Vulcan RCAF Station and Beyond…

Throughout the last year, one hundred potential historic places in the Vulcan region have been photographed and carefully documented in a Municipal Heritage Survey project. Of these sites, twenty-one were also selected to be evaluated for eligibility, significance and integrity in a Municipal Heritage Inventory project, all to help determine potential candidacy for Municipal Historic Resource designation. For this project, Vulcan County partnered with the Town of Vulcan and the villages of Carmangay, Champion and Milo. Working collaboratively, and with the services of a heritage consultant, a wide range of places were captured. From commercial buildings, residential homes and community churches, to a fire brigade building, a tree, a grain elevator, a railway trestle, a dry ditch and the Vulcan RCAF Station – an array of places were documented, showcasing some of the unique resources in the region.

Completing the Municipal Heritage Survey and Inventory projects will allow applicable municipal staff, councillors and residents to better understand the older places that make their communities unique and liveable. From this understanding, municipal officials will be able to make informed decisions about which sites may merit protection and conservation for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations. Essentially, projects like this serve as a foundation for establishing local heritage conservation programs that identify, protect and manage significant historic places and which contribute to sense of place and community identity.

To help guide this collaborative initiative, the Vulcan Business Development Society served as lead coordinator. As well, a heritage steering committee comprised of municipal staff and community stakeholders was formed. Together, with the services of a heritage consultant, this project has served as a starting off point for a variety of potential heritage initiatives.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

PHOTO: Heritage Committee (pictured from left to right): Racille Ellis, Champion Community Representative; Paul Taylor, Town of Vulcan Councillor; Marjorie Weber, Vulcan and District Historical Society; Cody Shearer, Vulcan Business Development Society; Katie Walker, Village of Milo Councillor; Richard Lambert, Vulcan and District Historical Society; Amy Rupp, Village of Champion CAO; Kym Nichols, Village of Carmangay Mayor; Leslie Warren, Vulcan Business Development Society; William Roebuck, Kirkcaldy Community Club; Liza Dawber, Vulcan County. Missing: Bill Lahd, Milo Community Representative.

The Burmis Tree: The Most Photographed Tree in Alberta?

At the end of April when travelling in southern Alberta on business I had time to visit the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre (to read about my visit, click here). While driving to Frank I turned through a bend in the road to suddenly find myself in front of a snow-capped mountain framed by a beautiful rainbow! The shutter-bug in me could not resist the temptation. With camera in hand I trundled out of my vehicle to take some photos. But wait, this blog post is not about mountain views and rainbows…

Upon turning my back on the rainbow to return to my vehicle, I discovered another beautiful site – the Burmis Tree! The Burmis Tree is a limber pine that marks the eastern edge of the Crowsnest Pass. Limber trees have one of the longest life spans of any tree in Alberta and are known for their ability to thrive in harsh conditions. As a standing testament to these facts, the Burmis Tree lived for approximately 700 years. It died in the late 1970’s but remained standing until 1998 when high winds toppled it over. The community, which regarded the tree as a significant landmark, refused to simply leave it. Rods and brackets were used to support the tree. To this day it still stands as a landmark, acting as a welcome sign to visitors of the Crowsnest Pass and as a symbol of home for area residents.

The leafless, gnarled tree simply needed to be photographed (if you are also a shutter-bug you will understand). As I explored the area photographing the tree from different angles, I next stumbled upon one of the heritage markers erected by the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. You have all probably seen them – large blue signs located at highway rest areas or points of interest throughout Alberta. These interpretive signs tell of Alberta’s rich heritage. This sign provides context for the Burmis Tree.

Assuming that the Burmis Tree is perhaps one of the most photographed trees in all of Alberta, I did a quick search on Flickr. Check out some of the photos. 

Do you have a photo of the Burmis Tree that you would like to share with readers of RETROactive? If so, email it to me at by June 10, 2012 with a completed copy of the Government of Alberta’s Photograph, Video, Name and Quotation Release Form. A future blog post will feature the submissions.

 Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Pincher Creek Municipal Heritage Survey

At the end of April I attended an open house for the Town of Pincher Creek Municipal Heritage Survey project. Over the past year, the Town, through the dedicated assistance of community volunteers and the guidance of Farley Wuth at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, has been working on documenting up to 300 sites. These sites, all older than the 1940s, include residential, commercial and industrial properties. The sites are being documented through photography and by recording geographical, architectural and historical information. Once complete, all documented sites may be viewed on the Provincial Heritage Survey database.

The open house was attended by project volunteers and interested community members. Their interest in the project was inspiring. With each documented property, the volunteers uncover new facts about their community.  Who lived where, and when? Which properties contain unique architectural features? How did the properties evolve after alterations and repairs? With each discovery, a greater sense of community pride seems to emerge.

Completing a Municipal Heritage Survey is a great way for municipal staff to learn about the older building stock (and other sites) in their communities. The information gathered provides valuable information for things such as:

– public and private research

–   historic walking tours

–   school and museum programs

– municipal decision-making

–   information on historic and existing land uses

–   development patterns

–   tourism opportunities

– assistance in long-term conservation objectives

–   evaluation of potential historic places

–   photographic record to aide future conservation projects

Essentially, a Municipal Heritage Survey is an information gathering exercise, which enables future decisions and projects associated with potential historic places. Properties documented through a survey are not placed under any restrictions.

To learn more about the Pincher Creek Municipal Heritage Survey project, click here.

To learn how the Town of Pincher Creek is completing this project, please visit the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program website.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Moving Mountains – My Visit to the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre

View of Turtle Mountain from the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre

Last week I was in southern Alberta for meetings with Vulcan County and the Town of Pincher Creek. To fill a meeting-free morning I decided to visit the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre (a thirty minute drive west of Pincher Creek on Highway 3). Throughout my visit grey clouds blanketed the sky, which befitted the destruction, sorrow and magnitude of the Frank Slide disaster.

On April 29, 1903 at 4:10 in the morning the east face of Turtle Mountain toppled and slid four kilometres into the Crowsnest River valley. In a mere ninety seconds, 82 million tonnes of limestone collapsed upon the southern end of the Town of Frank, a section of the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) and the mine plant of the Canadian-American Coal Company. In total, at least ninety people were killed. To date, this is Canada’s deadliest rockslide.

In 1977 the Government of Alberta designated the site a Provincial Historic Resource for its significance as the site of Alberta’s worst natural disaster, for it being a geological phenomenon and for it serving as a provincial landmark (to learn more about the site’s heritage value, read the Frank Slide Statement of Significance). Visitors to the area can learn first-hand about the disaster through interactive multi-media displays at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, and by walking the Frank Slide Interpretive Trail.

Interpretive Centre

What force can you exert on a mountain by jumping, stomping, pushing, pulling, lifting ... ?

Four levels of display space recount not only the horrors and triumphs of the people that awoke one morning to find their town buried, but provide geological and seismic information about the causes of the disaster. Audio-visual components and 3-D models allow visitors to visualize how Mother Nature could wreck such havoc. My favourite display was a set of three mountain monitoring sensors that are like those currently installed on Turtle Mountain to detect movement. Visitors are encouraged to stomp, jump, push, pull and lift blocks of concrete connected to a crack meter, tilt meter and seismic sensor. Computer screens reveal how sensitive the monitors are AND how strong YOU are! Yes, I jumped, stomped, pushed and pulled … the next time someone asks I will now be able to confidently state that I really can move mountains!

Interpretive Trail

View of Turtle Mountain near the trail head.

A 1.5 kilometre trail, beginning from the Interpretive Centre parking lot, winds through mounds of limestone rubble. Looming views of Turtle Mountain offer a stark reality check when walking along the trail. Hopes, dreams and memories lay beneath.

