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Key Number: HS 56558
Site Name: Owen Residence
Other Names: Dominion Meteorological Station
Site Type: 0101 - Residential: Single Dwelling
1314 - Governmental: Public Safety and Service

Location

ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
52 24 4


Address: 11227 - 63 Street
Number: 27
Street: 63
Avenue: 112
Other:
Town: Edmonton
Near Town:

Media

Type Number Date View
Source

Architectural

Style: Four-square, Cornbelt Cube
Plan Shape: Square
Storeys: Storeys: 2
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Nailed Frame
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Medium Hip
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes: Massing of Units: Single Detached
Wings: Unknown
Number of Bays - Facade: First or Ground Floor, 1 Bay
Number of Bays - Facade: Second Floor, 2 Bays
Wall Design and Detail: Balconet
Roof Trim - Eaves: Plain Soffit
Roof Trim Material - Eaves: Wood
Roof Trim - Verges: Plain Soffit
Roof Trim Material - Verges: Wood
Towers, Steeples and Domes: None
Towers, Steeples and Domes Location-Side to Side: Centre
Dormer Type: Gable, Projecting Eaves
Chimney Location - Side to Side: Unknown
Roof Trim - Special Features: None
Window - Structural Opening Shape: Flat
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Plain Flat
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Plain
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Material: Wood
Window - Sill Type: Plain Slip Sill
Window - Sill Material: Wood
Window - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Plain
Window - Trim Within Structural Opening - Sides: Plain
Window - Number of Sashes: One
Window - Opening Mechanism: Single or Double Hung
Window - Special Types: None
Window - Pane Arrangements: 2 over 2
Main Entrance - Location: Centre (Facade)
Main Entrance - Structural Opening Shape: Flat
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Plain Flat
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Plain
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening Material: Wood
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Plain
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Sides: Plain
Main Entrance - Number of Leaves: 1
Main Entrance - Number of Panels Per Leaf: 1
Main Entrance - Leaves - Special Feature: Glass
Main Stairs - Location and Design: First or Ground Floor, Closed Railing
Main Stairs - Direction: Straight
Main Porch - Type: Open Verandah
Main Porch - Special Features: Columns
Main Porch - Material: Concrete
Exterior: Hip Dormer. Open Front Verandah.
Bellcast hip roof; wraparound verandah; tapered square columns; open second floor balcony with tapered columns; one storey bay two storey bay on south facade; double hung wooden sash windows.
The Owen Residence is a typical example of the common American Four Square House. As with other examples of this style, it is characterized by four rooms on both the first and second floors. A staircase ascends to the second floor directly from the front entrance. The house was constructed with a hip roof, with a dormer prominent on the front elevation and a dormer and door on the rear elevation. The rear dormer was modified to provide access to the meteorological observatory instrument platform which characterized the house during Eda Owen's residence. A verandah on the front and south elevations is another feature typical of this type. Construction is a standard balloon frame clad with horizontal siding and cedar shingles, on the exterior, and lath and plaster covering the interior. The roof retains the original cedar shingles, covered with asphalt shingles.
A two storey wood frame structure with wooden siding on the main floor and shingles on the second floor exterior, the Owen Residence is distinguished by its restored wrap-around porch with second floor balcony.
1928-1942 - the house was painted white, with brown trim, and roof was green. Its most distinguishing feature was the sixty-foot red painted wood-scaffold tower which prominently carried the rotating anemometer.
Interior: The front hall's hardwood floor was covered with brown imitation hardwood linoleum, a precaution against the many visitors; a bookcase filled the left wall and Victrola in its light oak cabinet was located along the right side of the entry. The office was located in the 'front parlour' in the southwest corner. Its window was characterized by an upper panel of lead and pebbled glass in an art nouveau design. The desk was located beneath this window. Mrs. Patterson recalls that the dark green blind 'came down only when Eda worked on her month end charts, until 3 or 4 in the morning while the neighbourhood slept.' The desk held a wire mail basket and brass Tiffany lamp. She rested her feet on a wooden orange crate. The office walls were covered with maps of Canada, Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Two oak filing cabinets with brass handles held her reports and supplies. Instruments such as a thermograph and hydrograph were encased in glass cases. The rain gauge was connected by an electric cable to a recording device in the office, as was the roof-mounted anemometer. The wall telephone was located near her desk, and kept Eda Owen in almost constant communication with the outside world. In the shed located behind the house were a mercury thermometer, a spirit thermometer, wet and dry bulb thermometers, and a solar thermometer. In all, thirty-six instruments were read hourly, with two special readings for official daily reports as well, and additional readings to answer telephone inquiries. At a second desk Eda Owen wrote letters on her Underwood typewriter, usually seated on a wooden swivel chair atop two large dictionaries and Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World. Her grand-daughter recalls that the office 'was partly organized and partly a small jungle of boxes, rolls of paper, charts, photographs, new instrument parts, and old instruments.' Because the parlour was used as an office, the dining room was used as the parlour, and the kitchen as the dining room. At various times her mother-in-law, daughter, grand-daughters, various members of Egbert Owen's and Ambrose Bury's family, wartime guests, and visiting scientists lived at the house, and bedroom arrangements varied accordingly. The dining room had originally been the kitchen. Phyllis Patterson gives the following description: 'The walls were coarse woven green sacking panels outlined with wide, dark woodwork. There was a plate rail just below the ceiling. Over the round table hung a round pale gold and amber lamp of glass, a Tiffany lamp. The colours cast a glow over the guests at dinner. The chairs were green oak with dark leather seats and backs. Along one wall was a green oak sideboard, partially covering an ecru-lace-curtained window. At one yearly Fair [Edmonton Exhibition], [I] had won a canary in a cage. The canary hung in the window and sang vigorously all day long. Then there was a tidy usually piled with clothing to be mended and with papers, a general catch-all except when visitors arrived; then all the stuff on the tidy was crammed into drawers and hidden until the visitors left. There was never enough time for Eda to take care of all the mending and household chores. The floor was simulated hardwood linoleum.'
Environment:
Condition:
Alterations:

Historical

Construction: Construction Date:
Construction Ended
Construction Started

1912/01/01
Usage: Usage Date:
Single family residence
Residence
1912/01/01
1981/03/02
Owner: Owner Date:
Garnett M. Meiklejohn
Charles Duncan
Susan Duncan
Alfred Gordon & Catherine Elizabeth Reid
Gerard & Christina E. Kasteel
Gerda Dumont
James and Sandra Storey
1911/08/28
1918/12/04
1921/08/13
1944/03/25
1963/05/28
1980/06/04
1980/11/21
Architect: Garnett M. Meiklejohn
Builder: Garnett M. Meiklejohn
Craftsman: N/A
History: Ambrose Bury - Mayor of Edmonton 1927-1929 Dates 1869-1951 1915-1920 Mayor Bury Lived Here.

Garnet M. Meiklejonn, a 'Lumberman' on the certificate of title, bought this property in August 1912. Records show he already had a permit to build a $2,500 house on this site. Meiklejohn owned the property until 1918, but was listed in the Henderson's Directory as living here only in 1913. The house is typical of the speculative housing built in The Highlands before WW I. Examples of this type can be found throughout the city in areas of similar vintage. A two storey wood frame structure with wooden siding on the main floor and shingles on the second floor exterior, the Owen Residence is distinguished by its restored wrap-around porch with second floor balcony. This type of house is best known in Alberta as the Four Square Style.

In 1914, the house became the Dominion Meteorological Service Office, with Stuart Holmden in residence. Eda Owen, the home's namesake, came to Edmonton in 1908 with her husband, Herbert, a retired sea captain.

They moved in when Herbert was hired to man the meteorological station in 1915. Shortly thereafter, he joined the 66th Battalion and left with the Canadian Expeditionary Force to fight in the First World War.

In his absence, Eda took over his duties, and when he died in a prisoner of war camp in 1917, she officially became manager of the station. Eda's routine began at 5:40 a.m. with readings from the 26 instruments housed in her front room, back yard, and on a wooden tower on the roof. These included terrestrial radiators, hydrometers (moisture meters), maximum and minimum thermometers, self-recording rain and snow gauges, anemometers (wind gauges), thermographs and a solar thermometer. Over one hundred weather stations in Alberta, the North west Territories, Saskatchewan and British Columbia sent daily reports to Eda Owen in Edmonton. She, in turn, sent two reports a day, as well a detailed monthly report, to Toronto.

Before WW I, a few women held non-traditional jobs, and married women were, in many parts of Canada, barred from paid employment. As men went off to war women started doing jobs they had previously been excluded from. Even so, women rarely had technical jobs, and the amount of responsibility Eda Owen had was extraordinary. As a widow, Eda was eligible to keep her job after the War. Her career was so unusual that she developed an international reputation as a result.

She was a local celebrity, and the weather station was a meeting place for visiting academics, explorers and aviators. Eda Owen retired in 1943 and died in Calgary in 1957. In 1989 Eda Owen's story formed part of an exhibition entitled 'The Widening Sphere: Women in Canada 1840-1940', and her granddaughter Phyllis Patterson has written a biography, 'Eda the Weatherlady'.

In 1918 the Duncan family purchased the house, but Eda Owen remained until 1944, the year after it ceased to be a meteorological station.

Sandra and Jim Storey, the most recent owners, have meticulously restored it to its original appearance. The Owen Residence was designated a Provincial Historical Resource in 1993.

***
The historical significance of the Owen Residence resides in its association with Eda Owen, who operated the Dominion Weather Observatory at this site from 1915 to 1943. (Her husband operated this station from 1913 to 1915.) During most of this period Eda Owen was the only female Meteorological Observer employed by the Department of Marine and Fisheries. The home was for many years one of the most important stations in Canada. It also is associated with A.U.G.

Bury, prominent Edmonton politician.
The historical significance of the Owen Residence resides primarily in its association with Eda Owen, who from 1915 until 1943 was employed by the federal Department of Transport's Air Services. For much of this time she was the only female employee of these federal departments who was responsible for meteorological observation; during the 1920s and 1930s she became internationally known, and was until her death in 1957 a well-known local celebrity whose Highlands weather station at 11227-63 Street was a meeting place for visiting academic and exploratory groups and aviators, as well as a prominent landmark in the Highlands neighbourhood.

***
Eda Owen was born near Liverpool, England, on either 4 November or 5 November 1879. Her father was Sir William Jones, who was involved in the import and export business; her mother was Lady Rogerson Tynesley Powell, from Salop, Shropshire. She had one older sister and a younger brother; other siblings died during early childhood. Eda suffered damaged eyesight during a nursery fire, and wore the glasses which became a distinguishing feature during the remainder of her life. In c1896 her mother died of spinal meningitis, and she returned from school to her father's household. In c1898 she met one of her father's business acquaintances, Captain Herbert William Owen, of Newry, Ireland. On 7 September 1900 she married this merchant sea captain at Christ Church, Liverpool. After living briefly in Bootle, Lancashire, they moved to London.

Herbert Owen sailed to India on extended trips, leaving his wife alone for up to two years at a time. Her grand-daughter later speculated that 'with this solitary life she became more independent and learned to make decisions'. She also learned to read navigational charts and instruments from her husband. Their only child, Phyllis Katherine (Kate) Margaret Owen, was delivered by her mother-in-law and maid at Bottle on 25 May 1903.

In c1902 Herbert Owen's younger brother, Egbert 'Quint' Owen, was the Ottawa correspondent for the Liverpool Echo. In c1903 he moved to Edmonton. His letters convinced Herbert Owen to move with his family to Edmonton during the winter of 1908-1909. At this time they lived in Quint Owen's bungalow, and it was hoped that the cold, dry climate would improve Eda Owen's health. Quint Owen married Evelyn Bury, whose brother Ambrose Bury he had met while reading history and mathematics at Trinity College, Dublin. Ambrose Upton Gledstanes Bury received his Master of Arts in 1893, and was called to the Irish Bar as a member of the King's Inns, Dublin, in 1906. He moved to Edmonton at about the same as his sister, and established a law practice there.

He was called to the Alberta Bar in 1913 and appointed a King's Councilor in 1928. He was a city alderman from 1922 to 1925, was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament in 1925, but was defeated in 1926. Bury was Mayor of Edmonton during 1927-1929, and a Member of Parliament for Edmonton-East during 1930-1935. The following year he was appointed a Judge of the Northern District Court. During the first years in Edmonton the Burys lived with the Owens, staying with them after they moved to the Highlands residence at 11227-63 Street as well. When the Burys moved to a neighbouring house, the connection between the two households remained close, although Quint and Ambrose apparently had a falling out over Quint's successful effort to convince Bury to immigrate to Alberta; Bury's preference seems to have been for Australia, and he would later return to England, where he died in March 1951. Quint Owen and Ambrose Bury refused to speak to each other for many years, despite living in the same house, although Eda Owen and Evelyn Bury remained constant companions.

In 1912 Herbert Owen, after some work as a surveyor, met Captain S.M. Holmden, who supervised the Meteorological Office in Edmonton for the federal Department of Marine and Fisheries. Soon thereafter he became Holmden's assistant; on 10 December 1913 the Dominion weather office was moved to the Owen residence at 11227-63 Street, there the Owens had moved the previous year. On 1 February 1915 Holmden resigned his post to enlist for active service overseas, and Herbert Owen assumed his position. However, wartime manpower demands were such that on 8 June Major General Sam Hughes issued an urgent call for 35,000 recruits 'to go from Canada to the firing line in France as quickly as they can be trained and equipped...' Two regiments were to be raised in Alberta. On 17 June 1915 Regimental Orders published in the Edmonton Bulletin listed H.W. Owen as one of sixteen new recruits taken on strength by the 101 St. Fusiliers (Militia). On 22 June the local newspapers announced that a new Edmonton battalion (the 66th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force), was to be raised immediately. On 9 July Corporal H. W. Owen enlisted in the 66th Battalion, C.E.F., and sailed from Halifax on the S.S. Olympic on 28 April 1916. This unit was absorbed by the 9th Reserve Battalion in England, and later transferred to the 31st Battalion. On 28 May 1917 Owen was wounded at Douai and taken prisoner the following day. While a prisoner of war at Limbourg his health deteriorated, and he died of malnutrition and gangrene in hip and torso wounds.

Herbert Owen's death appears to have been the determining event in hs widow's life. When her husband had enlisted in 1915 she had taken over his duties, but her status became uncertain when word of Herbert Owen's death arrived on 18 August. However, on 28 August, Sir Frederick Stupart, Director of the Canadian Meteorological Service, wrote that 'I shall immediately endeavour to have your allowance from this service increased... provided that you wish to continue as observer at Edmonton'. Eda Owen immediately accepted his offer.

On 2 December 1919 Captain Holmden returned to Edmonton and Eda Owen became his assistant; she and her daughter Kate then moved temporarily to No.4, Jasper Court. On 30 September 1920 Holmden retired, and she moved back to 11227-63 Street with her daughter. In April 1921 her position as Provincial Agent and Weather Observer for Alberta was confirmed by the Department of Marine and Fisheries. At this time the Edmonton Station was probably the most important outside Toronto; 143 stations staffed by volunteer observers, many of them women, regularly reported to the Highlands station, where the resident Observer compiled their reports systematically into synoptic charts which were forwarded telegraphically to the head office located in Toronto. This job was performed by Eda Owen until 1943, with infrequent exceptions, such as a brief period during 1926 when she took a leave of absence to visit England and Wales, and Mrs. P.W.J. Cristie became the replacement Observer.

By the mid-1920s Eda Owen was becoming something of an international personality. On 29 March 1927 the Christian Science Monitor reported that she was the only woman outside Greenwich to do her kind of work.

Maclean's Magazine printed a similar article on 15 September. It was also at this time that her responsibilities began to proliferate considerably as the role of meteorology increased to meet the demands of aviation and communications advances. On 29 June 1927, F. Napier Denison, director of the Victoria Observatory, was in Edmonton to supervise the link-up with a newly established network of station-observatories staffed by forest rangers who now were expected to provide readings from their thermometers, rain gauges, wind gauges and hydrographs. The Highlands station not only compiled these daily readings, but was expected to provide data to aid the rangers assess fire hazards. In 1927 A.W. Haddow, the City Engineer, obtained an electrical rain gauge; its readings were filed at the Highlands station as well. In August 1929 Haddow requested regular meteorological reports so 'Edmonton Airport may be listed with the Department of Commerce as being up to standard.' During the early 1930s Eda Owen made 7:00 A.M. reports to James Richardson and Sons, and after 1931 was expected to make intermittent special reports to the United States Weather Bureau. Such duties necessitated very long work-days. She would be up at 5:30 A.M. to take her first readings from the instrument sheds in the back garden and on the roof-top platform entered by a ladder through the bedroom ceiling. Telephone requests from local newspapers, radio stations, aviators and other interested people increased during the decade. For most of the 1930s she made a regular telephone report to the Hudson's Bay Company store at 10:15 A.M. Her parlour office was open daily from 9:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. Regular morning and afternoon reports were sent to Toronto as well. After 1928 her grand-daughter lived with her, adding to her responsibilities. Sometimes she was up until 3:00 A.M. compiling month-end synoptic charts, when other extraordinary duties had intervened during the day.

During the 1930s the Dominion Meteorological Office was required to coordinate an increasingly extensive network of stations as agricultural, forestry, maritime, aviation and communications demands grew. As its work became more precise and scientific, the amateur observer was less in demand, although the entire system continued to operate through the agency of volunteer observers outside the main stations. During April 1930, Controller John Patterson of the Meteorological Service, added another observer at the airport to meet the additional requirements of air mail flights; a new station was opened soon after as part of a projected northern network staffed by Canadian Army signalmen. This system provided extra reports during the famous R-100 dirigible flight to Canada, as did the Highlands station. In August 1930 Simon Algernon Yorke took over the new airport observatory to deal with the night flights, which resulted from the 24-hour air service between Lethbridge and Edmonton. This lasted only until March 1932, when the constraints of the depression ended the service, and pilots were once again entirely dependent upon the reports filed by the Highlands station.

Eda Owen was involved with several significant events during this period. During 1933 Wiley Post, Jimmy Mattern and Captain Frank Hawks passed through Edmonton on their respective flights, and Eda Owen worked overtime on her weather reports to facilitate their safe progress. In the mid-1930s she hosted scientists on their way to and from the north during the International Polar Year (1932-1933).

During 1936 and 1937 her station compiled upper air readings of cold air masses taken from flights at Fort Smith for the Meteorological Service and the United States Weather Bureau. In July 1937 a Soviet air expedition passed through en route to Moscow, and on instructions from the Meteorological Service; the Highlands station provided reports to Vartanian Weather Bureau in Seattle every three hours for preceding two days.

On 7 October 1937 Eda Owen was reclassified by the Civil Service Commission, from Weather Observer Grade III to Meteorological Assistant Grade I. Her work was to be supervised by the federal Transport Air Services, acknowledging the changed focus of the service.

In 1942 the United States Air Force opened observing stations along a network in northwestern Canada. Operation of basic meteorological services along the air routes, such as the North-West Staging Route, seems to have remained under the supervision of Dr. Thomas G. How, who had established the Meteorological Service regional head office at the airport in 1938, and remained in charge during the Second World War.

However, during the war, weather broadcasts and reports were restricted for security reasons. Eda Owen continued to provide this information for flyers and other local people she knew. This appears to have caused some problems with the local American military authorities, and under some pressure she resigned in July 1943. Local newspapers carried stories which praised her efforts during the previous three decades.

Eva Owen died in Edmonton on 15 March 1957.

Garnett M. Meiklejohn was typical of the small entrepreneurs who rode the crest of the pre-war real estate speculation and building boom. He purchased his Highlands property on 28 August 1911, at the cusp of the boom. On 11 June 1912 he made application to the City of Edmonton for a building permit, and was issued permit No. 1407, granting him permission to build a residence on what was then called East Irwin Street (63rd Street), in the heart of the area being developed by the Magrath, Holgate Company. Meiklejohn's house was to be self-designed and constructed, and was valued at $2500.00.

The original address of the 'American foursquare' style home was 1745 Irwin Street. Built in 1912, the house has been meticulously restored by its present owners.

The house has the notable distinction of having been the residence of the 'weather lady', Eda Owen, from 1915 to 1943. Eda Owen was the first woman in Canada, if not the world, to be in charge of a first class weather station with 143 stations reporting to her. This house served as her weather station and original photographs show a meteorological tower perched upon its roof.

Neither Eda or Herbert Owen ever owned the house. The Department of Marine and Fisheries, and after 1936, the Department of Transport, paid rental on her behalf to the owners. For example, Charles Duncan was paid $135.00 by the Departmental Chief Accountant for the three months ending 1 September 1924. From 10 December 1913 until 30 June 1943 the Owen Residence was not only the home of Eda Owen, but one of the most active Dominion Meteorological Stations in Canada. This fact determined every aspect of its character, furnishing, interior arrangement and exterior appearance, from the office located in the front parlour to the red instrument tower rising sixty feet above the Highlands neighbourhood.

Internal

Status: Status Date:
Active
Active
1981/03/02
1993/04/20
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Municipal A List
Provincial Historic Resource

1994/02/03
Register: A69
Record Information: Record Information Date:
S. Khanna 1993/02/09

Links

Internet:
Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0522
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