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Key Number: HS 6315
Site Name: John Walter House (1904)
Other Names:
Site Type: 0101 - Residential: Single Dwelling

Location

ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
52 24 4


Address: 9100 Walterdale Hill
Number: 00
Street: N/A
Avenue: N/A
Other:
Town: Edmonton
Near Town:

Media

Type Number Date View
Source

Architectural

Style:
Plan Shape: Rectangular Long Facade
Storeys: Storeys: 2
Foundation:
Superstructure:
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: High Gable
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes: Massing of Units: Single Detached
Wings: Front and Rear
Number of Bays - Facade: First or Ground Floor, 3 Bays
Roof Trim - Eaves: Plain Fascia
Roof Trim - Eaves: Plain Soffit
Roof Trim Material - Eaves: Wood
Roof Trim - Verges: Plain Fascia
Roof Trim Material - Verges: Wood
Dormer Type: None
Chimney Location - Side to Side: Offset Left
Chimney Stack Material: Brick
Chimney Stack Massing: Single
Roof Trim - Special Features: Other
Window - Structural Opening Shape: Flat
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Entablature
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: Flat Transom, Single Light
Window - Number of Sashes: One
Window - Opening Mechanism: Single or Double Hung
Main Entrance - Location: Corner
Main Entrance - Structural Opening Shape: Flat
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Plain Lintel
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: 4
Main Entrance - Leaves - Special Feature: Glass
Main Stairs - Location and Design: First or Ground Floor, Without Railing
Main Stairs - Direction: Straight
Main Porch - Type: Open Porch
Main Porch - Special Features: None
Main Porch - Height: First Storey
Exterior: Cross, gable roof, gable screen in gable ends, corbelled chimney, rear porch with turned columns, front verandah with turned columns, corner boards, stained glass above entry.
Interior: Has been gutted by fire. All new plaster, doors and fittings.
Environment: Previous Legal: RL P PCL Lot 32 o8AC. Neighbourhood: River Valley Walterdale Property In Kinsmen Park, south end of 105 Street Bridge. Total Area: 45.9 ha/113.51 ac
Condition: Good
Alterations: Apparent Alterations and/or Additions: Wall Site: Original In 1914 the house was modernized: gravity furnace along with indoor plumbing were installed and addition to the house was built. The electrical system was rewired in 1962.

Historical

Construction: Construction Date:
Construction Ended
Construction Started

1904/01/01
Usage: Usage Date:
Residential: Single Dwelling
1904/01/01
Owner: Owner Date:
John Walter
Jas. & Ida Alton
Pearl A. Tisdale
City of Edmonton
1899/06/21
1912/09/05
1950/10/28
1974/01/01
Architect: John Walter
Builder: John Walter
Craftsman: N/A
History: Old address was 10806 - 93 Avenue.

******
John Walter, prominent Edmonton pioneer entrepreneur, spent his last days here. After his death in 1920 his widow resided until her death in 1942. It was later rented out, and finally served as residence for Kinsmen Park groundskeeper. It was relocated (from 10810-93 Avenue) to the museum complex during 1974-75. A fire gutted the interior in 1985.
John Walter, pioneer lumber and sawmill operator in Strathcona and later in Edmonton, arrived in Canada in 1870 at the age of 21, as a Hudson's Bay Company employee. He was born in the Orkney Islands of Scotland on August 12, 1849. For five years he worked as a boat builder in Fort Edmonton--three years to pay off his passage and two more years for a land claim. Walter received from the Hudson's Bay Company ten pounds per year plus meat.
After five years at Fort Edmonton, John Walter homesteaded on the river flat area south of the present Walterdale Bridge. When Edmonton was surveyed in 1899, Walter's property became River Lot 9. His land stretched from 107 Street to 109 Street and from the river to University Avenue. On River Lot 9 he built three houses which are now at the John Walter Historic Site. These houses were initially occupied by John Walter and his family before they were sold to other parties.
This residence was built in 1899 by John Walter a pioneer lumber and sawmill operator in Strathcona. John Walter was born in Scotland in 1850, and came to Canada in 1869 with the Hudson Bay Company. He built boats for the company at Edmonton for five years and later homesteaded and claimed the land in Strathcona on which he located his sawmill in approximately 1891.
This house was modernized in 1914 when a gravity furnace along with indoor plumbing were installed and an addition to the house was built. The electrical system was rewired in 1962. The overall condition of the house is good.

***
The following is a brief summary of the history of the three houses which make up the John Walter Museum. This history was summarized from a research report entitled 'John Walter and Walterdale' written by John Day in 1974.
John Walter built his first in 1875 on the south side of the river across from Fort Edmonton. He constructed his house on the highest point of his claim. When the land was surveyed in 1882 this house determined the western border of his claim. A photograph taken of Fort Edmonton in 1879 indicates the location of Walter's first home.
The street address for this location was once 10806 - 93 Avenue. Walter's first home, the 1875 house, was moved twice in his lifetime. In 1899 it was moved in order to make room for his final home started in that year. Its new location was the southwest corner of the intersection of 92nd Avenue and 107th Street. Located near his sawmill, it served as a cookhouse for the millhands until 1911.
In 1911 the 1875 house was moved to its present location. No reasons were documented for the move. Between 1920 and 1958 it was a private residence. A footnote in the report indicates the house was moved some 50 feet in 1959.
Walter built his second home in 1884, only 100 feet from the first house at a point which overlooked his first ferry landing. It was vacated in 1901 when Walter moved into his final home. In 1907 his second house was moved to its present site. There is no established account of its use until 1912 when it was used as a private residence.
After the 1915 flood it was reinhabited and remained so until 1963. At the point of being demolished it was discovered to be Walter's second house and incorporated into the museum began in 1958.
Walter's final home was completed in 1904. Its street address was 10806 - 93 Avenue. After John Walter died in 1920, Mrs. Walter continued to reside there until her death in 1942. At that time it passed into private hands and was subdivided and rented out. Its final resident was the groundskeeper for Kinsmen Park. In 1974-75 the house was relocated to its present site to become an integral part of the John Walter Museum. It served as office space for the Fort Edmonton Historical Board and other groups such as First Night Festival. When it was gutted by a fire in 1985, the interior was not restored to its original floorplan but remodeled with drywall and carpet.
Presently the 1874 and 1886 houses have been furnished with period furniture, with some original artifacts belonging to John Walter.
Historical programs and interpretation are run inside the two buildings year round. The 1901 house is also used for programming. The main floor is used for exhibit space displaying a permanent photo exhibits. The second floor is used for meetings and large group programs. During the summer it is used as staff office space.
NOTE: Presently the site also contains a house dating from 1912, purported to have been built by John Walter, which is presently used as an office.