I walked the trail with an interpretive brochure in hand. Waypoints marked along the path explained what I saw and some of the events that occurred on that fateful day. The last quarter of the trail winds along the western edge of the fallen rock and loops back up to the parking lot through a wooded area. I paused during this reconnection with nature to read that, “mammals such as bears, deer and moose use these cool, sheltered woodlands to skirt the slide’s harsh, open environment as they move through the Crowsnest River valley. Mule deer can frequently be seen along this portion of the trail, particularly early and late in the day.” Taking a step to carry on my way, I thought how great it would be to see some deer. The breaking of twigs caused me to again pause. To my amazement I looked up to discover four deer staring at me!! All five of us stared. Soon enough they returned to their feeding while I continued staring. What a joy!

Turtle Mountain Web Cameras

The Alberta Geological Survey has installed two web cameras for viewing Turtle Mountain. One is in the valley looking up at the mountain and the other is positioned on the south peak providing a view of the valley below. Click here to see a current view of Turtle Mountain.

The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre is open to the public, daily, from 10:00am to 5:00pm. July 1 through Labour Day, the Centre is open daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm. Click here for additional information.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

P.S. I must extend a big thank you to Monica and Myriah for welcoming me to the Interpretive Centre and for providing a great tour! I really enjoyed my visit.

Alberta’s Culture – What do you think?

On February 24 and 25, 2012 Culture and Community Services hosted Culture Forum 2012. Nearly 400 delegates from all corners of Alberta (representing a cross-section of heritage, arts, creative industry, multicultural, non-profit/voluntary, and corporate organizations) converged on Red Deer College and discussed Alberta’s cultural future. The event featured a dynamic opening ceremony of performances and Pecha Kucha presentations, along with 18 concurrent workshops. For discussion highlights, please click here.

Missed the event? Have opinions on the development of Alberta’s culture? Share your thoughts – the Government of Alberta is seeking input from the public through an online survey. Help the Government enhance Albertans’ quality of life – your quality of life! Provide feedback on your desired priorities. Share your ideas for the heritage, arts, creative industry, multicultural and nonprofit/voluntary sectors. Illustrate which ingredients are necessary for a healthy and sustainable culture. Note: The online survey is only available until March 28, 2012.

Please, forward this invitation to all individuals and organizations that may want to participate in determining Alberta’s cultural future.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

I Defend Heritage. Literally! …Who am I?

Well, not literally! Though I have driven an armoured personnel carrier while employed by a museum, I do not make a habit of using military force to ensure heritage is protected. Who am I? My name is Brenda Manweiler and like my colleagues (Carlo Laforge, Michael Thome and Ron Kelland) who have posted brief biographies, this post will introduce ME!

For those of you who do not know me, I work as a Municipal Heritage Services Officer for the Historic Places Stewardship Section of Alberta Culture and Community Services. I provide guidance, support and training to municipalities in all corners of Alberta so that successful local heritage conservation programs may contribute to the liveability and vitality of Alberta’s communities (check out our website: Municipal Heritage Partnership Program). As well, I administer this blog and coordinate content for our Facebook page and Twitter feed. Between blog posts and business trips I revel in how fortunate I am to be employed in a field that I am passionate about and how great it is that I get to travel throughout this beautiful province.

But what did I do before I landed this gig? The short of it is that I worked in heritage for the federal government, another province, an international museum, and also for municipalities and non-for-profit organizations – but the long of it? Well… for fifteen years I have been working to protect heritage (in one form or another). In 1997 I accepted my very first heritage job as a summer student at the Maple Ridge Museum – I was hooked! As a born and raised Maple Ridge, British Columbia resident (Maple Ridgian?), who was fascinated by history and “old things” since childhood, working at the Maple Ridge Museum was like a dream come true. During summers off from completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Victoria, I worked at a number of Vancouver-area museums (i.e. Pitt Meadows Museum, New Westminster Museum and Archives). After completing my BA I was fortunate to find continued employment in the heritage field. I worked at the Langley Centennial Museum, the BC Farm Machinery and Agricultural Museum and the Surrey Museum and Archives. At these community museums I completed a range of collections management projects or administered education programs for young children.  …Yes, I know how to churn butter, do laundry with a scrub board and complete “heritage” crafts. (Hmmm…I can also drive tractors! You never know what you will learn while working at a museum!!)

When presented with an internship opportunity at the National Army Museum in Waiouru, New Zealand, I could not say no. For six months I worked as the Assistant Curator of their Social History Collection. As a civilian within a military environment I was able to take advantage of many unique opportunities – yes, I really did drive an armoured personnel carrier, and yes, I also successfully completed a civilian version of a firearms qualification exam. Despite all this training, and “Officer” being part of my current job title, let me repeat myself – I do not use (or condone) military force to ensure heritage is protected!  🙂

Upon returning to civilian life, I decided it was time for another return – I went back to school! I completed a master’s degree in Canadian Studies (with a specialization in Heritage Conservation) from Carleton University. While studying in Ottawa I also worked part-time for the City of Ottawa as a Commemorations Coordinator – have you ever tried to complete an inventory of ALL the commemorations in a city of nearly one million people, and the nation’s capital at that? After graduating did I then settle down and obtain my current job? Nope. I spent some time working for the Province of British Columbia’s Heritage Branch as a Community Heritage Officer (very similar to my current job) and then returned to Ottawa for a couple years and worked for the Parks Canada Agency with their Historic Places Program Unit (a.k.a. Canadian Register of Historic Places).

Bouncing back and forth across the country confirmed for me that home is in western Canada. I have been living in Alberta (Edmonton) for the past two and half years (ever since starting my current job as Municipal Heritage Services Officer) and am very pleased to be here. Alberta is beautiful, diverse and rich in heritage!

My career path, thus far, has taken me from conserving a community’s artefacts to helping conserve communities and their significant places. The focus of these approaches may be quite different, but the common threads of community identity, connection to place and community passion is what makes it so pleasurable to work within the heritage field. When not working I train to be a life-long athlete. My sport? Living a healthy and active life. I run, bike, do yoga and enjoy most all other athletic pursuits that involve spending time outside (when it is not -30). Photography is also an interest of mine so a camera bag is often slung over my shoulder. Driving home to BC each summer and photographing mountains has proven to be one of my annual highlights.

But enough about me! Regularly scheduled programming (a post about historic places) will resume shortly. If you have any questions about the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program or other programs offered through the Historic Places Stewardship Section please post a comment below and I will ensure that the appropriate colleague responds.



Win an Annual Pass to Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, Interpretive Centres and Museums

Today is RETROactive’s 1st birthday!

We want YOU to help us celebrate!

Please, no birthday cakes or flowers … but presents of the “feedback” variety are greatly appreciated. We want you, our dedicated followers, to tell us what you think about RETROactive/Alberta’s historic places. This is your opportunity to:

  • suggest ideas for a blog post;
  • ask a question about heritage conservation;
  • tell us about a memorable visit to a historic place in Alberta;
  • share a photo of your favourite historic place in Alberta; and/or
  • tell us what you think about RETROactive.

Everyone who submits feedback will have their names entered to win a 2012 Family Annual Pass (with unlimited admission) to visit all of Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, interpretive centres and museums.

How can I share my feedback?

Submit a comment at the end of this post, write on our Facebook page, Tweet something to @ABhistoricplace or send an email to:

When will the winner be selected? 

All names associated with feedback received by 08:30MT, February 27, 2012 will be entered to win the Annual Pass. The winner will then be contacted to arrange for delivery of the Pass.

On behalf of staff of the Historic Places Stewardship Section (a.k.a. RETROactive Authors), we would like to thank you for your support and continued interest in the conservation of heritage AND in creating a future for Alberta’s historic places!

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

A Recipe for Success: Planning, Procedures and Policies

The Holden Cenotaph with the Globe Lumber Company Building. Both resources were evaluated for the Municipal Heritage Inventory project completed in 2011.

The Village of Holden, located an hour southeast of Edmonton on Highway 14 with a population of 400, is developing a Municipal Heritage Management Plan. In 2011 the Village completed a combined Municipal Heritage Survey and Inventory but decided that before proceeding with the designation of Municipal Historic Resources it would be best to have a “recipe” for establishing a successful local heritage conservation program.

Throughout 2012, Village staff and the Holden Heritage Resources Committee will be working with a heritage consultant to develop a plan appropriate to the Village’s needs and objectives. Elements of the plan will include:

  • a template bylaw for Municipal Historic Resource designations;
  • a policy outlining the designation process and eligibility requirements;
  • a terms of reference for the Holden Heritage Resources Committee (i.e. vision, mission);
  • a procedure for reviewing requests to alter Municipal Historic Resources;
  • a review of potential incentives (monetary and non-monetary) that the Village may offer to owners of Municipal Historic Resources; and
  • an assessment of other municipal planning documents to see how heritage might be integrated with land-use and  Village programs and services.

Over the course of this project, the greater community will also be engaged. Feedback from residents will be imperative for ensuring that the Heritage Management Plan appropriately serves the interests of residents and thereby conserves the valued places that make Holden a unique community.

Stay tuned throughout the year for updates on this project!

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

MHPP Funding Deadlines (2012)

The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (MHPP) provides cost-shared funding opportunities to Alberta municipalities for the identification, evaluation and management of local historic places. Municipal Heritage Services staff are also available to provide guidance and training to Alberta municipalities to enable successful identification and conservation of local historic places.

Funding proposals from municipalities are accepted on an on-going basis. These proposals are then reviewed by the board of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.

2012 MHPP funding deadlines:

  • February 3, 2012
  • April 13, 2012
  • September 21, 2012
  • November 2, 2012 

If you would like to learn more about MHPP funding opportunities, or discuss project ideas please contact MHPP staff.

The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation also supports a range of community and individual heritage initiatives through the Heritage Preservation Partnership Program.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Brrrrr… Oh, wait! It isn’t that cold!

Sitting at my desk enjoying the sun streaming in through the window, I can’t help but wonder what Eda Owen would think about the unseasonably warm winter we are experiencing. Who is Eda Owen, you ask? Working out of the Owen Residence / Dominion Meteorological Station in Edmonton, Owen was a pioneering meteorologist serving from 1915 to 1943. She was one of only a small number of female meteorologists working at weather stations throughout the world.

The Owen Residence / Dominion Meteorological Station was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1994, in part, because of its association with Eda Owen. On the Alberta Register of Historic Places, the Statement of Significance says:

In 1908, Eda and Herbert William Owen emigrated from London to Edmonton. After a number of temporary employments in his new home, Herbert accepted a position as an assistant in the Dominion government’s Meteorological Office. In 1913, the weather office was moved into the Owen residence in the Highlands neighbourhood. Wartime exigencies prompted both Owen and his supervisor, Captain S. M. Holmden, to enlist in 1915 for active service overseas. In their absence, Eda Owen, who had learned the arts of reading navigational charts and employing scientific instruments from her husband, took over meteorological duties at the Highlands station. Herbert never returned home, dying in a prisoner of war camp in Europe. Though overcome by grief, Eda continued her work at the station. In 1921, following a brief spell as an assistant meteorologist, she was formally named Provincial Agent and Weather Observer for Alberta by the federal Department of Marine and Fisheries. Her work was incredibly demanding. The Highlands station was arguably the most significant meteorological post outside of Toronto. Eda was required to take hourly readings from 36 different instruments throughout the day and compile reports from over 140 stations in the region. The information she amassed had wide currency, being circulated to forest rangers, aviators, agriculturalists, as well as radio and newspaper personnel. For most of her service from 1915 until she resigned her post in 1943, Eda was the only woman employed as an observer at a major Canadian meteorological station. Indeed, she was one of only a handful of woman meteorologists at major stations in the world at the time. As a result of her trailblazing work, she garnered international acclaim. MacLeans, the Toronto Star Weekly, and the Christian Science Monitor all featured Eda in their pages, hailing the “Weather Woman of the West” as a pioneer in a scientific field largely dominated by men.

What would Owen think of our warm winter? We will never know, but I would like to think that between readings from the 36 meteorological instruments she would have found time to enjoy the warm spring-like conditions.

To read the complete Statement of Significance, please click here.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer