hide You are viewing an archived web page collected at the request of University of Alberta using Archive-It. This page was captured on 16:03:35 Dec 08, 2010, and is part of the HCF Alberta Online Encyclopedia collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page. Loading media information

Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Doors Open Alberta

Alberta Architecture

Inside Alberta\'s Legislative Building. Alberta, like other Canadian provinces, owes much of its building stock in small towns and large cities 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.

R.F.M. McInnis amassed a large collection of grain elevator photos that represented about 200 Alberta communities as they used to appear. Later he used those images as models for his paintings. While the design elements for domestic and public buildings is largely derivative, there are some buildings that are icons of prairie architecture. Among these are the grain elevators-the so-called "sentinels of the prairies," discussed in Dorothy Field's Legacy article. While these were plentiful until about 10 years ago, 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.

Artist R. F. M. McInnis, who lives near Nanton, has painted many of these buildings and authored an article titled Grain Elevators: An Endangered Species. Jane Ross, Curator of Western Canadian History at the Provincial Museum of Alberta undertook an inventory and developed an important exhibit at the Museum that addresses physical preservation issues.

The preservation of historic structures remains an enormous challenge-not all can or should be preserved as museums or historic sites. Finding appropriate uses for historic structures is challenging but well worth the effort. When this has been done in combination with arts and cultural programming, the community benefits and these are generally locations for cultural tourism.

Historic Gardens Bloom Again at Ukrainian Village. Historic buildings service as grace notes in cities and towns lending them that special sense of place that suggests that a community has been there for years. The Government of Alberta's Main Street Programme has done a great deal to nurture preservation efforts at the community level. Various organizations at the local level have taken on this mandate, for example, the Old Strathcona Foundation in Edmonton.

Sometimes new buildings can have historic facades to fit in with heritage streetscapes. Or, in some instances, a totally new building can replicate a historic building that was destroyed. The Fort Edmonton Foundation to address its need for a facility for hosting major events built the Hotel Selkirk and Maclab Enterprises Inc. operates it as a full-service hotel.

The Alberta Online EncyclopediaHeritage Community FoundationTravel Alberta CanadaTravel Alberta Canada