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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Landmark Buildings and Places

Alberta Architecture

Unique buildings and spaces are associated with communities, visually defining them for residents and visitors alike. They make towns and cities great and reinforce individual and community identity and pride. They are the visual expression of what might be described as the soul of the community, which is the sum total of all of the works, aspirations and dreams of its citizens. Towns and cities grows through time, and buildings and neighbourhoods reflect cycles of boom and bust. They also represent architectural styles and periods.

The earliest representatives of historic buildings in Albertan communities have their origins in the boom period from early settlement at the end of the 19th century to the coming of World War I in 1914. Survivors of these the red-brick buildings of those original main streets can be seen in not only Calgary and Edmonton, the largest cities, but also in cities and towns around the province.

Alberta, like other Canadian provinces, owes much of its building stock to boom times. Based on some economic activity or other (for example, farming, ranching, mining or manufacturing), communities seemed to develop overnight. The buildings housed both public and private activities and, while largely functional in design, also aspired to make a statement as to the social standing of the occupant. Early on, there was a strong sense of the need for public buildings and spaces that would suggest the kind of infrastructure that those community builders aspired to.

From the beginning, entrepreneurs came from eastern Canada, the United States and Europe and wished to recreate a Pittsburgh, Toronto, Minneapolis or other centre of commerce and manufacturing in the Great Plains. In fact, the write-ups in newspapers and promotional brochures sound surprisingly modern resembling the products of chambers of commerce or government promotional literature. Perhaps, the largeness of the territory lent itself to exaggeration.

Calgary City Hall

While the design elements for domestic and public buildings are largely derivative, there are some buildings that are icons of prairie architecture. Among these are the grain elevators. While these were plentiful until the 1980s, with some communities having more than a dozen along the railway line, they are now endangered and their preservation is a challenge for local communities.

Other unique Albertan buildings are the churches that are found in every community. The Ukrainian Block Settlement, which began in the 1890s, resulted in the building of many churches with the characteristic onion domes. Important examples have been preserved at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village but also in communities throughout central Alberta. A driving tour allows visitors to see these "gems" of prairie architecture as well as experiencing life in rural communities.

Additional Resources:

Doors Open AlbertaDoors Open Alberta

This international initiative to celebrate the architectural heritage was brought to Alberta in the early 1990s by the Heritage Community Foundation, a charitable trust with the mandate to link people with Heritage Community Foundation through discovery and learning. The Foundation developed and maintains the Alberta Online Encyclopedia - www.albertasource.ca of which the Alberta's Real Estate Heritage website is an important part. Find out about Alberta's Architecture, historic building designation as well as Doors Open events by visiting this website.

Historical Tours:

Beginning in the 1980s, Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism (now Alberta Culture and Community Spirit) produced a series of walking and/or driving tour brochures for various communities throughout Alberta that provide information about historic buildings and places. With the permission of Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, the Heritage Community Foundation has drawn on these resources to create the Landmark Buildings and Places database. Booklets used to date are as follows:

A Walking/Driving Tour of Fort Macleod’s Historic Downtown & Residential Area. Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism and Fort Macleod Provincial Historic Area Society, n.d.

A Walking Tour of High River. Heritage Inventory Program, Alberta Culture, and Town of High River, n.d.

Calgary: Atlantic Avenue Inglewood: Historical Walking Tours. Heritage Inventory Program, Alberta Community Development, and the Old Town Calgary Society, 1999.

Calgary Historical Walking Tour: Mission and Cliff Bungalow. Alberta Community Development and the City of Calgary, 2001

Calgary: Stephen Avenue and Area Historical Walking Tour. Alberta Culture, n.d.

Crowsnest Pass Historical Driving Tour: Coleman. Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, The Crowsnest Pass Ecomuseum Trust, and the Coal Association of Canada, 1990.

Crowsnest Pass Historical Driving Tour: Bellevue and Hillcrest. Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, The Crowsnest Pass Ecomuseum Trust, and the Coal Association of Canada, 1990.

Crowsnest Pass Historical Driving Tour: Blairmore. Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, The Crowsnest Pass Ecomuseum Trust, and the Coal Association of Canada, 1990.

Driving Tour: Inglewood and Mount Royal, Calgary. Alberta Culture, n.d.

District of Oliver: Edmonton Historical Walking and Driving Tour. Edmonton: Alberta Community Development, n.d.

Edmonton Walking Tours: Dowtown, East, West, University of Alberta and Strathcona. City of Edmonton and Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, n.d.

Historical Guide to Westmount, Groat Estate and Inglewood, 75th Anniversary Project, Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism and City of Edmonton, n.d.

Historical Driving Tour: Ukrainian Churches in East Central Alberta. Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, n.d.

Historical Walking and Driving Tour: Grande Prairie. Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism and the City of Grande Prairie, n.d.

Historical Walking and Driving Tour: Lacombe. Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism Historic Sites Service and the Maski-Pitoon Historical Society of Lacombe, n.d.

Historical Walking Tour: Downtown Medicine Hat. Alberta Culture, Historic Site Services, n.d..

Historical Walking Tours of Downtown Edmonton , 2004, Centennial edition of the brochure. Planning and Development Department, City of Edmonton, and Alberta Community Development., 2004.

Lethbridge Historical Walking Tour. Alberta Community Development and the Sir Alexander Galt Museum & Archives, n.d.

Markerville: Historical Walking and Driving Tour. Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism and The Stephan G. Stephansson Icelandic Society, 1991.

North Red Deer: Historical Walking Tours. Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, 1992.

Red Deer Historical Walking Tours. Red Deer Historical Preservation Committee and Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, n.d.

The Highlands: Edmonton Historical Walking and Driving Tour. Edmonton: Alberta Community Development and The Highlands Historical Foundation, n.d.

Turner Valley District Driving Tour. Alberta Community Development and the Turner Valley Historical Society, 1993.

Victoria Trail, Kalyna County: Historical Walking and Driving Tours. Alberta Community Development and Kalyna County Ecomuseum, 2004.

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