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Legislature Building and South Grounds

Edmonton

Other Names:

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton was built between 1907 and 1913. It is a monumental, five-storey, steel frame sandstone and granite building designed in the Beaux-Arts style. It is characterized by symmetrical elevations and a high level of ornamentation, notably on the front portico, with its six columns and monumental pediment, and the large, central dome with cupola. The South Grounds comprise an area of approximately nine hectares (20 acres) to the rear of the building and features a large landscaped, public green space with numerous memorials, statues, gardens and walking paths as well as practical, non-public elements, such as the brick power plant building. The Legislature Building and South Grounds are situated between 107th and 109th Street and south of 97th Avenue, near Edmonton’s downtown core, and are prominently located on a bluff above the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Legislature Building lies in its association with the legislative and executive branches of government, as an excellent example of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture and for its highly symbolic and prominent presence. The South Grounds also have great significance as a long-standing site for ceremonial functions, as an archaeological resource and as a signing place for Treaty 6.

The Legislature Building has been the home of the legislative and executive branches of Alberta’s government since November 1911. It houses the Assembly Chamber, which is arranged according to Westminster traditions, and the library, which serves the members of the assembly. A suite and office for the Lieutenant Governor and an apartment for the Speaker are located on the third and fourth floors. Office space for the Executive Council and some elected members are located throughout the building, including a large suite for the Premier on the third floor.

The Legislature Building is an excellent example of the Beaux-Arts style commonly used on government buildings of this period. Notable elements of the style are found in the portico, with its Corinthian columns, entablature and pediment; the central drum supporting the terracotta-clad dome and cupola; the building’s overall symmetry; rusticated masonry; arched window openings; cornices; balustrades; and numerous ornamental carvings. Notable interior elements are the chamber’s egg-and-dart motif and the library’s lions head motif.

The Legislature Building is the province’s most prominent public building and is intended to be a statement about Alberta’s strength, stability and potential, and a sense of grandeur and majesty for legislative proceedings. These effects are achieved by the building’s monumental size, use of the Beaux-Arts style and the repetition of provincial elements throughout, as well as the physical and stylistic differentiation between the public areas from its non-public, utilitarian functions, particularly the power plant building. The Legislature Building features significant high quality building materials, such as marble on the rotunda, staircase and columns, and Alberta-quarried sandstone on the exterior. The quality craftsmanship and its high level of ornamentation further emphasizes the symbolic importance of the building. These functions are also expressed in the South Grounds through the expansive, manicured lawns, paths, trees and other plantings and prominent memorials and commemorative statuary. Designed to be self-contained, the site has its own power plant housed in a more utilitarian brick building situated on a lower terrace at the southern edge of the grounds.

The archaeological remains of the fifth incarnation of Hudson’s Bay Company post Fort Edmonton, which was established in about 1830, are located under the South Grounds. This post, one of the most important fur trade posts in Canada, covered approximately 10,000 square metres. The post was demolished by 1915, but the area still has potential to divulge information about the fur trade period. The basic boundaries of the fort are known, but much of the site remains unexplored. To date, approximately 50,000 artefacts have been found at the site.

The Legislature Grounds are significant as a signing place for Treaty 6. On August 21, 1877, chiefs and headmen representing Cree and Nakoda Sioux bands who were not present at the 1876 Treaty 6 signing, met with Government of Canada officials at Fort Edmonton to sign an adhesion to the treaty. Treaty 6 was part of the government’s plan to remove Indigenous people to reserves, thereby opening western Canada for agricultural settlement. The treaties are landmark and foundational documents on the creation of Canada and are a legal agreement that defines the relationship between the Government of Canada and the Indigenous people of western Canada.

Source: Alberta Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: DES 0116)


Character-Defining Elements
The heritage values of the Alberta Legislature Building and South Grounds are expressed through character-defining elements related to its:

Central role in government as represented by the:
- repetition of symbols associated with the province throughout the building, notably the coat of arms over the entry portico and the Assembly Chamber doors;
- Legislative Assembly Chamber, situated on the third floor of the building’s south wing;
- arrangement of the Assembly Chamber based on Westminster traditions;
- galleries situated above the Chamber, comprising two large public galleries to the east and west, a small Speaker’s Gallery and Press Gallery to the north and south;
- Legislature Library, with cork floor and historic shelving, located on the main (second) floor of the south wing behind the Grand Staircase;
- Lieutenant Governor’s suite and offices located on the third floor, north of the rotunda;
- Speaker’s apartment, located on the fourth floor, north of the rotunda;
- Premier’s Office and Cabinet rooms occupying the entire third floor of the east wing; and
- office space for members of the Executive Council, Members of the Legislative Assembly, caucus rooms and staff of the Legislative Assembly throughout the building.

Beaux-Arts design and style, as represented by the:
- large front portico with a colonnade of six Corinthian columns supporting an entablature and pediment with raking cornice, dentils and modillions;
- heavily ornamented drum supporting a terracotta clad dome surmounted by cupola;
- overall symmetrical design;
- rusticated masonry;
- pattern of fenestration openings with arches, voussoirs and keystones, and others framed by pilasters and cornices;
- balustrade and cornice with dentils and modillions at the top of the fourth storey;
- numerous ornamental carvings and decorations including ancones, wreaths, garlands, S-scrolls, and cartouches;
- egg and dart moulding pattern in the Assembly Chamber; and
- lions head motif in the library.

Scale and detail emphasizing its prominent symbolic role, as represented by its:
- prominent location overlooking the North Saskatchewan River and on the former site of Fort Edmonton with clear sightlines across and along the river valley and down 108th Avenue;
- Beaux-Arts style and monumental design;
- prominent flag poles, which typically bear the flags of Alberta, Canada and Great Britain as well as the standard of the Lieutenant Governor;
- sandstone from Calgary’s Glenbow Quarry, granite from Vancouver Island and marble from Quebec;
- use of other high quality materials, such as mahogany from Belize and Ohio sandstone for the portico columns;
- high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail expressed in the numerous carvings and ornamental elements;
- numerous memorials and commemorative statuary and stained glass windows in the building’s rotunda and on the South Grounds;
- monumental marble staircase leading from the rotunda to the Assembly Chamber entrance;
- gold highlights, polished brass fixtures and high quality woodwork throughout the building;
- power plant building located on a terrace below the south edge of the grounds physically separate from the public ceremonial and symbolic areas of the site; and
- overall stark, industrial design of the power plant building, architecturally and visually differentiating it from the rest of the site, notably its simple brick construction, understated classical revival details, such as the brick cornices, window and doorway sills and arches, large multi-paned windows and steel gratings, steel truss rafters and joists, concrete floors, steel staircases, fire escapes and catwalks.

Archaeological value, as represented by the:
- information potential contained within the known, but unexcavated areas of the Fort Edmonton site;
- location of identified fort buildings and palisades;
- site’s prominent location on a major historic trade route through the region; and
- artefacts from previous excavations that have revealed considerable information about life at the post and the fur trade era in general.


Location



Street Address:
Community: Edmonton
Boundaries: Lot 2, Block G, Descriptive Plan 1720026
Contributing Resources: Archaeological Site/Remainss: 1
Buildings: 2

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
24
52
32
06

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
1720026
1223449
G
A
2
N/A



Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.533481 -113.506668 Secondary Source NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2012/09/30

Historical Information

Built:
Significant Date(s)
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Governing Canada : Politics and Political Processes
Historic Function(s):
Current Function(s): Government : Legislative Building
Architect:
Builder:
Context:

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1367
Designation File: DES 0116
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 6269
Website Link:
Data Source:
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