The Alberta Register of Historic Places: Questions and Answers

Editor’s note: For our next instalment recognizing National Historic Places Days, we look at the Register of Historic Places, what information it contains and how to use the database to search for historic resources. It’s recommended that while you read this article, you follow along on the Heritage Resources Management Information System. This database works best using Internet Explorer.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator

Alberta’s provincial and municipal governments have recognized and protected over 800 historic resources. Did you know that information about all of these significant sites is available to the public? Read on to find out all about where this information is located, and how you can learn more about Alberta’s historic places.

What is the Alberta Register of Historic Places?

The Alberta Register of Historic Places is a searchable database of legally protected historic places in Alberta, including sites designated by the province and by municipalities.

Where can I access the Alberta Register of Historic Places?

The register is available to the public on the HeRMIS (Heritage Resources Management Information System) website. Here it is possible to find information about the location, significance and level of designation for designated historic resources. In addition to this data, the website also includes photographs and an interactive map.

What sorts of things are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places?

A wide variety of historic resources have been designated in Alberta, reflecting the range of resources that are significant to Albertans. In fact, if it’s not a small moveable object, human remains, or no longer in its historic context, just about anything that’s provincially or municipally significant could be designated and listed on the register. There are things on the register you might expect, like the Legislature Building in Edmonton and the Rowley Grain Elevator Row, near Big Valley. There are also unexpected things, like significant geological features such as the Whitecourt / Woodlands Meteorite Impact Crater, or important biological sites like the Wood’s Douglas Fir Tree Sanctuary in Calgary. There are all kinds of other designated historic resources, including industrial sites and machinery, palaeontological sites, engineering structures, homes, commercial buildings, churches and more – all of them illustrating some significant aspect of Alberta’s history.

What can I do with the Alberta Register of Historic Places?

You can search the register to learn about a wide variety of topics relating to Alberta’s history – from archaeology to architecture to astronomy, from the prairies to the Rockies and the 49th to the 60th parallel. You can use the Map Search function to plan a tour to view historic resources within a community or along a route between communities.

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Strathcona garage designated a Provincial Historic Resource

Written by: Ron Kelland, Geographical Names Program Coordinator

A well-known anchor building in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona Provincial Historic Area has recently been designated as a Provincial Historic resource.  And it’s also now listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Front (north-facing) façade of the Strathcona Garage showing some of the building’s character-defining elements, notably the crenellated parapet roofline, escutcheons and the contrasting ornamental highlights (lintels, sills, name and date stones), 2019. Source: Alberta Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women.

The Strathcona Garage is located in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona neighbourhood on the corner of lot at 81 Avenue and 105 Street. Its heritage significance rests in its association with the early automobile industry in Alberta. It is a significant and rare remaining example of a building from the early twentieth century designed and built specifically for the era’s fledgling, but rapidly growing automobile sector.   

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A recent Government of Alberta information bulletin announced a new Provincial Historic Resource. Check it out:

In August, 2015, a rare and important piece of Alberta’s railroading and transportation heritage has been designated as a provincial historic resource.

Exterior of the Canadian Northern Railway Roundhouse, showing the large, double doors, which provide access to the locomotive stalls. The turntable and bridge are in the foreground, September 2014. Alberta Culture and Tourism, Government of Alberta.
Exterior of the Canadian Northern Railway Roundhouse, showing the large, double doors, which provide access to the locomotive stalls. The turntable and bridge are in the foreground, September 2014. Alberta Culture and Tourism, Government of Alberta.

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Heritage by Numbers


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.

Help Shape the Future of Our Past

The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation board of directors has a few openings.

Alberta Historical Resources Foundation

We are accepting applications from people interested in joining the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation‘s board of directors.

Founded four decades ago, the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation has evolved into a complex agency that serves a range of stakeholders in many ways. The foundation is the primary source of Government of Alberta funding for heritage projects. The foundation focuses on a few key objectives:

  • providing financial and program support to individuals and organizations engaged in researching, preserving, and promoting greater appreciation for Alberta’s heritage;
  • naming geographical features in the province;
  • staging events that support the heritage community; and
  • acting as an appeal body for certain decisions made in Alberta Culture.

Members are appointed for terms of up to three years.  The board meets four times per year for about a day and a half per meeting at locations around the province. Board members are also occasionally asked to attend events within the heritage community.

Interested individuals can submit their applications through the Government of Alberta Careers website. The posting number is 1019525. The competition closes on October 3, 2013.

Should you have any questions about the board positions, please contact Matthew Wangler, Executive Director of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. Mr. Wangler can be reached at 780-438-8503 (toll-free by first dialing 310-0000) or  We look forward to hearing from you.

Written by: Matthew Wangler, Executive Director, Alberta Historical Resources Foundation

County of Two Hills sees Shandro Church listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places

Shandro Church - West and North ElevationsIn 2012, the County of Two Hills passed a bylaw to designate the Russo Greek Catholic Orthodox Parish of St. Mary at Shandro, also known simply as the “Shandro Church,” as a Municipal Historic Resource. It is principally significant for its association to pioneers from Bukovyna, its connection with Bishop Tikhon, and its unique design and construction. The construction of St. Mary’s Church began and was supervised by members of the Shandro clan, who arrived in the Willingdon area in 1899 during one of the great waves of Ukrainian immigration into Alberta. The Shandro family came to play a prominent role in the Ukrainian community in Alberta.

