Monday, December 30, 2013

Fort Edmonton Park (#2) – Alberta Canada

Continuing with our visit to Fort Edmonton Park and its historic assembly of buildings and artifacts… We start this section in 1905…sidetrack to 1885 for a moment…and end in 1920 or so.

This is the Dominion Land Office…an important place indeed for those settling in Alberta in the late 19th Century.  This isn’t the original office but it is a similar building that was built about 1900 in Fort Saskatchewan. 

Dominion Land Offices administered the Dominion Land Act.  The Dominion Lands Act was an 1872 Canadian law that aimed to encourage the settlement of Canada's Prairie Provinces and to help prevent a potential attack from the United States.  It was closely based on the United States Homestead Act.  In order to settle the area, Canada invited mass emigration by European and American pioneers, as well as by settlers from eastern Canada.  The Act offered 160 acres of free land, (except for a small registration fee), to any man over 18 or any woman heading a household.

The Dominion Lands Act required that each homesteader provide proof via an application attesting that his or her efforts had caused the land to increase in value through farming or construction.  When a homesteader filed their application, the local Dominion Lands Office screened and validated the claim, sending an inspector to the property to confirm that the improvements had been made.

This photo was inside the Peter Erasmus House.  It was built around 1861 and the Erasmus family lived in the house until 1941.  They say that what is new is old…this is definitely a ‘modern’ open floor plan!

Peter Erasmus, (1833 – 1931), was a remarkable individual who played a role in the events which transformed western Canada from open, buffalo-covered plains into towns and cities.  Peter was well educated, fluent in six Native languages as well as English, Greek, and Latin.  He settled at Whitefish Lake where he was an interpreter, guide, trapper, hunter, and trader.  He assisted in negotiating an important Treaty and he worked for a time with Canada’s Department of Indian Affairs.

At the age of 87, (1920), Erasmus told his life story to a journalist, who wrote it down.  The manuscript subsequently was published in book form as "Buffalo Days and Nights." (Available at Amazon:

I included this photo because we liked this beautiful and ornate cast iron kitchen stove!  It resides in the Kenneth McDonald house, which was built in 1886 and was moved to Fort Edmonton Park in 1967.  I did some research but I couldn't identify the builder from what I could see on the stove.  If you’re intrigued and would like to look into purchasing one of these beauties, check out this website:

The first non-Indigenous or non-Native families to settle outside the walls of Fort Edmonton were Scottish…the McDonalds and the Rowlands.  Kenneth McDonald, from the Isle of Lewis, and his wife Emma farmed and lived in the Edmonton area.  Emma’s brothers, the Rowlands, who were the children of William Rowland of Birsay in the Orkney Islands, also settled in the area.  Numerous other fur trading families and settlers from Eastern Canada soon followed, and Edmonton was soon transformed from a Hudson Bay Company trading post to a small farming settlement.

OK… We missed this building when we visited the 1885 portion of the Park.  It sits back from the rest of the buildings from that era and we didn’t notice it until we’d moved into the 1905 era.  This is the Northwest Mounted Police Jail.  It was also known as the guard house.  It’s a replica building and it has 10 cells, each of them measuring 8 feet by 5 ½ feet…not real roomy!
A Northwest Mounted Police Regional Headquarters was established inside the original Fort Edmonton in 1885.  The jail occupied a portion of a former Hudson Bay Company warehouse.  This post-on-sill construction looks very solid…with its hand hewn logs and mud chinking.  However, it proved to be an unhealthy place indeed…hot and humid in the summer and cold in the winter.  Disease was rampant and it was closed in less than a year.

Part of the 1905 “Main Street” includes a couple of these structures, a portion of what was known as a tent city in the early days.  Boom times in Edmonton in the early twentieth century caused a housing shortage. This meant many people had no choice but to live in canvas tents.  Some even boasted pianos.  The Park's ‘tent city’ reflects the temporary solution that people used until houses could be built.  These structures were also common in the USA, especially whenever or wherever a new gold or silver discovery was made… 

This is the Firkins' House…  This original home was built in 1912 and it was donated to the Park.  The home represents the young, growing professional class in Edmonton.  The house represents an example of the most modern building designs and technology that was available in 1911.  The “Californian bungalow” style home features stucco on the exterior, which was relatively new to Edmonton at the time.  Also a new product called Beaverboard, (a material of compressed wood fibers), was used on the interior walls.  The building was also wired for electricity, telephone and there was even a coal boiler in the radiator room.  Best of all, the home has a garage for an automobile…in 1912!

This is part of the kitchen at the Firkins’ house.  I’m sure that it was modern for its time…and it was utilitarian.  Certainly, kitchens back in 1905 weren’t the focus of the home like they are today…

Dr. Ashley M. Firkins, (a dentist), and his wife Blanche allegedly moved into this house from Chicago Illinois in 1912.  Another account has the family moving from southern California. 

There is a myth or legend attached to the house… According to the story, the house is haunted.  Others say that the whole haunting bit was a fake.  In any case, it made for interesting Canadian TV…  If you’re into ghosts, spirits and the like, check it out at

From 1895 to 1911, this was the home to Alberta’s first premier, Alexander Cameron Rutherford.  This is the original house. 

A lawyer by trade, Alexander Rutherford was a proud Ontarian of Scottish descent. In 1895, he moved his family from Ontario to Edmonton and he became active in politics.  His second home, located in Edmonton near the University of Alberta is now also a museum.  Later in his career and following his service as Premier, Rutherford became Chancellor of the University of Alberta.  He had been personally involved in that institutions founding. 

This is the Rutherford home’s dining room… It brings back memories of my grandparent’s home in Michigan, which didn’t look that much different than this one.  The chairs even look the same!

This house in Fort Edmonton Park has been on display for over 20 years.  Using archival photographs and original condition reports, the Edmonton Artifacts Center and the Fort Edmonton Park team have recently renovated the Rutherford family home…wallpaper, paint and refinished woodwork.  It is now at the point where they believe Mrs. Rutherford would be very proud to once again call it home.

Many credit Alexander C. Rutherford as the man whose vision put Edmonton on the map.  He dreamt of a co-educational University and he was appointed as the first Premier of Alberta.

This is an antique round top metal ice box at the Rutherford House!  This precursor to the electric refrigerator was popular in the early 20th century.  I found one for sale on eBay for a mere $999.00!

Alexander Cameron Rutherford's legacy is mixed.  Some have concluded that he was a weak leader who had very little skill at debate or negotiation.  Nevertheless, Rutherford’s government did a good job of promoting and he is credited for his success in building up the Province.  However, while Rutherford himself was an honorable man, he apparently failed to control his conniving lieutenants who ultimately ruined his political career.  He resigned from office.  One Canadian historian concluded that Rutherford’s educational contribution remains his ultimate legacy to the Province. 

To learn more about this successful and complex man, you can go to

This is the original Anglican Church of St. Michael and All Angels from Edmonton.  The church was built in 1910 and it was moved to Fort Edmonton Park in 1974.

The initial congregation consisted of about 20 employees from Swift’s new packing plant in Edmonton and their families.  They financed and assisted in building the church and a resident priest was assigned to the new church by the end of 1910.

This is the warm and calming interior of St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church.  As you can see, this simple and quaint white and grey trimmed church has an elegant hardwood interior.  Warm light is cast from soft electric lights and streams of natural light pour in through the windows.  Note the antique pump organ…

In 1972, the city of Edmonton announced that they wanted to develop the land occupied by the church.  Consequently it was moved, remodeled and re-consecrated.  The church, with a capacity of 75 seated or 95 standing, is used for many weddings throughout the year. 

This is a fairly uncommon barn design...round!  We've seen a few in our travels but not very many.  This barn came from the Henderson homestead near Rabbit Hill Alberta, an area fairly close to Edmonton that is currently known for its relatively gentle but convenient ski slopes. 

The barn was built in 1898.  The barn was disassembled and actually moved to the park but the nearby Henderson farm house is a replica of the original family home that had been built in 1891.  The horses that were hanging out by the barn received a little tender loving attention from Laurie…

This is a reconstruction of Reed's Bazaar and Tea Shop. (also known as the Lee Block) The original building was built in 1905 but was destroyed by fire in 1913.  The lower floor had the tea room and a store that sold crockery, china and cutlery as well as many other household items.  The upper floor contained a number of offices which housed architects, physicians and a tailor.

Robert Lee, (1862 – 1925), was a politician in Alberta and a mayor of Edmonton.  He also served on the public school board from 1902 until 1904.  Lee first sought municipal office in 1907, when he was elected to a two year term as alderman on Edmonton City Council.  He ran for mayor in the 1908 election and won.  He was re-elected in 1909. 

Costumed interpreters actually operate the site and play their part ‘living’ as they would have in their particular period of time.  The do stay in character and they definitely add to the genuine ambiance of the visitor’s experience.

I found an interesting paper on-line that examines and speculates about the importance of tea and its psychological connection with English settlers in Canada and their attempts to maintain their heritage and identity in a country with so many immigrants from across Europe.  Check it out at:

The Edmonton Radial Railway, (Streetcar line), began operations in 1908. The line was 12 miles long and by 1914 there were 52 miles of track in the downtown Edmonton area.  Rides cost 5 cents back in the day.

The streetcar experience at Fort Edmonton Park started with 1 single car (Edmonton #1) in 1980 and it has since grown into a collection of 8 operational streetcars with 3 more in various stages of restoration. Amazingly, another 11 streetcars await eventual restoration or rebuilding. Work for Edmonton Radial Railway Society’s volunteers is guaranteed for decades to come!

The Edmonton streetcar system was abandoned around 1951.  Most streetcars at the time were stripped of their metal parts and electric equipment and the bodies were sold for further use as cottages, sheds, barns or even roadside diners. The goal of the Society is to eventually restore at least one car of each type that once operated in Edmonton.  For more information about the Edmonton Radial Railway Society…and perhaps to lease a streetcar…just go to

This is a reconstruction of the Edmonton Fire Hall, Town Hall and Police Station combined.  All 3 functions occupied the same building which was built in 1893.  In 1904 the town offices and police station were moved to a new building adjacent to the fire hall.  Indoor plumbing was added to the original building in 1905…and a new stable as well as a new hose and bell tower were erected.  After 37 years, the fire department moved to a new building.  The original structure was used by several organizations until its demolition in 1958.

This fire engine was built by the R.S. Bickle Company.  However, I couldn’t determine what year it was built. 

In 1906, Robert Bickle began his career in Winnipeg Manitoba as a sales representative for an American fire equipment manufacturer.  By the end of that year he formed the R.S. Bickle Company.  He originally specialized in building two-wheeled horse-drawn chemical carts but the company soon began producing motorized fire equipment.

In 1913 the company moved into a new plant in Ontario where it continued to produce hook-and-ladder trucks and chemical wagons "ideally suited to small municipalities". The company continued to grow and during the WWI it sold two-wheeled fire engines to the Canadian military.  In one form or another, the R.S. Bickle Company continued to operate until 1984.  The company was associated with the American fire equipment manufacturer, Seagrave, for many years.  For more information about the R.S. Bickle Company, go to

I couldn’t get close enough to this fire engine to identify the builder. 

Hey…Do you want to buy an antique fire engine?  I was surprised at the number of antique fire engines for sale on the Internet.  By way of an example, you can go to and take a look at a 1923 GMC pumper.  It’s a steal at only $14,500!  Fenton Fire has an exhaustive list of fire engines for sale, antique and otherwise.

I’ll end up this segment of our visit to Ft. Edmonton Park by stepping into the next era on exhibit for the park’s visitors…the 1920’s.  This is a reconstruction of the Koermann block and Ukrainian bookstore as it appeared in 1919.   The building opened in 1913 and in 1914 the Ukrainian Bookstore moved into one of the front stores, eventually taking over the whole front space of the lower floor.  Apartment space occupied the second floor.

In 2006, there were an estimated 1,209,085 persons of full or partial Ukrainian origin residing in Canada (mainly Canadian-born citizens) making them Canada's ninth largest ethnic group.  Canada has the world's third-largest Ukrainian population behind the Ukraine itself and Russia.

During WWI, about 4,000 Ukrainian men as well as some women and children of Austro-Hungarian citizenship were kept in twenty-four internment camps and related work sites – also known, at the time, as concentration camps.  Many were released in 1916 to help with the mounting labor shortage due to the war.  About 80,000 persons of Ukrainian descent were registered as "enemy aliens" and obliged to regularly report to the police. Those interned had whatever little wealth they owned confiscated and were forced to work for the profit of their jailers.  For more about the internment and ‘registration’ of Canadian Ukrainians, you can go to

Ukrainian heritage is big in Alberta.  Just a bit east of Edmonton, visitors can find the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, another major attraction for the area.  We had it on our list but we ran out of time.  To learn about this attraction, go to

That’s it for this segment of our visit to Fort Edmonton Park.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them! 

Thanks for stopping by for a visit.  We’re wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Dear Dave, I love looking at the old houses. I like the cast iron stove too.
    The kitchen in the Firkin House is in style today and the dining room in the Rutherford home is very pretty. Retro is the new today, I think.
    I am so happy that you and Laurie had fun on this trip.
    I wish you and Laurie a very Happy and very Blessed New Year.

  2. Ah David love the pictures but especially the kitchen stove, love this type of kitchen in the south of Chile still you can find!!
    Whishing you and Laurie a Happy and Blessed New Year!!

  3. I can imagine that the land office was very busy in the day. I always enjoy the people in period costumes. They add so much to the authenticity of your visit. You and Laurie go to the same kinds of places we enjoy. Happy New Year to you both.

  4. Happy 2014 to you and yours. My wish for you is a year full of lots of JOY, PEACE, LOVE and BLESSINGS.

    I always enjoy reading about your travels --and thanks for giving us all of the details.. Love it! That little church is adorable... I have a 'thing' for little churches/chapels like that.

    Happy New Year.

  5. Love that round barn! The church is definitely calming, and I bet the dining room brought back great memories for you. Happy New Year to you and Laurie, I hope 2014 is the best for you both! I had to laugh when you said it's in the 50's and sunny by you! It's snowing like mad here now, supposed to get 6-10" by morning. And this has been the coldest December I can remember. Wish I could send the cold and snow your way since I'm sure you must be missing it! :-)

  6. Happy New Year Dave & Laurie!!! I hope you and your wonderful family had a wonderful holiday. May the coming year bring peace, prosperity and happiness :)

    I am so happy to be following your blog and look forward to what exciting adventures 2014 brings.

    What a great post...I love the's so much fun to step back in time. There's an old historical restoration museum near where I's actually an entire town and some of my best memories with the family were spent there.

    Hugs to you both,

  7. This is so interesting blog. You are best listing knowledge provide at this site. I am very excited read this nice article. You can visit my site.
    Edmonton Web Design