Living History "Fort Edmonton Park"

                      Fort Edmonton Park Video
Fort Edmonton Park is nestled on 64 hectares (158 acres) of wooded parkland along Edmonton's river valley. What began as a Canada Centennial project in 1967 to reconstruct the old Fort Edmonton, quickly grew to encompass much more. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Rotary Club of Edmonton and the Fort Edmonton Foundation, the Park now includes the 1846 Hudson's Bay Fort as well as the Streets of 1885, 1905, and 1920, depicting the evolution of Edmonton's early history. Fort Edmonton Park is owned by the City of Edmonton and operated by the Fort Edmonton Management Company.Fort Edmonton was established on the Northern Saskatchewan River in 1795 by the HUDSON'S BAY CO as a fortified trading post next to the rival NORTH WEST CO, which had earlier built its own fort nearby. After the amalgamation of the 2 companies in 1821, Fort Edmonton emerged as the leading centre of the Saskatchewan district fur trade. The fort was rebuilt on higher ground in 1830 - after severe flooding - near the present-day Alberta legislature building. From 1826 to 1853 the fort thrived under the management of the colourful John ROWAND and has been painted for posterity by Paul KANE (1846). After the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered RUPERT'S LAND (1869-70), the fort gradually fell into decline and was dismantled in 1915. Today Fort Edmonton Park, located in southwest Edmonton, features a reconstruction of the fort and, as a living museum, depicts the early development of Edmonton. The park is operated by the City of Edmonton and enjoys a yearly visitation of approximately 170 000.
The Park is living history that contains significant historical aspects of our Canadian identity. The structure and style of the park and its monuments are embodiment of the aboriginal history, immigration history, transportation history, and lastly the coexistence of religions. According to archeological evidence Alberta had been occupied by First Nations people for over 500 generations.

Fur Trade Era
In 1846, a fort had been built for furs; The Hudson’s bay company relied on the aboriginal traders as its source for essential food supply and profitable furs. The Immigration history had also been due to the Fur trade business. Fort Courtyard and Fur Trade Press was for welcoming ceremonies for traders and dignitaries, fur packing, and supply loading and the Indian trade store is where the trade took  place between the Hudson's Bay Company and Indian traders. The building included a room for making trade, a store where merchandise was sold, a warehouse and a loft for storage of the furs.

Settlement Era By 1885,the Canadian government claimed governorship over NWT and in Edmonton, Treaty 6 territory becomes a struggling settlement which is composed of newly arriving pioneer farmers and Metis locals. The Land office  represents the historic times when Aboriginal's land were seized and scrip were passed by the Canaidan governement. The below picture, shows how the government planned to divide the settlement lands between Aboriginal people. By 1905, Edmonton's immigration population exploded and outnumbered the Aborginal and Metis population also seizure of their lands continued.

Fort Courtyard & Fur Trade Press

Settlement Map of Edmonton City


Animal Furs inside Fur house

Fur House

By the time Canada had become an independent country (1867) most of the fur business had been already established. Workers traveled from eastern Canada and British Isles to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. The workers were to stay based on a 5year contract. By 1885, the new territory had attracted many entrepreneurs and therefore immigration to the western Canada had been established.
In 1896, election of the new Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier opened way to a vast migration rush.
Municiple Era (1905 Street)
By 1905, the boom in population and immigration gave rise to a prosperous Edmonton. In 1906, immigration Hall was opened for new arrivals and was the key to find accommodation and work. At Fort Edmonton Park, Centres like Ukrainian Bookstore is one of the examples how immigrants tried to establish their indentity. 1905 Street represents the connection of a railway from Edmonton to Calgary and then from South Edmonton to the north side of the river began Edmonton's development from a small community to a thriving urban center.  Edmonton was incorporated as a town in 1892, achieved city status in 1904 and in 1905 became the capital of the new province of Alberta. The buildings on 1905 street represent this period, when businesses of all kinds were thriving, and people could afford to purchase more than just the bare necessities needed for daily living.Transportation had a major role during this historic time. Hudson Bay Company had monopoly on the Fur trade which was depended heavily on water during 1846. Dogsled was one way of transporting goods and furs over icy areas and through snow also another major source of transportation was York boats to transport goods and furs. Each spring, the men at the Fort would stock the York Boats with ninety-pound bales of pelts

By 1885, the focus was not fur trade instead transportation improved. Edmonton population expanded by 400 people. Red River Cart and Covered wagon were used by settlers upon arrival in the west, they would register for a land claim and need to erect a dwelling quickly before winter began. In 1891, train arrived which was a tremendous assest for Edmonton capital city because it brough variety of people and transporting of goods. By 1905, street car system were introduced. The street cars at the Fort Edmonton Park are being runned by Radial Railway Society, a volunteer group. This period is known as The Electrical Era. These electric streetcar was fast, frequent, clean, reliable and inexpensive to operate. It provided easy travel to all parts of cities and contributed to the growth and expansion of Edmonton city.
Electricity to propel the cars was normally supplied by the overhead wire system where the cars picked up the current by means of a long pole fixed to the roof of each car. This was simple and relatively cheap to construct as well as being easy to adjust and repair. Later in some areas (especially European cities) the pole was superseded by a bow collector or a pantograph. (In a few cities such as London and Washington D.C. overhead wires were not permitted in the central area and a conduit system was used for current collection. It was picked up by means of a "plough" carried on the truck under the car and passing down through a narrow slot provided in the conduit fixed below the road surface.)
Several manufacturers dominated the streetcar industry in North America. Edmonton's first cars were supplied in 1908 by the Ottawa Car Manufacturing Company, and subsequent orders were placed with the St. Louis Car Company and the Preston Car Manufacturing Company. Some cities built cars in their own workshops. As well, several companies such as Brill and Peckham developed different designs of streetcar trucks and these were supplied to the various car body manufacturers.

Steam Train: Engine 107 at Fort Edmonton Park was built in Peensylvania, USA, in 1919. It is being used since 1978. The train now runs on recycled motor oil. Engine 107 requires 2 people to operate. The Engineer controls the throttle, the brakes and the whistle, and the Fireman controls the fire, the water level, the air compressor for the brakes and the bell.

Steam Train
Metropolitan Era
1920 Street  has many of the smaller businesses whose beginnings are represented on 1885 and 1905 streets turned into larger wholesalers and distributors needed to supply the quickly growing community. During this time period, Aboriginal were used for marketing and sales. For instance, In Suns Drug store you will find pictures of First Nations people on certain products such as tobbaco etc. Indian products the "Indian" was associated with the "great outdoors", strenght and courage. This time period also called tough times because edmonton experienced economic depression and natioanl conflicts over issues such as labour, Aborignial rights, and womens right. The Jewish population of Edmonton continued to increase and new religion groups like Muslims, and Ba'hai came to this city which helped to creat the multicultural city we have today.
Inside Sun Drugs Store

Religion and Politics

As the Canadian government encouraged westeren settlements, it was Missionaries that played the role of intermediaries between First Nations and new comers.McDougall Methodist Church was completed in 1873 and was one of the first buildings constructed outside the walls of Fort Edmonton. It is one of the few original buildings at the Park and was moved there in 1978. The Church played a vital role in the lifes of western settlers and First Nations people. In 1920 street, the Al Rashid Mosque was completed in 1938. In the mosque social events took place. The Ukranian Bookstore did sold Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox litereature,which illustrates the intereaction of  two distinct cultures through faith.

Social and Cultural intereaction
Fort Edmonton Park captures the four major historic era in a lifely manner that represents our Canadian identity . The visitor can experience these historic times by living it. The visitors have the opportunity to ride street car and or steam train. At the 1846 Fort you can play the traditional Aboriginal games and or watch a demonstration of the fur press. Visitors can shop at Reed's Bazaar and or listen to the street musician and or play at the Penny Arcade. Furthermore, Visitors can check out Sun Drugs store and explore products of 1905 period and or have tea at Hotel Selkirk. The museum has been build to experience these historic era by visitors being part of it and intereact with its structure and momuments. You can smell, touch, and visualize the past. The Capital Theatre is the new building ,which was completed in Summer 2011, is a beautiful re-creation of Edmonton's original Capitol Theatre, circa 1929. This new theatre has an intimate seating capacity of 243 seats, with an additional 4 wheelchair locations. The former Jasper Avenue façade that was in place following the original Capitol Theatre's 1929 restoration has been captured in this new building, which incorporates modern construction methods but balances issues such as building code and the necessary technical infrastructure with historical authenticity. The Capitol Theatre represents the first project completed in the Fort Edmonton Management Company's extensive 5-year Master Plan for the Park. The Capital Theatre is an excellent example visitors intereacting with the past. Visitors can see live events and theatre in historic setting. The aim of the organizers of Fort Edmonton Park is to make the visit of the fort edmonton Park lifely and intereactive for the visitors. They want visitors to engage with the past historic era and live it.  





  1. You give such a great description of Fort Edmonton Park. I’ve been there often to ride the “big train” with my kids, but I really hadn’t read a really concise history till now.

    Museums that offer “living history” are so successful in engaging the public, and I think a lot of places can use Fort Edmonton Park as an example of how to incorporate the use of re-enactors to illustrate what life was like in the era of history they are portraying. “Living” in the times, even for just a short while, seems to resonate with both children and adults, and the Park proves that it is a great place for history buffs as well as those who simply want to ride the train like a turn-of-the-century passenger.

  2. Very interesting description of Fort Edmonton Park. It seems that historic sites such as Fort Edmonton Park and the Ukrainian Cultural Heiritage Village seem to be more memorable than static sites that give visitors less of a chance to interact with history, and feel as though they are experiencing it first hand.

    So if I understand correctly, are some of the buildings that are within the historic site, not actually located within the walls of Fort Edmonton originally? Does the site expand to explain the history of Edmonton and not just the fort?

    Also, in your opinion, does any disadvantage come to mind by using actors, and not using a traditional static museum to present history?

  3. I like how you integrated the history with the aspects of the park, such as how you described certain parts of Edmonton's history and then described the parts of the park that are a representation of that history.
    I also liked Zzzzz's comment about living history. The actors do provide a sense of history come to life, and if I understand correctly a lot of those working at the park have to have some knowledge of history, so it has to be some what correct, but at the same time it must be hard to stay in character and be historically correct.
    I also miss the pretzels they used to sell there.