Read more about the heritage values associated with the Shandro Church; visit the Alberta Register of Historic Paces.

Wheatland County Lists Historic Resources on the Alberta Register of Historic Places

St. Andrew's Anglican Church_September 12 2012Wheatland County recently designated two Municipal Historic Resources that are now listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. You can find Wheatlead County a few kilometres east of the City of Calgary and adjacent to the Siksika Indian Reserve. The area was settled in the 1890s and the two sites reflect very different themes in Alberta’s history.

The St. Andrew’s Anglican Church is a small church located in the Hamlet of Gleichen, just north of Siksika Nation. It was built in 1885 by Anglican missionaries to the Blackfoot nation. The descendants of the Blackfoot people and the area’s settlers worship here to this day. This little chruch is quite likely one of the oldest Anglican churches in Alberta.

Cenotaph, Wheatland CountyThe Gleichen War Memorial Cenotaph is located in the Hamlet of Gleichen as well. Is was built in 1920 as a monument to the 51 men from the area who lost their lives while fighting for Canada in World War I. Plaques have subsequently been added to honour soldiers from the area who died during the Second World War, the Korean War and the mission to Afghanistan.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

County of Minburn: Conserving Ukrainian Canadian Historic Places

Sich-Kolomea Ukrainian Orthodox ChurchThe County of Minburn recently listed one of its newly designated Municipal Historic Resources on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Dormition of St. Mary of Sich-Kolomea (otherwise known as Sich-Kolomea Ukrainian Orthodox Church) is one of the many historic resources that tell us about Ukrainian Canadian settlers.

Sich-Kolomea Ukrainian Orthodox ChurchThe Sich-Kolomea church is valued by the county because of what it conveys about the Ukrainian Canadians setters who built it. The church served the pioneer farmers of the area, and was the first church in what was to become the Vegreville mission district. It is also a beautiful example of the Canadian interpretation of the Byzantine style of church architecture seen in many eastern rite churches built on the Canadian prairies.

There are many municipal and provincial historic resources that tell us about the Ukrainian Canadian settlers in east-central Alberta. You can use the advanced search features of the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the places that form their legacy.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Recent Addition to the Alberta Register of Historic Places

4664-0289_ExteriorA recent Municipal Historic Resource listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places is Bremner House, located in rural Strathcona County. It is a large two and one half storey residence constructed in the early 1900’s. Heritage values associated with Bremner House include the aesthetic significance of the scale, style and location of the building as well as its representation of the cultural growth and development of Strathcona County during the first half of the 20th Century.

To read more about the significance of Bremner House, and to view additional photos, check out the listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Are you curious if places in your community are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places? Complete an Advanced Search by “municipality” and see what is found. Only sites formally designated as either Municipal Historic Resources, Provincial Historic Resources or Registered Historic Resources are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Why can’t I list that on the Alberta Register of Historic Places?

A bit about exemptions.

Listing a Municipal Historic Resource on the Alberta Register of Historic Places is normally the last step in protecting a locally significant historic place. There are several types of historic places that cannot be listed on the register. Understanding which ones are ineligible will help you understand what a historic place is and understand the purpose of  designation under the Historical Resources Act.

Only sites that are protected because of the heritage value they possess are eligible for listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. The register is a database containing information on places that have been protected because of their historical or archaeological significance. The register is not a list of sites that are of historical interest – that would be the Alberta Heritage Survey Program database.

Some types of resources cannot be listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Properties that cannot be listed include:

  • a property outside municipal jurisdiction;
  • a property that cannot be designated as a historic resource pursuant to the Historical Resources Act;
  • small movable objects;
  • human remains;
  • modern reconstructions, no matter how accurate, of a historic place; or
  • a building, structure or object situated in a historic park or village (like Heritage Park in Calgary).

Cronquist House, protected by the City of Red Deer, is a Municipal Historic Resource.

What are some examples of these types of property? Sites owned by the Crown cannot be designated as municipal historic resources. So, post offices owned by Canada Post or a provincial court house cannot be listed. Certain types of property (such as cemeteries) are regulated under other provincial laws (such as the Cemeteries Act). Conflicts between the Historical Resources Act and other provincial statutes can occasionally annul the protective nature of designation. When this is the case, those sites cannot be listed because they are not, in practice, protected.

A historic place that clearly does not have heritage value cannot be listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. A contemporary reconstruction of a historic place, no matter how well executed, is by nature not a historic place. Reconstructions are built from the perspective of the present and use modern tools and materials. It’s unlikely that a reproduction will accurately reproduce a historic place in minute detail. Historic parks or villages are even worse in this respect. A historic park does not reproduce a historic streetscape in its original location. They are artificial groupings of buildings that have been created for purposes of interpretation.

These are only the most obvious exemptions. There are other more subjective exemptions, like birthplaces, moved resources and things less than 50 years old. I will discuss those exemptions in an upcoming blog post. If you’d like to know more about exceptions to listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places, you can download the Evaluating Historic Places manual from the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program website.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer