The Rossdale Power Plant Site
Our first study was at the Rossdale Power Plant in Edmonton’s river valley, a site purchased by the city from Alex Taylor for $13,500 in 1902. Mr. Taylor had run a small electric generator on the site and this subsequently provided the first electricity for stores along Jasper Avenue.
We were photographing and touring the site the day some of the original timbers were unearthed of early Fort Edmonton. Mr. Wallace spotted the signs of the dig that was underway in a parking lot. Some of the people working on the site noted what they had found and let us take photographs before covering up the site again to preserve it for further study.
Many intriguing artifacts were found in the dig. Fifty woods posts of the fort wall were unearthed, part of a 33 meter long wall. The palisade wall was not the only discovery made at the site. The dig uncovered two aboriginal camps as well. One is estimated to be from 2000 to 5000 years olds and the second was found at a trench a city crew was digging for an electrical substation.
One of the most
significant discoveries was made at the second aboriginal camp site. A small stone knife was found in a deposit of volcanic ash from an
Oregon volcano called Mazama that erupted 6800 years ago. The discovery of the knife is significant because it dates the use
of the Edmonton area. The head archaeologist estimated that the spot had been used by humans for
maybe 8000 years.
Besides understanding the structure and function of the power generating plants at Rossdale, our study involved a controversial industrial site, both from an environmental and a First Nations cultural perspective. As you drive by the site today, you can see the crosses that have been placed across the road by First Nations people in memory of their ancestors who they say are buried on the site. Industrial archaeology isn’t just about bricks, mortar and steel!
The discovery of the fort wall was not the first time
archaeologists had visited this area. Beginning in 1941, city workers uncovered the skeletons of a man
and four children. In 1964, 1967, 1973 and 1981 more remains were discovered. This indicates that the site may have been Edmonton’s first
The entire Rossdale issue has been contested and we’ve been able to follow the debate in the papers, knowing about the site. We visited the City of Edmonton Archives at the historic Prince of Wales Armoury to look at blueprints and historic photographs of the site. The planned expansion of the site (and demolition of one of the old installations) was opposed for several reasons: it would continue industry in the river valley, that it would affect the discovery and study of artifacts associated with the site and old Fort Edmonton and the power produced would mainly go to southern Alberta. The whole project study brought out so many issues.