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

All Aboard! Big Valley Canadian Northern Railway Station Celebrates 100 Years

Canadian Northern Railway Station, Big Valley

At one time, more than 800 communities in Alberta had a train station. This is no longer the case. Fewer than 10% of Alberta’s train stations remain today, and even fewer continue to serve their original purpose. The Canadian Northern Railway Station at Big Valley – designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2005 – is one of those few. Train excursions run regularly from Stettler to Big Valley, often with the mighty 6060 Steam Locomotive (also a Provincial Historic Resource) in the lead.

The Big Valley CNoR station in 2011

The Big Valley CNoR station received a restoration grant from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation this year, just in time for its 100th birthday. The Canadian Northern Society is planning a big party in honour of the centenary on Saturday, September 29. Check out the poster! Make sure your visit includes the roundhouse, which was designated along with the railway station. Another site worthy of note in Big Valley is St. Edmund’s Anglican Church – the Blue Church at the top of the hill – which was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2002.

The Big Valley CNoR station in 1979 (79-R0375-27)

Sixteen other train stations have been designated Provincial Historic Resources. They are at Camrose, Claresholm, Didsbury, Empress, Fort Saskatchewan, Heinsburg, High River, Lethbridge, Meeting Creek, Paradise Valley, Peace River, Red Deer, Sexsmith, Smoky Lake, Strathcona (in Edmonton), and Vegreville. The stations at Beiseker, High River, Red Deer and Strathcona have also been designated by their respective municipalities. Additional recognition for Alberta train stations has come from the federal government, which has declared those at Banff, Empress, Hanna, Jasper, Lake Louise, Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Strathcona to be Heritage Railway Stations.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator

New Historic Places listed for the City of Lethbridge!

Three of the City of Lethbridge’s Municipal Historic Resources were recently posted on the Alberta Register of Historic Places:

The City has been collaborating with the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program for several years to identify, evaluate, and protect Lethbridge’s significant historic places. They have developed a Heritage Management Plan, established a Heritage Advisory Committee, and Downtown Lethbridge is an Accredited Alberta Main Street community.

These three new listings complement the properties already designated by the City. Congratulations Lethbridge!

Written by: Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services

What information did you miss?

Municipal Heritage Services Staff, L-R: Michael Thome, Brenda Manweiler and Matthew Francis.

At the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum, “Roadmap to Success,” four concurrent breakout sessions provided by staff of the Historic Places Stewardship Section, Culture and Community Services allowed attendees to learn about managing a successful municipal heritage conservation program. Find out what you missed: click below to obtain PDF versions of the presentations.

“Creating Heritage Advisory Bodies that Work for your Community” – Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Heritage Advisory Bodies (HABs) are boards, committees or commissions established through municipal bylaw. The community members appointed to the HAB advise council on heritage conservation matters and assist with the implementation of heritage initiatives (such as a Municipal Heritage Survey or a Municipal Heritage Inventory). This presentation discusses the ingredients necessary to establish an effective HAB.

“How to Designate and Approve Interventions to Municipal Historic Resources” – Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

A Municipal Historic Resource may not be destroyed, disturbed, altered, restored or repaired without the written approval of the applicable municipal council, or their designate. This presentation provides an overview of the designation and alteration approval processes.

“Getting your Municipal Historic Resources Listed on the Alberta Register” – Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services

The Alberta Register of Historic Places is a listing of formally recognized historic resources in Alberta. Owners of Municipal Historic Resources and Provincial Historic Resources listed on the Register may apply for cost-shared conservation funding through the Historic Resource Conservation category of the Heritage Preservation Partnership Program. This presentation reviews the eligibility and listing process.

“Understanding the Standards & Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada” – Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Advisor

The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada provides practical guidance on the preservation, rehabilitation and restoration of historic resources. This presentation is a general introduction to the principles and recommended/not recommended actions contained in the Standards and Guidelines.

NOTE: For a complete collection of the 2011 Municipal Heritage Forum presentations, please click here.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Pop Quiz – Win a Fabulous Prize!

Want to test your knowledge of Alberta’s historic places? Are you eager to explore the Alberta Register of Historic Places and learn about Alberta’s rich heritage? Click on the link below and answer the following skill-testing questions:


  1. How many buildings that were historically used as fire stations have been designated as historic resources?  (Hint – use the Functional Type Historic search feature)
  1. How many designated historic resources are located within the municipal boundaries of the Town of Fort Macleod?
  1. A scientist at which designated historic resource in Alberta captured the first North American photographs of the Sputnik I satellite?
  1. Which Edmonton resident garnered international acclaim for her pioneering work as a meteorologist?
  1. How many designated historic resources can be found on a road trip between Daysland and Hardisty?
  1. Which internationally-renowned inventor is the community of Nobleford named after and what was the invention for which he is best known?

Be the first to submit correct answers and you will receive a prize package designed to help you discover Alberta’s historic places.

Each month we will post a new quiz, so stay tuned!

Quiz written by: Matthew Wangler, Manager of Historic Places Research and Designation Program

Planes, Trains and Automobiles?

RETROactive is all about Alberta’s historic places. But what is a historic place: is it a home, a commercial building, a church or a baseball diamond? Could planes, trains or automobiles be historic places? The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada defines a historic place as, “a structure, building, group of buildings, district, landscape, archaeological site or other place in Canada that has been formally recognized for its heritage value.” Does this mean any place in Alberta could be a historic place?

