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Other Names:
Old Strathcona Historic District

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Old Strathcona Provincial Historic Area is situated in the City of Edmonton on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River. Encompassing roughly 5 city blocks stretching from 85 Avenue south to 80 Avenue and from 102 Street west to 106 Street, the district is the historic centre of Strathcona's commercial life. Among the commercial, cultural, and public resources that contribute to the district's heritage value are buildings constructed between 1891 and 1914, including the Strathcona Hotel, the Gainers Block, the Orange Hall, the Canadian Pacific Railway Station, the South Side Post Office, the Douglas Block, and the Princess Theatre.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Old Strathcona Provincial Historic Area lies in its representation of the pre-World War One commercial and social development of one of Alberta's most significant early communities. The district also possesses heritage value for the architectural richness and integrity of its historic buildings.

Like many provincial towns and cities, the early history of Strathcona was inextricably tied to the railways. In 1891, the Calgary & Edmonton Railway Company laid track from Calgary to a site opposite Edmonton on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River. The company subdivided the unincorporated Town of South Edmonton and largely directed early development in the community by grading roads and erecting some of the first buildings, among them the Strathcona Hotel, built in 1891. The railway company's activities helped the fledgling settlement to grow and in 1899 South Edmonton was incorporated as a Town and renamed Strathcona; eight years later, the City of Strathcona was incorporated. The economic and cultural development of the community between 1899 and 1907 is embodied in the Gainers Block constructed in 1902 and the Orange Hall built in 1903. The years between 1907 and 1912 represented a period of dynamic and robust growth in Strathcona, as the population swelled and business expanded. The rapid development in these years is embodied in the Canadian Pacific Railway Station constructed in 1907 to serve as the Northern Alberta terminus of the company's rail network and in the South Side Post Office, built between 1911 and 1913 to provide federal services to the burgeoning population. Though the years from 1891 to 1912 had witnessed appreciable growth in Strathcona, it nonetheless continued to lag behind the pace of commercial development set by its cross-river rival, the City of Edmonton. In 1912, Strathcona amalgamated with Edmonton, marking the end of the district's independent development. The Strathcona Public Library was paid for and built by the newly expanded City of Edmonton in 1913, thus reflecting the shift in civic authority in the district.

The economic slowdown in Strathcona following amalgamation helped to preserve the architectural variety and integrity of the community's early buildings and their embodiment of the area's historic evolution. Early constructions in Strathcona's commercial core were simple wood-frame buildings like the Strathcona Hotel and the Orange Hall. In 1902, mindful of the destruction visited upon other Prairie communities by fires, Town Council passed a bylaw mandating the construction of non-wood buildings along Whyte Avenue. Buildings like the stately red-brick Gainers Block reflect this legislative change. The buildings erected in the Old Strathcona District after the turn of the century differed from their predecessors not only in materials, but also in style. The false-fronted frontier architecture of the 1890s gave way after the turn of the century to more ornate constructions, a reflection of the growth of business capital and entrepreneurial confidence within Strathcona. Commercial buildings often exhibited a strong classical influence to project an image of stability, permanence, and prestige. Examples of the increasing sophistication of architecture in the Strathcona district are the elegant Princess Theatre, which boasted the first marble-fronted facade west of Winnipeg, and the Douglas Block, which featured a diachromatic design of brick and stone and a crowning cornice, parapet, and pediment. Non-commercial buildings like the South Side Post Office and the Strathcona Public Library also reflected the increasing sophistication of architecture in the community in the post-1900 period while also embodying the success and importance of the district.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 86)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Old Strathcona Provincial Historic Area include such features as:
- the grid-like arrangement of streets and avenues;
- the width of Whyte Avenue and 104 Street reflecting their prominence as early transportation routes and the first graded roads in Strathcona;
- spatial relationship between railway station, commercial district, and non-commercial area situated north of 83 Avenue along 104 Street;
- simple wood-frame architecture of Strathcona Hotel and Orange Hall;
- the predominance of brick structures dating from between 1902 and 1914;
- the predominance of commercial businesses along Whyte Avenue between Gateway Boulevard and 105 Street;
- the scale of the buildings, with the vast majority being three storeys in height or less;
- buildings in commercial area built to the property line;
- sight lines to significant contributing resource elements, including South Side Post Office clock tower and painted signs on commercial buildings;
- use of traditional materials, including painted wood, red and orange brick, and cast stone;
- general design of commercial buildings, including recessed entries, windowed storefront level, sign band area, and upper floors with balanced fenestration;
- pedestrian scale to signage;
- the strong classical architectural influence evident in the South Side Post Office, the Strathcona Public Library, the Douglas Block, the Gainers Block, and the Princess Theatre;
- the standard station design of the Canadian Pacific Railway Station, constructed in the Queen Anne style and incorporating elements from French and Scottish architectural sources.


Street Address: N/A
Community: Edmonton
Boundaries: Encompasses roughly 5 city blocks stretching from 85 Avenue south to 80 Avenue and from 102 Street west to 106 Street.
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 30

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel


Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Area
Date of Designation: 2007/01/31

Historical Information

Built: 1891 to 1914
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Trade and Commerce
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Office or Office Building
Commerce / Commercial Services : Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Current Function(s):
Context: N/A

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1350
Designation File: Des. 86
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link: N/A
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8
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