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Red Deer Cenotaph

Red Deer

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Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Red Deer Cenotaph is located in the middle of 50 Avenue, Red Deer’s historic main street. The Tyndall limestone structure is comprised of a robust pedestal crowned by a statue of a solider. A bronze plaque on the south side of the cenotaph contains the names of those who perished during the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Red Deer Cenotaph lies in its status as an early and excellent example of the work of sculptor Major Frank H. Norbury.

The Red Deer Cenotaph is one of the earliest and best known provincial artworks of Major Frank H. Norbury, a skilled carver, decorated veteran, and major contributor to artistic culture in Alberta. Born in Liverpool in 1871, Norbury trained as a stonemason and embellished buildings in his home city with several well-executed stone carvings as a young man. Following his decorated service in the First World War, Norbury came to Canada and ultimately settled in Edmonton. He established himself as one of Alberta’s most skilled carvers of stone and wood and produced a wide range of works for a variety of clients. His career as a carver was no doubt enriched by his significant role in fostering and promoting an artistic culture in Edmonton and beyond. He served as President of the Edmonton Art Club, was a member of the Alberta Society of Artists, and wrote for the Edmonton Journal as their art critic for two decades.

In 1922, Norbury received his first major commission in his adopted homeland when the Town of Red Deer asked him to create a sculpture of the Unknown Soldier to commemorate the men and women of Central Alberta who had served in the First World War. The base for the Red Deer Cenotaph was designed by prominent local architect C. A. Julian Sharman and created by Lachlan MacLean of MacLean Granite. Norbury’s representation of the soldier was carefully crafted to provide an accurate representation of the dress kit of a First World War Canadian soldier. The face and figure of the soldier have been deftly carved to evoke a sense of suppleness and motion. The soldier’s face communicates both a weariness and a resolution of purpose, while his body twists westwards in a symbolic motion away from the ravages of European battlefields and towards home and peace. This poignant memorial to Canadian servicemen and women was formally unveiled September 15, 1922 by Lord Byng of Vimy, Governor General of Canada.

Source: Alberta Culture, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 2153).

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Red Deer Cenotaph include such features as:
- prominent location in the middle of 50 Avenue in Red Deer, the community’s historic main street and civic centre;
- spatial relationship to railway station, point of departure for servicemen and women leaving for the battlefields of Europe;
- large Tyndall limestone base designed by local architect C. A. Julian Sharman;
- Tyndall limestone sculpture of the Unknown Soldier carved by Major Frank Norbury, including realistic representation of First World War Canadian soldier’s dress kit and westward orientation of the sculpture intended to signify the psychological orientation of Canadian soldiers in Europe towards home and peace.


Street Address: East End, 4900 Block, Ross Street
Community: Red Deer
Boundaries: Lot 1, Block 1, Plan 1221959
Contributing Resources: Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s)

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

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

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
52.269007 -113.812225 NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2013/01/15

Historical Information

Built: 1922 to 1922
Significant Date(s) 1922 to 1922
Theme(s) Governing Canada : Military and Defence
Historic Function(s): Community : Commemorative Monument
Current Function(s): Community : Commemorative Monument

With the end of what was termed "The Great War" in Europe, and the tremendous loss of life, communities throughout the world began to erect memorials to those who had perished while undertaking military service. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the moment of the armistice, was set aside each year as a time for remembrance of the fallen. One of the first communities in Alberta to erect a cenotaph (memorial to ones buried elsewhere) to those local service people who were killed was Red Deer. In 1922, the Town contracted a prominent local architect named Julian Sharman to design the base for the monument. At the same time, a noted architectural sculptor named Major Frank H. Norbury was contracted to sculpt the statue of an unknown soldier just as he was coming off the front lines. Both Sharman and Nobury were veterans of the war, and Nobury had already gained a reputation for his work in Liverpool. The statue, of Tyndall limestone, was to face west, which, in Europe, would have been towards Canada. On the east end of Ross Street in Red Deer, it was also pointed towards the railway station, from where the local servicemen and women had departed for duty.

The Cenotaph in Red Deer was unveiled on 15 September, 1922 by Lord Byng of Vimy, then Canada's Governor-General, and one of the heroes of Vimy Ridge. It was the first statue cenotaph in Alberta and went on to become a civic landmark in Red Deer, serving as the focus for every Armistice Day commemoration since its unveiling. In 1949, a plaque was added and the Cenotaph rededicated to include those who had fallen in World War Two; in 1988, a similar plaque acknowledged the district members of the armed forces who were killed in the Korean War. Today, the Cenotaph stands in the middle of the main east-west artery of the community as a reminder to all of the sacrifices made by local people in three 20th century wars.


Aside from its service as a community cenotaph, the Red Deer Cenotaph is important in being the first statue cenotaph in the province. It is also significant for having been unveiled by the Governor General of Canada, and designed by a significant Alberta sculptor.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1369
Designation File: DES 2153
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 24170
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 2153)
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