New Heritage Marker Unveiled in Big Valley

On Friday, August 1, 2014 another heritage maker was unveiled to join the family of over 70 provincial markers located throughout Alberta. Situated in Big Valley, the heritage marker profiles the early history and architectural significance of a prominent local landmark – the St. Edmund’s Anglican Church.

The unveiling of the St. Edmund’s heritage marker coincided with the Big Valley centennial and homecoming celebrations that took place August 1 – 3, 2014. L to R: Gail Knudson, Mayor of Big Valley; Asaph Johnson, Village Councillor; Brenda Manweiler, Historic Places Research and Designation; Lois Miller, Village Councillor and Director, Big Valley Historical Society; Trudy Spence, Secretary, Big Valley Historical Society
The unveiling of the St. Edmund’s heritage marker coincided with the Big Valley centennial and homecoming celebrations that took place August 1 – 3, 2014.
L to R: Gail Knudson, Mayor of Big Valley; Asaph Johnson, Village Councillor; Brenda Manweiler, Historic Places Research and Designation; Lois Miller, Village Councillor and Director, Big Valley Historical Society; Trudy Spence, Secretary, Big Valley Historical Society

St. Edmund’s, valued by residents of Big Valley as an important part of their heritage, was constructed in 1916 through local donations and a $500 contribution from English citizen Caroline Leffler. Leffler offered the donation to the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary to establish a church in an area of his choice. Big Valley was selected and the church was constructed on the crest of the valley, visible from miles away. Still today, St. Edmund’s Anglican Church stands as a significant community landmark.

In 2002 St. Edmund’s was designated a Provincial Historic Resource for its associations with the town’s history as a railway boomtown and as a very good example of modest Gothic Revival architecture. St. Edmund’s was first painted blue in 1974 for Big Valley’s initial homecoming – 40 years ago!

The Big Valley Historical Society applied for the development of the heritage marker through the Alberta Heritage Markers Program, which is funded by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. Historical society members and local residents are excited about the heritage marker as it will help to celebrate the provincial significance of the church and increase awareness for this important historic place.

The Alberta Heritage Markers Program promotes greater awareness of the historic people, places, events, and themes that have defined the character of our province. The program brings Alberta’s dynamic history alive through heritage markers placed at roadside pullouts, within parks, and in other community locales.

St. Edmund's_FINAL

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Manager of Historic Places Research and Designation

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

Alberta’s Energy Resources Heritage Website

Energy Resources Website HomepageThe Historic Resources Management Branch of Alberta Culture is pleased to announce the launch of the Alberta Energy Resources Heritage website. The site was developed with the aim of promoting an understanding and appreciation of the Province’s abundant energy resources, the rich history of resource extraction and production, and the important role that this sector has played and continues to play in Alberta’s social, political and economic history.

Turner Valley Discovery Well Blowing, 1914. (Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1883.)
Turner Valley Discovery Well Blowing, 1914.
(Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1883.)

As the homepage of the website points out:

“Ancient forces shaped Alberta’s geology, creating a land rich in energy resources. Yet, the story of energy in this province goes well beyond geological formations or petroleum chemistry. It is also the story of individuals, of people driven to reveal the province’s energy secrets and unlock the power of its resources. The quest to locate and unlock Alberta’s energy potential began with them—with their persistence, their innovative thinking and even their passion. It was their energy as much as any other that transformed Alberta, economically, socially and politically.”

Five areas of Alberta’s resource development are explored in detail: coal, conventional oil, natural gas, electricity and alternative energy and the oil sands. Also profiled is Bitumount, north of Fort McMurray where the earliest scientific research on industrial oil sands extraction took place. This pioneering work would later transform Alberta into a major player in the global energy market.

Calgary Power’s power house at Horseshoe Falls on the Bow River, ca. 1912 (Glenbow Archives, NA-3544-28.)
Calgary Power’s power house at Horseshoe Falls on the Bow River, ca. 1912
(Glenbow Archives, NA-3544-28.)

The website is intended to be informative and comprehensive, offering insights into the geological formation of resources, the ancient uses of various energy resources and exploration and industrialization within Alberta. Energy resources are examined through over 300 thematic entries, covered in more than 600 pages of text. Hundreds of archival images, charts, maps, and documents as well as dozens of videos augment the text as do extensive technical glossaries and lists of documentary sources. In addition to exploring the earliest and evolving histories of these sectors the site offers special insights into Alberta’s social history ranging from the miners of the Crowsnest Pass through to the rough necks of the Oil Patch, to pioneering proponents of alternative solutions for the province’s ongoing energy requirements.

Educators, students and the general public are invited to visit the website and explore its various components.

Written by: Peter Melnycky, Historian.

Place Names of the Turner Valley Oil and Gas Boom – Part 1

May 14, 2014 was the one-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of oil and gas at Turner Valley. In recognition of this milestone, we are offering a short series highlighting some of the place names associated with the oil and gas heritage of the Turner Valley area.

Turner Valley oil and Gas Names (Map)Turner Valley

In 1886, two brothers from Scotland, Robert and James Turner, filed for homestead on neighbouring quarter sections (the S.E. and S.W. quarters of Section 10, Township 21, Range 3, West of the Fifth Meridian) at the northern end of a large valley near the north fork of “Sheep Creek.” (To add a heaping helping of confusion to this story, what was then called Sheep Creek is now the Sheep River and its north fork, or tributary, is now named Threepoint Creek. Isn’t naming fun!) The Turner brothers, soon joined by a cousin, John Turner, acquired more land for their ranch and became noted breeders of purebred Clydesdale horses.

Due to the early arrival and prominence of the Turner family, the valley containing their original homesteads soon became known as Turner Valley. At the time, responsibility for naming geographical features lay with the federal government and the name Turner Valley was adopted by the Geographic Board of Canada as the valley’s official name in December 1943, although it was being used on government maps since at least 1926.

Photo of Catherine (née Dawson) and Robert Turner, ca. 1905, taken on the Turner ranch at the northern end of Turner Valley. (Glenbow Archives, NA-701-2.)
Photo of Catherine (née Dawson) and Robert Turner, ca. 1905, taken on the Turner ranch at the northern end of Turner Valley. (Glenbow Archives, NA-701-2.)

On May 14, 1914, towards the other end of the valley, an oil well known as Dingman No. 1, owned by Calgary Petroleum Products struck gas. Although DIngman No. 1 was not the first productive well in Alberta—that distinction goes to a well in Waterton Lakes National Park (See Cameron Creek) it was our province’s the first significant discovery.

The Dingman No. 1 and Dingman No. 2 wells on the banks of the Sheep River, Turner Valley, 1914. These two wells ushered in Alberta’s first major oil boom, which saw the drilling of hundreds of wells and the establishment of numerous communities in the Turner Valley region. (Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1304.)
The Dingman No. 1 and Dingman No. 2 wells on the banks of the Sheep River, Turner Valley, 1914. These two wells ushered in Alberta’s first major oil boom, which saw the drilling of hundreds of wells and the establishment of numerous communities in the Turner Valley region. (Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1304.)

Over the ensuing decades the name Turner Valley became one of the best known locales in the province and the name became synonymous with Alberta’s oil and gas sector. A town site, also named Turner Valley was established. A post office opened here in 1926 and, in 1930, with a population of about 700 people, Turner Valley was incorporated as a village. It became a town in 1977.

Black Diamond

Just to the east of the Town of Turner Valley, is the Town of Black Diamond. The name is inspired by the coal deposits found in the area. A coal mine opened in 1899 and a small community serving the mine and the area’s ranchers and homesteaders began to develop.

According to local lore, in 1907, when it came time to choose a name for the newly established post office, two contenders arose: “Arnoldville” was championed by the Arnold brothers who owned the general store that would house the post office, and “Black Diamond” was put forward by Addison McPherson, the owner and operator of the Black Diamond Coal Mine a short distance to the southwest. Allegedly, both were written on scraps of paper and put into a hat. You can guess which name was drawn.

Addison McPherson’s “Black Diamond” coal mine, ca. 1913-1916. The local post office and the community it served were named for this coal mine. (Glenbow Archives, NA-5139-1.)
Addison McPherson’s “Black Diamond” coal mine, ca. 1913-1916. The local post office and the community it served were named for this coal mine. (Glenbow Archives, NA-5139-1.)

Following the Dingman No. 1 discovery, Black Diamond boomed, reaching a reported population of 800 by 1930. A local history tells of round-the-clock construction and single lots containing up to seven homes. Black Diamond became a village in 1929. It suffered during the Great Depression, loosing up to a quarter of its official population before rebounding in 1937 following a major oil discovery in 1936. Black Diamond was the largest population centre in the immediate area, reaching a population of 1,380 in 1947 before falling again through the late-1940s and 1950s. Regardless, in 1956, with a population of 991, Black Diamond was incorporated as a town.

Commercial district of Black Diamond, January 1932. Although it Pre-existed the Turner Valley oil and gas discovery, Black Diamond grew rapidly to serve the burgeoning industry. (Provincial Archives of Alberta , A6999.)
Commercial district of Black Diamond, January 1932. Although it Pre-existed the Turner Valley oil and gas discovery, Black Diamond grew rapidly to serve the burgeoning industry. (Provincial Archives of Alberta , A6999.)

To be continued … More Turner Valley oil and gas names to come!

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator.

Location

Turner Valley (valley)
National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 J/09 – Turner Valley
Latitude/Longitude:  50°42’33”N / 114°18’11”W (approximate mid-point)
Alberta Township System: 23-20-3-W5 (approximate mid-point)
Description: Large valley with a northwest to southeast orientation, located approximately 40 kilometres southwest of downtown Calgary

Turner Valley (town)
National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 J/09 – Turner Valley
Latitude/Longitude:  50°44’31”N / 114°16’49”W
Alberta Township System: 12-20-3-W5
Description: Near the southeastern edge of the valley, approximately 45 kilometres SSW of downtown Calgary

Black Diamond (town)
National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 J/09 – Turner Valley
Latitude/Longitude:  50°41’17”N / 114°14’04”W
Alberta Township System: 8-20-2-W5
Description: Approximately 40 kilometres SSW of downtown Calgary and three kilometres northeast of Turner Valley (town)

Additional Resources

High River Pioneers’ and Old Timers’ Association. Leaves from the Medicine Tree. Lethbridge: The Lethbridge Herald, 1960. Accessed om July 21, 2014. http://www.ourfutureourpast.ca/loc_hist/toc.aspx?id=4123

In the Light of the Flares: History of Turner Valley Oilfields. Turner Valley: Sheep River Historical Society, 1979. Accessed on  July 21, 2014. http://www.ourfutureourpast.ca/loc_hist/toc.aspx?id=7575

Our Foothills Calgary: Millarville, Kew, Priddis and Bragg Creek Historical Society, 1975. Accessed on July 21, 2014. http://www.ourfutureourpast.ca/loc_hist/toc.aspx?id=4134

Manager of Historic Places Research and Designation Program Leads Diverse Identification, Research, and Protection Efforts

As Manager of the Historic Places Research and Designation Program, Brenda Manweiler heads what may be the unit with the greatest variety of responsibilities within the Historic Resources Management Branch. Brenda joined the branch as a Municipal Heritage Services Officer in 2009, after working for museums, British Columbia’s Heritage Branch, and Parks Canada. She has been in her current position since April 2013.

Brenda Manweiler, pausing for a moment during a busy day.
Brenda Manweiler, pausing for a moment during a busy day.

She now heads a six-member team of historians and heritage specialists. The unit’s primary role is administering the Provincial Historic Resources Designation Program (described below). But there’s much more!

In addition, her group provides ongoing advice on how best to address the impact on historic structures (that are not designated) in cases where they may be affected by development in Alberta. This is part of an integrated regulatory function that Alberta Culture administers for the preservation of historic resources.

Members of her staff provide research services to many of the historic sites operated by the Historic Sites and Museums Branch of Alberta Culture. Their services help, for example, to develop exhibits at these sites.

The Historic Places Research and Designation Program also works closely with the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. The unit’s staff evaluates applications for Heritage Awareness, Research, and Publication grants submitted to the Foundation’s Heritage Preservation Partnership Program.

Creating Heritage Markers

As well, this unit is responsible for the Foundation’s Heritage Markers Program. This program supports the development of heritage markers that promote awareness of the historic people, places, events, and themes that have defined the character of the province. The markers are ideally sized for placement within parks, along trails or sidewalks, and in other community locales. Once the topic of a new marker has been selected, unit staff members develop the text, select photographs, and are responsible for coordinating the design, fabrication, and installation of the markers.

The unit includes the coordinators for two other programs, as well:

What kind of historic places are “out there” in Alberta?

The Coordinator of the Alberta Heritage Survey Program oversees a database of information about non-archaeological historic resources across the province. The Alberta Heritage Survey was established in the mid-1970s, has information dating back to 1971, and is being continually updated. Entries about individual resources include photographs, details of architectural characteristics, history, designation status, and location. This information comes from heritage surveys of neighbourhoods or building types, many of which have been commissioned by municipal governments and conducted by consultants and heritage groups. Today there are almost 100,000 individual resources documented on a searchable online database.

How do Geographical Features Get Names?

The Coordinator of the Geographical Names Program manages the process to formally name geographical features in Alberta. Names are chosen in accordance with international standards and guidelines, with preference usually given to names that have a demonstrated local and/or historical usage. The coordinator’s work includes communicating with governmental organizations from the municipal to international level, disseminating geographical names information from both popular and scholarly sources, maintaining records, and conducting related field and archival research. All this leads to making a recommendation on a name to the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation board and the Minister of Alberta Culture.

How do places get designated?

The Historic Places Research and Designation Program’s largest responsibility, however, is the Provincial Historic Resources Designation Program, which identifies, evaluates, and designates those historic resources that are most significant to the province as a whole. Resources eligible for consideration include structures, archaeological sites, palaeontological resources, and other works of humans or nature that are of value for their historic, cultural, natural, scientific, or aesthetic interest.

Once a resource is designated, its owner cannot destroy, disturb, alter, restore, or repair it without written approval from the provincial government. But the owner gains tangible benefits, including access to conservation grants and technical advice, and the intangible benefit of knowing that a valued property will be preserved and protected into the future. Currently there are some 360 sites protected as Provincial Historic Resources in Alberta.

Owners or advocates interested in obtaining heritage designation for a property often start by contacting Brenda for advice. She’ll ask questions to determine if the property is eligible for consideration, and to gauge whether designation should be pursued at the provincial or municipal level, or both. Occasionally one of the branch’s Heritage Conservation Advisers will make a site visit to answer property owners’ questions and assess the potential eligibility of their property for designation.

Once an application is received, Brenda administers the evaluation process. The Designation Committee, made up of her staff plus staff of the Heritage Conservation Advisory Services unit, meets about every six weeks to confirm the eligibility of new applications and to monitor the progress for sites currently under study. The Designation Committee works to determine if the site has heritage significance (according to five specific evaluation criteria), and a Heritage Conservation Adviser studies the site to determine if it retains enough integrity to communicate that significance. Much archival and onsite research is required to complete an in-depth evaluation. If the committee recommends designation and that is approved at a higher level, the owner is informed and his or her support is obtained, a designation order is signed, and the site is listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places, an online database of all designated historic resources in Alberta.

Benefits of Designation

Why would owners want their properties designated? Brenda explains: “They believe that they have a property that’s of significance. They want to keep it around so that future generations can enjoy it and benefit from it, so that it can continue to be a part of the communities that they live in. Also, the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation provides conservation grants to property owners of designated resources, which serves as a fantastic incentive for people to conserve their property for the long term.”

There have been about five new applications since Brenda started in her position nearly a year ago, so she estimates that five to ten per year would be the norm. Her team is currently working through the evaluation process for approximately twenty sites.

So Brenda’s job involves lots of paperwork and administrative management. But she never loses sight of what it’s all for: “So many people work in this field because they feel passionately about the buildings, and I’m certainly no different there,” she says. “But for me, so much of it comes down to the people: the applicants, the owners, the community members. The public is so passionate about the sites that they so want to see conserved. I love being able to work with the public to help them reach their goals of contributing to a legacy for Alberta.”

Written by: Kerri Rubman.

New Uses for Old Places – King Edward School, Calgary

New Uses for Old Places is a RETROactive series in which we are looking at examples from around Alberta of historic sites that have found interesting new uses for spaces that were originally designed for other purposes. In this last installment we will be looking at King Edward School in the neighbourhood of South Calgary as an example of adaptive reuse project underway to repurpose the building as a mixed-use arts incubator (a place that nurtures the growth and development of artists and arts organizations).

