After two seasons of closures, Alberta’s historic sites set to reopen

Written by: Suzanna Wagner, Edward van Vliet, Stephanie McLachlan

May 18 might be an ordinary Wednesday for some, but for Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, it’s a much anticipated day. After two seasons of COVID closures, seven historic sites will be re-opening to visitors next week.

In the eastern part of the province, Fort George & Buckingham House is kicking off summer 2022 in grand style. Not only has the site’s official book Opponents and Neighbours: Fort George and Buckingham House and the early fur trade on the North Saskatchewan River, 1792 to 1800, been published, but 2022 is the visitor centre’s 30th anniversary.

The modern visitor centre at Fort George & Buckingham House was opened exactly 200 years after the original fur trade forts were built. Inside you’ll find an interactive museum gallery, travelling exhibits, activities, guided tours and modern visitor facilities. Source: Historic Sites and Museums.

This season also marks the debut of a new exhibit. “Fur Trade Highways of Alberta: Water Transportation, 1780 to 1930,” covers fur trade companies’ gradual transition from canoes, to York boats, to paddle wheelers over 150 dramatic years of change in the fur trade. The exhibit features boating artifacts, a music station, a video about York boat building and life-size boat outlines in the ground to give visitors a real-life sense of how big these boats were.

Be sure to check out Fort George & Buckingham House’s Facebook and website for details of all the upcoming events! We hope to see you there.

To celebrate these many milestones, each weekend in July and August will have a different theme. There will be a book launch party, weekends celebrating the river, boats, and the new exhibit, weekends to explore the storied archaeological history of the site, events featuring stories of the many people who lived at Fort George & Buckingham House and a return of the ever-popular Bears and Berries festival!

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The recipes of Rutherford House

Written by: Louise McKay and Suzanna Wagner

Many people believe the kitchen is the heart of a family’s home. At Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site, the kitchen is tucked away out of sight at the back of the house, but that doesn’t mean it was any less central to the family’s life than the more prominent rooms at the front of the house.

The aforementioned kitchen in Rutherford House. Built in 1911, Rutherford House was the home of Mr. Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Premier of Alberta from 1905-1910, Mrs. Mattie Rutherford, and their adolescent children, Cecil and Hazel. Source: Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site.

In fact, the discreet location of this vital space could be considered symbolic of the more general way women’s domestic history is so often obscured from immediate view.

The house’s grand façade, sweeping staircase, large library and impressive drawing and dining rooms leaves the visitor in no doubt about Mr. Rutherford’s prominent position in politics and as the founder of the University of Alberta. If the signs of Mr. Rutherford’s impact on his community are so clearly seen, how can we trace the impact of the Rutherford women? Perhaps the kitchen can provide us with answers.

Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site is also the steward of a little black notebook that belonged to Hazel Rutherford, daughter of Mattie and Alexander Cameron Rutherford. Hazel copied recipes from her mother in it, including instructions for making tomato relish and meat pies.

Hazel Rutherford had taken a shine to a young partner at her father’s law firm, Stanley McCuaig. Stanley would leave for service in the First World War in 1917 and not return until 1919. Hazel and Stanley got married in a small ceremony on September 17, 1919. One wonders if Hazel started copying and collecting recipes in preparation for running her own household one day.

Hazel began her collection of recipes and household tips in her little black notebook in 1916. Source: Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site.

Hazel’s recipes leave out a lot of information. Baking time is often missing, and oven temperatures can be confusing to a modern reader. What does moderate heat mean?  And what exactly is a cup measurement? Often “a cup” historically meant a teacup so replicating a recipe today may take a few tries before getting it right. 

Some of the recipes have little notes beside them. Does a “tic” beside a recipe translate to “great!”? If so, the meat pie recipe is one we should all try!  Does a slash through it mean it was a “fail”?  Or maybe little Rutherford and McCuaig family members were giving their opinion and comments on the families recipes. 

Many recipes have additions or substitutes added as well making it difficult for an outsider or next generation cook to come out with a successful result. Take Lola’s (Hazel’s aunt) Butterscotch pie.

Aunt Lola’s Butterscotch pie isn’t the only recipe from other family members or neighbours in Hazel’s book. These shared recipes give us clues to women’s social networks- after all, sharing a recipe usually means that a meal was shared, enjoyed and then copied. Reading Hazel’s recipe book makes us think about meals hosted in the Rutherford, and later McCuaig family homes, the people gathered there, and the conversations they had while eating.

A recipe book is never just a book of instructions. It hints at family ties, meals shared, conversations and maybe even at romance. What stories does your recipe book hold?

Pie crust

Tomato relish

Cut 30 large Ripe tomatoes, 6 large pears and 6 large peaches.

6  large onions into quite fine pieces (cut onions very fine).

Put 8 teaspoons of mixed spices into a muslin bag and boil with fruit.  Add 4 cups brown sugar 1 quart malt vinegar, 3 red, 3 green peppers and two tablespoons of salt and boil for 3 hours.

Meat Pie

Have beef Stew (left over roast) very hot with lots of gravy. Make a batter of 1 tablespoon butter and one tbsp beef dripping. Add about 2 tbsp sifted flour and cream.

Partly fill 1 cup sifted flour and add 2 full teaspoons of baking powder and pinch of salt.  Add 1 cup cold water to batter+ flour mixture then the rest of the flour adding enough liquids to make a soft dough. Drop in spoon fulls on meat and bake in a hot oven.

Butterscotch pie, sweet cucumber pickles

COVID resilience: Experiencing Alberta’s smaller provincial historic sites in new ways

Written by: Suzanna Wagner, Program Coordinator, Victoria Settlement and Fort George & Buckingham House

What can you find at Alberta’s provincial historic sites? History, of course. But what about an unstoppable fount of creativity?

Connecting Albertans with history is what staff a provincial historic sites do, but COVID closures have placed some particularly unusual barriers in the way of achieving this mission. Since some provincially-owned and operated historic sites were unable to open for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, staff had to find creative new ways for our communities to connect with the history we steward.

Below is a whirlwind tour of a few of the innovative ways Alberta’s smaller historic sites invited guests to explore their shared heritage.

Rutherford House

Since the house was closed to visitors, Rutherford House staff (and its smallest resident, Rutherford Mouse) picked up stakes and travelled for a visit to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.  They spent the summer inviting other visitors at the Ukrainian Village to join in a couple of Rutherford House programs.

The first program, Rutherford Mouse Visits the Country, was a scavenger hunt for young guests. Children (and adults) were invited to explore Pylypow and Hawreliak Houses and see if they could catch Rutherford Mouse visiting with his country friends by spotting his miniature mouse furniture and belongings hiding inside the houses, on window ledges, and beside the big-people furniture and artifacts. Children excitedly shared what they had discovered. More than 200 people took on the challenge!

Our second program, Making a House a Home, was an opportunity to compare and contrast the houses and interiors of the Rutherfords’ two residences here in Edmonton, as well as Pylypow and Hawreliak houses. Who had the fanciest floors? Whose house was a pre-packaged one? Did they all have maids? Where did everyone sleep? Almost 100 people took the opportunity to explore these amazing buildings.

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Season’s Greetings! With its hustle and bustle, Christmas Day will soon be here. Before we celebrate the magic of the holiday season, let us look back at the wonder and charm of a simpler time. The extensive photo collections at the Provincial Archives of Alberta and the City of Edmonton Archives offer a unique glimpse into the celebrations of Christmases past in Alberta; the following images were selected from their holdings to create a photo montage dedicated to old-fashioned holiday memories and traditions. Enjoy!


Not only does the holiday season include fun outdoor activities, festive bright lights and the sweet sounds of Christmas melodies, but it is always filled with an assortment of tasty old-fashioned baked treats. Thanks to our colleagues at Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site, we are pleased to share one of Mrs. Rutherford’s classic Christmas desserts, a treasured family recipe for plum pudding passed down from her mother.


Chop fine 2# suet, add #2 seeded raisins cut in half, #2 seedless raisins, ½# peel, ½ # almonds cut in half or slices 4 cups bread crumbs. Beat 8 eggs, 2 cups milk and 2 cups brown sugar together. Add sifted 2 cups of flour, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, 2tsp salt, 4 tsp baking soda. Combine with fruit. Fill oiled moulds 2/3 full. Steam 3 – 4 hours.

Sauce for Plum Pudding (Foamy)

½ cup butter

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp boiling water

1 egg

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tsp nutmeg

Cream butter and sugar, beat egg lightly add with lemon juice and nutmeg, beat until light and fluffy. Add water 1 teaspoon at a time and beat well heated over hot water (double boiler?). Serve hot on pudding.

Should any of our readers decide to take it upon themselves to try and make Grandmother Birkett’s Plum Pudding recipe, please let us know how it turns out. Comments are always appreciated; we anxiously await your review!

Traditional Christmas Plum Pudding (from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, Food Plate of Puddings – 1890s edition)

Written By: Marsha Mickalyk, Archaeological Permits and Digital Information Coordinator & Pauline Bodevin, Regulatory Approvals Coordinator, Historic Resources Management Branch.


HERMIS (Heritage Resources Management Information System) –

City of Edmonton Archives –


Last month we showcased some historic sites and museums located in southern Alberta—this time we’re going to take a look at a few sites in and around the Edmonton area. From living museums to restored mansions to historic chapels, there’s a ton of history for you and your family to explore this summer.

Father Lacombe_201265
Father Lacombe Chapel
Located in beautiful Mission Park in St. Albert, the Father Lacombe Chapel is Alberta’s oldest still-standing building. Historical interpreters can lead you through the chapel and historic Mission Hill, and you can visit the crypt where Father Lacombe is buried. Father Lacombe has been restored to look much as it did in the early 1860s.

More info…

Admission: by donation
Hours: 10 a.m.  to 5 p.m., daily until Labour Day Read more

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)