commercial core and the residential and recreational areas across the river. Its heritage value lays in its architectural style, particularly as related to the City Beautiful Movement. It is also a prominent local landmark.
The Bow River Bridge was built in 1921 as Banff was becoming increasingly popular as a tourist attraction. Rather than build a simple, functional bridge, the bridge was designed with elegance in mind. The City Beautiful Movement, which had come into vogue starting in the 1890s, called for the beautification of urban spaces. It was primarily a reaction to the social ills of urban areas as a result of population densification and industrialization. Advocates believed that elegant, monuments and buildings, along with parks and open spaces would improve the quality of life and bring about greater social cohesion and harmony by instilling civic pride as well as being less stressful and more relaxing.
While the Bow River Bridge is slightly outside of the City Beautiful Movement’s most popular period, it incorporates the movement emphasis on the grand and elegant. While being a generally simple structure, the bridge is unobtrusive and does not distract from the natural beauty of the surrounding mountain landscape, while still possessing pleasing decorative elements, notably the brick piers, sculpted concrete cantilevered supports under the pedestrian walkways, globe lamp posts and a number of sculpted headstones and other masonry details. The bridge is also a prominent local landmark and is part of a noted streetscape. The view of looking down the bridge to the west, along Banff Avenue to Cascade Mountain is arguably Banff’s signature image and one of the most photographed scenes in Canada.
The Bow River Bridge was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource by the Town of Banff in November 2016.
Alberta. Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women. Alberta Register of Historic Places, available from https://hermis.alberta.ca/ARHP/Default.aspx?DeptID=1.
Blumberg, Naomi. “City Beautiful Movement.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online, accessed 6 January 2021, available from https://www.britannica.com/topic/City-Beautiful-movement.
Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, available from https://luxtonfoundation.org/.
Shaw, S. Bernard. Photographic Canada from Flying Canoes. (Burnstown, ON: General Store Publishing, 2001).
High River. Town of High River: Residential Heritage Inventory Phase III, Final Report. December 2015. Accessed 5 January 2021, available from https://highriver.ca/app/uploads/2017/06/Heritage-Inventory-Proect_Phase-3_final-report.pdf.