On a bitterly cold afternoon, at 3:55pm, Nathan E. Tanner, Minister of Lands and Mines turned a valve at the Leduc No. 1 oil well as a rig hand held out a burning rag, setting alight a massive column of smoke and flame that roared hundreds of feet skyward. That event took place on February 13, 1947, seventy years ago today and it heralded in a new era for Alberta. An era of rapid development and prosperity fed by the now discovered reserves of oil deep under the province.
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.
This post was originally published on RETROactive on March 6th, 2012. Farmers across the province will soon be busy with harvest so we thought it appropriate to highlight a previous post associated with Alberta’s agricultural past. Please note that these statistics are from 2012.
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.
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)
- 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.
- 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.
- View records for designated grain elevators on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.
- Explore the online Heritage Survey database, which has records for over 700 grain elevators.
- Read “Alberta’s Grain Elevators: A brief history of a prairie icon”, a Government of Alberta booklet, on the Alberta Grain Elevator Society website.
Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator
Visitors to this year’s Raymond Stampede got to learn more about the fascinating history of the event with the installation of the latest Alberta Historical Resources Foundation heritage marker. The marker details the history of the event – the first of its kind held in Alberta – dating back to 1902, when prominent rancher Raymond Knight decided to organize a skills competition for local cowboys and ranch hands. The success of the Raymond Stampede inspired the organization of similar events across Alberta, with a growing range of events and prizes that attracted more and more competitors. Held in dozens of communities across the province each year, rodeos have long been significant cultural events in Alberta that strongly reflect its great agricultural heritage.
The marker was installed on June 25, 2015 at the site of the Stampede in Raymond Knight Memorial Park. The Town of Raymond applied for the development of the heritage marker through the Alberta Heritage Markers Program. The program was established in 1955 to promote greater awareness of the historic people, places, events, and themes that have defined the character of our province. The program brings Alberta’s dynamic history alive through heritage markers placed at roadside pullouts, within parks, and in other community locales.
Written by: Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer
Visitors to the Town of Drumheller can now learn more about the history, geology and natural resources of the community with the installation of a new Alberta Historical Resources Foundation Heritage Marker. Combining text with contemporary and archival photographs, the marker describes how the forces of nature shaped the area’s striking landscape and left the region rich in the two resources that would define Drumheller’s future – coal and dinosaur fossils.
It was coal that first attracted the attention of railway and mining investors, who established a townsite to support the booming coal industry. By the end of World War One, the Drumheller region was one of Canada’s leading coal producers. The area also caught the imagination of fossil hunters, who flocked to the region from 1910 onward in search of fossils like the massive Albertosaurus skull unearthed by Joseph B. Tyrrell in 1884. The abundance of dinosaur bones made Drumheller a natural home for the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, one of the world’s leading facilities for the research and presentation of prehistoric life.
The marker was installed on November 20, 2014, along Highway 9, one-and-a-half kilometers north of the Town of Drumheller. The Town of Drumheller applied for the development of the heritage marker through the Alberta Heritage Markers Program. The program was established in 1955 to promote greater awareness of the historic people, places, events and themes that have defined the character of our province. The program brings Alberta’s dynamic history alive through heritage markers placed at roadside pullouts, within parks and in other community locales.
Written by: Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer.
As Manager of the Historic Places Research and Designation Program, one of Brenda Manweiler’s primary responsibilities is the Provincial Historic Resources Designation Program. The goal of the Provincial Historic Resources Designation Program is to identify, evaluate, and designate those historic resources that are most significant to the province as a whole. Currently there are some 360 sites protected as Provincial Historic Resources in Alberta, with several more added every year.
The designation program is almost entirely driven by citizen input. Applications for provincial designation come from the public, usually the property owner but sometimes also from other individuals or groups concerned about the long-term future of a resource.
Once a resource is designated, its owner cannot destroy, disturb, alter, restore, or repair it without written approval from the provincial government. But the owner gains tangible benefits, including access to conservation grants and technical advice, and the intangible benefit of knowing that a valued property will be preserved and protected into the future.
Brenda feels these citizen advocates could take even greater advantage of the Provincial Historic Resources Designation Program if they better understood the designation criteria. Here are some key things she’d like people to know:
A property doesn’t have to be grand or architecturally detailed, nor associated with some famous person to be designated. It doesn’t even have to be a building.
Brenda notes: “The general public seems to have such a defined idea of what a historic place can be. They’re thinking of homes, commercial buildings, churches, schools.” But the Alberta Register of Historic Places also includes gardens, such as the Reader Rock Garden in Calgary; buried resources such as Balzac Archaeological Site; a radar station located in Cold Lake; a steam locomotive in Settler—even a Meteorite Impact Crater, in Whitecourt.
“I would love to see more of these unique historic places,” she says. “One of the gaps that we have in our family of historic resources is sports and leisure sites,” she continues. “Canada is such a hockey country; Alberta is such a hockey province. Where’s an ice rink? Where’s the baseball field? I’d love to designate some sites that help to celebrate Alberta’s strong history in athletic pursuits.”
Provincial designation isn’t better than municipal designation, just different.
Brenda explains: “Provincial significance is determined by looking through a pretty big lens. Is this site significant to all Albertans? Has the site helped shape the province into what it is today? Municipal designations have a narrower scope, a local lens to look through to determine significance.” But a municipally designated site can be just as significant as a provincial one—often even more so—within its own community context. Both levels of designation offer the same form of protection: the resources cannot be altered without approval from the designating authority.
She continues: “We have a variety of sites throughout the province that have been designated as both Municipal and Provincial Historic Resources. People might think that’s just duplication, so why bother? But I think it’s important to note the perspective that we come at it from. A provincial point of view is going to be lot different than a local perspective, so a site could end up being designated under both categories for different reasons.”
An example is Calgary City Hall, which is designated by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. Both the provincial and municipal designations recognize the building’s significance as Calgary’s seat of government, and as an excellent example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. But the municipal designation also notes that it is “the earliest known example of steel-frame construction in Calgary” and that it was designed by a prominent Calgary-based architect.
Designation is not just about the sites and structures; it’s also about people and how they’ve used these places.
The most modest or ordinary place could be where a remarkable person lived or worked, or where some once-crucial, unusual, or game-changing human activity took place—and that’s what makes the site historically significant.
One of Brenda’s favourite examples is the Owen Residence/Dominion Meteorological Station in Edmonton. Inside this ordinary American four-square dwelling was “arguably the most significant meteorological post outside of Toronto” (according to the Statement of Significance). Even more remarkable, it was operated by “Weather Lady” Eda Owen, one of the few female meteorologists in the world working at a major station.
Another very modest but significant place is the Community Rest Room in Ponoka. When farm families came into town to conduct business, men could congregate in their choice of hotels, bars, and pool halls. This facility provided a much-needed retreat for women and children, offering not only toilets and showers but also a safe and social meeting place—and even a venue for political organizing.
“So much of the significance associated with Provincial Historic Resources comes down to the unique stories—the events, people, and places that have helped to make Alberta what it is today,” Brenda says.
Written by: Kerri Rubman.