Please refer to the links above to access the grant guidelines for each funding program. Questions regarding MHPP can be directed to Michael Thome, Acting Manager of Municipal Heritage Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-438-8508 and questions regarding HPPP can be directed to Carina Naranjilla, AHRF Grant Program Coordinator at email@example.com or 780-431-2305.
Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.
The City of Lethbridge is continuing its heritage planning work with a Phase III project to add information to its Heritage Inventory. This smaller project will evaluate approximately properties from the City’s “Places of Interest” List. Lethbridge received a matching grant of $5, 500 in MHPP funding.
Over the past few years, the Municipality of the Crowsnest Pass has completed Phases I and II of their own Heritage Inventory, documenting and evaluating the communities of Coleman, Frank, and Blairmore. This year, they will be working on the former Village of Bellevue, Hillcrest Mines, Passburg, and the rural area to the eastern-most boundary of the municipality. For this comprehensive project, Crowsnest Pass received a matching grant of $30, 000 in MHPP funding.
Moving up to central Alberta, Strathcona County has long partnered with the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program. They are continuing their Heritage Inventory work with a Phase III project evaluating additional properties from their Places of Interest List. Evaluating a smaller number of priority sites is a budget-friendly way for a municipality to continue its heritage planning work. Strathcona County received a matching grant of $6, 000 in MHPP funding.
The Town of High River, valiantly soldiering on with its heritage work after the catastrophic floods of 2013, applied to continue with Phase III of their evaluation work as well. This Phase will supplement the previous projects, which laid a great foundation for the future. High River received a matching grant of $20, 000 in MHPP funding.
Taking a jog out west, Yellowhead County is doing something different this time around. While the other grant recipients prioritized evaluation work, the County is preparing its first Heritage Management Plan. Having completed a few rounds of Heritage Survey and Inventory work already, the time has come to focus on policy and strategy. Yellowhead county received a matching grant of $20, 000 in MHPP funding.
What these projects demonstrate is the increasing skill and capacity of local governments across Alberta to evaluate and manage their own, top-notch heritage programs. The increasing number of historic places being protected and conserved as Municpal Historic Resources is a testimony to the excellent work being done at the local level – all over Alberta. Congratulations!
Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services, describes his role this way: “I manage all of the Government of Alberta’s work with municipalities to protect their historic places.” One focus of his job is running the Alberta Main Street Program. The other is leading the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (MHPP). Both are done with the help of two Municipal Heritage Services Officers.
The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program was established in 2006 to give municipalities across Alberta the training and tools to start up and run their own heritage conservation programs in a way that “represents the best practice of what the Historical Resources Act requires.”
Matthew, who joined the branch the year before, has worked with this program from its start. He explains: “Municipalities in Alberta had been empowered since 1978 to designate their own historic places, but most of them didn’t know about that. Only a handful of communities—Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, Red Deer—had ever designated something at the local level. [The others thought,] ‘This is something we have to go to the Province [to do]’.”
“So the first several years were really about building awareness. I spent almost 100 days on the road in 2006 going all over Alberta—small towns and cities, and everywhere. We were able to tell them, this can be done locally around the council table, and through a bylaw, and we gave them the background on that, and the training, the tools.”
MHPP staff members lead workshops for local government staff, volunteers, and sometimes elected officials as well, to train them in how to protect locally significant historic places by using recognized tools. The main identification tools are surveys: research projects that gather basic historical and architectural information on possible historic resources. Conducting a survey can be a first step toward developing a comprehensive heritage conservation program. MHPP also offers workshops on heritage inventories: projects that helps a community identify places of outstanding local significance and develop a deep understanding of each place that will help the municipality determine how to protect and conserve it.
The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation offers matching grants to municipalities in Alberta that are undertaking surveys or heritage inventories or that are developing heritage management plans. MHPP staff often help municipalities craft viable survey or inventory projects that are likely to be funded by the Foundation. The MHPP also helps to evaluate grant applications, making funding recommendations to the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Sometimes staff must overcome scepticism or even hostility of those who think heritage conservation is anti-progress. Matthew responds: “A lot of people when they think about their historic buildings, they think about the past, and we’re more concerned about saying, does that place have a future? That’s the conversation that we’re trying to have.”
Ideally, each municipality will first establish what the MHPP calls a Heritage Advisory Board (HAB), although it may have a different name locally. If the local government decides to seriously pursue the conservation of its historic resources, MHPP staff will meet with the board and others to explain that process and make sure they understand the three key aspects of evaluation: eligibility, significance, and integrity. Heritage consultants—historians, planners, or others with a conservation-related background—typically do the survey or inventory work under the direction of the advisory board.
As a central part of this work, the consultant will produce a document called a Statement of Significance for each historic place, which describes why the community values the place and what about it needs protection to preserve its significance. The HAB must be able to assess the quality of each Statement of Significance, making sure that each document accurately describes the significance and integrity of the historic resource(s) discussed. The HAB will make a recommendation on designation to the municipal council.
“Our place is not to intervene in [designation decisions],” Matthew says. “Municipalities in Alberta can designate whatever they want. They’re empowered to do that. It’s the community that has the local knowledge, and that’s what we’re trying to draw out.” But, ideally, the local government will learn how to make good decisions about heritage designation—decisions that are consistent across the community and also consistent with the best practices that are in use throughout Alberta. Municipalities may also establish their own regulations for the protection of their designated historic places.
“I really love working with the Heritage Advisory Boards.” Matthew reflects. “They’re volunteers for the most part, and they’re there for a reason—it’s usually because they have some sort of personal connection to these historic places that are meaningful to them in their community. A really enjoyable part of the work is getting to hear some of those stories.”
Today, MHPP staff members usually work with a municipality by invitation, although sometimes they’ll contact a local government proactively. This may be initiated by inquiries from private citizens concerned about protecting a specific historic place. When that happens, the MHPP staff member will urge them to contact their local government, but then will follow up with government staff to discuss the option of historic resource designation to protect the resource. “And from there we’ll say, ‘Have you thought more comprehensively about taking a look at all your historic places?’”
The annual Municipal Heritage Forum, a project of Municipal Heritage Services, supports these efforts. “Before 2007 people doing heritage conservation locally in different communities had very little connection with each other,” Matthew recalls. The first forum in 2007, called a Summit for Stakeholders, had about 40 participants. “It was basically just bringing the people together and giving them some information,” Matthew says. “But [we saw that] it’s the sharing of information [that’s important]. It’s really great to see the local knowledge increase and for that information to be shared peer-to-peer.” The forum now attracts about 125 attendees each year, and has become an eagerly anticipated event for heritage professionals and advocates across Alberta.
The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program has now worked with more than 100 municipalities, and it continues to help “repeat customers” as well as communities that are new to heritage conservation. The MHPP keeps evolving, along with the communities it serves. “We’ve worked with communities now that have been through the awareness cycle, so they know how to do [heritage designation], and they’re taking a high degree of ownership for this, which is what we always intended,” Matthew explains. The next step, he says, is helping them integrate heritage conservation into other urban planning initiatives—“not [treating it] like an appendage or an afterthought. Two of the flood-impacted communities we work with—High River and Medicine Hat—are working on major initiatives with their downtown planning, and I think they are leading the way on some of this.”
Municipalities have evaluated well over 1,000 historic places across Alberta since the program’s beginnings, “and that’s the number we keep an eye on,” Matthew says. “Not all of those places have been or will be designated or be protected,” he adds, “but at least they’re known. We know about them, and the communities know about them—and that’s really what matters most.”
The Bow On Tong Building and the Manie Opera Society Building are two well-known places in downtown Lethbridge that contribute to the distinctive cluster of buildings that make up Lethbridge’s Chinatown district. Recognizing their remarkable history and exceptional significance, the City of Lethbridge’s council recently designated each as a Municipal Historic Resource. The buildings are now undergoing comprehensive rehabilitation, including extensive structural repairs and the careful retention of historic elements found nowhere else in Alberta. I had the opportunity to visit these fascinating places just before Easter, gaining a glimpse into Lethbridge’s Chinese community during the first half of the last century.
We peek inside the cabinets to find, well, I’m not sure.
Boxes full of remedies, including “kidney pills”.
A 1907 City bylaw restricting all laundries to this area was enforced only if the laundry was Chinese-owned. Other Chinese-owned businesses followed the laundries into the neighbourhood west of Galt Gardens. The Bow On Tong was constructed in 1916 in the middle of the city block known as Chinatown, on 2nd Avenue South. Beside it stood the Manie Opera House Building (not its original name), built about a decade previously. Lethbridge’s Chinatown had begun.
My tour of the buildings started on the main floor of the Bow On Tong and was led by Ted Stilson, coordinator of Lethbridge’s Main Street Program, and Kevin Peterson, general contractor for the rehabilitation project. I learned that Way Leong, a Chinese apothecary, opened the Bow On Tong Co. in the 1920s, from where he dispensed traditional remedies to the Chinese community. Shelves and cupboards, labeled with Chinese characters, line the walls of the small shop and tell of Mr. Leong’s practice which operated here into the 1950s. Several of the varnished wood drawers still contain the apothecary’s supplies and equipment. (Unfortunately, while I was there, I did not have the pleasure of meeting Way’s son, Albert Leong, who lived in the building up until rehabilitation work started.)
The basement of the Manie Opera Society is just as interesting. Even with all the construction work going on, I could make out traces of the frail partitions dividing the basement into little rooms. Immigrant coal miners from China once lived down here; their tiny, cramped quarters wallpapered in newspaper still clinging to the walls. A few rooms seem to have been decorated with pictures of American celebrities clipped from magazines—icons of the popular culture of their new homeland.
Rehabilitation began last year when cracks appeared in the upper wall of the Bow On Tong, leading to the discovery of structural problems throughout both buildings that was slowly causing them to collapse. Major parts of the work are now in progress include the shoring up of a crucial load-bearing wall shared by both buildings and upgrades to meet the current fire code. Even with the urgency of the structural repairs, the work is being done with painstaking care to avoid destroying historic materials. The pressed metal ceiling of the apothecary, for example, has been carefully removed piece by piece. Each piece is numbered and its location mapped before careful cleaning and repainting. After structural reinforcement of the ceiling and the installation of new fire-resistant drywall (required by the building code), the ceiling will be reassembled, with each piece installed in the sequence in which it was removed.
The basement in the Maine Opera Society Building was once wallpapered in newspaper.
Some of the pages are still visible.
The ambitious and painstaking work I saw is a testament to the dedication of the community of Lethbridge, which has supported the project through local fundraising activities and the donated time of many volunteers. Kevin Petersen, the general contractor, has himself contributed much of his own time. When the rehabilitation work is complete, Albert Leong will return to his lifelong home in the Bow On Tong Building. It, and the neighbouring Manie Opera Society Building, will continue the legacy of Lethbridge’s Chinatown.
Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.
The Town of Sexsmith is now one step closer to completing their first Municipal Heritage Inventory. On April 30th the Town, in partnership with project consultant Donald Luxton and Associates Inc., held a public open house to present information on the Heritage Inventory project to the community. Approximately 14 residents attended the session to review possible themes related to the development of their community and to provide information on specific buildings.
The following day the Town’s Heritage Advisory Board (HAB) met to review the proposed Statements of Significance for 16 potential locally-significant historic resources within Town boundaries. Their local knowledge of the people and events from Sexsmith’s past provided the project consultant with valuable information. Revisions will be made to the Statements of Significance and we anticipate the final report will be presented for review by Town Council by the end of summer.
Originally known as Benville, Sexsmith was first settled in the early 1900s but experienced growth following the establishment of the ED&BC railway in 1916. The proximity of the community to the rail line caused expansion of agricultural production and established Sexsmith as a major hub for grain export. Sexsmith was once known as ‘The Grain Capital of the British Empire’ during the 1920s and 30s and at one time there were nine grain elevators situated adjacent to the railway. Today three remain and the Town is in the process of acquiring one for conservation purposes. The community is further characterized by its relatively intact boomtown commercial main street, located directly opposite of the rail line and by the presence of two Provincial Historic Resources: the Northern Alberta Railway Station and the Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop.
Heritage inventory projects are supported by the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program and provide municipalities with the process and tools to assess possible historic sites within their boundaries for future municipal historic resource designation.
Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer
The City of Fort Saskatchewan is one step closer to realizing their vision for the development and interpretation of a significant community amenity through Council’s recent approval of the Historic Precinct Site Master Plan Guiding Document. Located adjacent to the City’s downtown and along the edge of the North Saskatchewan River, the Historic Precinct provides a unique opportunity to showcase the cultural history of Fort Saskatchewan and to develop a space for public learning and enjoyment.
The Historic Precinct contains an array of man-made and natural elements that contribute to the telling of the story of Fort Saskatchewan. Project consultants EIDOS Consultants Inc. and Marshall Tittemore Architects approached the conceptualization of the space as a cultural landscape, wherein:
“An important part of the Precinct’s heritage value is found in the relics of law and order and public works, including buildings, structures, sightlines, earth mounds, plant materials and features that remain in situ. These relics constitute part of the heritage value of the area by providing tangible evidence of how it was transformed and used by the NWMP, Canadian Northern Railway, the Province and the City.” (Historic Precinct Site Master Plan, page 9).
The planning process sought to integrate local values into the final plan and therefore included public and stakeholder consultation through surveys, open houses and workshop sessions.
The Master Plan
The Master Plan involved considering the long-term development and interpretation of the historic precinct, including integration of existing Provincial Historic Resources, recommendations for pedestrian circulation and way-finding, interpretation opportunities and development of a conceptual design for a new Interpretive Centre. A detailed phasing plan was also provided to allow the City to structure implementation in a coordinated and cost-effective manner.
Original 1875 Fort Site Node – This Provincial Historic Resource is presently an open native grass field and will remain untouched during development, with the long term goal of undertaking small scale research and public archaeology programs in partnership with interested academic institutions, archaeological societies and the Province of Alberta.
Fort Saskatchewan Museum and Cultural Village Node – The Fort Saskatchewan Museum (Courthouse) is a designated Provincial Historic Resource. The Master Plan calls for the land surrounding the Courthouse to be utilized as a ‘cultural village’ in which historic buildings and artifacts will be displayed.
Railway Node – The CNR Station will continue to be space for use by community groups. The area around the Station will be enhanced to include an opportunity to showcase other rail infrastructure, landscaping and opportunity to enhance access to the adjacent Legacy Park and farmer’s market plaza.
Other Historic Precinct Nodes proposed within the plan include a Gaol Node, Religion Node, MétisNode and First Nations Node.
The City will continue with planning the programming for the future Interpretive Centre with hopes of breaking ground by the end of 2014. Conservation Plans have been prepared for the Courthouse/Museum and CNR Railway Station to ensure that on-going improvements and maintenance are consistent with accepted conservation practices. In accordance with the terms of designation, approvals will be obtained for any projects within the site that will affect the Provincial Historic Resources as well as work in the vicinity of the NWMP Police Post due to the high archaeological potential of the site.
The Historic Precinct Master Plan was partially funded by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation under the Heritage Management Plan grant category of the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program. Though Heritage Management Plans typically take the form of a document that outlines policy and a process for municipal designation, the grant category is flexible and can apply to projects that involve planning and policy development for the stewardship of historic resources more broadly. The Historic Precinct Site Master Plan is an example of how the program can be tailored to meet the unique needs of municipalities.
Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer
My name is Rebecca Goodenough and it is a real pleasure to introduce myself as the newest member of the Historic Places Stewardship team. I have read the bios of Historic Places staff on RETROactive with much interest over the past few years, wondering if (sigh) I might ever have such an amazing job. So it is with much excitement and a lot of humility that I introduce myself as the new Municipal Heritage Services Officer. I look forward to meeting a many of you over the coming months.
Unlike many of my colleagues, I came to the field of heritage conservation more recently and the majority of my education and work experience has been within the world of land use planning. I have worked in both the private and public sectors in British Columbia and Alberta. Most recently, I worked for Strathcona County as a Planner.
My interest in heritage grew from personal curiosity. I read books and took every opportunity to attend a course, lecture, meeting or conference related to heritage. The more I learned, the more I became a believer that heritage conservation is a means to achieving a great many of the long-term goals that planners and other community builders try to achieve through their day-to-day work: sustainable development, building a sense of place, quality in design, local economic development. All of these goals and more I believe are achievable through building a culture of respect for our past.
While with Strathcona County, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to complete a Professional Specialization Certificate in Heritage Conservation Planning through the University of Victoria. This program provided me with a strong foundation in the principles and practices of the field. I also helped to establish Strathcona County’s heritage program, which included participation with the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program.
I hold degrees in Political Science from the University of Alberta and in Northern and Rural Community Planning from the University of Northern B.C. In my spare time, I enjoy participating in a few activities (at a very pedestrian level) including running, cross-country skiing and playing the piano. And, of course, I am still reading and attending those courses, lectures, meetings and conferences because there is always so much to learn!
I hope to bring my experience working with a range of communities and my understanding of municipal processes to my work with the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program and Alberta Main Street programs. More importantly, I look forward to meeting all you advocates for local heritage out there and hearing about the significant places in your communities.
Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.