King Edward SchoolThe King Edward School was constructed in 1912 as a four-storey building that features a symmetrical design, rock-faced sandstone walls and a dressed sandstone front entrance. During its time as an institution of learning, the School also functioned as a community hub, hosting dances and other events. The school operated as versions of both King Edward Elementary/Junior High School and South Calgary High School. The school closed in 2001 and sat empty…until now.

In 2011, cSPACE Projects was established by the Calgary Arts Development Authority and the Calgary Foundation for the purpose of promoting opportunities for artist and non-profit arts/community groups. cSPACE became the new owners of the property and is now embarking on an ambitious rehabilitation effort.

Credit: www.cspaceprojects.com
Credit: http://www.cspaceprojects.com

The project involved the removal of a 1960s addition that was deemed to be non-character-defining to the historic value of the place as well as the construction of a new addition and two adjacent art studio pavilions. Modelled around the concept of providing a ‘creative commons’, ‘learning commons’ and ‘community commons’, the finished product will include facilities for artistic production, exhibition and rehearsal and will serve as home to a range of arts organizations and independent artists.

To learn more about this project, watch this video:

As part of the project the owner and the City of Calgary have entered into an agreement to ensure that the King Edward School will be designated a Municipal Historic Resource.

(A related example is that of the Hudson’s Bay Company Stables / Ortona Armoury in Edmonton’s Rossdale Neighbourhood that is operated by the Ortona Armoury Tenants Association, a group established to coordinate the involvement of the wide range of artists and related groups currently utilizing the space. The property was designated as a municipal historic resource in 2004.)

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.

Heritage by Numbers

header_ARHP

Research and evaluation are important tools for managing Alberta’s historic resources. They help us to set our strategic plans and policies for the future, understand how our grants and programs are working and measure the impact we have made – both on historic places and the people who enjoy them.

So here are a few fun facts that you might not have known about heritage in Alberta:

  • The oldest known building in Alberta still on its original foundation is the Clerk’s Quarters at Fort Victoria near Pakan, which dates from 1865.
  • The first building recognized as a historic resource was the Bitumount Site at Fort McMurray on 4th December 1974.

    A recent photograph of the McLaughlin-Nelson Home.
    The McLaughlin-Nelson Home is the most recent addition to the Alberta Register of Historic Places.
  • Since 2000 the number of places recognized with a designation has increased: 41 percent of all Provincial Historic Resources designations and 84 percent of all Municipal Historic Resources designations occurred during this period. 2001 and 2009 were important years for Provincial Historic Resource designation: 17 buildings were listed both years. For Municipal Historic Resources 2009 was an important year: 45 buildings were listed.
  • With 58 Provincial Historic Resources in Calgary and 48 Provincial Historic Resources in Edmonton these two cities have the most in the province. This is followed by Lethbridge (12), Fort MacLeod (9), and Medicine Hat (8).
  • Edmonton has the most Municipal Historic Resources with 91 in total, where Calgary has 35. This is followed by Red Deer (11), Banff (8) and Wainwright (8).
  • Approximately 20 percent of all Provincial Historic Resource and Municipal Historic Resources in Alberta are used as residences. 67 percent of these buildings are single family dwellings. 66 percent of all designated single family dwellings are located in Edmonton, where the property value of residential buildings designated as Municipal Historic Resources ranges from about $215 000 to $1.3 million.
  • Approximately 19 percent of all buildings designated as Provincial Historic Resources or Municipal Historic Resources are used for commercial purposes. 35 percent of these are used as offices and 32 percent are used for retail or wholesale. Historic buildings are also used for other purposes such as: agriculture, community use, education, government, health care, industry, leisure, spirituality, or transportation.
  • As of December 2012, there are 606 buildings which have been identified as places of interest by municipalities across Alberta. Each requires further research and evaluation to determine if it should be designated as a Municipal Historic Resource.
  • With a collection of over 750 historic resources, it is important that funding is available to help their owners look after these precious places. In 2012-2013, grants of $4.9 million were given by the Ministry through the Alberta Historical Resource Foundation to conserve the province’s heritage landmarks.

Get to know Alberta’s historic resource a bit better by visiting a Provincial Historic Site, Interpretative Centre of Museum or having a walk around your city or town. Historic resources are often easy to spot as many have been recognized with a plaque or interpretation panel. You can also search online for buildings recognized in your community by visiting the Alberta Register of Historic Places. If you think there is a building or site in your community that should be recognized but isn’t, talk to your municipality about how it can be protected for the future.

Written by: Sarah Hill.

Rutherford House Winter Exhibit

The Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum Christmas season exhibit is now on display. This year the exhibit is Winter in Edmonton – Weather, Entertainment and Survival. The exhibit runs from December 2013 until January 24, 2014.

Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum in winter (2005).
Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum in winter (2005).

Edmonton is a winter city. That undeniable fact was clearly demonstrated a few weeks ago when the thermometer dropped to -30°C. On cold and snowy days many of us stay inside our centrally-heated homes and shudder as we look out over wind-swept, icy and snow-covered streets and sidewalks.

A selection of winter-related artifacts from the Rutherford House collection and the Royal Alberta Museum are on display at the Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum until January 24, 2014.
A selection of winter-related artifacts from the Rutherford House collection and the Royal Alberta Museum are on display at the Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum until January 24, 2014.

Winter is not all cold and dreariness, of course. Winter is a season of fun and outdoor games. It is a season of snowmen and skating parties, of shinny and skiing. It is a season of companionship amongst friends and family, of hot chocolate and large meals.

Whether you enjoy bracing walks outside or a book by a warm fire inside, have you ever wondered how did Edmontonians of the 1910s to the 1930s deal with winter? How did they keep warm outside? How did they heat their homes? How did they get around their community? What did they do for fun in the snow? What did they do when it was too cold to go outside?

Interpretive panels and archival photographs explain and illustrate how Edmontonians survived and enjoyed winter in the 1920s and 1930s.
Interpretive panels and archival photographs explain and illustrate how Edmontonians survived and enjoyed winter in the 1920s and 1930s.

Visit the Winter in Edmonton exhibit at the Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum for the answers to these questions and to learn about this Provincial Historic Resource – one of Edmonton’s early architectural gems and the historic family home of Alberta’s first Premier.

The Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum is located on the University of Alberta campus at 11153 Saskatchewan Drive. Winter hours are 12 (noon) until 5:00pm, Tuesday through Sunday. While you are there, stop and visit the newly re-opened gift shop for great Christmas stocking stuffers.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator.

Summer Idyll, Winter Wonderland

The Sturgeon River defines the St. Albert landscape

Earlier this year, the Alberta Heritage Markers Program installed a marker on the banks of the Sturgeon River in St. Albert. Our heritage markers can be found along walking trails and roadside pull-offs throughout Alberta, offering glimpses into the past.

This marker tells us how the people of St. Albert related to the Sturgeon River, which winds through their community.

An image of the new heritage marker along the Sturgeon River.
a new heritage marker along the Sturgeon River.

Summer Idyll, Winter Wonderland

Before it reaches St. Albert the Sturgeon River has meandered about 180 kilometres from its beginnings in Hoople Lake west of Isle Lake. After it leaves St. Albert the Sturgeon continues flowing eastwards to Fort Saskatchewan, and empties into the North Saskatchewan River.

For the people of St. Albert in the early 1900s the river was much more than an obstacle requiring bridges, much more than a method of winter transportation when snow blocked the roads. It became a place of wonder where small children watched tadpoles darting just beneath the surface and dragonflies glinting in the sun above it. It helped create memories not linked to the hard work of daily life. “Young men who were studying for the priesthood,” Jane Ternon Sherwood recalled, “paddled up and down the river … their Gregorian chanting drifting over the water on a warm summer evening was beautiful to hear.”

The Sturgeon River became landmark and destination, the passing of time measured by seasonal opportunities to have fun and build community. On its banks and in its refreshing summer waters families played, groups held picnics and went boating, and young people paddled Sunday afternoons away. “In the winter, it was our skating rink and landing spot when we slid down the bank on our sleds,” recalled Dorothy Bellerose Chartrand. It was a hockey rink too where tin cans and frozen horse manure stood in for pucks.

For a brief time a steamer, La Thérèse, chugged lazily up and down the river. “I believe the river was much bigger then,” Jane Ternan Sherwood reminisced in the 1980s, remembering riding in the steamer in 1912. Memory had made the Sturgeon wider and more exciting, rekindling the joy of a small child splashing happily at its edge.

If you’d like to visit the marker, it can be found here:

Prepared by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.

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