A recent Municipal Historic Resource listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places is Bremner House, located in rural Strathcona County. It is a large two and one half storey residence constructed in the early 1900’s. Heritage values associated with Bremner House include the aesthetic significance of the scale, style and location of the building as well as its representation of the cultural growth and development of Strathcona County during the first half of the 20th Century.
Are you curious if places in your community are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places? Complete an Advanced Search by “municipality” and see what is found. Only sites formally designated as either Municipal Historic Resources, Provincial Historic Resources or Registered Historic Resources are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.
Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer
Significant for its status as the oldest church building in Medicine Hat, and the home of the City’s oldest religious congregation, St. John’s Presbyterian Church was listed on the Register in late 2012.
Just this week, another historic place designated by the City, the Merchants Bank of Canada, was also listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Constructed in 1899, the Merchants Bank is valued not only as the first permanent bank branch in the City, but also as an important building constructed of brick, in a city where brick was historically an important and characteristic local material, and brick-making a key industry.
Congratulations to the City of Medicine Hat and the owners of these two properties for being listed on the Alberta Register!
Written by: Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services
As many of you may already know, on January 9, 2013, Minister of Culture Heather Klimchuk launched a recruitment process for members of the Premier’s Council on Culture. Members will represent the range of sectors responsible for cultural activities and experiences – the arts, heritage, multicultural and nonprofit/voluntary organizations, as well as creative and cultural industries, youth and corporate partners.
The Government of Alberta will be recruiting up to 20 new council members, who may serve terms of up to three years. The application period ends February 28, 2013. If you are interested in being a cultural leader for both your community and Alberta, apply on the Government of Alberta Jobs Website (Job ID# 1015041).
Today’s blog post will no doubt please all of our railroad and grain elevator enthusiasts out there in the ether. On August 27, 2012, the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator in Big Valley was designated as a Provincial Historic Resource and added to the Alberta Register of Historic Places. This grain elevator has heritage significance due essentially to the fact that it is…, well, it’s a grain elevator. These once dominant, landmark structures in rural Alberta have become iconic symbols, speaking to the province’s agricultural, social and railroad transportation history. This particular elevator also contributes to the cultural landscape of Big Valley, aiding in the visual communication of the community’s history as one of the province’s busiest railroad divisional points.
Wood-cribbed grain elevators such as the Alberta Wheat Pool elevator in Big Valley were once a dominant presence in the lives of most rural Albertans. These imposing, structures stood out on the horizon and could be seen from miles around. They were essential facilities for the sorting, storage, and transportation of grains and, as such, they also served an important social function as meeting places for area farmers. Although there were some variations in elevator design, size and services, they remained consistently similar in basic design and form over the years. This Alberta Wheat Pool grain elevator was a relatively late addition, being built in 1960, but it shares much with its earlier predecessors, notably its vertical orientation, gable-roofed cupola, shed-roofed drive shed with earthen ramps and overall lack of fenestration.
In 1912, Big Valley had been selected as a divisional point on the Canadian Northern Railway’s (CNoR) Battle River Subdivision. At one point it possessed a large railyard and a number of important railroad maintenance facilities and storage areas for fuel, water and freight. Largely supported by the railroad, Big Valley was a bustling centre with a large population. In the late-1920s, Big Valley’s boom period came to an end when the divisional point was moved to Mirror on the former Grand Trunk Pacific Railway line.
When the Canadian Northern Railway strung its line through east central Alberta during 1904-05, a number of sidings were put up. At a few locations, stations were erected and townsites subdivided. One of the townsites was near the tiny community of Vegreville, named after the Oblate priest, Father Valentin Vegreville, in 1895 when a post office was opened. The name was probably suggested by Father Morin, who was trying to establish a Roman Catholic Francophone colony in the area. A few French settlers did come in, and, by the turn of the 20th century, a few English settlers were around as well. A number of Ukrainians were also beginning to arrive, some spilling over from Ukrainian settlements further to the east. In time, Vegreville became known as, primarily, a Ukrainian district, exhibiting many trappings of Ukrainian culture.
With the coming of the railway, many more settlers arrived, and the earlier community was soon replaced by the railway center. With the railway, farmers in the district could at last ship their produce directly to markets in the East. As the hinterland was so large, a building boom occurred in Vegreville. In August 1906, the community was incorporated, first as a village and then as a town, with over 400 people.
The district experienced much prosperity during World War I, but, like the rest of rural Alberta, it suffered from reduced grain prices following the War. The Canadian Northern was also suffering, and, in 1919, it was taken over by the Dominion government and made part of the Canadian National system of railways.
The late 1920’s was a period of high grain prices and high crop yields in Alberta. The farming population around Vegreville prospered accordingly, and also grew. By this time, CN was well aware that the old train station, built in 1906, was hardly adequate for the needs of the district. It had been built to a third class 100-3 design, as had most stations between Lloydminster and Edmonton. According to railway historian Les Kozma, most of these stations were then recognized to be inadequate. On 10 April 1929, the local Board of Trade wrote to CN Superintendent Devenish to complain that:
… the present CNR station is an eyesore and a blemish on the fair face of the town, and the facilities provided the travelling public at this station were ridiculously inadequate for the size of the town the station intended to serve.
By this time, the Canadian Pacific Railway had begun building a branch line south from Willingdon. Possibly in recognition of the coming competition, CN decided to build a new station in Vegreville. This was a two-story wood frame structure, measuring 107’ x 37’, with a stucco exterior. It was divided into four separate functional areas on the ground floor (waiting room, ticket and express office, express room, and two washrooms). The second floor was made into living quarters for the station manager and his family. A storage room and a boiler room occupied the basement. The waiting room itself was subdivided into compartments, one serving as a ladies waiting room, and another as a smoking room. The Vegreville Observer was evidently satisfied, for it observed that:
… The CN, as our pioneer railway, has always been generous to Vegreville, not unduly so, but sufficiently for our present needs.
The station’s historical significance lies in its service as a station for the entire Vegreville district from 1930 to 1975. As such, it was the nerve centre for the export of agricultural produce, and the import of finished products. It also provided a passenger service for people travelling east or west, and contained the district telegraph office.
This 1930 CN Station in Vegreville served the community as a station until 1975, at which time it was sold to the town and converted into other uses, including a seniors drop-in centre. Currently, the station houses a restaurant and provides meeting space upon request.
Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the heritage value of theCanadian National Railway Station in Vegreville. In order for a site to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource, it must possess province-wide significance for either its history or architecture. 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 Canadian National Railway Station.
Fort Macleod was one of Alberta’s earliest and most important urban centres during the settlement period. As a thriving commercial hub and service centre for the surrounding ranching and farming communities, a number of buildings were constructed in the town’s downtown area. Locally-quarried sandstone became the building material of choice, largely due to its fire-proofing properties and the sense of stability and permanence it lent to the business and town.
The Queen’s Hotel was one of the first buildings in Fort Macleod to be built of sandstone. It was built in 1903 to replace an earlier, smaller, wood-frame hotel of the same name. The hotel is a three-storey, flat-roofed building with a U-shaped footprint. It is a prominent building in downtown Fort Macleod, being located on the northeast corner of 24th Street and Second Avenue in the town’s main commercial district. It is constructed of rough-faced sandstone blocks and is crowned by a substantial, pressed metal cornice. On completion, the Queen’s Hotel was touted as Fort Macleod’s finest lodgings and it was the most expensive accommodations in town. The Queen’s Hotel quickly became the hotel of choice for travelling business people, politicians and government officials and other well-heeled visitors to the area.
Like most small-town hotels, the Queen’s fortunes declined following the Second World War. As tastes in travel accommodations changed, the hotel became known more as a downtown tavern with low-cost rental apartments. The hotel has also undergone a number of alterations over the years, a substantial one-storey addition has been added to the rear of the building and, as is often the case in buildings of this nature, the layout of the main floor has been dramatically altered. However, the hotel’s sandstone construction and overall style and design continue to communicate its historical significance as an early, business-class hotel and it continues to serve as an impressive visual anchor to Fort Macleod’s historic commercial district.
Over a hundred sites later, Strathcona County has completed a Municipal Heritage Survey. From residential and commercial buildings to churches, schools, agricultural buildings and cultural landscapes, the County has documented a wide range of potential historic places located in all its urban and rural corners.
Strathcona County is located directly east of the City of Edmonton and to the west of Elk Island National Park. With 126,620 hectares and a population of 92,490, Strathcona County is one of the more populous municipalities in the Edmonton area. It is also one of the few specialized municipalities in Alberta. This classification is designed to accommodate the unique needs of a municipality that contains both an urban centre and a large rural area. Approximately seventy percent of Strathcona County’s population lives in Sherwood Park (an urban service area) while the remaining thirty percent of the population is divided between eight hamlets (Antler Lake, Ardrossan, Collingwood Cove, Half Moon Lake, Hastings Lake, Josephburg, North Cooking Lake and South Cooking Lake).
This mix of urban and rural places and spaces provided a diverse array of potential historic places. The one hundred and sixteen sites documented were photographed and geographical, historical and architectural details were recorded. Over the coming months, the gathered information will be placed on the Alberta Heritage Survey database.
Throughout the project, area residents were invited to learn about the initiative and to provide additional information on the documented sites. Special open house events were hosted by the County and input was encouraged during various community events (i.e. Senior’s Week Celebrations, Josephburg Chicken Supper, Wilderness Centre Fall Open House). I attended an open house at the Brookville Community Hall on October 17, 2012. At this event I witnessed a high level of community interest; a large number of area residents attended and they were all very keen to ask questions.
Interested in learning more about this project? Read these articles from the Sherwood Park News: