Municipal Historic Resources spotlight: Westmount, Edmonton

Editor’s note: The image above is of the famous Roxy Theatre on 124 St. Opened in 1938, the theatre was destroyed by a fire in 2015. The theatre is currently being rebuilt. The image is courtesy of the Edmonton Historical Board.

Written by: Jared Majeski, Historic Resources Management Branch

Continuing along in our series spotlighting Municipal Historic Resources (MHRs) around the province, we move along to the historic Westmount neighbourhood in west-central Edmonton.

Thought to have been named after a suburb in Montréal, Westmount is known for many Craftsman-inspired single family detached houses along tree-lined boulevards between 123 St. to 127 St. and 107 Ave. to 111 Ave. You get the feeling of being transported back in time when you’re walking or riding your bike down one of these streets. And since the City of Edmonton officially recognized the historic significance of this, the Westmount Architectural Heritage Area (WAHA), the heritage value of this important Edmonton neighbourhood will hopefully be supported for decades to come.

Let’s take a look at a few properties in the area that make this neighbourhood unique.

Marshall Hopkins Residence

The Marshall Hopkins Residence is valued for its association with the early development of the Westmount neigbourhood during Edmonton’s population boom in the pre-war period
The Marshall Hopkins Residence is valued for its association with the early development of the Westmount neigbourhood during Edmonton’s population boom in the pre-war period.

Built in 1912, the Marshall Hopkins Residence on 126 Street is significant as an early example of wood-framed, Foursquare construction. This architectural design was popular at the time for its simple design and efficient floor plans.

The two-storey residence is significant for its association with Marshall W. Hopkins, Chief Land Surveyor for the Alberta Land Titles Office, who was the first occupant of the residence from c. 1913 to 1914. In addition, the Marshall Hopkins Residence is also significant for its association with the Canadian National Railway as it was home to a number of occupants who were employed by the company after the Canadian National Railway arrived in Edmonton in 1905.

The residence was officially designated an MHR in May 2019.

Ellen Elliot Residence

ellen-elliot
The Elliot Residence is significant as an early example of a front gabled dwelling with Craftsmen design elements influences, and for its associations with an early owner and builder.

The Ellen Elliot Residence on 125 Street is unique in a number of ways, least of all due to the fact that the first resident and owner of the building was a woman. Mrs. Ellen Elliot, widow of Thomas Elliot (who may have been a builder), purchased the property which would have been rare and unusual at that time. She lived in the residence until 1932.

Design elements of the two-storey building include the original wood frame construction, with horizontal wood siding on the lower level and wood shingle siding in gable peaks, and a front gabled-roof addition and porch. Fire insurance maps of the area show the original structure with a veranda in 1913. However, city records indicate that the house was built in 1920. The 1920 date may have come from when the front porch was captured and brought into the house as an extension of the living room and the mudroom.

This property was designated an MHR in June 2019.

Walton L. Smith Residence

walton-smith
The Smith residence is one of many similar Craftsman Influenced houses built in the neighbourhood in the first quarter of the 20th century, and demonstrates the popularity of this style in the early days of west Edmonton and other prestigious neighbourhoods.

The 1914 two-storey Walton L. Smith Residence is a wood frame construction with strong Craftsman design influences. It has horizontal wood siding on the lower level, and wood shingles on the upper levels and façade. The roof is a slightly bellcast, medium pitch gable, with exposed rafters and decorative brackets on the front-facing gable. An offset closed porch with a slightly bellcast gable roof is on the right hand side of the façade.

As interesting as the design of this property is the story of its original building applicant, who ironically, never actually lived in the house at all.

This residence was constructed following application for a building permit at the site on May 14, 1914. Robert W. Hedley, the applicant, was prominent in Edmonton affairs. Born and educated in Ontario at the University of Toronto and Hamilton Normal College, he then taught until moving to Edmonton in 1912. Hedley was Art Supervisor for the Edmonton Public School Board from 1914 until 1929. He designed the art course for Alberta high schools in 1922. Hedley taught art at University of Alberta summer sessions, and was appointed to the Normal School staff in 1929, serving as a lecturer in art and math. Hedley retired in 1937, but remained active in the local art scene, becoming director of the Edmonton Museum of Arts from 1943 to 1951. Hedley organized the western Canadian art circuit, adult and children’s classes and a women’s society to support the Edmonton Museum of Arts. He received an Honourary LLD from the

University of Alberta in 1953, a citation from the College Art Association of America in 1955, and became the first Albertan to receive a Fellowship from the Royal Society of Arts. He was an arts critic for the Edmonton Journal for many years. Hedley died on November 16, 1965, having never lived in the house he originally applied to build in 1914.

This residence was designated an MHR in June 2019.

Griffin Residence

The house is located within the Westmount Architectural Heritage Area. Throughout history the neighbourhood of Westmount has retained a strong sense of architectural character, and is noted for its large collection of single detached homes, that were built between 1911 and 1925.
The house is located within the Westmount Architectural Heritage Area. Throughout history the neighbourhood of Westmount has retained a strong sense of architectural character, and is noted for its large collection of single detached homes, that were built between 1911 and 1925.

Built in 1922, Griffin Residence on 125 Street is significant for its Arts and Crafts influences, in particular, Craftsman style elements. This design style first appeared in the last years of the 19th century and remained popular until the 1930s.

The residence features a medium pitched gable roof, with projecting eaves, exposing original wood rafters, soffits, fascia, and brackets. It is clad with wood clapboard siding on the upper portion, and wood shingles on the lower portion of the residence, and in all the peaks of the gables. The enclosed front veranda has a hipped roof with an offset medium pitched gable over the entrance. Both the east and west elevations feature pitched gables, with bay windows. The residence is located on a residential street in the Westmount neighbourhood, one of Edmonton’s most mature neighbourhoods, where the majority of lots still maintain their original structures.

Griffin Residence was designated an MHR in August 2018.

Street Railway Substation No. 600

Street Railway Substation No. 600 is significant as a rare and well preserved example of the Art Deco Style of architecture in Edmonton.
Street Railway Substation No. 600 is significant as a rare and well preserved example of the Art Deco Style of architecture in Edmonton.

Constructed in 1938, Street Railway Substation No.600 is a one storey brick and concrete building designed in the Art Deco Style, located on a commercial portion of 124 Street in the neighbourhood of Westmount.

This substation is significant for its association with the development of the Westmount neighbourhood. Westmount is one of the oldest residential subdivisions in Edmonton. After 1911, residents of the neighbourhood could commute downtown on the electric streetcar that ran south from 110 Avenue along 124 Street before turning east along Jasper Avenue. As the neighbourhood grew and demand placed on the west end section of the street railway increased, it was necessary to build Street Railway Substation No. 600 to house equipment which reduced the loss of electricity from the lines, allowing the street railway to operate more efficiently.

The substation was designated an MHR in May 2017.

These recently designated Municipal Historic Resources join seven other Westmount neighbourhood resources previously designated by the City of Edmonton:

By designating these properties as Municipal Historic Resources, the City of Edmonton is ensuring the preservation of the heritage character of the Westmount neighbourhood.

Sources:

Edmonton Historical Board

Historic Places and Designation, Heritage Division, Alberta Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women

Heritage Resources Management Information Systems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur Cold Case

Currently at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is arguably the world’s most fascinating (and best-preserved) armoured dinosaur. The Borealopelta markmitchelli was discovered by a worker in the Suncor Millenium Mine in 2011 and, at 112-100 million years old, is the oldest known dinosaur ever found in Alberta.

To learn about how this one-of-a-kind discovery happened, and how scientists at the Tyrrell worked to preserve it, you can watch Dinosaur Cold Case on CBC’s The Nature of Things right now! If you’re in Canada, click here to unravel this made-in-Alberta mystery.

The advertisers guide to surviving the flu

Written by: Suzanna Wagner, Program Coordinator, Historic Sites and Museums

If a highly contagious epidemic was spreading through your city, what would you do?

Well, if you were a merchant in Edmonton in 1918, you’d be making sure people are still buying things.

A virulent strain of influenza spread around the world in the fall of 1918, striking once again in fall 1919 and still another time in 1920. Alberta saw more than 31,000 cases of the flu over the fall of 1918 with 4,308 deaths before the flu subsided in May 1919. The illness was often referred to as the “Spanish Flu” because it was mistakenly believed to have originated in Spain.

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See you all in 2020!

On behalf of RETROactive, happy holidays to everyone out there. Whether you’re a new subscriber or have been a follower for years, we want to thank you all for your continued support. We’ll be back in mid-January with even more blog posts about Alberta’s unique history!

