Municipal Historic Resource designation refresher series: determining significance

Editor’s note: Welcome to the second 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 be discussing how to determine if a historic place is eligible for designation.You can read the first 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 or 780-431-2309.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator, Sandy Aumonier, Heritage Conservation Adviser and Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer.

Determining significance

Typically, most folks agree that preserving significant historic resources in our province is important. While it is relatively easy to identify the ‘old’ stuff, how do you go about determining which historic resources are significant and should be considered for protection?

In order to be considered for protection as a Municipal Historic Resource (MHR), a site needs to:

  • be an eligible resource type
  • possess historical significance
  • have sufficient material integrity

If a site meets all three of these of these criteria, it can be considered for MHR designation.

Read more

Alberta Remembers

The Beverly Cenotaph, a simple stone obelisk, was unveiled on October 17, 1920. (City of Edmonton Archives, EA-160-14)

On November 11, 1918, after more than four years of fighting the “war to end war”, an armistice was called in France and all hostilities came to an end on the Western Front of the First World War. While the battles may have ceased, the effects of the conflict continued to reverberate around the world and across the years, even to the present day, a century later.

Albertans were among those who fought alongside fellow British citizens, as well as French and American soldiers – among others – to defeat Germany and its allies. Estimates place the number of Albertan soldiers at 48,885 – or over one third of the province’s male population aged 18 to 45. Of these, about one in eight did not return from the war, and almost half of those who did return had been wounded.1 The effect of the distant, unseen war was felt throughout the province on a personal level.

One way Albertans dealt with the trauma and loss was to come together and commemorate those who had sacrificed their lives. A model for these activities was provided by “Peace Day”, celebrated on July 19, 1919, in London, England, in honour of the signing of the Treaty of Read more

Alberta’s Wooden Country Grain Elevators – Update

This post was originally published on RETROactive on March 6th, 2012 and again on August 26, 2015. Interest in grain elevators remains strong, so a revisit seems in order. Some additional data has been added, an updated list of communities with elevators can be accessed below, as well as a variety of resources and documents relating to Alberta’s Grain elevators.

The twentieth century saw the rise and fall—literally—of the wooden country grain elevator in Alberta. As rail lines spread across the province in the early 1900s, grain elevators sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rain. The height of wooden country grain elevators was reached in 1934. New ones continued to be added until the 1990s, but with increasing numbers being demolished, these icons of the prairie became scarcer. Today, the remaining wooden country grain elevators number only about six percent of the maximum reached in the 1930s. Check out the following “index” of Alberta’s wooden country grain elevators, called “elevators” for short in this article.

Number of elevators in Alberta: Read more

Ask an Expert: The Nite’n Day Café

Have you ever heard of the Nite’n Day Café in Edmonton, formerly located at 118 Avenue and 80 Street? We recently had an inquiry on our Facebook page about the café through our Ask an Expert feature. The call was put out to our experts and, while no one had heard of it before, they did dig up some information! Read more

Claiming their Ground – Three Pioneering Alberta Women in their Professions

October is Women’s History Month in Canada, when we celebrate the achievements of women throughout our past and use their stories to inspire Canadians today. The twentieth century saw women entering occupations previously the exclusive domain of men. A variety of circumstances combined to allow these advances, including the rise of public education, social activism culminating in universal suffrage, legal challenges that established women as “persons” and the upheaval created by two world wars. These changes are not sufficient to explain the careers of the three women described in this blog; it took determination, persistence, courage and intelligence for them to succeed and carve a place for themselves as professional women in these fields that were predominantly, if not exclusively, the preserve of men.

Diane Loranger, geologist, ca. 1946-1947. (Glenbow Archives, IP-14A-1470)

Read more

Alberta’s Wooden Country Grain Elevators

This post was originally published on RETROactive on March 6th, 2012. Farmers across the province will soon be busy with harvest so we thought it appropriate to highlight a previous post associated with Alberta’s agricultural past. Please note that these statistics are from 2012.

The twentieth century saw the rise and fall – literally – of the wooden country grain elevator in Alberta. As rail lines spread across the province, grain elevators sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rain. The high water mark for wooden country grain elevators was in 1934. New elevators were added in every decade, but this has been exceeded by the rate of demolition or closure ever since. Check out the following “index” of Alberta’s wooden country elevators, called “elevators” for short in this list.

Rowley Grain Elevator Row, Provincial Historic Resource

Number of elevators in Alberta:

  • in 1934:  1,781
  • in 1951:  1,651
  • in 1982:  979
  • in 1997: 327
  • in 2005: 156
  • in 2012 on railway rights-of-way:  130

Number of communities with:

  • at least one elevator:  95
  • 2 or more elevators:  26
  • 3 or more elevators:  7
  • 4 or more elevators:  1 (Warner)
Alberta Pacific Grain Elevator Site Complex, Meeting Creek, Provincial Historic Resource

Additional statistics:

  • Number of elevators in Alberta’s longest row:  6
  • Oldest remaining elevator: 1905 (Raley)
  • Number of remaining elevators that pre-date 1910:  3 (Raley, St. Albert, De Winton)
  • Newest remaining elevator: 1988 (Woodgrove)
  • Decade with the largest number of surviving elevators:  1920s (33)
  • Decade with the second largest number of surviving elevators:  1980s (26)
  • Decade with the fewest (after pre-1910) number of surviving elevators:  1940s (5)
  • Number of elevators that have been designated a Provincial Historic Resource (PHR):  13
  • Number of communities with at least one elevator designated as a PHR:  10
  • Oldest designated elevator: 1906 (St. Albert)
  • Newest designated elevator:  Leduc (1978)
Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator, Paradise Valley, Provincial Historic Resource

For a list of communities in Alberta with designated and non-designated elevators, please click here.

Please Note:

  • Grain elevators that have been moved off railway rights-of-way – to a farmyard or a museum, for instance – are not included in these statistics.
  • Grain elevators located on railway rights-of-way where the rails have been torn up are included in these statistics.
  • Concrete or steel elevators are not included.
  • Elevators used for other purposes, such as seed cleaning or fertilizer storage, are not included.
  • Most of these elevators were last documented by the Heritage Survey in 2005. It is possible that some of the elevators on the list are now gone.

Additional Information:

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator

Get Outta Town!

The August long weekend is fast approaching. Before we know it Heritage Day – Monday, August 4 – will be upon us. If you are wondering what to do with your day off, why not consider a heritage-themed outing? This is the perfect time of year to explore Alberta’s rural historic resources.

The cover of the Victoria Trail Historical Walking and Driving Tours booklet.
The cover of the Victoria Trail Historical Walking and Driving Tours booklet.

If you are in the Edmonton area, an ideal destination for a heritage day trip is the Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site, located one hour and forty minutes northeast of the city. It is a perfect location for a picnic, and there’s plenty to see there. Before you head out of town, make sure you download or print out the Victoria Trail Historical Walking and Driving Tours booklet that is available on the Alberta Culture website. It contains information about the buildings at the settlement, and, once you’ve finished exploring the historic site, you can follow the tour back towards Edmonton along the historic Victoria Trail.

There are two Provincial Historic Resources at the Victoria Settlement Historic Site: Fort Victoria, a Hudson’s Bay Company building dating from the 1860s, and the 1882 Free Trader’s Cabin on River Lot #3. In addition, you can see the Reverend McDougall Graves, where four of the missionary’s family members – victims of an epidemic of smallpox in the 1870s – are buried. A 1906 Methodist Church on the site recalls the important role of the church in the settlement of the area.

Victoria Trail Plan
This plan of Indian Reserve No. 126 shows the Victoria Trail as it follows a curve in the North Saskatchewan River. (NCR 291)

The Victoria Trail is a scenic drive that winds along the bank of the North Saskatchewan River. Unlike many other historic routes, it has remained largely undeveloped and evocative of days gone by. As you traverse the Victoria Trail, it is easy to imagine yourself in the company of those who came before. After 1860, convoys of Red River carts carrying supplies to Edmonton wore ruts into the sod. In 1874, the first North-West Mounted Police contingent famously trekked west along the trail. After the turn of the century, traffic flowed the other way, with Ukrainian settlers coming east from Edmonton to settle on the land. Until the coming of the railway in 1918, the Victoria Trail remained the most important overland route linking Edmonton the Victoria Settlement.

Red River Cart
Red River carts like this one were a common sight on the Victoria Trail in the 1860s. (PAA B5806)

This Heritage Day, treat yourself to a journey back in time, along the Victoria Trail.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Coordinator, Heritage Survey Program

Interpreting an Icelandic Settlement

Markerville Tour Booklet Re-vamped and Re-launched!

cover of the Markerville & District Historical Tour booklet
Markerville & District Historical Tour booklet

The Stephan G. Stephansson Icelandic Society has just published a 3rd edition of the Markerville tour booklet. Re-named Icelandic Settlement: Markerville and District Historical Tour, the revised and re-designed booklet is packed with information and historic photographs.

Starting in the late 19th century, settlers of Icelandic descent arrived and started building a community on the banks of the Medicine River. The hamlet of Markerville never grew to any great size, but it was a vibrant community with several businesses as well as a church and hall. The Icelandic heritage of the early settlers gave Markerville a distinctive character.

Today, Markerville has four Provincial Historic Resources that help tell its story. The Stephan G. Stephansson Icelandic Society owns and operates three: the Markerville Creamery, the Markerville Lutheran Church, and the Fensala Hall. The Stephansson Memorial, located just across the Medicine River in Markerville Park, is also a Provincial Historic Resource.

Close by is another Provincial Historic Resource, the Stephan G. Stephansson House, home of an early settler who became famous for his poetry in the Icelandic language. The house is also the centerpiece of the Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site, one of the interpretative sites run by Alberta Culture.

