Adventure Caravan RV Caravan / Tour to Canada Northwest Territory and Alaska Adventure Caravan RV Caravan / Tour to Canada Northwest Territory and Alaska Adventure Caravan RV Caravan / Tour to Canada Northwest Territory and Alaska
Day 12 - Edmonton, AB

Hooray!! The sun is shining today and everything is starting to dry out.

This is a perfect day to visit Fort Edmonton Park.

We boarded a train that dropped us off at the beginning of the story of the growth of present day Edmonton.

The engine that pulled the train was built in 1919 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia.

We disembarked into the year 1846. The park is separated into four areas representing the years 1846, 1885, 1905 and 1920 to demonstrate how Edmonton grew during those years.

In the 1800s, every respectable European gentleman sported a shiny felt top hat. These hats were a status symbol, the height of fashion, and, luckily for Edmonton, made from beaver pelts. It was this demand for beaver pelts that prompted the Hudson's Bay Company to establish a trading post called Edmonton House in 1795. The sole purpose of the post was to trade European goods to the local Cree, Blackfoot and other Aboriginal people in exchange for the valuable beaver pelts.

This was not a military fort but a commercial fort. The walls were mainly to keep the wild things out. They had food, animals and small children inside to protect. We are at the main gate as our guide describes the fort and why it was built.

This is a small door on the main gate that was the primary entrance for people to gain access to the fort.

This is the room where the pelts were brought to be graded and traded for goods. Beaver pelts were the only form of currency used at the fort.

We are waiting outside the fort store while our guide gives us more information about the fort. The windows were covered with deer hides which let some light in and protected the inhabitants from the weather.

By 1846, Fort Edmonton was the most important Hudson's Bay Company post west of the Red River Settlement at Fort Garry (near modern Winnipeg). The Fort not only traded furs, but produced goods and supplied other smaller posts. The population of Fort Edmonton varied according to the season, but generally visitors could find approximately 110 men, women and children taking residence.

The fort store where pelts were traded for goods.

This is a gray wolf pelt. We found it interesting how they were able to remove the fur from the head so carefully as to preserve the face of the wolf.

Each spring, the men at the Fort would stock the York boats with ninety-pound bales of pelts. It was 45 feet long and could carry 6 tons of cargo. The boats were propelled by both oars and a canvas sail, and steered with a long steering pole or rudder when under sail.

Joined by boats from other posts, the "brigades" would paddle through swift, freezing currents to Hudson Bay. There, they loaded the furs onto ships that sailed back to England. After a brief stay, the men would reload their boats with trade goods to replenish the post trade store and begin their long journey back to Edmonton.

The married men's quarters; four families would share one of these rooms.

This is the single men's dining area.

This house was the manager's home. His wife and three daughter's lived in this huge house while four families are sharing one room across the courtyard.

The dining room of the manager's home.

The fireplace contained a wind-up rotisserie. Due to the size of the ring it rotated, we were not sure what would be hung from it.

This was the manager's trophy room. The more treasures on the wall, the more impressive it was to visitors.

Then we move to 1885. By this time the demand for beaver pelts was drying up and people were starting to move out of the fort. A trading post was one of the first businesses outside the fort.

Houses were being built, gardens planted, and stock was being raised for food and trade.

Transportation from Calgary was overland by stage coach or wagon.

The main street in 1885. The population of the town had grown to about 400 people by 1885.

In 1885, Edmonton was a hardscrabble place, dusty or muddy depending on the season, and, in economic and social terms, quiet as the grave. And yet, there were signs that this wasn't just any small town, and there was still a feeling that this place was destined to be the star of the new Canadian Northwest.
Despite being passed over by the Canadian Pacific railway as a destination and economic hard times, the settlement had three flourishing hotels, one of them the only brick building west of Winnipeg; a jewelry store, several blacksmiths, a drugstore as big as you would see in Montreal, and a hardware store with plaster walls.

The drug store was well stocked and open for business as Ann Lee is demonstrating by making a purchase.

What would any town be without the local saloon? From the size it looks like every man in town could fit in here at once.

There was a picture of the Livery from the 1890s and it looked just like this down to the pole in the right front of the building.

From 1891 to 1914, Edmonton grew from an isolated hamlet of a few hundred to a modern city of more than 72,000. What started as a backwater farm-town in the shadow of a Hudson's Bay fort suddenly became a bustling centre with paved streets, motorcars, electric lights, trains and streetcars.

With the arrival of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway, people began pouring into Edmonton after 1900. Immigrants transformed Edmonton's homey, placid skyline into a jumbled scrum of brick office blocks, homes large and small, solid churches, schools and factories.

As people poured into Edmonton, the growth was too fast for builders to keep up with the demands. So many people lived in canvas tents until suitable housing was available. There were strict codes that needed to be followed and one of those was the raised wood floor. As you can see on the right, many of the tents were very well furnished.

This is the original home of the A. C. Ruterford family. It is a typical South Edmonton upper-middle class home. It was built in 1895 as a single-story building and then expanded upon in 1899 and again in 1903.

This is the Firkins' House built in 1911. When it was built it was the most fashionable of small houses. Its style and structure is consistent with the "Craftsman" type of house.

There were many businesses that lined the main street at that time. Some of them are open today and cater to visitors.

As you can see, Darlene is enjoying one of the town favorites: pickle on a stick.

A family dressed in period costumes waits the arrival of the trolley.

This is the local post office of the early 1900's.

An example of the telephone company equipment where the operator would make the phone connection for you when you called.

Early style coin operated mechanical games.

By 1920, modern times had indeed arrived in Edmonton with electrifying changes. Women officially became persons under Canadian law and became active setting new precedents in sports, the workplace and the voter's booth. Motorcars crowded the streets, radio went on the air, and by mid-decade, Edmonton started growing once more. Prohibition was lifted in 1923, and young people mixed like never before at dance halls and cafes.

A number of us took advantage of the opportunity to purchase an ice cream cone at Bill's Confectionery. While we sat outside enjoying our treat, a couple rode by on a bicycle built for two.

Now that the motorcar was firmly embedded in the culture, you had to have a place to purchase them and to have them repaired. The Motordrome was the answer to that need.

Sometime prior to the end of WW1, John Mellon purchased 408 acres of farmland that included the present-day Fort Edmonton Park. When he died, the executors had this original house constructed in 1922 and a barn shortly after.

The Al Rashi Mosque was built in 1938. It is nationally significant in that it is believed to be the first Mosque built in Canada.

What 1920's town wouldn't be complete without a town fair including a ferris wheel and carousel.

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