After two seasons of closures, Alberta’s historic sites set to reopen

Written by: Suzanna Wagner, Edward van Vliet, Stephanie McLachlan

May 18 might be an ordinary Wednesday for some, but for Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, it’s a much anticipated day. After two seasons of COVID closures, seven historic sites will be re-opening to visitors next week.

In the eastern part of the province, Fort George & Buckingham House is kicking off summer 2022 in grand style. Not only has the site’s official book Opponents and Neighbours: Fort George and Buckingham House and the early fur trade on the North Saskatchewan River, 1792 to 1800, been published, but 2022 is the visitor centre’s 30th anniversary.

The modern visitor centre at Fort George & Buckingham House was opened exactly 200 years after the original fur trade forts were built. Inside you’ll find an interactive museum gallery, travelling exhibits, activities, guided tours and modern visitor facilities. Source: Historic Sites and Museums.

This season also marks the debut of a new exhibit. “Fur Trade Highways of Alberta: Water Transportation, 1780 to 1930,” covers fur trade companies’ gradual transition from canoes, to York boats, to paddle wheelers over 150 dramatic years of change in the fur trade. The exhibit features boating artifacts, a music station, a video about York boat building and life-size boat outlines in the ground to give visitors a real-life sense of how big these boats were.

Be sure to check out Fort George & Buckingham House’s Facebook and website for details of all the upcoming events! We hope to see you there.

To celebrate these many milestones, each weekend in July and August will have a different theme. There will be a book launch party, weekends celebrating the river, boats, and the new exhibit, weekends to explore the storied archaeological history of the site, events featuring stories of the many people who lived at Fort George & Buckingham House and a return of the ever-popular Bears and Berries festival!

If you are in Edmonton, we invite you to explore the stunning Edwardian home of Alberta’s first premier and University of Alberta founder, Dr. Alexander Cameron Rutherford. Meet the rest of the family and hear about Edmonton’s fascinating past through the lives of Mrs. Mattie Rutherford, daughter Hazel Rutherford McCuaig and son Cecil Rutherford.

Rutherford House will be re-opening with pre-booked tours and special events, so call ahead to reserve your spot. We look forward to having guests visit the house and rediscover the Rutherfords’ beautiful, elegant home with its light-filled parlour, sumptuous library and dramatically coloured bedrooms. In addition, during the summer months there will be numerous events with refreshments and activities in the garden including Founder’s Day, Dominion Day and a Sunny (fingers crossed) Summer Picnic. In the fall, Culture Days celebrations will focus on historical arts and crafts.

Looking for a beautiful home, poetry and artistry? Look no further than the home of Stephan and Helga Stephansson outside of Markerville, Alberta. Source: Historic Sites and Museums.

Throughout the summer, visitors can experience a charming little homestead and learn the stories of the Stephansson family and their connection to this Icelandic outpost in central Alberta. This summer, Stephansson House will continue its decades long tradition of celebrating poetry with July’s Poetry at Stephan’s House event with collaborative, hands-on activities as well as impassioned poetry readings. The Harvest Fair and Quilt Show celebrating local and area artists and artisans will mark the end of the summer season. Subscribe to the Stephan G. Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site Facebook page to keep up-to-date.

Have you ever wanted to look behind the scenes of Western Canada’s first commercial oilfield and processing plant? Industrial history is on display at Turner Valley Gas Plant. This unique site was the birthplace of Alberta’s petroleum industry. Open on Saturdays and Sundays, you can join a guided tour to see first hand the historic buildings and exhibit hall. Don’t forget your close-toed shoes for your trip through the gas plant!

On May 14, 1914, wet natural gas sprayed out of the well bore at Dingman No. 1 in Turner Valley and changed the nature of Alberta forever. This discovery of petroleum led to the creation of Alberta’s first natural gas plant, starting the modern era of oil and gas exploration and processing. Source: Historic Sites and Museums.

Further north, in the heart of both a historic and a modern community is the Father Lacombe Chapel. In 1861, Father Albert Lacombe and Bishop Tache of the Oblates established a Roman Catholic Mission in the place today called St Albert. Along with members of the local Métis community, Father Lacombe constructed a simple wooden chapel that still stands in present-day St. Albert. Today it that chapel is the oldest extant building in Alberta.

A bustling community soon grew around the Chapel. In addition to being a centre for religious life, it quickly became one of the largest Métis communities in Western Canada. Join in a tour in French or English and explore the history of a thriving community.

Finally, in northern Alberta, a historic treat awaits you.

Historic Dunvegan is excited to welcome you to explore our history once again. Visitors can drop by to enjoy the beautiful scenery and take a guided tour through four fully restored historic buildings. A playground and provincial campground are right next door, and market gardens are located just down the road. It’s a great way to spend a day or a weekend with family and friends.

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