Markerville is located southwest of Red Deer, at the centre of Alberta’s historic Icelandic settlement area. This part of the province is not only scenic, it has a wealth of historic interest as well.

The tour booklet provides background information, and a route map to guide you through the tour.

Alberta Culture assisted the Stephan G. Stephansson Icelandic Society in revising the tour booklet; the society also received funding from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation to assist with the cost of its publication. Copies of the booklet are available from the Society at the Markerville Creamery Historic Site in Markerville.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator

All Aboard for an Alberta Architecture Adventure!

The Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada held its 39th Annual Conference in Edmonton

Opening reception at Edmonton’s City Hall
Opening reception at Edmonton’s City Hall

From May 29 through June 1 delegates from across the country (and a few from the United States and Europe) were treated to presentations, discussions and tours addressing a variety of aspects of Canadian architectural history. The conference kick-off was hosted at Edmonton’s city hall, and featured a talk and tour by the building’s architect, Gene Dub. Not surprisingly, he had many interesting anecdotes and insights to relate—including the memorable connection between the building and the Edmonton Sun newspaper’s 3rd page Sunshine Girls!

Three full days of events followed. There were 10 session featuring over 40 speakers. To fit them all in, there were always two sessions on the go. How to choose? Would you rather learn about how cities are transformed by renewal, or what trends are influencing how architecture is taught in Canada? Are you more interested in the future of historic churches, or the place of Arthur Erickson in Canada’s architectural history? Those interested in a lively Pecha Kucha format discussion of the role of government programs in the conservation and commemoration of the built environment had to forego a panel discussion entitled “Architecture and the Canadian Fabric.” For students and professionals in the architectural history field, these are difficult decisions!

Jennifer Kirchner, Planner with the City of Lacombe, showed us around main street.
Jennifer Kirchner, Planner with the City of Lacombe, showed us around main street.

Of course, delegates also found time to socialize, make connections and catch up on all the latest work being done in the field. No conference is complete without receptions and a night on the town! The grand finale of the conference was an all-day bus tour of historic buildings and communities in central Alberta. The day was bright and sunny as the bus set off from Edmonton. First stop was the 1907 Wetaskiwin Court House, which was converted to serve as the city hall in 2006. Next on the route was Lacombe, where Roland Michener House and the Flat Iron Building are just two of the Provincial Historic Resources the delegates visited in the city’s historic main street area. After an excellent lunch, the group continued on to Stettler and boarded the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursion’s train for Big Valley.

SSAC members departing Stettler by train.
departing Stettler on a train

The Canadian National Railways Steam Locomotive 6060—also a Provincial Historic Resource—was in the shop, but the historic train cars were a great way to set the scene. Stepping off the train at the 1912 Canadian Northern Railway Station in Big Valley was like stepping back in time. This impression was reinforced by the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator which, though it was built in 1960, is of a type that changed little since the early 1900s. On the hill overlooking the town is the well-known “Blue Church”, St. Edmund’s Anglican.

Rowley's Grain Elevator Row.
Rowley Grain Elevator Row

The final stop on the tour was Rowley, where the spectacular Rowley Grain Elevator Row symbolizes Alberta’s agricultural heritage. After a barbeque, a wander around town, and musical entertainment by Robin Woywitka and the Super 92, it was back on the bus and heading for home. The on-board movie was “Bye Bye Blues.” Watch it if you get a chance—it was filmed on location in Rowley! By the time the bus dropped us off in Edmonton, it was after midnight. Some went directly to their Whyte Avenue hotel, but on Whyte the night was just getting started, so doubtless others continued their Alberta adventures into the wee small hours!

I’d like to thank the people and organizations who contributed to the success of the SSAC 2013 Edmonton conference. It’s impossible to name them all, but special thanks go out to:

delegates pose in front of the Big Valley station.
delegates pose in front of the Big Valley station.

I look forward to seeing you all next year.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator

Birds of a Feather Studying Buildings Together


Architectural Historians Gather in Edmonton

The Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada is holding its annual conference in Edmonton from May 29 to June 1. This year’s event, Infrastructures and Institutions: Settings for Life, will bring people from across Canada together to share information and ideas about architectural history, heritage resource management and other related topics. Over 40 speakers will participate 10 sessions on the University of Alberta campus.

Ministry of Culture staff will make presentations in Session 5: The Role of Government Programs in the Conservation and Commemoration of the Built Environment. This will be a lively, Pecha Kucha format session that promises to be very interesting and engaging. Other sessions will address Aboriginal themes in contemporary architecture, teaching architectural or design history in Canada, the role of churches in our communities, and the place of Arthur Erickson in the history of Canadian public architecture, among other topics. The third day of the conference is given over to an all-day bus tour that includes a train ride and banquet.

You’re welcome to attend! To register, visit the conference page of the society’s website.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator