Participate in the Workings of a 1900s Household!

Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site is proud to be a part of Historic Festival & DOORS OPEN Edmonton, July 3 – 8, 2012. This year’s festival theme, “Celebrate our Heritage … our Cities,” commemorates the 100th anniversary of the merger of the cities of Edmonton and Strathcona. The Rutherford family contributed greatly to the history of this community and it is fitting for us to celebrate this milestone.

Daily Events

Our events depict what life was like in a large household, in Edmonton, during the early 1900s.  Follow the work week of the Rutherford family and the maid of the house. Each day of the festival will have a different activity:

  • Wash Day – Tuesday, July 3
  • Gardening, the Historic Way – Wednesday, July 4
  • Cleaning and Historic Crafts – Thursday, July 5
  • Kitchen Clean Up – Friday, July 6
  • Baking Day – Saturday, July 7
  • A Day of Rest, Music and Tea! – Sunday, July 8

To try your hand at these activities – visit the house between 10:00am – 5:00pm on the indicated day. Rutherford House is located at 11153 Saskatchewan Drive, on the University of Alberta campus.

The Rutherfords’ Contributions to Early Edmonton

Mr. and Mrs. Rutherford with their 2 small children arrived in the community of South Edmonton in 1895. The terminal station of the C & E Railway was located on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River, not far from the current Strathcona Farmers Market. South Edmonton was a budding establishment with growing businesses, rapidly expanding land claims and only 1 lawyer. Mr. Rutherford saw an opportunity to establish his law office and settle his family in this flourishing community.

South Edmonton later became the Town of Strathcona and in 1912 the cities of Strathcona and North Edmonton joined to form Edmonton. Mr. Rutherford not only had a thriving business in this community, but he held several noteworthy positions, including Secretary-Treasurer of South Edmonton School Board, Secretary-Treasurer of the Town of Strathcona, President of the Strathcona Liberal Association, Deputy Speaker of N.W.T. Legislative Assembly, Alberta’s first Premier and the University of Alberta Chancellor. Mr. Rutherford’s commitment and contributions to his community have left an enduring legacy.

Mrs. Rutherford’s commitment to the community was different than Mr. Rutherford’s, but similarly important. She volunteered for the Red Cross, organized charity drives to help the less fortunate and frequently opened her home to fundraising events. She hosted “At Home Teas” and extended an invitation to the community to join her for an afternoon of tea and conversation.

Read about other Historic Festival & DOORS OPEN Edmonton events.

Rutherford House is also a Provincial Historic Resource. Learn about its heritage value from the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Written by: Alison Moir, Program Coordinator (Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site)

Hull Block, Edmonton

With the turn of the 20th century, Edmonton was beginning a period of rapid development, initiated mainly by its position as the commercial gateway to northwestern CanadaIn 1904, Edmonton became a city, and, in 1905, two other events occurred which would solidify its position as a metropolis. First, the city was named the capital of the new province of Alberta, and, second, just as the first Legislative Assembly was convening in September, the tracks of the Canadian Northern Railway were being laid, giving the city a direct line to Winnipeg and the markets of eastern Canada.  Four years later, the Canadian Northern was joined by the Grand Trunk Pacific, with a line through the city’s north end and a spur to the city center.

The arrival of these railways brought dramatic change to the city center where, to the west end, a large warehouse district evolved.  The north side also saw extensive development as many large industries chose to locate plants and warehouses near the tracks.  The railways and the industries they spawned brought masses of working class immigrants to Edmonton, most of who chose to live in neighborhoods near their centers of employment, such as McCauley, Norwood, Riverdale and Bellevue.  As a result, small community commercial areas sprang up to provide easy shopping for residents, and facilitate local businesses.

Being close to the city center, the McCauley district had little need for a separate shopping district, and yet there remained an inclination for many small businesses to locate as close to the people as possible.  As a result, Namayo Avenue (97th Street) was soon developed into a commercial artery, extending from Jasper Avenue all the way to 111th Avenue, with sections of the street also holding small dwellings.  North of the tracks, the street soon assumed the appearance of a small community shopping district, with grocery stores, drug stores, hardware stores, restaurants, barber shops, laundries and convenience stores. The shops were mostly modest two story structures, and often the proprietors would live in the same buildings.

In June 1914, when the commercial boom in Edmonton had actually just passed its apex, a headline in the Edmonton Bulletin read “New $35,000 Block for Namayo Avenue.”  The owner of the property on the corner of Namayo Avenue and Sutherland Street (9664-106th Avenue) was the Calgary business tycoon, William Roper Hull, who apparently saw the need for an office complex in the area.  As designed by E.C. Hopkins and opened the following year, the building was no doubt expected to facilitate small retail businesses and apartment dwellers, as well as office space.  The concept of the combined facility was not unlike the Beuna Vista Apartments and the Gibbard Block recently erected among small commercial buildings in other areas of the city that were surrounded by extensive urban development.

Among the first tenants in what became known as the Hull Block was Herb E. Thomson Drugs, which would occupy the premises until 1940.  Countless other tenants also came to occupy the building, which today appears to be serving the same purpose for which it was built 87 years ago.  Its historical significance lies in its representation of the tremendous commercial growth of downtown Edmonton during the early part of the 20th century.  It is also representative of the kind of commercial structure intended to evoke the ethos of a large office complex, but, due to its location near an urban population, was also made to facilitate small retail businesses and apartment dwellers.  It is also a significant landmark in the McCauley district of Edmonton.  In July 2003, it was designated a Provincial Historic Resource.

Written by: David Leonard, Historian

Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the heritage value of the Hull Block. In order for a site to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource, it must possess province-wide significance. To properly assess the historic importance of a resource, a historian crafts a context document that situates a resource within its time and place and compares it to similar resources in other parts of the province. This allows staff to determine the importance of a resource to a particular theme, time, and place. Above, is some of the historical information used in the evaluation of the Hull Block.

Nominations Invited: Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership

Since 2000, the Heritage Canada Foundation has recognized municipalities that have demonstrated leadership in conserving Canada’s historic places with the Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership. Recently the Foundation announced that this year’s deadline for nominations for the Prize has been extended to May 31st.

Mayor Mandel and the Prince of Wales

Previous recipients include municipalities across Canada, including the City of Edmonton, the only Alberta municipality to ever be awarded the Prize (awarded in 2009).

From the Heritage Canada Foundation’s website:

In keeping with His Royal Highness’ commitment to architecture, the environment, and inner-city renewal, The Prince of Wales agreed to lend his title to the creation in 1999 of a prize to be awarded annually to the government of a municipality which has demonstrated a strong and sustained commitment to the conservation of its historic places. The local government must have a record of supporting heritage preservation through such means as regulation, policies, funding and exemplary stewardship. The nomination must provide evidence that heritage properties in the given municipality have improved over a period of time.

The award consists of a metal plaque and a scroll, as well as a flag or pennant to be flown outside the winning municipality’s headquarters and/or placed on permanent display. The Prince of Wales Prize logo must be displayed on the homepage of the municipality’s website.

Communities interested in making nomination for the Prince of Wales Prize may do so by following the “Eligibility Criteria and Nomination Procedures” established by the Heritage Canada Foundation.

Written by: Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services

Strathcona Fire Hall No. 1

When the Calgary & Edmonton Railway arrived at the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River in 1891, the C & E immediately subdivided a town site which it named South Edmonton.  Being at the end of steel, the community steadily grew throughout the decade until, in 1899, it was incorporated as the Town of Strathcona with a population exceeding 1,000.  To serve this burgeoning community, which consisted primarily of wood frame buildings, it was obvious that some method of organized fire protection was needed.  A volunteer fire brigade was organized in 1901, and, that same year, Town Council provided for the construction of a wood frame fire hall on lot 2, block 79, just north of main street, and near the Town water well.  A horse drawn fire wagon with a wooden water tank was then acquired.

As with Edmonton to the north across the river, Strathcona grew rapidly in the wake of the Klondike gold rush.  In 1907, it was incorporated as a city with an estimated population of 3,500.  It was soon evident that the old fire hall was inadequate, and, so, provision was made for a newer and larger structure.  As the City waterworks was right next door to the old fire hall, it was felt appropriate to build the new structure at the same location.  The firm of Wilson and Herrald was thus contracted to design, and the firm of J.M. Eaton contracted to build a modern two-story red brick facility which could accommodate three fire wagons.  The estimate for construction was $13,715.  A stable in the rear was designed for nine horses, while a bell tower extended from the middle of the structure 77 feet in the air.  The second floor was made to accommodate a chief’s office, a general hall, bedrooms, a band room, and a bathroom with showers.  Two fire poles facilitated instant access to the ground floor.

The Strathcona Fire Hall with its horse-drawn wagons served the City of Strathcona until its amalgamation with Edmonton in 1912.  It was then designated as Edmonton Fire Hall #6 and became part of the Edmonton Fire Department.  A permanent salaried chief was assigned to the Hall, and the number of salaried firefighters grew over the passage of time.  The crews were always supplemented by volunteers in times of emergency.  By 1954, however, the facility was considered dilapidated and outdated, and, so, a new fire hall was constructed nearby.  The old structure was apparently slated for demolition but was considered adequate for storage, and, so, it was leased to Strathcona Furniture, which used it as a warehouse.

By the early 1970’s, there was a growing appreciation in Edmonton about the early buildings of Strathcona, and, so, when the Walterdale Theatre began to plan for a new home, thoughts turned to the old fire hall, which seemed to provide adequate space for a live theatre building.  The Walterdale group moved into its internally renovated facility in 1974, and, in 1976, the structure was designated a Registered Historic Resource.  In the years that followed, it became a central venue for Edmonton’s Fringe Festival.

In September 2007, the Strathcona Fire Hall was designated a Provincial Historic Resource.  Its historical significance lies in its provision of structural evidence of fire fighting facilities in a large urban area in the early 20th century in Alberta.  It is the oldest major fire hall in the province.  It is also important as one of the surviving early public buildings of the City of Strathcona, which tells of life in general in this community.      

Written by: David Leonard, Historian

Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the heritage value of the Strathcona Fire Hall. In order for a site to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource, it must possess province-wide significance. To properly assess the historic importance of a resource, a historian crafts a context document that situates a resource within its time and place and compares it to similar resources in other parts of the province. This allows staff to determine the importance of a resource to a particular theme, time, and place. Above, is some of the historical information used in the evaluation of the Strathcona Fire Hall.

Brrrrr… Oh, wait! It isn’t that cold!

Sitting at my desk enjoying the sun streaming in through the window, I can’t help but wonder what Eda Owen would think about the unseasonably warm winter we are experiencing. Who is Eda Owen, you ask? Working out of the Owen Residence / Dominion Meteorological Station in Edmonton, Owen was a pioneering meteorologist serving from 1915 to 1943. She was one of only a small number of female meteorologists working at weather stations throughout the world.

The Owen Residence / Dominion Meteorological Station was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1994, in part, because of its association with Eda Owen. On the Alberta Register of Historic Places, the Statement of Significance says:

In 1908, Eda and Herbert William Owen emigrated from London to Edmonton. After a number of temporary employments in his new home, Herbert accepted a position as an assistant in the Dominion government’s Meteorological Office. In 1913, the weather office was moved into the Owen residence in the Highlands neighbourhood. Wartime exigencies prompted both Owen and his supervisor, Captain S. M. Holmden, to enlist in 1915 for active service overseas. In their absence, Eda Owen, who had learned the arts of reading navigational charts and employing scientific instruments from her husband, took over meteorological duties at the Highlands station. Herbert never returned home, dying in a prisoner of war camp in Europe. Though overcome by grief, Eda continued her work at the station. In 1921, following a brief spell as an assistant meteorologist, she was formally named Provincial Agent and Weather Observer for Alberta by the federal Department of Marine and Fisheries. Her work was incredibly demanding. The Highlands station was arguably the most significant meteorological post outside of Toronto. Eda was required to take hourly readings from 36 different instruments throughout the day and compile reports from over 140 stations in the region. The information she amassed had wide currency, being circulated to forest rangers, aviators, agriculturalists, as well as radio and newspaper personnel. For most of her service from 1915 until she resigned her post in 1943, Eda was the only woman employed as an observer at a major Canadian meteorological station. Indeed, she was one of only a handful of woman meteorologists at major stations in the world at the time. As a result of her trailblazing work, she garnered international acclaim. MacLeans, the Toronto Star Weekly, and the Christian Science Monitor all featured Eda in their pages, hailing the “Weather Woman of the West” as a pioneer in a scientific field largely dominated by men.

What would Owen think of our warm winter? We will never know, but I would like to think that between readings from the 36 meteorological instruments she would have found time to enjoy the warm spring-like conditions.

To read the complete Statement of Significance, please click here.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Remembrance Day

Several buildings constructed for Canada’s military are designated historic resources. These places can help us understand how soldiers preparing for service lived and worked. Tomorrow being Remembrance Day, we thought it appropriate to feature a piece of Alberta’s military history – the historic resource that Municipal Heritage Forum attendees experienced firsthand at the end of October.

The Municipal Heritage Forum was held at the Prince of Wales Armouries in Edmonton. Most participants enjoyed meeting in this historic place. The Prince of Wales Armouries is a great example of how to adaptively repurpose a historic place.

Several City of Edmonton staff members provided an excellent behind the scenes tour of the facility. We learned how the building was rehabilitated to meet its new role as an archive, museum and meeting facility. As part of the tour, we had the opportunity to hear Timothy O’Grady (Archivist, City of Edmonton Archives) speak about the history of the building. Click here to view Timothy O’Grady’s photo essay.

The Prince of Wales Armouries was built in 1915 to give the Department of National Defence a place in Edmonton to train men for service in the militia. Essentially a huge drill hall, the soldiers who trained here served Canada in both world wars and in many other operations. In recognition of the building’s historic use and its distinctive architecture, the armouries was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1979 and then a Municipal Historic Resource by the City of Edmonton in 2004.

The City of Edmonton acquired the facility in 1977. In 1989 the city began constructing a new archive facility in the centre of the drill hall. The Armouries is now home to the City of Edmonton Archives and several museums.

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

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Bobbin Lace?

Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site in Edmonton is delighted to host a bobbin lace demonstration. Join Jamie Graham as she reveals the delicate and complicated nature of this historic craft.

Sunday Nov. 13, 12:30 – 4:30 pm

Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by weaving, braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow. The placement of the pins is usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow.

Jamie will be at Rutherford House all afternoon. Feel free to drop by to see what this is all about. (Good highways permitting as Jamie is coming to Edmonton from Innisfail.)

Read about the significance of Rutherford House by visiting the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Heritage at the Prince

Today and tomorrow the annual Municipal Heritage Forum is being hosted at the Prince of Wales Armouries, in Edmonton. This impressive building was constructed in 1914-15 as the Edmonton Drill Hall. In 1979 it was designated a Provincial Historic Resource and in 2004 the City of Edmonton designated it a Municipal Historic Resource. The facility currently serves as the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre. The current tenants include:

City of Edmonton Archives

Edmonton Heritage Council

Telephone Historical Centre

Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum

Edmonton Arts Council

To learn about the historic significance of the Prince of Wales Armouries please click here.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Lecture Series: Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site

Have you ever been curious about Rutherford House?? 

What is the history behind this provincial historic site? 

Who was Rutherford and what did this man do that was so important? 

How did this house become protected and why? 

What about the architecture of the house? 

Is it Edwardian, Jacobethan, or Queen Anne Revival?

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Rutherford House, we have asked our colleagues to help us answer these questions and more.  Join us in Edmonton for a mini lecture series at Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site, take a tour of the house and enjoy some tea and fresh baked cookies.

Sunday, October 16, 2 pm; Rutherford House:  A House, a Family, their Community and Times

Presented by Ron Kelland, Historic Places Researcher and Geographical Names Program Coordinator

Sunday October 23, 2 pm; Conserving Rutherford House

Presented by Larry Pearson, Director of Alberta’s Historic Places Program

Sunday October 30, 2 pm; Achnacarry: Designed for a Purpose

Presented by Dorothy Field, Coordinator of the Alberta Heritage Survey

PROGRAM FEE: $5.00 per person / includes lecture, tour of the house museum, along with tea and home baked cookies.

For additional details, please click here: Rutherford House Mini Lecture Series, 2011. For location information, please click on the attached map.

Pre-registration required by calling (780)427-3995 or (780)427-0357.

Strathcona Collegiate Institute, Edmonton

When the Calgary & Edmonton Railway arrived at the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River in 1891, the C & E immediately subdivided a townsite which it named South Edmonton.  Being at the end of steel, the community steadily grew throughout the decade until, in 1899, it was incorporated as the Town of Strathcona with a population exceeding 1,000.  As with Edmonton to the north, Strathcona grew rapidly in the wake of the Klondike gold rush, and, in 1907, it was incorporated as a city with an estimated population of 3,500.  Edmonton, however, was destined to grow at an even greater pace when the Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk Pacific Railways arrived there in 1905 and 1908 respectively, giving this city a direct rail link to eastern Canada.  With most major industries concentrating their operations in Edmonton, Strathcona became more of a residential district, a phenomenon encouraged by the decision of the provincial government, in 1908, to locate a provincial university just to the west of this city.  From this point on, Strathcona would be billed as the University City.

In the spring of 1908, the buildings of the new University of Alberta had yet to be designed let alone constructed.  There were, however, a growing number of high school graduates who wanted to attend university right away.  As a result, the University’s Board of Governors approached the Strathcona Public School Board for the use of a portion of a new high school which was then nearing completion on Lumsden (84th) Avenue and Duggan (105th) Street.  The new 125’ x 77’ school had been designed by the architectural firm of Johnson & Lines to become the largest and most sophisticated high school in Alberta.  It was being built by the firm of Thomas Richards at what would turn out to be a cost of about $100,000.  This was on the site of the earlier Duggan Street School, with additional land acquired by the School Board to the west to accommodate the larger facility.

The cornerstone of the new facility had been laid by Premier Rutherford himself on 18 October, 1907.  Rutherford, from Strathcona, was also the Minister of Education for Alberta.  When it was officially opened by Lieutenant-Governor Bulyea on 17 February 1909, at a ceremony attended by about 600 people, the institution was officially designated the Strathcona Collegiate Institute, in recognition of its initial post-secondary role.  The main floor was to house 71 high school students in four classrooms, while the 2nd floor was taken over by the University.  This included four classrooms to accommodate 47 undergraduate students, the office of President Henry M. Tory, and the University Library.  The third floor was made over into an auditorium with a stage, while the basement provided room for both a boys and a girls gymnasium. Read more