News articles about heritage in Red Deer that
the objectives of the Forth Junction Heritage Society
Proposed International Village
Red Deer group is pushing to create a local
village' to promote unity
A city made up of immigrants has no place
for intolerance, say group members
Jan. 18, 2019, Red Deer Advocate (Lana Michelin)
Disheartened by inflamed anti-immigrant sentiment, a Red Deer group
wants to revive a decades-old plan to start an international village
in the city. It's time to remind people where their descendants came
from -- and how various cultures make up the fabric of central
Alberta, says group member Betty Wulff, of the city's Norwegian Laft
Hus Society. "It's time to go back and be proud of what your parents
Oct. 18, 2017, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
behind some of Red Deer's parks
One of the significant attractions of Red Deer is its extensive
parks and trails system.
In various public surveys, those parks and trails are often cited
as our community's biggest asset.
In early Red Deer, there was initially not much concern about town
planning and the development of parks. The Town was a small
collection of frame and brick buildings with large open spaces
However, as the Town began to rapidly grow and develop after the
turn of the last century, more attention was given to town planning
and the creation of parks.
One of the first public areas subsequently created was the Civic
Square (now City Hall Park) which was acquired by the Town in 1901.
Another was the CPR Park, created east of the train station, which
would allow travelers a spot to stretch their legs while they took a
break from their long gritty trip on the steam trains.
In 1907, Town council began discussions about acquiring the area
where Waskasoo and Piper Creeks joined as a possible park. However,
the cost of the land seemed high and there were more pressing
priorities in the Town budget.
In 1909, Halley Hamilton Gaetz, made a very generous proposal to
He had been very active in public affairs, serving on Town council
and as mayor in 1907 and 1908. Moreover, his parents, Rev. Leonard
and Catherine Gaetz, had recently passed away. He wanted to do
something in their memory.
He consequently offered a gift of six acres, extending along the
river from his home on Douglas (55th) St. to the mouth of Waskasoo
He also indicated that his brother-in-law, George Wilbert Smith,
would be willing to consider the offer of an additional piece of
land, extending west to the Gaetz Avenue traffic bridge.
Town council was enthusiastic about the donation.
It would give the community a beautiful park that would include
picnic areas, but would mainly be left in a natural state. A
decision was quickly made to name the area Gaetz Park in honour of
H.H. Gaetz's gift acted as a catalyst for further park planning.
Town council revived the idea of acquiring 40 acres on the south
side of town, again as a picnic and recreational area, but also as a
beautiful wooded spot which would be left largely in its natural
An offer of $7,000 was made to the C&E Townsite Company to purchase
the land. In the spring of 1910, the ratepayers voted in favour of
the by-law authorizing the borrowing of the necessary funds. In
January 1911, Town council voted to officially name the new parkland
A few years later, council adopted the name, The Garden City, as
the official motto for the City.
Over the following decades, the City of Red Deer acquired other
parcels of land along the Red Deer River as well as Waskasoo and
A large amount of this land was acquired during the real estate
bust that followed the outbreak of the First World War. Many of the
landowners defaulted on their taxes and the City subsequently
assumed title to their properties.
In the early 1980s, the City, with generous funding from the
Provincial Government, began the development of an urban corridor
park along the river and creeks. In 1982, this new park system was
officially designated Waskasoo Park and the name was no longer just
used for the parcel on the south side of the downtown core.
A walking trail system had already been started in Red Deer,
initially with a generous grant from the Devonian Foundation.
The Waskasoo Park project greatly expanded and enhanced that walking
trail system and made it a key feature of current and future park
Thus, the initial gift of H.H. Gaetz in 1909 of six acres of
parkland along the river has become the cornerstone of one of the
best and most popular features of our City. It has helped to make
our community a much more enjoyable place to live.
Photo: GREAT OUTDOORS - Excursion to Gaetz Park, 1911.
Included in the photo are G.W. Smith, Stan
Carscallen, Joseph Wallace and Philip Chadsey. The name of the dog was
Photo from Peel's Prairie Postcards.
28, 2013, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
Remembering the Labour Day weekend
Another Labour Day long weekend will soon be upon us.
It is often regarded as the unofficial end of summer. For many, it
is often the last holiday before the start of school.
Labour Day is also one of the oldest of Canada's national statutory
holidays. On July 23, 1894, the Conservative Government of Sir John
Sparrow Thompson made the first Monday in September into a
nation-wide public holiday.
For much of its early history, there was little labour union
activity in Red Deer. Because the Calgary-Edmonton Railway (C.P.R.)
was the biggest employer in the community, the railway workers union
was the first and most prominent union.
There was also generally good public support for that union because
so many people belonged to it or had some sort of family or personal
connection with a member.
In the spring of 1900, the railway workers went on strike, mainly
for higher pay. They wanted their salaries raised from $60 to $65
per month with those being paid by the day getting $1.65. For those
who relied on the Company for their accommodations, they wanted
their boarding charges to be capped at $4 per week.
The local newspaper correspondent pointed out that the
Calgary-Edmonton line was the most profitable of all Canadian
railways of equal mileage. He also wrote "Under present conditions
the public is extremely inconvenienced and business is paralyzed. If
this Railway cannot pay men a living wage, perhaps the government
should increase the $80 million a year mail subsidy and help them
Despite the prominence and general popularity of the rail union in
Red Deer, Labour Day almost always passed without any kind of
community events or ceremonies.
Another reporter later wrote "It is unusual to have anything in the
way of sports going on in Red Deer on Labour Day. Most citizens make
arrangements to go away visiting friends or duck shooting etc."
Finally, on Sept. 1, 1913, the local Loyal Orange Lodge decided to
organize a Labour Day event at the Red Deer Fairgrounds.
A baseball game was arranged between Penhold and Red Deer. There
were to be some other athletic events, principally foot races and a
tug-of-war contest between a team made up of members of the Red Deer
Citizens Band (the forerunner of the Red Deer Royals) and the local
The organizers did not expect a large turnout for the events, but
were pleasantly surprised when "quite a nice crowd" showed up. The
afternoon opened with the usual short speeches of greeting from such
dignitaries as Mayor Francis Galbraith and Alderman William Piper.
Rev. W.G. Brown of the Presbyterians and Rev. John Bennett of the
local Baptists provided the invocations and short religious
Edward Michener, the local MLA, was supposed to be in attendance,
but was unable to attend at the last minute. Consequently, a
telegram of greetings was read out on his behalf.
A large picnic lunch was served in one of the exhibition buildings
on the grounds. The sports events then commenced. Red Deer beat
Penhold in the baseball game by a score of 16 to 6. The Orangemen
easily beat the Band members in tug-of-war. Considerable interest
was also shown in a contest for 'most popular lady' with a gold
watch being the prize.
After a supper was served, the day concluded with a concert by the
While news reports conceded that the event had "not been great from
a numerical standpoint", everyone who did turn out said that they
had an enjoyable time.
There was a hope that the 1914 event would be better attended.
Tragically, the First World War broke out that summer. No Labour Day
picnic or sporting event was held as all attention had turned to the
July 31, 2013, Red Deer Express
Interest in Red Deer's history keeps
Local officials continue to create
ways to explore City's past
A rich and varied emphasis on exploring facets of local history
continues to unfold in the city.
There are lots of fascinating ways to learn about Red Deer's past
including several newly-developed walking tours. They were
officially introduced last month, but officials say their popularity
continues to grow as folks tap into the stories of the City's early
Several walking tours were mapped out in the early 1980s, but City
staff felt it was high time to revamp those tours and broaden their
"It's part of a retake of our heritage, and trying to promote our
heritage and identity," said Janet Pennington, Heritage Community
The new tours are part of the Red Deer Revealed line, and they help
to tell the story of our community's vibrant heritage. Red Deerians
and visitors alike can choose to go on one or all of the new tours,
which will guide them through the City's downtown core. They include
The Ghost Collection Tour, First Impressions of Red Deer and
Saturday in the City.
Also included in Red Deer Revealed is a children's activity map and
58 new heritage signs as well. As (Pennington) explains, the signs
feature historic photos also.
"They portray an image of what was."
Pennington said the search for material to highlight on the tours
included counting on members of the community as well. "We didn't
want to rely on just two or three people to pick the sights, we
really wanted to get some input," One means of doing that was
dropping by such events as the Mayor's Garden Party, senior centres
and Canada Day celebrations with large community maps.
People could mark things on the maps that had special historical
significance to them.
"We didn't want the tours to be just a series of old buildings, we
wanted some sort of themes as well." The focus initially was on the
downtown, but committee members are looking at planning more tours
of historic spots throughout the City as well. There are plenty of
areas to delve into, from unique manufacturing initiatives to a
range of social aspects across time, too.
"These will be walking, driving or biking tours as well."
Of course, the bronze ghost series of statues continues to attract
lots of attention, and stirs up plenty of questions about the
specific stories they represent.
Pennington said it's a challenge to keep up with demand when it
comes to copies of The Ghost Collection Tour brochures. The
collection includes 10 life-sized bronze statues placed in and
around the downtown core.
It all started with the popular statue of 'Reverend Leonard Gaetz'
near the intersection of Ross St. and Gaetz Ave. The statue was
unveiled in 1994.
'Choices' followed in 1995. This was followed by 'Francis Wright
Galbraith' in 1996, 'Francis the Pig' in 1998, 'Sound the Alarm' and
'Reaching Out' in 1999, 'Let the Music Play' in 2003, 'Hazel
Braithwaite' in 2004, 'Doris & Mickey' in 2004 and 'Waiting for
Gordon' in 2012.
Francis the Pig, the famous 'ham on the lam', was relocated to
Rotary Recreation Park just east of the new spray park. He was
located on Little Gaetz Ave. south of 52 St. prior to extensive
redevelopment work done in the area.
The legend of Francis began in July 1990 when he escaped from a
For nearly five months the fugitive roamed the parklands of Red
Deer, eluding predators and several attempts to catch him. This
freedom-loving pig was finally captured in early 1991.
Unfortunately, shortly afterward, Francis succumbed to injuries he
received in the attempt.
Francis captured the imagination of the nation and won many fans.
And as (Pennington) said, it's stories like this that enrich the
community because of the sense of story and folklore that surround
them as well.
She said the tours have not only been a hit with folks visiting the
City, but those who were born and raised here enjoy them because
they often bring back a world of memories of how it used to be.
(Pennington) recalls leading a community history tour, which should
have only taken about 45 minutes. "Sometimes people want so much
information, the last one was two and one-half hours long. We kept
saying do you want us to stop and they said 'No'. So it was lots of
For more information, check out reddeer.ca/heritage. For more about
the City's public art and bronze ghost collection, contact
Photo: HERITAGE - Janet Pennington (at 'Sound the Alarm'
ghost statue near former downtown fire hall)
June 12, 2013, Red Deer Express (Mark Weber)
New heritage walking tours and signs
There are new ways to experience Red Deer's past with your family.
Three new heritage walking tours, a children's activity map and 58
new heritage signs were launched recently and all Red Deerians were
invited to join in the celebrations.
The materials are part of the new Red Deer Revealed collection and
were unveiled at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.
"The launch of these heritage walking tours and the official
unveiling of the new signs are exciting additions to Red Deer's year
of centennial celebrations," said City Manager Craig Curtis.
"The tours and signs will provide a wonderful opportunity for
people to learn about and interact with and see our community's
At the event, participants enjoyed refreshments as they learned
about some of the highlights of Red Deer's history and the heritage
Copies of the three new heritage walking tours and the children's
'Ghost Hunters Activity Map' were also available.
Local experts also led people on either 'The Ghost Collection' tour
or the 'Saturday in the City' tour -- two of the three new tours
that are part of the Red Deer Revealed line.
The Red Deer Revealed heritage walking tours are available online
For more information on the heritage programs with the City of Red
Deer, call 403-309-6270 or email
Photo: HERITAGE - Merissa Hiltz, 15, examines one of Red
Deer's new heritage walking signs located throughout
the City to enlighten citizens on Red Deer's rich history. Photo by Jenna
Swan/Red Deer Express
June 12, 2013, Red Deer Express (Erin
Residential school artifacts
contributed to project
Truth and Reconciliation hearings held
A red brick and a piece of sandstone from the Red Deer Industrial
School has become part of a monumental sculpture of remembrance and
reconciliation of residential schools.
Carey Newman, a master carver, will use the historic artifacts from
the Red Deer Industrial School in his national Indian Residential
School Commemorative art project 'Witness: Pieces of History'.
"This work will recognize the atrocities of the Indian Residential
School era, honour the children, and symbolize ongoing
reconciliation," said Newman, from his gallery in British Columbia.
The pieces of the residential school in Red Deer were given to
Project Co-ordinator Rosy Steinhauer at a Feast to Remember the
Children which followed a Truth and Reconciliation Committee hearing
that took place in Red Deer last week.
The feast and the hearing were hosted by the Remembering the
Children Society of Red Deer.
Steinhauer is the grand-niece of former Alberta Lt. Gov. Ralph
Steinhauer, Canada's first First Nations lieutenant governor, who
attended the school as a child.
"The impact of the Indian residential schools still weighs on our
"My father attended residential school and I have seen firsthand
that the experience haunts him to this day," said Newman.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, First Nations children
were removed from their homes to live-in facilities where they were
forbidden to use their language or culture.
The Red Deer Industrial School operated from 1893 to 1919 by
agreement between the federal government and the Methodist Church
(which was later to form part of the United Church of Canada).
"I conceived the Witness Blanket to not only honour my father, but
also to leave a legacy for my daughter, so that her generation may
continue this journey toward healing and reconciliation," said
"I believe that if we bear witness with open hearts and open minds,
truth will distinguish itself.
"Reconciliation has elements of grief, elements of healing and
elements of teaching each intertwined with a fundamental pursuit of
More than just a piece of artwork, the project includes a team that
is crossing Canada on gathering trips to collect pieces and stories
from the Indian Residential School era.
The team is looking for wood, brick, glass, shingles, metal, books,
photographs and other materials related to this historical era.
People from all parts of Canada, of all faiths, ethnicities and
generations are called on to participate. Contributions can be
arranged online, by phone or at gathering trips, and local
'champions' are encouraged to coordinate gathering pieces within
"In Salish culture there is a tradition of 'blanketing' - when a
blanket is given to offer protection, strength or public
recognition. "In that manner, this blanket will stand as a woven
testament to our shared history, upholding and honouring the
survivors and their families," said Newman.
"The Witness Blanket will be a tangible patchwork of broken pieces
that make up a whole, with the purpose of honouring the history of
place and bringing about reconciliation of our past."
April 15, 2013, Red Deer Advocate (Susan Zielinski)
A Remarkable hit
New permanent exhibit at museum
Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery's new permanent exhibit on the
history of the Red Deer area earned accolades from visitors at its
grand opening on Sunday.
The $1.5 million exhibit -- Remarkable Red Deer: Stories from the
Heart of the Parkland -- takes up 4,800 square feet of display space
and features more than 400 photographs and 300 artifacts from the
MAG collection and Red Deer Archives.
Several of Red Deer's prominent buildings like Stephenson Hall
Block, the train station, Club Cafe and Capitol Theatre, are
featured with interactive stations for visitors to learn about the
area's rich and sometimes quirky history.
Technologies used within the exhibit impressed its visitors.
"The audio stimulus, and then the visual stimulus, are so
complementary that you're engaged. It's capturing your attention,
but not drawing away from the different elements. I think it's
fantastic," said Wendy Moore, of Red Deer, on Sunday.
Background sounds, like the chugging train, help create an
experience for visitors and so do the many details that capture the
different decades within the exhibit, said Leslee Burton, of Red
Bev Hanes, of Red Deer, said the interactive stations are engaging
and visitors to the city will get a good idea of what Red Deer is
all about by touring the exhibit.
"It's wonderful. If you want to learn your history, this is the
place to come," said Joanne Ruggles, of Red Deer.
Robert Zielke, of Red Deer, said the city keeps growing and growing
and it's good to reflect back on what it was like in the past.
The exhibit will hopefully encourage younger generation appreciate
all that they have, said Viktor Zielke, of Red Deer.
Mayor Morris Flewwelling, who was the museum's director for 20
years, said his favourite part of the exhibit is the video and
digital recordings that really bring the community to life.
Visitors can listen to people who helped shape Red Deer and learn
why residents came to call Red Deer home, he said.
Flewwelling has come to the exhibit about three times and still has
more he wants to examine.
"What's important isn't just the artifact, it's the story that goes
with it," Flewwelling said.
The museum didn't want to just tell the story of how the area was
developed, but rather what made its residents tick, he said.
Not only will Remarkable Red Deer be a legacy for Red Deer's
Centennial, it will also be a place of learning into the future,
"Red Deer's museum is now on the threshold of a renaissance and a
Photo: Actor Paul Sutherland, one of the Ghosts of Red
Deer greeting visitors to the museum's Remarkable Red
Deer exhibit, answered questions during the grand opening of the new
exhibit on Sunday.
Photo by Susan Zielinski.
March 20, 2013, Red Deer Express
Looking back to when Red Deer
This weekend, Red Deer will be celebrating a very significant
milestone in our community's history.
It was 100 years ago, on March 25, 1913, that Red Deer was
officially incorporated as a City.
Red Deer, at the time, had a population of only 3,000, usually
considered too small to become a city.
However, in 1901, when Red Deer was incorporated as a town, the
community had 323 residents.
Twelve years later, the population had surged nearly 10-fold.
Many people optimistically predicted would grow to more than 30,000
by the early 1920s.
There were some solid arguments, other than spirited optimism, to
seek city status. Cities were better able to sell debentures, an
important consideration for a community that heavily relied on
borrowing to finance the construction of new roads, waterworks,
power facilities and public buildings.
Moreover, North Red Deer had become a separate village in 1911 and
the residents of Red Deer West (West Park) were investigating the
possibilities of incorporation.
Under provincial legislation, the Town of Red Deer could only annex
such areas if it received a petition signed by two-thirds of the
residents of the affected area.
There had already been a petition for annexation submitted by some
residents of North Red Deer. Red Deer Town Council wanted to change
its charter status so that it could have more flexibility in
handling such requests.
The Town's solicitor, G.W. Greene, presented a draft bill of
incorporation at the first Town Council meeting of 1913.
In order to expedite matters, the draft proposed that the current
town charter by simply amended by substituting the word 'city' for
the word 'town'
The only other change dropped the requirement for two-thirds consent
The town councilors unanimously approved the proposals. The new
mayor, F.W. Galbraith, then invited the council and town
administrators to an oyster dinner at the Crowne Cafe.
The draft bill was approved by the Municipal Committee of the
Alberta Legislature with virtually no debate.
Edward Michener, who was Red Deer's MLA and also the leader of the
official opposition, piloted the bill through the remainder of the
The bill was unanimously approved on March 10th. The Lieutenant
Governor gave his assent on March 25th. Red Deer officially became a
Surprisingly, the news was not greeted with much fanfare back in Red
The Red Deer Advocate had a front-page article on the incorporation,
but it was quite a small one. There were much bigger articles on the
announcement of a provincial election and a proposal to build new
factories in Red Deer.
The new City council did announce a competition for the design of an
official City coat of arms. Entries were received from all over
Canada, but the winner was A.B. Mitchell, a local jeweler. He was
awarded a $25 prize for his submission.
Meanwhile, City council began work on the new City charter, a job
which proved to be time consuming and occasionally contentious.
Mayor Galbraith proposed that all residents, 21 years of age or
older, be given the right to vote in municipal elections.
The majority of aldermen balked at this radical idea. They decided
instead to give the vote to all adult property owners.
This was still a significant advance as it meant that married women
with property could now vote, unmarried women and widows with
property haven been given this right in 1901.
There were also arguments over tax exemptions for churches and a
minimum tax on lots. The former idea was accepted, while the latter
was eventually dropped.
The Alberta Legislature approved the new city charter with only a
few minor changes. With the charter officially approved on Oct. 25,
1913, Red Deer was now fully incorporated as a City.
Unfortunately, during the move into the new City Hall building in
1964, the original City charter was thrown out.
A replacement certificate of incorporation was issued by the
provincial government on June 29th, 1971.
That is the document that is now displayed in the Council Chambers
at City Hall.
August 24, 2011, Red Deer Express
Marking a significant historic
North Red Deer celebrates attaining
village status one century ago
Organizers are gearing up for a very special day of celebration
marking the 100th anniversary of North Red Deer becoming a village.
Things get underway at 1 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the North Cottage
School and Koinonia Christian School with master of ceremonies and
local historian Michael Dawe.
Cake-cutting and speeches start at 1:15 p.m., the Youth Aboriginal
Dance Troupe performs at 2 p.m. and local musicians Donna Durand and
Gordie Matthews perform as well. Several dignitaries will be on hand
including Mayor Morris Flewwelling, Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne
Jablonski and Lindsay Blackett, the province's minister of culture
and community spirit.
There will also be children's entertainment, mini-golf, face
painting, clowns and balloon artists.
"It's exciting because I want everyone to come and have a really
good time and see people they haven't seen in a long time," said
Shirley Hocken, treasurer of the Riverside Meadows Community
Association and chair of the Centennial Committee.
Folks can peruse a number of historical photos on the main floor of
North Cottage School as well. The school first opened for classes in
the winter of 1912. In 1992, it was declared a Registered Historic
"It's gone really well," she adds of the lengthy process of
planning the festivities. "There are so many people that have come
with all kinds of wonderful ideas on promoting the event."
Touching base with people who once called the area home or who
attended North Cottage School in the past has also been a remarkable
experience, she said. Many want to stop by this weekend and catch up
with old friends and neighbours.
North Red Deer didn't amalgamate with the City of Red Deer until
the late 1940s, said Hocken, who grew up in the neighbourhood and
lives there today. There isn't a whole lot left from days long past,
but the district retains a distinct charm all its own, she said.
"I find that where I live, the neighbours know one another. The
yards are big, there's lots of trees and there is easy access to
wherever you want to go."
As a permanent community fixture marking the 100th anniversary,
Hocken said a special project by local artists Dawn Detarando and
Brian McArthur will be unveiled near the train bridge later this
"That will be the legacy of the celebrations."
Meanwhile, it's been a remarkable time for the community, as a
digitized format of a history book was made available online last
Packed with general history and family anecdotes and memories,
the Little Village That Grew - A History of North Red Deer was
originally published in 1987 to mark the community's 75th
anniversary of incorporation as a village.
The 600-page book took two years to produce by a team of 10 people.
Its release was celebrated with a flurry of activities including a
homecoming. Some of the book's proceeds were also used to restore
the nearby CPR Bridge. Thanks to the University of Calgary's 'Our
Roots' digitization department, the book is available online.
According to the book, when Red Deer was first settled, it was
thought the north area would be largely industrial. "Significant
business growth in North Red Deer can be traced, initially, to
George H. Bawtinheimer. He established a saw mill in the area in
Over the years a number of businesses were established, and mill
workers built homes in the vicinity to be close to their work.
In the fall of 1908, St. Joseph's Convent was built on the hill
overlooking the young community and from 1910 to 1912 both Red Deer
and North Red Deer flourished.
In the years following its amalgamation with Red Deer, there were
other milestones as well.
And in 1991, the CPR Bridge was saved from demolition. Profits from
the sales of The Little Village That Grew to the tune of
$4,170 were donated to the CPR Bridge Endowment Fund.
To access The Little Village That Grew, check out
ourroots.ca and in the right column under 'Find a Book' type in the
August 4, 2010,
Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
Laurier's 1910 visit
huge event for City
Next week marks an important
anniversary in our community's history.
It was 100 years ago, on Aug. 10 to 12, 1910, that Sir Wilfrid
Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada, made an extended visit to Red
Deer. It was one of the most exciting official visits by a national
political figure that Red Deer has ever experienced.
The visit was part of a two-month long tour of Western Canada. The
prairies were the fastest growing part of the country. Since Laurier
was acutely aware of the increasing importance of the region to the
nation as a whole, he wanted to make an extensive visit to view the
progress first hand. He also wanted to learn more about the issues
and problems of the West.
News that Laurier would be including Red Deer as a major stop on his
tour was received in early June. Committees were quickly struck to
make the necessary plans. The local citizens not only wanted to
suitably welcome the Prime Minister to the community, they also
wanted to ensure the recognition of Red Deer as one of the centres
of growth and prosperity in the West.
Laurier was scheduled to arrive in Red Deer on the afternoon of
Wednesday Aug. 10 on a train from Edmonton. While brief stops were
planned for Wetaskiwin, Ponoka and Lacombe on the way, Laurier was
not scheduled to leave Red Deer until the morning of Aug. 12.
Consequently, several Central Alberta communities agreed to join
with Red Deer in organizing a major public meeting in the new
Waskasoo Park next to Piper's Mountain on Waskasoo Creek.
As part of the preparations, a very impressive archway was
constructed at the intersection of Gaetz Ave. and Ross St. It had
four large towers. It was covered in flags, bunting, sheaves of
grain, and local produce. There were large signs with slogans of
welcome and boosting Red Deer. The local Western General Electric
power company donated several hundred bulbs so that the edifice
could be lit up at night.
Huge crowds greeted Laurier's arrival on the afternoon of Aug. 10.
The official party, which included Laurier, Alberta Premier Arthur
Sifton, several MPs, MLAs and local elected officials, made their
way to the Civic Square on Ross St. for lengthy speeches of welcome.
Special time was also given to the provincial president of the
United Farmers of Alberta, James Bower of Red Deer, so that he could
present the concerns and viewpoints of the farmers. So important was
the speech to Bower that although he started to have a heart attack,
he refused to be taken to hospital until after he had finished
making his presentation to the prime minister.
After the civic reception, everyone headed to a spot on the South
Hill for the driving of the first spike for the Alberta Central
Railway. The ACR was a very ambitious venture and was part of a plan
to help make Red Deer a major rail hub in Western Canada.
A sudden thunderstorm cut short the large public meeting the next
day in Waskasoo Park. All those who were able quickly relocated to
the Lyric Theatre on Ross St. where the speeches by the dignitaries
continued. Unfortunately, the theatre owners had put heavy coats of
shellac on the wooden seats the day before. Many of the attendees
consequently left large portions of their clothing behind when they
went to leave.
The visit wrapped up on the Thursday evening with an elaborate
reception on the lawn of H.H. Gaetz's large residence on Douglas
Laurier departed early Friday morning after spending a second night
in the Ellis mansion on the corner of Douglas St. and Poplar (46)
Despite the two thunderstorms and the other glitches, everyone
agreed that the visit had been a wonderful success and that Red Deer
had successfully asserted its rightful place on the new economic and
political map of Canada.
Laurier also took many of the policy ideas presented to him in Red
Deer and elsewhere during his Western tour and included them in his
party's platform in the 1911 federal election. Although the result
was that Laurier and his Liberals won all but one seat in Alberta,
(with a similar result in Saskatchewan), they were defeated
nationally by Sir Robert Borden's Conservatives.
Photo: SPECIAL WELCOME - The Laurier Arch on the corner of Ross
Street and Gaetz Avenue on Aug. 10, 1910.
courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives
Red Deer Advocate (Michael Dawe)
celebrates 125 years
Historic Central Alberta site
during the Riel Rebellion
One of Red Deer's oldest and
most interesting historic sites is Fort Normandeau. Originally
constructed 125 years ago during the North West or Riel Rebellion.
It is one of only three forts constructed in Alberta during a time
The original portion of the Fort was constructed in 1884 by Robert
McClellan as a two-storey stopping house or hotel near the spot
where the old Calgary-Edmonton Trail crossed the Red Deer River.
In March of 1885, an armed rebellion by a large number of Metis and
First Nations broke out against the Canadian government. The first
battle was fought at Duck Lake, Sask.
A group of militia and volunteers was organized as the Alberta Field
Force, under the command of a retired and eccentric British officer,
Major General Thomas Bland Strange. This military group headed
northwards to secure the Calgary-Edmonton Trail and provide armed
support to any residents along the way who had not already fled to
either Calgary or Edmonton.
As the Field Force made its way north, a party of twenty men of the
65 Mount Royal Rifles, under the command of Lieutenant J.E. Bedard
Normandeau, was left at the Red Deer Crossing settlement.
They commandeered McClellan's stopping house and proceeded to
fortify it. The log walls were strengthened will a shell of planks
filled with clay. Loopholes were cut into the wall of the upper
storey. A palisade with three bastions was constructed around the
When completed, the structure was dubbed Fort Normandeau, in honour
of the officer in charge of it.
After the Riel Rebellion was over, the militia departed and the fort
briefly reverted to its original ownership. However, Fort Normandeau
was taken over by the North West Mounted Police in 1886 for use as a
post for the policing of the district.
In 1890-91, when the Calgary-Edmonton Railway established a new
townsite on the Leonard Gaetz farm to the east, the Red Deer
Crossing settlement was largely abandoned. The NWMP moved their
operations to the new townsite in 1893, having already sawn up the
palisade for firewood in the preceding winter.
The barracks building (McClellan stopping house) was later moved to
a nearby farm belonging to the Cornett family. In 1938, the newly
formed Central Alberta Pioneers and Old-timers' Association moved
the main floor of the old building back to a spot near its original
location. The structure was restored as a meeting hall for the
The site was acquired by the provincial government and turned into a
provincial public campsite and picnic area. However, after the
Old-timers Association built a new lodge next to the Red Deer
Fairgrounds in 1957, the Fort building fell into disuse and suffered
a lot from vandalism.
In 1974, as part of the celebration of the centennial of the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police, a much larger reconstruction of old Fort
Normandeau was built on a higher piece of land. As much of the old
barracks/stopping house was salvaged as possible, including the logs
where the soldiers stationed at Fort Normandeau in 1885 had carved
their names. The new two-storey structure was completed surrounded
by a palisade.
In 1983, the City of Red Deer purchased Fort Normandeau and nearly
nine acres of land from the Alberta Government for $1. Some
necessary repairs were made to the 1974 reconstruction. A
substantial interpretive centre was also constructed to the north
and west of the replica fort.
The official opening ceremonies for the new Fort Normandeau
Interpretive Centre were originally set for Aug. 5 (Heritage Day),
1985. However, due to very dry weather conditions, the landscaping
around the site had not had much of a chance to catch. Hence, the
official opening was delayed to the following year.
Weather again caused problems for the official opening in May 1986.
A terrific spring blizzard struck the week before the ceremonies.
When the opening event took place, there were still drifts of snow
around the site despite the bright and warm weather.
Nevertheless, nearly 2,000 people turned out for the festivities. A
particular attraction was the demonstration by the 65 Carabiniers
Mont Royal, a commemorative contingent established to continue the
memory of the original regiment which had built Fort Normandeau in
May 26, 2010, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
Red Deer a leader in heritage
One of the sources of pride in our community is the fact that Red
Deer has often been on the leading edge of heritage preservation in
Alberta and across Western Canada.
In 1964, Red Deer's City council established the first municipal
archives in the province. In 1972-1973, the Red Deer and District
Museum was created and was later named the model museum of its size
Meanwhile, the provincial government began a program of formally
designating historic sites and buildings across the province.
In 1977, St. Luke's Anglican Church became the first provincially
designated historic resource in the City. However, eight years would
pass before a second provincial historic resource, the Allen
Bungalow, was designated.
With the process of provincial historic site identification and
designation proceeding quite slowly, Red Deer undertook its own
heritage initiatives. In June 1979, the Red Deer and District Museum
Society and the Red Deer River Naturalists joined together to foster
local historic site preservation.
In 1981, City council decided to create an official Historical
Preservation Committee, which picked up on the work started by the
earlier grassroots group. The new committee was given the mandate to
advise City council on "those buildings and areas that could be
considered historically significant and make recommendations on
conservation and preservation priorities".
A flurry of action followed. In October 1982, the Cronquist House
became the first municipally designated historic resource in
Alberta. It had not been eligible for provincial heritage
designation because the structure had been moved from its original
site in West Park to a new location at Bower Ponds.
Shortly thereafter, in 1983, Red Deer Fire Hall No. 1 (now the Red
Deer Children's Library) became Alberta's second municipally
designated heritage resource.
The Heritage Preservation Committee also had the Michener Centre
Administration Building (Alberta Ladies College) and the J.J. Gaetz
Residence designated as municipal heritage resources. This was the
first time that provincially-owned historic sites had been given
The Heritage Preservation Committee realized that it was important
to increase public awareness of Red Deer's historical sites and
stories. Hence, Lawrie Knight-Steinbach was hired to produce
historical walking tour booklets for the downtown, Gaetz Park and
Parkvale areas. She also wrote a highly successful Red Deer Cemetery
As North Red Deer has its own unique history as a separate village
from 1911-1947, a walking tour booklet was printed by Alberta
Historic Sites Service and the Heritage Preservation Committee for
that district, now known as Riverside Meadows.
In 1990, the first federal historical designation occurred with the
old CPR Station on Ross Street. This designation was later
superceded by first municipal and then provincial registered
In 1999, the Heritage Preservation Committee (which had become a
sub-committee of the Normandeau Cultural and Natural History
Society) prepared an inventory of historically significant
resources. This inventory list was subsequently officially adopted
by the City of Red Deer under the land use bylaw.
In 2002, the Heritage Preservation Committee started the Heritage
Recognition Awards to recognize outstanding projects in heritage
conservation and heritage preservation in the City of Red Deer and
Red Deer County. The first recipient was the CPR Rail Bridge
A new Heritage Management Plan was adopted by City council in 2006.
A new detailed inventory of historic sites in the City was started
in the fall of 2007. This past year, Red Deer's City council decided
to again make the Heritage Preservation Committee a body that
reports directly to council.
In February 2010, Red Deer County became the first rural
municipality in Alberta to systematically identify its historic
sites and complete a detailed Heritage Management Plan.
On Friday, June 4, 2010 at 11:30 a.m., the 2010 Heritage Awards
will be announced by the Heritage Preservation Committee at
ceremonies at the Red Deer County Council Chambers. All are welcome
Jan. 27, 2010, Red Deer Express (Michael
memorable journey for
Red Deer's museum
On Monday, Feb. 15 (Family Day), the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery
will be holding an official grand reopening after the completion of
a $2.8 million renovation project.
The building has been closed since last April as significant
improvements have been made to the galleries and front-end areas.
The museum has been a major feature of our community for nearly 40
years, but there had been an earlier museum in Red Deer more than
100 years ago. This pioneer museum had been originally started in
Innisfail, but was moved to Red Deer in 1907 by Dr. Henry George, a
noted local physician and naturalist, and his wife Barbara, a noted
naturalist and artist, who was also the designer of Alberta's
The George Museum was located in a large two-storey addition to the
George's home on the northwest corner of Ross St. and 48 Ave. The
museum included an impressive collection of natural history
specimens, First Nations artifacts, artwork, library books and
historical artifacts. Admission was 25 cents, but children were
admitted free of charge.
In 1922, Dr. George suffered a heart attack. He and his wife then
decided to move to the west coast. Their museum was offered first to
the City of Red Deer and then to the Province of Alberta. When both
declined, most of the collections were dispersed to private
collectors, although a small number of pieces eventually ended up
with the Central Alberta Pioneers and Old Timers Association.
Thus, a tremendous treasure of natural and human history, fine art,
literary works, reference books and educational resources were
permanently lost to the community.
Over the years, there were sporadic proposals to create a new
museum, but nothing concrete, ever occurred. In 1938, when the Old
Timers Association rebuilt part of Fort Normandeau, a number of
historical artifacts were put into the building.
Unfortunately, the rebuilt Fort Normandeau structure was the
frequent victim of break-ins and vandalism. Several artifacts were
stolen or damaged. The situation improved after the construction of
a new Old Timers Lodge on 47 Ave. in 1958. However, there was not
much space for artifacts and exhibits in the lodge.
In 1964, following the destruction of a large quantity of
historical City records during the move from the old City Hall to
the new one, City Council decided to create a municipal archives. It
was initially located in the new City Hall, but later moved to the
Centennial Library in 1967.
In 1972, during the planning for Red Deer's Diamond (60th)
Anniversary as a city, a proposal was made by Jean Dawe to create a
civic museum as the official anniversary project. There was
enthusiastic support for the proposal from such groups as the Old
Timers Association as well as the community as a whole.
