Sexsmith Heritage Inventory Almost Complete!

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.

Participants in the Sexsmith Heritage Inventory Project (From left to right): Chelsea Dunk (Donald Luxton & Associates Inc.), James Obniawka (HAB), David Olson (resident), Larry Anderson (HAB), Vella Anderson (HAB), Carolyn Gaunt (Town of Sexsmith), Jean Rycroft, Sam Boisvert (Donald Luxton & Associates Inc.). Missing from photo: Grant Berg, Isak Skjaveland
Participants in the Sexsmith Heritage Inventory Project (From left to right): Chelsea Dunk (Donald Luxton & Associates Inc.), James Obniawka (HAB), David Olson (resident), Larry Anderson (HAB), Vella Anderson (HAB), Carolyn Gaunt (Town of Sexsmith), Jean Rycroft, Sam Boisvert (Donald Luxton & Associates Inc.). Missing from photo: Grant Berg, Isak Skjaveland

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.

100 Street (Main Street), Sexsmith
100 Street (Main Street), Sexsmith

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

“Rah, Rah, Sis Boom Ba!”

Heritage Advisory Bodies aren’t pep squads but they do need P.E.P!

Members of the Holden Heritage Resources Committee.
Members of the Holden Heritage Resources Committee (Municipal Heritage Forum 2011).

As a best practice, the Municipal Heritage Services Unit of Alberta Culture encourages municipalities that are developing local heritage conservation programs to establish a heritage advisory body. A heritage advisory body could be a board, commission or committee that advises Council on matters pertinent to the development and management of a local heritage program. Essentially, a heritage advisory body has the important job of providing public input and expertise to Council so that informed decisions about the municipality’s heritage will benefit current residents and future generations. Heritage advisory bodies can also play a key role in fostering community interest and support.

So what does pep have to do with heritage advisory bodies? Well, a quick search on defines “pep” as being indicative of high spirits, energy, or vitality. While these are great traits for a municipal heritage advisory body, these groups should also possess another type of pep: Planning, Engagement and Partnerships.

Yellowhead County Heritage Advisory Board (2011)
Yellowhead County Heritage Advisory Board and municipal staff (2011).

Planning – A wise man once taught me: “Prior preparation and planning prevents poor performance.” This holds true for the development of local heritage conservation programs. For a municipality (and its heritage advisory body) to effectively manage historic resources it should learn about, understand and plan for the successful protection and conservation of significant places. A heritage advisory body, representing the broader community, plays a key role in planning projects that identify potential historic places, evaluating sites for heritage value and determining appropriate procedures and policies for managing an effective heritage program. The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program has a suite of cost-shared grants designed to assist with the completion of these projects.

Tour of historic places in the Village of Vilna (2002).
Tour of historic places in the Village of Vilna (2002).

Engagement – Why do we conserve heritage? Many answers come to mind but the most commonly referenced speaks of how present and future generations will benefit from improved community identity and a stronger sense of place. Ultimately, this reason transforms heritage conservation into something that is very people focused, as opposed to place specific. So, when planning don’t forget to engage the community benefiting from heritage conservation! Find ways for residents to participate and experience their heritage: organize heritage awareness special events; develop educational material so that people may learn about and take pride in their community’s unique heritage. Be creative in your approach and have fun! Heritage awareness or research grants offered through the Heritage Preservation Partnership Program may assist with these types of initiatives.

Vulcan Regional Heritage Project Steeering Committee - a collaboration between area municipalities (2011).
Vulcan Regional Heritage Project Steeering Committee – a collaboration between Vulcan County, Town of Vulcan and the villages of Carmangay, Champion and Milo (2011).

Partnerships – Heritage is holistic and so its conservation and celebration can’t be completed in isolation. As a result, heritage advisory bodies should engage and partner with other organizations – especially community organizations that are atypical. That local hockey association, tennis club, wilderness organization or theatrical society might very well be planning the perfect event that could support some heritage engagement objectives. The members of those same organizations might also provide a new perspective or highlight additional opportunities related to heritage conservation. I challenge you: find a listing of community organizations, select the one that seems least likely to have an interest in heritage conservation and try to collaborate on a mutually beneficial project. Through partnerships and collaborations, awareness and appreciation of heritage will surely increase.

This P.E.P. approach to heritage management will help ensure a collective community-driven attitude; a method that will strengthen and increase support and contribute to a community culture of conservation.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

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

“How is Yellowhead County going to accomplish this?”

Yellowhead County, a large rural municipality west of Edmonton that stretches between the Pembina River in the east all the way to the Jasper National Park gates in the west, is currently embarking upon a Municipal Heritage Survey.

Over the coming months the County will identify and document a broad range of potential historic places within the County’s boundaries. With Yellowhead County spanning an area of 7,012,000 acres you might be asking, “How is the County going to accomplish this?”

1) Under the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (MHPP) Yellowhead County has received cost-shared funding. All municipalities in Alberta are eligible to apply for cost-shared funding to assist in the completion of a Municipal Heritage Survey, Municipal Heritage Inventory and/or a Municipal Heritage Management Plan. These projects are designed to assist with the identification, evaluation and management of historic places. Municipalities throughout Alberta have participated in MHPP and learned about the rich historic resources that make their communities unique and livable.

2) Yellowhead County staff, combined with the services of a heritage consultant and the participation of area residents, will complete the Municipal Heritage Survey. The survey will systematically document resources through photographs and record geographical information, design features and construction and historical information.

3) Perhaps most importantly, the County’s Heritage Advisory Board will provide advisory assistance to staff and the consultant throughout the completion of the survey. In September 2010, Yellowhead County Council passed a bylaw establishing a Heritage Advisory Board. This Board, comprised of area residents, has been tasked with the job of advising Council on matters pertaining to the development and maintenance of a heritage program. For instance, the Board will be able to:

  • assist in the implementation of heritage initiatives (i.e. the Municipal Heritage Survey);
  • facilitate community heritage awareness through partnerships and educational initiatives; and
  • advise Council on proposed Municipal Historic Resource designations.

This committed group of volunteers has the important job of providing public input and expertise to Council so that informed decisions about Yellowhead County’s heritage can impact current residents and future generations.

Back L-R: Gary Conger, Shawn Berry, Brian Broughton, Pat DiMarcello. Front L-R: Cheryl May (Heritage Coordinator), Marshall Hoke (Chair), Debbie Charest (Director of Community and Protective Services).

Do you have questions about how your municipality can participate in the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program? Contact program staff to learn more.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Heritage Training Day for City of Medicine Hat


The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (MHPP) provided a training session for the City of Medicine Hat’s Heritage Resources Committee on Friday, March 18, 2011. The meeting took place at the Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre in downtown Medicine Hat, and focused on expanding the Committee’s capacity to evaluate the City’s places of heritage interest. Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services for Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, presented on “Values-Based approaches to Heritage Resource Management,” as well as on “Understanding and Using Statements of Significance.” Case studies of four potentially significant places in Medicine Hat were explored during the workshop.

City of Medicine Hat Heritage Advisory Committee

Pictured from Left to Right:  Malcolm Sissons, Chair; Philip Pype, Archivist, Staff Resource; Kathy Eden, Heritage Assistant, Staff Resource; George Webb, Vice-Chair; Jeanie Gartly, Planning Superintendent (Policy & Heritage) Staff Resource; Dennis Baresco, Member; Barry Finkelman, Ex-Officio Advisor; Mark Dumanowski, Member; Earl Morris, Member; Carol Beatty, Cultural Development Manager, Staff Resource; Andrea McIntosh, Member (not in photo); Alderman Graham Kelly, City Council Representative (not in photo).

Formed in 2009 by Medicine Hat City Council to advise on issues relating to heritage conservation, the Committee has enthusiastically embraced its task. Already, the Committee has provided valuable advice relating to the 2010 designation of Medicine Hat’s first Municipal Historic Resource – the Hargrave-Sissons Block. Heritage Advisory groups like this are being developed by municipalities all across Alberta, and MHPP staff are available to provide orientation and training to acquaint communities with “best practices” in heritage conservation.

For more information on establishing or training municipal Heritage Advisory groups, please contact Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services at (780) 438-9502 or

Village of Holden: Holdin’ their Heritage!

The Village of Holden, a community of 398 residents in east-central Alberta, is currently completing a Municipal Heritage Survey and Inventory project with funding assistance from the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (Alberta Historical Resources Foundation). Approximately 60 sites within Holden have been documented through the survey phase of the project and 24 sites have been evaluated for historical significance as part of the inventory. Completing this project has allowed the Village to get a better hold on their heritage.
At an information session held in January 2011 owners of evaluated properties were able to learn more about the project and discuss the possibility of Municipal Historic Resource designation. 
Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer
Village of Holden, Heritage Committee (Left to Right: D. Maruszeczka, K. Stokowski, P. Nahirniak, B. Manweiler (MHPP), K. Whiteside)


How do I start?!


Since you are reading this blog, it’s likely that you’re someone who cares about historic places.  Whether it’s the corner coffee shop that has always served as a local gathering place, or the ornate church at the centre of town with a soaring steeple, historic places are places of meaning that help us define our communities.

You may be thinking – “how can I help conserve the places that matter to me and my community?” Many Albertans may not be aware that their locally significant historic places can be legally protected at the municipal level. That’s right – you heard it here. Since 1978, local governments in Alberta have been empowered by the Historical Resources Act to protect their own historic places through designation as Municipal Historic Resources.

Perhaps you are an owner or steward of a place you believe is historically significant and are interested in seeing that place protected. Or maybe you are a municipal councillor, administrator, or staff person responding to requests from your residents:

  • Dig into the history for yourself – there is no substitute for understanding the background and context of the place. Local archives, land titles, municipal records like building permits, organizational Minutes, conversations with seniors/elders, and family photo albums are great sources to try and deepen our knowledge of the past – especially about our historic places;     
  • Get involved Does your community have an established Heritage Advisory Body? Ask your municipal staff or Councillor if you do, and if, so, let them know about the historic places that matter to you. If you don’t yet have a “HAB,” offer to help your community get one started;
  • Request an Evaluation – Alberta Culture and Community Spirit’s Municipal Heritage Partnership Program can help your municipality to determine its heritage values and evaluate places that are of interest. This can happen through a project called a heritage inventory, or on a more ‘one-off’  basis. MHPP staff are available to help local governments “get the ball rolling” and engaged in conserving their heritage.
In short, if you’re keen to see your historic places conserved for future generations of Albertans, MHPP staff are here to help.
Written by: Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services