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Mary or Sandy Lee with Christmas Tree, Mountain Park Alberta, ca. 1938, CL130, From the Charles Lee Fonds. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta

 

Harriet’s Magic Hat: The Disk Jockey

Written by: Sara King (Provincial Archives of Alberta) and Jared Majeski (Historic Resources Management Branch)

It was a magical time in Edmonton in 1980. One area code, the Rat Hole, liver and onions at the Silk Hat on Jasper Ave. It was also a time with enchanted headphones and a young, open-collared Bruce Bowie.

Harriet’s Magic Hats was an educational program for children created by ACCESS TV, which primarily explored different careers as a girl named Susan travelled around with the assistance of her Aunt Harriet’s collection of mystical headgear. In addition to being an example of local programming in Alberta, the episode is a time capsule of technology and popular culture of the time it was made.

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630 CHED’s Bruce Bowie explaining to Susan how the music from vinyl records in their music library makes it out to the airwaves. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta YouTube.

In this episode, Susan mysteriously transports into the booth at 630 CHED, right in the middle of a broadcast from legendary announcer Bruce Bowie. From there, Bowie shows young Susan the radio ropes, from programming commercials to the station’s automated system for playing records.

With the exception of Wings' "Getting Closer" and a Donna Summer disco hit, the playlist from CHED in 1980 is pretty middle of the road easy rock. Nice to see some pre-Kim Mitchell Max Webster in the rotation too. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta YouTube.
With the exception of Wings’ “Getting Closer”, ELO and a Donna Summer disco hit, the playlist from CHED in 1980 is pretty middle of the road easy rock. Nice to see some pre-Kim Mitchell Max Webster in the rotation too. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta YouTube.

This episode concludes with a jaunty montage of various Edmontonians biking, lounging, paddling and dancing along to the radio. Heck, even the bears and elephants are listening!

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One can only assume a brave Valley Zoo employee had to climb that tree to place the radio. The bears seem to be enjoying the tunes at least. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta YouTube.

Sharon Alexander, the actress who played Susan in the Harriet’s Magic Hat series, would go on to do a ton of voice acting, as well as appear in episodes of The X-Files, Da Vinci’s Inquest, The Outer Limits and Cold Squad.

ACCESS TV was the designated educational broadcaster in Alberta, created by the Alberta Educational Communications Corporation (AECC), an arms length corporation of the Government of Alberta. From its founding in 1973 until its privatization in 1995, it would produce, broadcast, and distribute television-based multimedia, in partnership with Alberta Education and the province’s universities and colleges.

The Provincial Archives of Alberta has a collection of 1506 video cassettes, 1071 video reels, 2220 audio reels, 731 audio cassettes, and 240 16 mm film reels in our ACCESS TV fonds (PR3368) as well as 1198 films and other government records transferred to the archives when ACCESS was a government body. But not all of them are quite as magical as this one.

Pitch and Timber: A History of Human Relationships with Trees in Alberta (Part 2)

Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series on the history of human relationships with trees in Alberta. If you missed part one, read it now.

Written by: Todd Kristensen, Archaeological Survey of Alberta

Development of Alberta’s Forestry Industry

From 1900 to 1910, population growth and steady local demand for lumber meant that most settlements had commercial sawmills. Because of the way that timber berths were leased to operators, most sawmills were small and portable. Some operators harvested in the summer and moved their timber using rivers, flumes (a series of wooden chutes that filled with water and carried logs), splash dams (a temporary wooden dam that held back water that would then be released in a surge to carry logs), and log drives along big rivers that brought wood to riverside mills or to rail yards in river valleys. But winter was generally the ideal time to log because wood could be moved by horses and sleds. Portable sawmills would move machinery on skis to temporary camps in western and northern Alberta. The seasonal nature was perfect for struggling families because farmers could work the fields in warm seasons and cut timber for mills in the winters.

A man poling down Athabasca River between 1937-39 (from the Chisholm Sawmill and Freeman River Lumber Camp). Log drivers floated along with the timbers to dislodge jams and notify the mills when shipments were arriving by water. Image A3790 courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta.
A logging camp (the Jackpine Wood Camp on Little Slave River in 1909) with men and their tools. Image A2532 courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Alberta’s forestry industry was younger than in British Columbia and neighbouring states to the south, many of which had various gold rushes that required commercial sawmills in the 1800s. It was fairly common for Alberta farmers to log in B.C. during winters in the early 1900s and many Alberta ranches provided B.C. logging operations with horses. A good-sized sawmill in B.C. or Alberta could employ several hundred men and up to 60 horses over the winter.

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Pitch and Timber: A History of Human Relationships with Trees in Alberta (Part 1)

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series on the history of human relationships with trees in Alberta. Next week’s post will discuss the development of the forestry industry, modern research and the Heritage Art Series.

Written by: Todd Kristensen, Archaeological Survey of Alberta

People in Alberta have relied on trees since these woody plants colonized our ice-scraped province around 11,000 years ago. Millions of collective hours were spent by people gathering and chopping wood for warmth and cooking, but our relationship with trees runs much deeper than heat. People in Alberta have relied on them to build tools, homes, and transportation networks, and our forestry industry continues to shape the province.

Logging at Poplar Creek, Alberta in the late 1800s. Image A5085 courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

What Trees Grow Here and Why?

Much of the prairies are too hot and dry for forests, but most of central and northern Alberta have ideal temperatures and moisture levels for trees: over 60% of the province is covered by forests. While our precipitation helps trees grow, Alberta is dry enough (over long enough periods in the summers) to be fire-prone. Most natural forests here rarely exist for more than 100 years before a fire re-starts the growth of a series of plant communities (called ‘succession’). Our ‘pyrogenic’ forests are younger and typically smaller than neighbours to the west where heavier rains and different soils produce massive old growth forests that often exceed 600 years old.

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Mile 58 Forestry Cabin: Heritage significance in a remote area

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer

Alberta’s newest Provincial Historic Resource is the Mile 58 Forestry Cabin in the Willmore Wilderness Park. Now the most remotely located designated resource in the province, the cabin tells an interesting and important story about the protection of Alberta’s forests and the forest rangers that sheltered in cabins like this while riding the trails in our province’s forests.

The Dominion Forestry Branch

The story of the Mile 58 Forestry Cabin begins in Ottawa, with the establishment of the Dominion Forestry Branch in 1899. The Dominion Forestry Branch, a sister service to the Dominion Parks Branch (now Parks Canada Agency), was established to manage forest resources on Crown lands. By 1911, a number of protected forest reserves had been created in Alberta, including the Athabasca Forest Reserve north of Jasper.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. Alberta Forest History Photographic Collection
The Mile 58 Forestry Cabin was built by forest ranger Jack Glen with assistance from some of his fellow rangers. Glen was a former Royal North-West Mounted Police officer and had joined the Dominion Forestry Branch in 1920. In addition to the Mile 58 Forestry Cabin, Glenn also built the Eagle’s Nest and Big Grave Flats cabins, and was likely involved in others as well. Source: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. Alberta Forest History Photographic Collection.

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Birch bark basketry in Alberta

Written by: Elizabeth Goldberg, Archaeological Survey of Alberta

Alberta archaeology, and field archaeology in general, places a lot of emphasis on stone tools. We divvy up projectile points into groups based on time, place and form. We source quarries for flaked tools to hypothesize past trade relationships and seasonal migrations; and we admire projectile points for their beauty and the technical skill it took to make them.

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Birch bark basket sewn with split spruce roots, Dënesųłı̨ne (Chipewyan). Source: Canadian Museum of History.

However, stone tools are only a very small part of the archaeological record— at well-preserved sites, artifacts made of plant and animal fibers make up the majority. These items are called perishable artifacts because they decay quickly, often long before any archaeologist stumbles upon them. Alberta’s climate is not conducive to the preservation of perishable artifacts, but their presence can be inferred through other means. We can look to ethnographic collections of items made by First Nations that were traded or sold to settlers, and we can look to the technologies many Indigenous people use to this day. One such technology that was, and still is, widely important across the Canadian Subarctic is birch bark basketry.

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“For Ever With The Lord”: In memory of common soldiers from the chapel at Old St Stephen’s College

Written by: Peter Melnycky, Historian

Stained glass at Old St. Stephen's College, on campus at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Photo by: Peter Melnycky
Stained glass at Old St. Stephen’s College, on campus at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

In 1935, the chapel unveiled within St. Steven’s College displayed plaques commemorating the war service and sacrifices of its brave associates. Dated to 1923, the first plaque honoured 19 Ministers and 61 Probationers who served during the Great War, as well as eight who “bravely fell”. A separate plaque commemorated “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory” eight students of Robertson College “who fell on the field of Honour” during the war. One individual plaque was also dedicated in memory of Harold G. Riddle of Robertson College who died at St. Omer, France in 1916 and proclaimed Virtute Praeclarus (“Brilliance with Courage”) in his memory.

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