Consequently, in 1973, the Red Deer and District Museum opened in
temporary quarters in the basement of the Recreation Centre. The
facilities were not ideal. Space was limited. On occasion, there
were water leaks from the pool areas upstairs.
The Museum Society continued to push for the construction of a
permanent facility on a City-owned site north east of the Recreation
Centre. There was enormous public support. An impressive amount of
money was raised for the project. The new building officially opened
in 1978, with large crowds in attendance.
The Red Deer and District Archives decided to move from the library
to the museum. The building then became known as the Red Deer and
District Museum and Archives. Moreover, with convenient and
inexpensive meeting room and public event space available, the
facility became a well-used community centre.
Under the leadership of the very energetic museum director, Morris
Flewwelling and a strong group of staff and volunteers, the Red Deer
Museum developed impressive collections, had a diverse range of
historical and fine art exhibitions, and provided a highly popular
set of public and school programs. The Red Deer and District Museum
soon earned the national distinction of being the model museum of
its size in Canada.
The growth in exhibitions, collections and programming created
space problems. Consequently, a large addition was made to the
building in 1984. Another addition to the storage areas was built in
1993-1994. Impressively, with all of the government cutbacks at the
time, this latest addition was constructed entirely with donations
and not with any tax dollars.
The latest set of renovations is but one more milestone in the
ongoing development of the museum. The public is invited to stop by
on the afternoon of Family Day, to view the improvements and to
enjoy the entertainment.
Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
Red Deer's downtown hotels have
The recent demolition of the
Arlington Inn, Red Deer's oldest remaining hotel, and the closure of
the Valley, means the end of a major part of Red Deer's history.
No longer will the city have the cluster of old downtown hotels that
have been one of the landmark features not only of Red Deer, but
also of almost every community in Western Canada.
There was a strong reason for this pattern of development. The main
means of travel, until after the Second World War, was by rail.
When people arrived in a community, one of the first things they
looked for was a place to stay. Thus, there was a strong incentive
to build hotels within sight of the local railroad station.
The first hotel to be constructed in Red Deer was the Queen's. It
was a small single storey structure, built in the spring of 1891,
immediately east of the railroad station along Holt (51) Ave.
In the early spring of 1892, a two-storey hotel, the Alberta, was
constructed on the southeast corner of Ross St. and Holt (51) Ave.
The Alberta quickly developed a reputation as one of the better
places to stay on the C&E Railroad line.
As the business grew and prospered, an addition was built on the
east side. In 1899, a third storey was added to the frame structure.
That same year, Thomas and Edith Pennington Ellis, who had been
running the old Queen's Hotel, demolished the original structure and
replaced it with a much larger building.
The hotel, named the Arlington, opened with a grand ball and supper
on October 12, 1899.
It was also in 1899 that Steve Wilson, who had taken over the
Alberta Hotel, constructed a substantial frame and sandstone
building south of the Canadian Pacific (former C. & E.) Railroad
The building was originally used as a public hall, which was known
as Nelson's Hall. However, in 1903, it was turned into a hotel
facility. Initially called the Royal Hotel, it was renamed the
Windsor in 1905.
In 1902, Fredrick Krause built the Alexandra Hotel on the east end
of Ross St. near MacKenzie (49) Ave.
This was the first hotel to be constructed that was not directly
across the street from the railroad station.
Another hotel, the Great West, was constructed south of the Windsor.
However, this was a "temperance hotel", without a bar. It went out
of business in 1908.
Meanwhile, with Red Deer growing very rapidly between 1901 and 1913,
the other hotels grew and prospered. Large additions were
constructed onto the Arlington, Alberta and Windsor.
The great boom ended with the outbreak of the First World War in
1914. The implementation of Prohibition in 1915 dealt a catastrophic
blow to the local hoteliers.
For a while, both the Alexandra and the Windsor closed their doors,
while the Arlington fell into turmoil when the managers tried to
break their lease with the owners. Only the Alberta was able to
remain continuously open.
The 1920s were quiet years. The Windsor reopened, as did the
Alexandra, albeit under a new name, the Auditorium. The abandoned
Great West was torn down as a fire hazard.
In 1939, with the economy beginning to emerge from the Great
Depression, the west end of the Alberta was replaced with a new
building and the hotel was renamed the Buffalo.
New prosperity came during the Second World War. There was a large
military training centre in Red Deer and two airbases at Penhold and
Bowden. Rooms were soon full of visitors and lodgers. The beer
parlours were full of both military personnel and civilians.
In 1947, John Phelan, the owner of the Windsor, constructed the
Valley Hotel on the corner of 49 St. and 51 Ave. He also later built
the small Phelan Hotel south of the Windsor.
In 1947, the Auditorium was remodeled and renamed the Park Hotel.
Later, a small bar-less hotel, the Waskasoo, was built on Gaetz Ave.
There were more changes in the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s.
The hotels were full with newcomers and travelers.
However, in the late 1960s and 1970s, the downtown hotels became
more noted for their taverns. Some became rather notorious. In the
1980s, the Windsor even took as its slogan "Doing It Right on the
Wrong Side of Town".
There was a big decline in the past 20 years. The Windsor closed in
1993 and burned down a year later. The Waskasoo also burned down in
In 2001, the John Howard Society changed the Park Hotel into a
halfway house with businesses on the main floor.
In 2007, the Buffalo was purchased by the Potter's Hands ministry
and turned into a place of worship as well as affordable housing for
Now, the last of the traditional downtown hotels have either been
demolished or closed.
An era, more than a century long, has come to an end.
March 19, 2008, Red Deer Express (Michael
The Arlington Hotel, a
One of the oldest landmarks in Red Deer is the historic Arlington
Hotel. It has stood on 51 Ave., near the old C.P.R. station, for
nearly 110 years.
The origins of the hotel actually go back to 1891. That was when
Stewart D. Mulkins built the Queen's Hotel to the south east of the
new Calgary-Edmonton Railway station on Holt (51) Ave.
Despite the impressive name, the Queen's Hotel was a very modest
building, 20 by 42 feet, with a small lobby and office in the front,
and a few guest rooms in the back and upstairs.
In 1892, Mulkins sold his hotel to Harry and Emily (Threlfall)
Pennington, who had previously operated a stopping house along the
Calgary Edmonton Trail north of Penhold.
Later, the operation of the hotel was taken over by their daughter
Edith and her husband Tom Ellis.
Tom Ellis was a former North West Mounted Police officer who had
been posted at Fort Normandeau and had acted both as a constable and
the fort's cook. He later worked as the assistant principal at the
Red Deer Indian Industrial School west of Red Deer.
In 1899, Tom and Edith Ellis decided to demolish the old Queen's
Hotel building and replace it with a much larger structure.
The new hotel consisted of 12 guest rooms, a sizeable banquet hall,
sample rooms for travelling commercial salesmen, a bar and a
The hotel, now named the Arlington, opened with a grand ball and
supper on Oct. 12, 1899.
The business soon earned the reputation as being one of the best
run hotels in Central Alberta. People liked the fact that rooms
could be rented for a moderate 50c per night.
In April 1906, when Red Deer made a bid to become the capital of
the new province of Alberta, the grand banquet for the Lieutenant
Governor, premier and all the MLAs was held at the Arlington as it
was considered the finest establishment in the community.
The banquet was deemed a great success, but the speeches went on
until quarter to five in the morning. Not surprisingly, the groggy
MLAs got on the train back to Edmonton a few hours later and soon
voted to make that city the permanent capital of the province.
The Ellis's prospered so much that in 1907, they built a grand
brick house on 46 Ave., just south of 55 St. Tragically, Tom Ellis
suffered a serious stroke just as the house was being completed. He
was left paralyzed and passed away a year later in 1909.
Edith Ellis continued to operate the Arlington. In August 1910, she
married Dr. James McCreight, a veterinarian who had been rooming in
the hotel. Two years later, a large brick addition was built onto
the north end of the building.
The imposition of prohibition in 1915 brought hard times for the
Arlington and all the other hotels in Red Deer.
One of the main sources of income for the businesses literally
dried up. Edith Ellis McCreight decided to try and lease the
Arlington to new managers. However, with the sharply reduced
revenues, the new operators soon broke their lease.
After he returned from active service in the First World War, the
operation of the Arlington was taken over by Tom and Edith's son,
Harry Ellis. The Arlington was the scene of another historic event
in July 1922.
That was when the Alberta Hotel Association held its inaugural
meeting in the hotel. Some 44 hotel owners from across the province
showed up to create the new organization.
The hotel experienced many ups and downs over the succeeding years.
While the late 1920s brought a modest return of prosperity, the
Great Depression of the 1930s brought a new round of hard financial
The hotel did enjoy some very good times during the Second World
War when the community was full of military personnel who were
stationed at the A-20 Army Camp north of 55 St. and at the Penhold
airbase south of town.
The building underwent a major renovation in the early 1970s which
gave it the appearance of an English country inn.
While the area has changed quite a bit with the loss of the Windsor
Hotel and the conversion of the adjacent Buffalo Hotel into a
residential facility, the Arlington remains a notable and often
colourful landmark in the heart of the community.
Photo: Arlington Hotel c1911. Red Deer Archives P2829
Feb. 9, 2003, Red Deer Express
John T. Moore
One of the most influential people in the development of Red Deer is
someone who has generally been forgotten, John T. Moore. His company
at one time owned 180 sections of land in Central Alberta. Moreover,
he was so extensively involved in local business ventures that he
was often referred to as Red Deer's first capitalist.
John T. Moore was born in a log cabin in Markham Ontario in July
1844. As a student, he first trained as a doctor and then a lawyer.
Ultimately, however, he became a chartered accountant.
In 1881, a group of prominent Methodist businessmen decided to
invest in Canadian West. They formed the Saskatchewan Land and
Homestead Company and appointed Moore to be the managing director.
Moore then embarked on an exploration trip to the West, travelling
by rail as far as Moose Jaw and then overland to Alberta. He arrived
at Red Deer, camped in what in now Rotary Park and rode to the top
of Piper's Mountain. He was so impressed by the surrounding
countryside that he had the Company purchase 115,200 acres of land
in the area from the Federal Government for $2 per acre.
Moore recruited Rev. Leonard Gaetz, to move to Red Deer to become
the local land agent for the Company. Moore also embarked on an
extensive series of trips to publicize Red Deer and its settlement
Meanwhile, Moore became active in public affairs in Ontario. He was
elected reeve of Yorkville and later became an alderman for the City
In 1901, Moore decided to move his residence to Red Deer. That same
year, he secured a federal charter for the Alberta Central Railway.
Plans were to make this a "transcontinental" line extending from the
Fraser Valley to Moose Jaw with a branch up to the Hudson Bay.
Shortage of capital, however, delayed the project for several years.
In 1902, Moore established the Western Telephone Company and brought
local phone service to Red Deer. The following year, he established
the Western General Electric Company which brought electric power to
In 1905, Moore ran for M.L.A. as a Liberal in Alberta's first
provincial election. He edged out his old associate, Leonard Gaetz
for the position. In 1909, Moore ran for re-election, but was
defeated by Edward Michener by 161 votes.
In 1910, Moore was finally able to secure enough money to start
construction of the Alberta Central Railway from Red Deer to Rocky
Mountain House. Such was Moore's influence and connections that he
had Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier drive the first spike.
The next several years were not kind to Moore. In 1911, his wife
Annie Addison passed away. In 1912, the A.C.R. ran out of money and
eventually had to be taken over by the C.P.R. Moore's health broke.
He moved back to his estate Avoca Vale in the Moore Park
subdivision, which he had developed in Toronto. Shortly thereafter,
Moore's mansion burned down.
In 1914, John T. Moore married Alice Forbes and they moved into a
rebuilt Avoca Vale. Moore became a phenomenal grower of roses and at
one point had 15,000 rose bushes blooming on his estate.
Moore's health continued to deteriorate and in June 1917, he passed
away. He was survived by his wife Alice, his two sons, Carlyle and
William and one daughter Grace Locke.
Moore Crescent in Red Deer is named in honour of John T. Moore, as
is Moore Park in North Rosedale, Toronto.
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