Month: March 2012

What’s New with the Alberta Heritage Survey? (12.01)

There’s been some spring cleaning on the Alberta Heritage Survey website – it’s been tidied up, rearranged and revamped! Check out all the information and new links. You’ll find a description of the Alberta Heritage Survey (AHS) Program, and a link to an electronic version of Photographic Memory , the Provincial Archives of Alberta  exhibit which was previously featured on RETROactive (What’s New with the Alberta Heritage Survey? 11.01). As well, links on the website will take you to pdf versions of documents providing a wealth of information about the heritage survey process, and there are sections with details about HeRMIS, the AHS eForm, and historical walking and driving tour booklets.

This photograph is an example of what may be found on the Alberta Heritage Survey.

HeRMIS, the Heritage Information Management System, provides online access to the database where the Alberta Heritage Survey is stored. You can explore the records of the AHS by querying the database, using the Basic or the Advanced query window. Almost 100,000 records have been entered so far, and more are being added all the time. Images are the latest innovation. A search on the name “Siracky” using the text search field of the Basic Search brings up an interesting selection of buildings in east central Alberta. To explore the records, click on View Details. Once you are in a record you can double click on the images to see larger versions. Click on “Return to Search Results” to go back to the list and access another record.

The eForm is an exciting development that allows data, including images, to be submitted to the Alberta Heritage Survey via the internet. Now, information can be added to the database from anywhere with internet access. This feature is only available on a restricted basis, but you can follow the links to learn how it works.

Over the years, in cooperation with communities and groups across the province, the AHS has produced numerous historical walking and driving tours. Many of these are now out of print, but they are still available through the AHS web page, where pdf versions of 22 tours are available for downloading. As the very first AHS blog post, Spring Forward!  pointed out, a bit of heritage sightseeing is a perfect excuse to get out and enjoy the spring weather.

If you have any comments about the spruced up AHS web page, please contact Dorothy Field.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator

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.

The Royal Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II and Place Names

Reigning heads of state, their siblings and children have been the inspiration behind many names. In Alberta there are places and features named for Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Princess Patricia and of course Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.

View of Maligne Lake and the Queen Elizabeth Ranges, 1938 (Mountains from LtoR are: Samson Peak, Maligne Mountain, Mount Paul, Mount Mary Vaux, Mount Charlton, and Mount Unwin). Provincial Archives of Alberta (Weiss Collection), A3088, photograph by Joe Weiss.

To have features and places named for these people provides a connection to our historical heads of state and Canada’s ties to the British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations; but, what of our current head of state?

Queen Elizabeth II became queen upon the death of her father King George VI on February 6, 1952. Over the ensuing days, she received proclamations of allegiance from all of her realms – Canada being the first to do so, beating the United Kingdom by about two hours. However, the celebrations and honours that accompany the crowning of a new monarch did not begin in earnest until her coronation over a year later on June 2, 1953. During the coronation year, honours for the new Queen came from all corners of the Commonwealth. Not surprisingly, Canada offered a grand gesture to mark the occasion. What may not be so well known is that, this honour was proposed by the Province of Alberta in the form of a series of mountain ranges.

The Queen Elizabeth Ranges

The mountains known today as the Queen Elizabeth Ranges are located in Jasper National Park. They almost encircle Maligne Lake, bordering the lake on its east, south and south-west sides. During her 1908 expedition, Mary Schäffer visited Maligne Lake, possibly being the first non-native person to do so. As her party was travelling by raft down the lake, she wrote:

As we were rounding what was supposed to be our debarking point, there burst upon us that which, all in our little company agreed, was the finest view any of us had ever beheld in the Rockies. … those miles and miles of lake, the unnamed peaks rising above us, one following the other, each more beautiful than the last. …we wandered about to drink it all in. How pure and undefiled it was! We searched for some sign that others had been there, – not a tepee-pole, not a charred stick, not even tracks of game; just masses of flowers, the lap-lap of the waters on the shore, the occasional reverberating roar of an avalanche, and our own voices, stilled by a nameless presence.

During her 1908 and 1911 expeditions to Maligne Lake, Mary Schäffer named many of the surrounding mountains, but the mountain groups or ranges were never specifically given a name, although some considered them to be part of the vaguely defined Maligne or Brazeau Range.

In April 1953, the Geographic Board of Alberta (GBA) received a suggestion from the Alberta Travel Bureau to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The Bureau proposed that the province “name the entire unnamed range [of mountains] along the eastern side of Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake region the Queen Elizabeth Range.” The Travel Bureau proposed that the range should include Leah Peak, Maligne Mountain, Mount Paul, Mount Warren, Mount Brazeau and Mount Henry MacLeod.

The GBA approved the proposal during its the April 18 and April 22 meetings. In the process it dropped Mount Brazeau from the list, but expanded the demarked area to include the unnamed peaks south east of Beaver Lake as well as Monkhead, Mount Warren, Mount Unwin, Mount Charlton, Llysfran Peak, Mount Mary Vaux, Replica Peak and Coronet Mountain. The support of Premier Ernest Manning was acquired and the proposal was forwarded to Ottawa for consideration, where it received the consent of both the Geographic Board of Canada and the Parks Branch. Finally, after receiving the consent of Buckingham Palace, an announcement was made on June 19 that

Her Majesty had been pleased to approve a proposal that mountains which practically encircle beautiful Maligne Lake, one of the most photographed bodies of water in the Rockies, be named the “Queen Elizabeth Ranges”…these ranges tower ten thousand feet or more into the cloud flecked heavens and the whole scene makes one of the most perfect pictures of Alpine grandeur – bold rocky forms, ice and snow gleaming against a blue sky, dark forests and a sapphire blue lake – a fitting memorial to the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth Provincial Park, Lac Cardinal

Even after naming a series of mountains in honour of Queen Elizabeth II, Alberta was not yet done; just over twenty years later, Alberta honoured the Queen with a provincial park.

In 1958, the Government of Alberta established Lac Cardinal Provincial Park. The park was located just west of Grimshaw on the shores of Lake Cardinal, from which it took its name. In 1912, Lake Cardinal, formerly known as “Bear Lake,” was named for Louis Cardinal, an early settler in the region.

In 1978, Edmonton hosted the Commonwealth Games. Part of the games’ festivities was a Royal Tour of Canada by the Queen and Prince Philip, along with their sons Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. The Royal family visited Grande Prairie and the Peace Country, including a stop at Lac Cardinal Provincial Park to meet Chief Chonkolay-Colo, who presented the Queen with gifts from his tribe. On August 1, 1978, the Government of Alberta renamed the park as Queen Elizabeth Provincial Park, Lac Cardinal in honour of her visit. Information and maps of Queen Elizabeth Provincial park, Lac Cardinal can be found on the website of Tourism, Parks and Recreation.

Mount Queen Elizabeth?

Interestingly, there is a mountain on the Alberta/British Columbia boundary west of Turner Valley named Mount Queen Elizabeth. Many people believe that it is also named for our current Queen. In actuality, it is not. This mountain was named in 1916 by the Interprovincial Boundary Commission. It commemorates Elisabeth, Duchess of Bavaria and Queen of the Belgians (and yes, the Boundary Commission got the spelling wrong).

A nearby mountain is named for Elisabeth’s husband, King Albert I of Belgium. These names were bestowed to commemorate Albert’s role as commander of the Belgian Army during the First World War and Elisabeth’s visits to the front lines to boost troop morale. Both names were officially adopted for mapping purposes in 1918.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator

For location information and a list of additional resources: (more…)

Rowley Grain Elevator Row

In the spring of 1909, Premier Rutherford of Alberta announced his government’s commitment to a vast program of railway expansion in Alberta.  To do this, the government offered to guarantee the bonds of major railway companies to the extent of $20,000 per mile of completed track.  Taking advantage of this, the Canadian Northern Railway decided to incorporate several subsidiary companies to undertake specific lines in Alberta.  One of these was the Alberta Midland, which was chartered by the provincial government in May 1909 to build a line from Vegreville south through Drumheller to Calgary.  One purpose was to open up new land for farming, another was to tap into the coal reserves around Drumheller which had hitherto been unavailable to the Canadian Northern or any of its subsidiaries.