* * *
JOHN WALTER MUSEUM (c.1874) City's Oldest Surviving House
When the Belle of Edmonton plied the North Saskatchewan River, the toll was 10 cents per foot passenger, and five cents for farm animals.
Today, the murky waters are spanned by numerious bridges and the Belle of Edmonton has long since disappeared.
But two humble rough-hewn timber cabins - and a not-so-humble wood frame two-storey house - still stand at the foot of Walterdale Hill, marking the approximate location where John Walter's ferry once operated. If you look carefully, you may pick them out on your left, as you drive down the hill and over the 105th Street Bridge toward downtown. The buildings also mark the beginnings of the community that once dotted Walter's Flats. The three houses are collectively called the John Walter Museum, and they mark many firsts for our city.
Documenting the rise of John Walter - one of Strathcona's earliest pioneers and businessmen - the city-owned site includes the first building to be constructed on the south side, and one of the first to be built outside the palisades of Fort Edmonton.
Accounts differ on the year - it was built either 1874, 1875 or 1876. It served as the first telegraph office in 1880, as well as a general store and an office for Walter's ferry service.
The second log house was built in 1884 and Walter moved into it in 1886 with his new bride, Appia Elizabeth Newby. His two sons, John Jr. and Stanley, were born here. Again, accounts differ on what year the third house was built - 1899, 1900, or 1901.
The historic site, with the exception of the newest house, is used for student pioneer interpretive programs. Inside, 19th century furnishings and artifacts provide a pioneer decor for such activities as butter churning, carding wool, and baking. Walter's last home has been headquarters for the Heritage Festival since 1982.
All of the buildings were moved from their original locations to where they now stand. Walter himself moved the first two houses from about a block east to their present site prior to 1900, after constructing his third and most imposing residence. The third house, which was built where the High Level Bridge now stands, was moved by the city in 1974. Ironically, its turn of the century interior was modernized as an office for the Fort Edmonton Historical Foundation. A 1985 fire caused $30,000 damage to this house, and repairs are now being completed.
John Walter was born in Scotland's Orkney Islands in 1849. He arrived at Fort Edmonton on Christmas Eve 1870 to build York boats for the Hudson's Bay Company and died on Christmas Day 1920 - 50 years and one day after his arrival here.
After leaving the Hudson's Bay Company, he built the cabin across the river from the fort and staked his claim to River Lot Nine. He began his business career by operating the Belle of Edmonton, the first cable ferry west of Winnipeg. It ran until the opening of the High Level Bridge in 1913. He built the pleasure steamer, City of Edmonton, in 1909, and purchased Big Island, 22 kilometers upstream on the river, planning to turn it into a tourist resort.
Walter was also involved in the lumber business and operated a coal mine. But floods in 1912 and 1915 wiped out his lumber business, carrying away a large stack of lumber, destroying his mill, and ruining the previous winter's cut.
Walter, said to have been one of Edmonton's first millionaires, suffered devastating financial losses. But, undaunted, he was on a financial comeback when he died in 1920.

HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE
John Walter, a Hudson’s Bay Company employee, was the first homesteader on the south bank of the Saskatchewan River in what was to become the City of Edmonton. He operated a small store, stopping house and the first ferry and telegraph. He was involved in numerous businesses engaged in boat building and lumbering. Walter was also a key participant in city’s social and education development. The buildings in question include the oldest building in the city of Edmonton and constitute important historical resources in their own right and as interpretive vehicles for telling the early history of the City of Edmonton.

The John Walter site is located on the south bank of Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River. It consists of three houses, dating to 1875, 1886, and 1901. These homes illustrate the earliest period of settlement outside the walls of Fort Edmonton, and the progression which followed as Edmonton grew in size and prosperity. John Walter worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company before establishing the first homestead on the south shore of the river. He operated a ferry, among various business ventures, and ran two sizeable sawmills. Walter’s home reflect his increasing prosperity and his access to buildings and materials. His first house is the oldest home in Edmonton. Architecturally they form a grouping which, while not grand, provides a valuable insight into the shape of early Edmonton.

* * *
The John Walter Museum, in the river valley in Edmonton, contains John Walter's first two log buildings and his 1901 two-storey home. Many years ago, the 1901 house was moved a short distance to its present location close to the log buildings. The exterior was restored to 1901, and after a fire, the interior was renovated with modern finishes to support public programs other than interpretation of the history of John Walter.
In 1998, a second fire was set by an arsonist resulting in extensive damage to the building. The electrical and mechanical systems were repaired and the building was mothballed pending the development of a new rehabilitation plan. Despite the extensive damage caused by the recent fire, the building is in stable condition.

* * *
These three relatively common residential structures are significant owing to their association with John Walter who constructed and resided in them. Walter was a transportation, forestry and communications entrepreneur who's businesses provided much of the economic impetus for the early development of the Edmonton region. Historians of prairie urban development have stressed that the most crucial factor in the growth of prairie urban centres was not geography, but rather foresight, ambition, and promotional skills of individuals. It is within this context that John Walter made his most significant contributions to history as his early enterprises served to stimulate and nurture the beginnings of what has developed into the City of Edmonton. (Notice of Intention)

Internal

Status: Status Date:
Active
1992/09/23
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Municipal A List
Provincial Historic Resource

1996/03/08
Register: A86
Record Information: Record Information Date:
Tatiana Gilev 2003/04/10

Links

Internet:
Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0441
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