Not quite. For a place to be listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places something must be  designated as a Provincial Historic Resource or a Municipal Historic Resource and  must meet one of the following significance criteria:

  • Theme / Activity / Cultural Practice / Event – a place directly associated with a theme, activity, cultural practice or event that has made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of provincial or municipal history.
  • Institution / Person – a place directly associated with a significant institution or with the life of a significant person in the province’s or municipality’s past.
  • Design / Style / Construction – a place displaying distinctive characteristics of a type, style, period or method of construction, or representing the work of a master, or expressing high artistic values.
  • Information Potential – a place yielding, or likely to yield, information important to a municipality’s or the province’s history, prehistory or natural history.
  • Landmark / Symbolic Value – a place particularly prominent or conspicuous, and that has acquired special visual, sentimental or symbolic value that transcends its function. A landmark contributes to the distinctive character of the province or municipality.

Note: The Historical Resources Act limits Municipal Historic Resource designation to real property. This means that while the province can designate a plane, train or an automobile, municipalities may only designate land and “immovables” (meaning buildings and other things permanently affixed to land). For additional information please see: Evaluating Historic Places and Designating Municipal Historic Resources.

So do historic places in Alberta include planes, trains and automobiles? I have searched the Alberta Register of Historic Places and this is what I have uncovered:

Planes: Hangar #14, Edmonton Municipal Airport

Hangar #14 is significant, “as a rare surviving Canadian example of hangar design from the World War Two period and as a symbol of Canada’s wartime experience.” It is also significant, “for its association with Wilfred R. May, one of Edmonton’s most significant aviation figures and the 418 City of Edmonton Squadron.” Hangar #14 is designated as both a Municipal Historic Resource and a Provincial Historic Resource.

Trains: Canadian National Railways Steam Locomotive 6060

The 6060 Locomotive (pictured above) is significant, “as an excellent representation of a late-era steam locomotive.” The engine currently services the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions line, which runs between Stettler and Big Valley. It is designated as a Provincial Historic Resource.


Do you have any suggestions? Approximately 700 historic places are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Search the register to discover one that is associated with automobiles. Let us know what you find by submitting a comment at the bottom of this post.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Welcome Forestburg!

The Forestburg Masonic Temple is the newest Municipal Historic Resource listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Constructed in 1921, the Village of Forestburg values this place for its historic use as the meeting place for the Masonic Order and as a community hall. The hall is the Village of Forestburg’s first Municipal Historic Resource.

This listing contains an example of a Statement of Significance for a site that is valued as for its historic use.

Written by: Micheal Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Special Places in the Special Areas

The three most recent Municipal Historic Resources listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places are in the Special Areas. The three Special Areas form a unique municipality. Located in southeastern Alberta, the 2.1 million hectare municipality is administered by a provincially appointed board. The sites are:

  • The St. Laurence Anglican Church, which was built in the Hamlet of Monitor in 1915. This wood-framed church is valued for its use as an Anglican Church and its association with the foundation and development of the local community.
  • The Roland School, a one room school located south of the Village of Consort. The community values it for its use, first as a public school between 1913 and 1933 and subsequently as a community hall.
  • The New Brigden Water Tower, which was constructed by the Canadian National Railway in 1925 as the company installed a branch line through the area. The tower is valued for being a landmark in the Hamlet of New Brigden.

The Historical Resources Act enables Alberta’s municipalities to conserve their significant places. By designating a site a Municipal Historic Resource, municipalities can protect their special places from unsympathetic alterations. Since 2006, when the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program was established, Alberta’s municipalities have designated almost a hundred Municipal Historic Resources. The variety of historic places that our communities are preserving illustrates the variety of ways Albertans have lived their lives.

The above three sites are just a small sample of the 165 Municipal Historic Resources currently listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. We encourage you to explore the register to learn more about Alberta’s provincially and municipally designated historic places. Perhaps one of the listings will inspire you to look at a place in your community in a new way.

Written by: Micheal Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Alberta’s Historic Places in the Space Age

While it may not look like much from this 2006 photo, Alberta’s Newbrook Observatory played a key role in the “space race” of the twentieth century.

The field station’s listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places recounts how on “October 4, 1957, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) astounded the world by announcing the successful launch of Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite to be sent into space. Less than a week later, Art Griffen, resident scientist at the Newbrook Observatory, took the first North American photograph of Sputnik, confirming the Russians’ claim. The news of the launch sent shockwaves around the world.”

The Newbrook Observatory was designated in 1995 as a Provincial Historic Resource.

Written by: Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services

Need help understanding your historic place? Develop a SoS

Many municipalities are busily writing Statements of Significance (SoS) for their historic places. Listing Municipal Historic Resources and Provincial Historic Resources on the Alberta Register of Historic Places requires a SoS, but that’s hardly the best reason to write one. Statements of Significance are not online plaques, histories or even calls for help.

A properly written SoS explains why we value a particular historic place, linking these values to physical, character-defining elements that manifest those values. If you would like to see an example of a SoS just look at the entry for any Municipal Historic Resource or Provincial Historic Resource listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places, such as the SoS for the D.U. Ranchlands Cabin.

A Statement of Significance explains where a historic place is located (a quarter section in the M.D. of Pincher Creek), what you will find at the site (a one-room log cabin) and the reasons why the community feels the place is significant. A SoS does not describe a place’s history (such as who built it), it explains why the community values the place (as an example of an early 1900 homesteader’s cabin). A SoS relates these values to physical elements that must be conserved (wood log construction). Removing these character-defining elements would undermine the place’s significance; without these elements, the site would no longer be a historic place.

Without understanding historic places–why each is valued and how each exhibits its values–nobody can objectively determine how proposed alterations will affect a historic place. Many historic places have been scarred by well intentioned “repairs” that didn’t take into account why it was significant. A Statement of Significance may not be a call for help, but these documents do help in planning for and managing the effective conservation of historic places. 

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer