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Northlands Park - Memories Worth Keeping
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Fort Edmonton

Early plan of Fort EdmontonThe Edmonton Agricultural Society (EAS) was the first incarnation of current day Northlands Park and held its first exhibition on the site of Fort Edmonton. Though the fort structure was eventually moved to make way for the Alberta Legislature Building in 1915, the site remains important to Northlands Park’s history and speaks to community and industry linkages dating back over a century.

Fort Edmonton, ca.1846In 1875, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and North West Company had built their respective forts, Edmonton House (later Fort Edmonton) and Fort August, near what is now Fort Saskatchewan. Following various moves along the river, satisfactory land was found and a permanent fort was set up in 1830, under the HBC name and ownership. This site was along the North Saskatchewan River on the current legislature grounds.

A number of buildings situated on the HBC property made up Fort Edmonton. Walking up to the structure the first impression was made by the palisades, or 20 foot-high walls, and the almost 11-metre-high bastions from which weapons could be aimed as deemed necessary. Within these confines lay a self-enclosed village of sorts, where people worked to produce the necessary goods for living and trading.

The most significant of the buildings within was the Indian House where fur trade transactions took place. This was the crux of fort life in those early days. HBC Chief Factor John Rowand had an impressive residence built on site in 1832. Outside the Big HouseThis was known as Big House and eventually hosted the EAS in its beginnings. Famed for its size, the house was approximately 2,100 square feet, had several floors, and was reputed to be the largest building between Winnipeg and the Rocky Mountains at the time of its construction.

Also found within Fort Edmonton were the Meat Store, Clerk’s Quarters, Windmill, Trading Post, Métis Cabin, Horse Yard, Gentlemen’s Stable, Ice House, Bake Oven, and many other such facilities that sustained the site’s residents. The bustle of all the craftspeople, traders, and other individuals at work must have furnished the fort with an industrious air.

As an historic site for Edmonton and Alberta, the Fort Edmonton land was chosen for the Alberta Legislature building’s site. This necessitated moving historic Fort Edmonton. Its structures were rebuilt and modeled after the entirety of buildings that existed circa 1846. What currently stands as Fort Edmonton Park is a recreation of the original that was dismantled in 1915.

As a past partners of the original Fort Edmonton, Northlands Park has deeply-seated roots in the HBC site, and in Alberta's unfolding future.

Featured Audio: Louise Rowand's management of Big House

This is a description of Louise Rowand's management of the Big House inside Fort Edmonton. Listen Now

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Fort Edmonton

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