Municipal Historic Resource designation refresher series: Provincial Historic Resources and Municipal Historic Resources

Editor’s note: Welcome to the final post in a series of blog posts developed with municipalities in mind who either have or are considering undertaking Municipal Historic Resource designation. In this post, we will discuss how the evaluation of a historic resource at the provincial and municipal level may result in complimentary or differing heritage values. You can read the previous post here.

For more information, please review the “Creating a Future” manuals available here or contact Rebecca Goodenough, Manager, Historic Places Research and Designation at rebecca.goodenough@gov.ab.ca or 780-431-2309.


Written by: Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Adviser and Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer, Historic Resources Management Branch


Complementary and differing values

Alberta’s Historical Resources Act empowers both the Government of Alberta and municipalities to designate, or recognize and protect, a range of historic resources whose preservation is in the public interest. These resources can be places, structures or objects that may be works of nature or people (or both) that are of palaeontological, archaeological, prehistoric, historic, cultural, natural, scientific or aesthetic interest. Albertans value these historic resources because our past, in its many forms, is part of who we are as a society and helps give our present significance and purpose.

As of July 2020, there are currently 390 Provincial Historic Resources (PHR) and 413 Municipal Historic Resources (MHR) in Alberta, some 60 of which are designated both provincially and municipally. These resources merit designation for various reasons, from their association with significant events, activities, people or institutions; as representative examples of architectural styles or construction methods; for their symbolic and landmark value; or their potential to yield information of scientific value.

Heritage values are described in short Statements of Significance, which are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. In this post, we look at examples of heritage values that municipal and provincial governments recognize and how local and provincial values may align, differ or complement each other.

Plaques or markers are often used to identify designated historic resources. These plaques, affixed to Strathcona Public Library in Edmonton, show that it has been designated as a Provincial Historic Resource and a Municipal Historic Resource. PHRs are identified by a blue, enamel button or marker. MHRs can be identified by a variety of plaques and markers depending on the procedures of the municipality. Source: Historic Resources Management.

Shared heritage value

Some historic resources are municipally and provincially designated for essentially the same reasons. The people, events or themes that give these places heritage value are of such significance that they merit designation by both levels of government. A good example of this type of site is the Nellie McClung House, a 1907 Tudor Revival style house with Arts and Crafts design elements on the interior, located in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood. The property was designated as a Provincial Historic Resource in 1978 and as a Municipal Historic Resource by the City of Calgary in 2009. Both the provincial and municipal designations value the residence for its association with Nellie McClung, the author and member of the Famous Five who successfully helped fight for the legal recognition of women as persons.

Nellie McClung House, Calgary. Source: Historic Resources Management Branch.

Nellie McClung, ca. 1930. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A3354.

Differing heritage values

Other resources are designated municipally and provincially for completely different reasons. This does not mean that the designations are somehow in conflict or disagreement; rather, different values or meanings come into play when the historic place is considered locally and provincially. Annandale, a large residence in the London Road neighbourhood of Lethbridge, was municipally designated in 2008 for its association with two figures significant to the city’s development. Lewis Martin Johnstone, founder of an important local law firm, built the house in 1909 and resided there until 1935. George Graham Ross, a prominent local rancher and founder of an auctioneering company, lived in the house from 1937 to 1940.

Provincial designation of the house in 2015, on the other hand, celebrates the house’s distinctive blend of Queen Anne Revival and Arts and Crafts styles reflected in the dramatic arched porch entrance, wide eaves, and other design features. It considers architectural qualities rather than associations with individuals. As a PHR, Annandale represents the development of Alberta’s rising professional class and that group’s eagerness to adopt emerging residential design trends from other parts of North America. Lewis Martin Johnstone and George Graham Ross belonged to the business elite in Lethbridge; their importance as individuals is meaningful and relevant municipally rather than provincially. In this way, provincial and municipal heritage values are distinct but of equal merit. Together they tell a richer story.

Annandale, Lethbridge. Source: Historic Resources Management Branch, 2009.
The funeral of William Henderson, Mayor of Lethbridge, proceeds along Dufferin Street, now 4 Avenue South, Lethbridge, 1909. Annandale at the extreme left. Source: Peel’s Prairie Provinces. University of Alberta Libraries, PCO12276.

Complimentary heritage value

Elsewhere, municipal and provincial heritage values may align closely and differ mainly in nuance and emphasis, as they do at the Maccoy Homestead in High River. Established in 1883 by Andy Bell as a fishing lodge and guest house near the Highwood River, this former rural property is now enveloped by the growth of the town. The site consists of a whitewashed log cabin with a frame addition, a guesthouse, garage, root cellar and other elements that speak to its former agricultural use. The property was municipally designated in 2009 as the Sheppard/Maccoy House for its heritage value as one of the town’s oldest residences, for its ties to the settlement of the High River region, and as the home of notable High River families and individuals. These include Clydesdale breeder William Ikin, subsistence and dairy farmers Henry and Evelyn Sheppard and, especially, the Sheppards’ daughter Ruth Maccoy, who owned and ran the farm for many decades until 1995.

In 2015, the province designated the Maccoy Homestead as an excellent example of the development of agricultural farmsteads in the foothills region and for the site’s association with the contribution of women’s labour to homesteading and agriculture in Alberta. Where the municipal significance is rooted in individuals and the role of the place in local and regional history, provincial designation references province-wide themes of agricultural development and the role of women in agricultural society.

Maccoy Homestead, High River. Source: Historic Resources Management Branch, 2018.

Conclusions

PHRs and MHRs share a Canadian, “values-based” heritage framework based on widely adopted significance criteria. Differing values, where they occur, often reflect differences of context rather than degree of significance.  For example, MHRs are more likely to be locally recognized historic landmarks, where as on a provincial level, designation with heritage value as landmarks are applied more rarely and only to resources, places and landscapes widely recognized across  the province, such as the Frank Slide or the Legislature Building, or metaphorically to regional icons with widespread provincial recognition like grain elevators. Whether they align, differ or complement each other, municipal and provincial heritage values are equally protected when sites are designated under the Historical Resources Act. In both cases, the objective is the same: to conserve heritage value recognized by Albertans for future generations.

Restoration of the Taber Courthouse

Editor’s note: If you’re interested in other restoration projects by the government’s Heritage Conservation Advisers, read about the conservation of Circle L Ranch.

Written by: Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Adviser

Designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2013, the Taber Courthouse presides over a quiet park just off Taber’s main street. The building’s stately arched entryway speaks to its historic importance as one of Alberta’s first “sub-jurisdiction” courthouses, a system of provincial justice administration introduced at the time.

Built in 1918, Assistant Provincial Architect J.B. Allan developed the courthouse design and noted Provincial Architect Richard P. Blakey subsequently revised it. Blakey’s eclectic mix of Edwardian, Classical Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival elements eventually became an architectural prototype for other courthouses of the period. Examples of Blakey’s work that are still intact include the Blairmore Courthouse in the Crowsnest Pass and the Medicine Hat Courthouse. Both of these buildings are Provincial Historic Resources.

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The conservation of Circle L Ranch

Written by: Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Advisor

If you’ve ever driven down the beautiful Cowboy Trail, chances are you’ve driven by at least a few historic ranches. Some of these ranches, like Bar U and E.P., have been operating for over a hundred years.

Another of those ranches is the Circle L Ranch, started by a storekeeper from Salt Lake City in the late 1800s. The site recently underwent a restoration project to help ensure historic small-scale ranching in remained intact and accessible. The ranch is a Provincial Historic Resource and an excellent example of an early family-run ranch in southern Alberta.

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Strathcona Collegiate Institute, Edmonton

In the spirit of back to school season, here is a previous post highlighting the history of the Strathcona Collegiate Institute/Old Scona Academic High School. It was originally published on RETROactive on October 11, 2011. Enjoy!

Strathcona Collegiate Institute/Old Scona Academic High School, 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 Read more

Haunted Heritage Part 2: Abandoned Ghost Towns of Alberta

In keeping with the haunted heritage theme started last year, I thought it would be fun to look at some other spooky places in Alberta. Some of the most haunting places in our province are deserted ghost towns. Along any lonely stretch of highway, travellers are bound to come across the decaying remains of one of Alberta’s abandoned towns. Desertion of these small settlements occurred when local natural resources were depleted and transportation routes shifted elsewhere. With no reason for being, these towns became nothing more than crumbling relics of a bygone era.  Read more

Claiming their Ground – Three Pioneering Alberta Women in their Professions

October is Women’s History Month in Canada, when we celebrate the achievements of women throughout our past and use their stories to inspire Canadians today. The twentieth century saw women entering occupations previously the exclusive domain of men. A variety of circumstances combined to allow these advances, including the rise of public education, social activism culminating in universal suffrage, legal challenges that established women as “persons” and the upheaval created by two world wars. These changes are not sufficient to explain the careers of the three women described in this blog; it took determination, persistence, courage and intelligence for them to succeed and carve a place for themselves as professional women in these fields that were predominantly, if not exclusively, the preserve of men.

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Diane Loranger, geologist, ca. 1946-1947. (Glenbow Archives, IP-14A-1470)

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The Butterfly Effect

Peeling paint and powdering plaster were the first indications something was amiss at the Blairmore Courthouse, a Provincial Historic Resource in the Crowsnest Pass. A leak in the cedar shingle roof, replaced just the previous year, was immediately suspected. Detailing around the dormers in particular, part of the 1922 building’s distinctive Spanish Colonial Revival design by architect R.P. Blakey, is tricky and vulnerable to water penetration.

1920s view of Blairmore Courthouse from the southwest (Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives)
1920s view of Blairmore Courthouse from the southwest (Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives NA-712-3)

Nippon School of Technology, which owns the building and runs a technical school and exchange program for Japanese engineering students there, inspected the roof from the attic and found no active leaks. Puzzled, N.I.T. engaged a conservation architect to inspect the building and identify sources of moisture causing the paint and plaster failure. The findings were at once surprising and (in hindsight) credible.   Read more

Hangar 14 and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) is considered to be Canada’s primary contribution to the Second World War. Although the Plan was only in existence from 1940 to 1945, it left a lasting impact on Alberta and Canada as a whole. One of the most visible results of the Plan was the building construction that boomed during this time. There are examples of buildings produced during the BCATP period that are still in existence and the historical significance of these structures is evident today, one of which is Hangar 14, located at the former Blatchford Field and Municipal Airport site in Edmonton. This post will look at the foundation of the BCATP and summarize the distinct features of Hangar 14 that demonstrate the building’s significance as a provincial historic resource.

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Hanger 14, the home of the Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton.
(Erin Hoar, 2015)

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Conservation at the E.P. Ranch

E.P. (Prince Edward) Ranch, established by the Bedingfeld family in 1886, is located in the foothills southwest of Calgary near the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site. In 1919, during a cross-Canada tour, the Bedingfeld’s ranch captured the fancy of His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales, upon his visit to the area.  Prince Edward purchased the ranch shortly thereafter from Frank Bedingfeld. Under Edward’s direction, the ranch developed a breeding program for sheep, cattle, and horses with livestock imported from the Prince’s breeding farms in the Duchy of Cornwall in England.  Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII, visited the ranch in the 1920s and in the 1940s and 1950s, after his abdication, as the Duke of Windsor.  Photographs in the Glenbow Archives show Edward and his wife Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, strolling among the ranch buildings that still stand at the site today. The E.P. Ranch was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2004 for its association with Edward, who owned the site from 1919 to 1962. Fans of the 1992 movie Unforgiven will also recognize scenes shot on location at the ranch.

The main ranch (or Prince's) house prior to restoration, April 2014.
The main ranch (or Prince’s) house prior to restoration, April 2014.

In June 2013, the E.P. Ranch found itself at the epicentre of the torrential rains that flooded communities and historic sites across southern Alberta. Pekisko Creek overflowed its banks and swept through the site, turning grazing lands into a virtual river.  While the large and distinctive horse barn was unaffected, four other buildings were damaged. Read more

LETHBRIDGE’S ANNANDALE DESIGNATED A PROVINCIAL HISTORIC RESOURCE

The residence known as Annandale, one of Lethbridge’s best known heritage homes, has been designated as a Provincial Historic Resource and is listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Exterior of Annandale in Lethbridge from the northwest, showing the entry porch with large arches, the wood shingle siding, bow windows and dormer window. September 2009. Alberta Culture and Tourism, Government of Alberta.
Exterior of Annandale in Lethbridge from the northwest, showing the entry porch with large arches, the wood shingle siding, bow windows and dormer window. September 2009. Alberta Culture and Tourism, Government of Alberta.

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