Sharman House, near Onoway

When the Canadian Northern Railway extended a line through Onoway in 1909, en route to Jasper and Vancouver, much of the rich agricultural land east of Lac Ste Anne was made immediately viable for homesteading.  Even before the railway arrived however, and indeed even before the Dominion Land Surveys of 1904-05, a number of settlers had taken up land in the Onoway area.  One of these was Thomas Sharman, who settled on NW34 TP52 R3 W5 in 1903, in a district soon to be known as Heatherdown.  Sharman was born in Ireland and had come to western Canada from North Dakota, where he had been a stonemason as well as a farmer.  He first attempted to homestead near Camrose, but was unsuccessful.  Near Heatherdown however, he and his wife succeeded in proving up, and eventually they acquired five quarters.

As he cleared and broke his land, Sharman made a point of salvaging pristine stones that inundated his fields.  Being a stonemason, he had an idea that one day these would prove useful.  By the mid 1920s, he decided to use these stones for a new house.  With the help of his youngest son, Lawrence, and local neighbors, he designed and built a large dwelling utilizing the material he had salvaged.  He moved into his new home in about 1927, and lived there with his wife until passing away a few years later.  The house and the farm were then taken over by Lawrence Sharman and his wife, Florence, who died tragically in a fire on the farm in 1936.  The Sharman House then continued to be occupied by Lawrence on his own until he moved to British Columbia in 1947.  It was then acquired by Gordon Stewart, his wife Lenabelle, and their son, Lowell.  With Lenabelle’s death, Gordon and Lowell continued to farm the land and occupy the house as bachelors.

The historical significance of the Sharman House  lies in its representation of the settlement of the Onoway area, and of the richness of the farmland in the district.  It is also significant in demonstrating the inventiveness and craftsmanship of one of Onoway’s early settlers.  Its heritage value lies in the excellent craftsmanship evident in its split fieldstone construction and the home’s picturesque aesthetic appeal.  It is distinguished by its picturesque exterior, which is composed of different shapes and sizes of split fieldstone.  Other prominent features of the home include a hipped roof with intersecting roof ridges, hipped wall dormers, three tall stone chimneys, and a two-storey bay projecting from the southwest corner of the building.  The yard of the home includes a garden and mature evergreen trees north of the house dating from the period of construction. The Sharman House was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2007.

Written by: David Leonard, Historian

Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the heritage value of the Sharman House. 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 Sharman House.

2 comments

  1. Thank you for the information on Sharman House, made from local stone in the Onoway area. It is also good to see reference to the early railway. Here in the Camrose area we are interested in the story of Grand Trunk Railway, where it ran and where remnants of it are still visible. Hopefully, more attention will be drawn to this historical asset in our area.

    1. Hi Jane, we are pleased that you have enjoyed learning about the history of the Onoway area, and the role of the railway. Throughout Alberta the railways played such a significant role in the development of communities. Thank you for sharing your comment.
      Cheers, Brenda

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