Alberta Remembers

The Beverly Cenotaph, a simple stone obelisk, was unveiled on October 17, 1920. (City of Edmonton Archives, EA-160-14)

On November 11, 1918, after more than four years of fighting the “war to end war”, an armistice was called in France and all hostilities came to an end on the Western Front of the First World War. While the battles may have ceased, the effects of the conflict continued to reverberate around the world and across the years, even to the present day, a century later.

Albertans were among those who fought alongside fellow British citizens, as well as French and American soldiers – among others – to defeat Germany and its allies. Estimates place the number of Albertan soldiers at 48,885 – or over one third of the province’s male population aged 18 to 45. Of these, about one in eight did not return from the war, and almost half of those who did return had been wounded.1 The effect of the distant, unseen war was felt throughout the province on a personal level.

One way Albertans dealt with the trauma and loss was to come together and commemorate those who had sacrificed their lives. A model for these activities was provided by “Peace Day”, celebrated on July 19, 1919, in London, England, in honour of the signing of the Treaty of Read more

Preserving Heritage for Future Generations: Heritage Barns of Flagstaff County

Thank you to guest writer, Sydney Hampshire, for sharing her experience of documenting built heritage in Flagstaff County.

Growing up in Northern Alberta kept myself, my siblings, and my parents a long way away from our extended family. We had only occasional visits with both sets of grandparents, which caused a disconnect between us. However, this disconnect also built a mystique around the lives of the past generation – and with it came an inherent curiosity.

My grandmother, Joy Hampshire (nee Innes), was born, and lived all her life in Flagstaff County after her mother and father immigrated from Scotland. Flagstaff County harbours an abundance of built heritage structures that showcase the region’s rich past. As a child, I was exposed to this heritage on each trip we took to our grandparents and I remember becoming terribly intrigued by this built heritage and the relics of my grandmother’s past. I remember each visit to Grandma’s farm required a visit or two to nearby abandoned homesteads. Each trek into a forgotten house, shed, or barn brought me great excitement: What would I find? What would I see? What would I infer about the people that used to live there?

I believe we all have a little bit of this adventurous spirit in us; it comes from a desire to understand the unknown and seek out answers. While exploration and Read more

Alberta’s Early Public Libraries

October is Canadian Library Month – a time to raise awareness about the valuable role of libraries in our communities. Thank you to guest writer, Erin Hoar, for this post about some of Alberta’s first libraries.

The earliest libraries in Canada were generally private collections of books and documents brought over by European immigrants. Some religious orders, fur trade and military posts would also collect books, but these were generally not accessible to the wider public. Canada’s earliest public libraries were offered by subscription only and began to appear in the early nineteenth century. By 1900 the modern public library, similar to what we would think of as a library today, began to acquire, classify and organize books, periodicals and newspapers with the purpose of providing users with access to these collections.

The idea of libraries was becoming more recognized as a public need that enriched growing communities, as was the case in Alberta. Many of Alberta’s early libraries were established because there were dedicated people who were passionate about providing accessible learning and educational services. This post will trace Alberta’s earliest public libraries in Edmonton and Calgary, and look at the people who brought these spaces to life to become valued and trusted resources for their communities. Read on to find out more!

Andrew Carnegie, 1913 (Public domain).

It was 1906 when the Calgary Women’s Literary Club formed to discuss the readings of Shakespeare, world news and current events, and it was out of these gatherings that the need for a public library grew. The women did what many others who wanted a public library did during this time – they asked millionaire Andrew Carnegie to build them a library. Carnegie, who made a fortune in the steel industry, was a strong advocate for learning and had a reputation for library philanthropy. In Canada, the Carnegie Foundation funded over 100 libraries and thousands more across the world, including the United States, England, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Read more

Strathcona Collegiate Institute, Edmonton

In the spirit of back to school season, here is a previous post highlighting the history of the Strathcona Collegiate Institute/Old Scona Academic High School. It was originally published on RETROactive on October 11, 2011. Enjoy!

Strathcona Collegiate Institute/Old Scona Academic High School, Edmonton

When the Calgary & Edmonton Railway arrived at the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River in 1891, the C & E immediately subdivided a townsite 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. As with Edmonton to the north, Strathcona grew rapidly in the wake of the Klondike gold rush, and, in 1907, it was incorporated as a city with an estimated population of 3,500. Edmonton, however, was destined to grow at an even greater Read more

Alberta’s Wooden Country Grain Elevators – Update

This post was originally published on RETROactive on March 6th, 2012 and again on August 26, 2015. Interest in grain elevators remains strong, so a revisit seems in order. Some additional data has been added, an updated list of communities with elevators can be accessed below, as well as a variety of resources and documents relating to Alberta’s Grain elevators.

The twentieth century saw the rise and fall—literally—of the wooden country grain elevator in Alberta. As rail lines spread across the province in the early 1900s, grain elevators sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rain. The height of wooden country grain elevators was reached in 1934. New ones continued to be added until the 1990s, but with increasing numbers being demolished, these icons of the prairie became scarcer. Today, the remaining wooden country grain elevators number only about six percent of the maximum reached in the 1930s. Check out the following “index” of Alberta’s wooden country grain elevators, called “elevators” for short in this article.

Number of elevators in Alberta: Read more

Exterior Rehabilitation and Restoration of Old St. Stephen’s College

Historic photo of Old St. Stephen’s College circa. 1915.

After about three years, the Old St. Stephen’s College – Provincial Historic Resource has now completed the planning and implementation of its exterior rehabilitation and restoration project which started a number of years back with its cedar shingle roof replacement.

This recently completed scope involved foundation upgrades and stair revisions to the ground level access points of the building, including the addition of a compatible, distinguishable and subordinately designed barrier-free access ramp, as well as masonry repairs and the replacement of the 1980’s metal storms with more historically appropriate wooden units that will have the added benefit of allowing more natural ventilation in the building. Additional work also included the rehabilitation of the former fire exit door openings, the return of the round window at the top level of the building and the addition of vented caps to the non-functional chimneys. Read more

Wainwright Hotel

This post was originally published on RETROactive on August 2, 2011. The last paragraph is an addition from another blog post featuring the Wainwright Hotel, New Uses for Old Places – The Wainwright Hotel, published on March 20, 2014.

When the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway completed its line between Saskatoon and Edmonton in 1908, vast tracts of land in east central Alberta south of the Canadian Northern line were opened up for homesteading.  At key points along the line, the GTP erected stations and subdivided townsites. One of these was near a small community called Denwood, where a post office and store had been opened in 1907. The new townsite, to where Denwood residents and businesses now moved, was called Wainwright, after the second vice-president of the GTP. One of the structures moved from Denwood to Wainwright was the Denwood Hotel, which soon became the Wainwright Hotel. It was owned by M.L. Forster, a strong community minded individual who served on the first village council and was mayor of the Town of Wainwright from 1927 to 1935. Read more