By the end of 1911, the Alberta Midland line was completed.  Along it, several stations were built.  One of these, 25 km north of Drumheller, was named Rowley, after the Manager of the Calgary branch of the Canadian Bank of Commerce.  The Bank itself had provided substantial backing to the Canadian Northern.  Behind the station, a townsite was subdivided, and, before long, a community evolved, the main purpose of which was to provide services to the surrounding hinterland where mixed farming was the staple economy.

It was essential therefore that Rowley be provided with grain elevators, and, in 1915, the first one was built by the Home Grain Company.  It was apparently not well constructed however, for, shortly after its completion, it collapsed.  Though rebuilt soon after, another mishap occurred when an annex burst, and, not long after that, the elevator burned down.  In the wake of these mishaps, two other elevators were built in 1917.  These were owned by the National Grain Company and the United Grain Growers.  The UGG had only recently been incorporated as a farmer-owned company, and it was a good time for it to build for, like most of the western prairies, the Rowley district was seeing high yields and much demand because the war in Europe was diverting the activities of farmers there to other matters.

The National and the UGG had a monopoly on the local grain export at Rowley until 1923, when the Searle Grain Company, formerly the Home Grain Company, decided erect another elevator on the site of their first one at Rowley.  At 40,000 bushels, this would be the biggest of the village’s three elevators.  It was an unusual time to build, for grain prices had recently collapsed in the wake of the post war overproduction of wheat.  Also, during 1919-20, both the Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk Railways had been taken over by the federal government and consolidated into Canadian National.  This meant reduced services, and, in 1922, rail traffic between Vegreville and Drumheller were significantly reduced.

The three grain elevators in Rowley managed to survive however, and, in 1928, the UGG structure was acquired by the Alberta Wheat Pool.  Formed five years earlier, in the wake of plummeting grain prices, the Pool was a business concept advocated by UFA president Henry Wise Wood which saw farmers pool their wheat in a co-operative to ensure that no member would suffer unduly in times of stress.  Such stress occurred during the early 1930’s, when the price of #1 wheat fell to 32 cents a bushel and many farmers could not afford to ship out their wheat.  During the end of the decade however, with Great Britain gearing for war, the demand for wheat began to rise, and, with it, productivity on the Canadian prairies.  In 1940 therefore, the Wheat Pool decided to twin its elevator in Rowley with a new 40,000 bushel structure.

The three grain elevators at Rowley continued to serve the district long after the war.  In 1967, the Searle elevator was sold to the Federal Grain Company, and, in 1972, to the Wheat Pool, which then owned all three elevators.  In 1989 however, the CN line between Rowley and Morrin was closed down, and farmers soon began trucking their grain to Morrin or elsewhere.  The elevators therefore were closed also.  They remained standing however, and, in recent years, have been acquired by the Rowley Community Hall Association which is seeking to preserve them.

In June 2010, the grain elevators in Rowley were designated a Provincial Historic Resource.  Their historical significance lies in their representation of the major economy of Alberta for most of the 20th century, the growth and export of grain, and mainly wheat.  They are also important as landmarks in Rowley, providing structural evidence of the community dating back to 1917, when the district was prospering.  The first elevator represents the main source of that prosperity, and the three of them the economy of the district in the years that followed.    

Written by: David Leonard, Historian

Click here for statistics on remaining grain elevators in Alberta.

Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the heritage value of the Rowley Grain Elevator Row. 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 Rowley Grain Elevator Row.


Alberta’s Culture – What do you think?

On February 24 and 25, 2012 Culture and Community Services hosted Culture Forum 2012. Nearly 400 delegates from all corners of Alberta (representing a cross-section of heritage, arts, creative industry, multicultural, non-profit/voluntary, and corporate organizations) converged on Red Deer College and discussed Alberta’s cultural future. The event featured a dynamic opening ceremony of performances and Pecha Kucha presentations, along with 18 concurrent workshops. For discussion highlights, please click here.

Missed the event? Have opinions on the development of Alberta’s culture? Share your thoughts – the Government of Alberta is seeking input from the public through an online survey. Help the Government enhance Albertans’ quality of life – your quality of life! Provide feedback on your desired priorities. Share your ideas for the heritage, arts, creative industry, multicultural and nonprofit/voluntary sectors. Illustrate which ingredients are necessary for a healthy and sustainable culture. Note: The online survey is only available until March 28, 2012.

Please, forward this invitation to all individuals and organizations that may want to participate in determining Alberta’s cultural future.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Alberta’s Wooden Country Grain Elevators

In February one of our Facebook fans asked how many grain elevators still stand on the Alberta horizon. Dorothy Field, our Heritage Survey Program Coordinator has compiled some statistics.

The twentieth century saw the rise and fall – literally – of the wooden country grain elevator in Alberta. As rail lines spread across the province, grain elevators sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rain. The high water mark for wooden country grain elevators was in 1934. New elevators were added in every decade, but this has been exceeded by the rate of demolition or closure ever since. Check out the following “index” of Alberta’s wooden country elevators, called “elevators” for short in this list.

Rowley Grain Elevator Row, Provincial Historic Resource

Number of elevators in Alberta:

  • in 1934:  1,781
  • in 1951:  1,651
  • in 1982:  979
  • in 1997: 327
  • in 2005: 156
  • in 2012 on railway rights-of-way:  130

Number of communities with:

  • at least one elevator:  95
  • 2 or more elevators:  26
  • 3 or more elevators:  7
  • 4 or more elevators:  1 (Warner)

Additional statistics:

  • Number of elevators in Alberta’s longest row:  6
  • Oldest remaining elevator: 1905 (Raley)
  • Number of remaining elevators that pre-date 1910:  3 (Raley, St. Albert, De Winton)
  • Newest remaining elevator: 1988 (Woodgrove)
  • Decade with the largest number of surviving elevators:  1920s (33)
  • Decade with the second largest number of surviving elevators:  1980s (26)
  • Decade with the fewest (after pre-1910) number of surviving elevators:  1940s (5)
  • Number of elevators that have been designated a Provincial Historic Resource (PHR):  13
  • Number of communities with at least one elevator designated as a PHR:  10
  • Oldest designated elevator: 1906 (St. Albert)
  • Newest designated elevator:  Leduc (1978)

For a list of communities in Alberta with designated and non-designated elevators, please click here.

Please Note:

  • Grain elevators that have been moved off railway rights-of-way – to a farmyard or a museum, for instance – are not included in these statistics.
  • Grain elevators located on railway rights-of-way where the rails have been torn up are included in these statistics.
  • Concrete or steel elevators are not included.
  • Elevators used for other purposes, such as seed cleaning or fertilizer storage, are not included.
  • Most of these elevators were last documented by the Heritage Survey in 2005. It is possible that some of the elevators on the list are now gone.

Additional Information:

Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator

Heritage Open House in Lacombe

I attended the City of Lacombe’s Heritage Inventory Open House a few weeks ago. Over the past year, Lacombe has been busily evaluating several properties in its historic residential areas for significance and integrity. Thirty properties were selected for evaluation and at the open house draft statements of significance were presented to the community for review. The event was a smashing success. I’d tell you more, but I think you might prefer to head over to the City of Lacombe’s blog and hear about it in their own words.

Flatiron Building, Provincial Historic Resource, City of Lacombe

The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program has worked with the City of Lacombe for three years now, helping them identify and evaluate locally significant historic places. You can also learn more about the City of Lacombe’s Heritage Preservation Program from Lacombe’s website.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer