Editor’s note: For our next instalment recognizing National Historic Places Days, we look at the Register of Historic Places, what information it contains and how to use the database to search for historic resources. It’s recommended that while you read this article, you follow along on the Heritage Resources Management Information System. This database works best using Internet Explorer.
Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator
Alberta’s provincial and municipal governments have recognized and protected over 800 historic resources. Did you know that information about all of these significant sites is available to the public? Read on to find out all about where this information is located, and how you can learn more about Alberta’s historic places.
What is the Alberta Register of Historic Places?
The Alberta Register of Historic Places is a searchable database of legally protected historic places in Alberta, including sites designated by the province and by municipalities.
Where can I access the Alberta Register of Historic Places?
The register is available to the public on the HeRMIS (Heritage Resources Management Information System) website. Here it is possible to find information about the location, significance and level of designation for designated historic resources. In addition to this data, the website also includes photographs and an interactive map.
What sorts of things are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places?
A wide variety of historic resources have been designated in Alberta, reflecting the range of resources that are significant to Albertans. In fact, if it’s not a small moveable object, human remains, or no longer in its historic context, just about anything that’s provincially or municipally significant could be designated and listed on the register. There are things on the register you might expect, like the Legislature Building in Edmonton and the Rowley Grain Elevator Row, near Big Valley. There are also unexpected things, like significant geological features such as the Whitecourt / Woodlands Meteorite Impact Crater, or important biological sites like the Wood’s Douglas Fir Tree Sanctuary in Calgary. There are all kinds of other designated historic resources, including industrial sites and machinery, palaeontological sites, engineering structures, homes, commercial buildings, churches and more – all of them illustrating some significant aspect of Alberta’s history.
What can I do with the Alberta Register of Historic Places?
You can search the register to learn about a wide variety of topics relating to Alberta’s history – from archaeology to architecture to astronomy, from the prairies to the Rockies and the 49th to the 60th parallel. You can use the Map Search function to plan a tour to view historic resources within a community or along a route between communities.
How do I search the Alberta Register of Historic Places?
There are three ways to search:
- Basic search – enter the word(s) you want to search in the text box
- Advanced search – there are two types of advanced searches: non-location and location.
- Map search – there are types of map searches: sites around a location and sites around a trip route between two locations.
To find designated sites related to dinosaurs, type “dinosaur” in the text search box and click the red arrow.
Two have the word “Dinosaur” in their name: Dinosaur Egg Site and Grande Cache Dinosaur Tracksite. The third one, Atlas Coal Mine, includes the word “Dinosaur” in the Context field where the Heritage Significance of the site is described.
To find out more about these sites, simply click “View Details” for each one, and you’ll be able to see photos, descriptions, and a map showing the site’s location.
Clicking on the Advanced Search button on the main ARHP web page will take you to a page with several types of searches.
Which search you use will depend on what information you already have, and what you are looking for. Do you know the town you want to investigate? Do you want to look for a particular type of building or site? Maybe you know the Alberta Township System (ATS) or Plan-Block-Lot location for the historic resource you are researching?
Try out the different searches and see what you find!
Perform a Non-Location Search
To find all the houses that are designated as Municipal Historic Resources in Red Deer, that are also associated with the Gaetz family. Enter “Gaetz” in the text search box, and select the appropriate values from the pick lists for the fields “Functional Type Historic”, “Formal Recognition Type” and “Municipality”. Click the red arrow to start the search.
One has the word “Gaetz” in its name: J.J. Gaetz House. The other two, the Allen Bungalow, and the Clarke Residence, include the word “Gaetz” in one or more text fields.
Again, to find out more about these sites, simply click “View Details” for each one, and you’ll be able to see photos, descriptions, and a map showing the site’s location.
Upon closer inspection we find that one of the three sites is near Gaetz Lake, while the other two actually belonged to members of the Gaetz family. You can see the search criteria listed at the top of the page.
Creating a report
If you wish to create a report that includes only the two sites that were owned by Gaetz family members, click on the boxes “include in report”, as shown in the screen shot, and then click “Generate Report”.
There are four reports to choose from: Formal Recognition Type, Location, Context and ARHP Report. The last option will provide a report with a photo and the full data for each of your selected sites.
Search for Sites at a Particular Location
To find all the historic resources located within the area described by the ATS coordinates Township 7, Range 3, West of the 5th Meridian (7-3-W5), use the Location Search window to enter those coordinates. Click the red arrow to start the search.
The three records are all Provincial Historic Resources located in the Crowsnest Pass: Frank Slide; Leitch (Passburg) Collieries; and the Old Hillcrest Cemetery. You can click “View Details” for each one, to find out more about these fascinating and revealing resources in the historic mining region of the Crowsnest Pass.
The Frank Slide of 1903 remains the worst natural disaster of the 20th century in Alberta. Was coal mining to blame?
Leitch Collieries, established in 1907, was among the most ambitious coal mining and processing sites in the Crowsnest Pass, but it closed in 1916. Why was it so short-lived?
The Old Hillcrest Cemetery is the final resting place of 189 coal miners, all killed on June 19, 1914. What happened?
Find Sites Around a Location
To find the historic resources in Wainwright, select the radio button for 5 km and enter the community name in the text box under the “Sites around a location” heading.
The Town of Wainwright has been very active in recognizing and protecting their historic resources. Ten of the eleven sites in the town are Municipal Historic Resources. Most of the sites are in the downtown area, so you can enlarge the map view just that part of town, and use it as a walking tour guide. A pop-up will appear when you click on a pin, giving you the site name, a photo and a brief description. If you want to see more information, click on the site name in the pop-up.
Find Sites Along a Route
To find the historic resources within 15 km of a route between Grande Prairie and Beaverlodge, select the radio button for 15 km and enter the community names in the “From” and “To” text boxes under the “Sites around a trip route between 2 locations”.
Two of the sites are in Grande Prairie, one is near Beaverlodge, and the remaining two are some distance to the north of the route between the end points of the trip. You can click on the pins to view a preview pop-up with the site name, a photo and a brief description of each site. This can help you to select which sites to include in you itinerary. To view the full information, click on the site name in the pop-up.
Knowing where to find historic resources along a route can make your trip much more interesting and educational. There’s so much out there to explore!
Is the Alberta Register of Historic Places finished, or will more sites be added?
The register is always changing. Make sure to check back for newly-designated historic resources near your favourite destinations or about your favourite historical topics, and enjoy exploring the HeRMIS website.