Edmonton’s Heritage Trees

We were invited on a very special sketching outing to a Belgravia resident’s Heritage Weeping Birch tree. It is a magnificent tree that was planted in 1951. Thanks to Wendy, our host, and to Urban Sketcher Asma Burney for alerting us to this wonderful sketching opportunity on a beautiful summer day.

Photo by Yvonne Rezek

Sketches by Asma Burney

Sketch by Brenda Raynard

Sketches by Yvonne Rezek

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

After sketching, our host and her friends treated us to a delightful garden party-style tea of scones and other dainties. We were very appreciative of their generous hospitality!

Photo by Yvonne Rezek

I sketched another historic tree last year – the Heritage Manitoba Maple that is beside the First Presbyterian Church downtown. It was planted in 1926.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

I think this would make a great series for sketching. Just around the corner from the Heritage Manitoba Maple is the Heritage Holowach Horse Chestnut tree – south of Jasper Avenue in a parking lot between 105 and 106 streets. It turns 100 next year so we should celebrate it then with a sketchout!

The City of Edmonton has a Historic Resources Register and Inventory that includes heritage trees, and some of Edmonton’s heritage trees’ stories are included in the Heritage Trees of Alberta book.

Another recent and ongoing project by Master Gardener and Designer Dustin Bajer will locate, map and tell the stories of Edmonton’s heritage plants.

The quiet contribution of these stately trees are an important heritage resources that make for a more beautiful, livable city.

Posted by Marlena Wyman





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El Mirador Apartments 7 September 2019

We gathered on a rare sunny day to sketch the historic El Mirador apartments, and enjoyed a quiet lunch at Doan’s afterward to share sketches and stories.

A surprise visit was made by CTV news who covered the event (September 7 at 13:50).

Marlena Wyman being interviewed by CTV

Sketches by Brenda Raynard

EPCOR was carrying out some noisy (although no doubt needed) work on the drainage system right beside us – a juxtaposition to the tranquil El Mirador. One of our sketchers also recorded that very urban scene.

Sketches by Merts Belmes

Here is the history of El Mirador from the Edmonton Historical Board’s Architectural Heritage website:

Ralph Henry Trouth, the designer and builder of the El Mirador Apartments, offered beautiful detailing to the three-storey walk-ups. The whitewashed exterior features circular and arched details, and an elliptical window over the main entryway. Red corrugated roof tiles cover the distinctive gabled section over the main entryway. And the slightly raised side elements to the roof of the original building suggest the towers typical of Spanish Revival. The arched first floor balconies allude to the arcaded walkways found in southern climates, and the balconies and spiral staircase have iron railings. Most in character to the Spanish Revival style is the open courtyard, which aside from being of architectural interest, helps add a sense of community for the building’s residents. The Spanish name of the apartment, El Mirador, can be translated as “The Lookout”.

Sketches by Marlena Wyman

Sketches by Julie Daly

Sketch by Diane Smarsh

The core of this building is actually a wood framed house built in 1912. The home, still visible on the north façade, was a one-and-a half story gable roofed residence with a full front porch, and was typical of the type of vernacular homes being built during the pre-war boom. In 1935 Trouth built his 12 unit apartment building on the front of the house. In 1937 a second permit was issued. This was for an addition which effectively doubled the living space. This addition was a U-shaped building which formed the building’s distinctive courtyard. Finally in 1953, another building called the Patricia Annex was added to the south, bringing the number of apartments up to 45. When Trouth died, the apartment reverted to his widow, Annie.    Edmonton Historical Board 

Sketch by Diane Scott


Sketches by Yvonne Rezek

Sketches by Janet Bertsch (bottom sketch is Rochester Apartments, just south of the Patricia Annex of El Mirador) Sketch by Jo-Anne Farley

Sketch by Diane Maxine Yandt

A valiant effort is being carried out by El Mirador residents and other concerned citizens to save the building, but it seems that the building’s fate will be a typically sad one for Edmonton’s history: demolition and replacement with another looming tower complex. 

There is a need for densification in our city, but why does it come at the unnecessary cost of the destruction of heritage buildings? New can be built anywhere and anytime, but once heritage architecture is gone, it is an irreplaceable loss. El Mirador in particular combines unique heritage architecture, affordable housing, and a design that encourages community – something we need more of, not less.

Posted by Marlena Wyman



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September 7, 2019 sketchout

Thanks to Yvonne Rezek for planning this event. We will be sketching the historic El Mirador apartment building at 10147 – 108 Street.

We will meet at 11am and we can sketch across the street, next to the building itself or even on the centre lane boulevard (very carefully). The courtyard is accessible but remember, it is private property and we haven’t asked for permission to access it.

At 1:00, we will meet at Doan’s Vietnamese restaurant at 10130 – 107 Street which is across the lane directly behind El Mirador.

The El Mirador apartment building was built in 1935 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. A matching annex was added in 1953 and a charming courtyard that acts as a community hub for residents connects the two. Stylistically, it is an anomaly in Edmonton’s architectural scene and it is now at risk of being replaced by a two-tower development. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, but the building is aging, needs maintenance, and does not have a historic resource designation. So, we will gather to preserve what we can of this wonderful structure in our sketches on this September sketch out.

Here is an article from the Edmonton Journal about the life of El Mirador and the current threat to its continued existence. https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/at-risk-el-mirador-apartments-are-an-ideal-design-for-urban-living-says-researcher

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Ritchie School, 3 August 2019

We scattered ourselves like the dandelions across the Ritchie School-yard today to honour this grand historic building with our sketches before it is demolished.

We met at the Blue Chair Diner afterward to share our sketches and discuss the sad state of heritage preservation in Edmonton. (We talked about a few positive things too.)

The neighbourhood of Ritchie was named after Robert Ritchie, the original owner of the Ritchie Mill (North West Mill and Feed Company), and former mayor of Strathcona.

Ritchie School, built in 1913 by George Pheasey and C.C. Batson, was designed by school board architect George E. Turner. Its location was unfortunate since it was discovered that it had been built on boggy soil, causing issues with sinking and water in the basement.

Sketches by Angie Sotiropoulos

Additions were built in 1954, 1956 and 1975. The building’s fate was further sealed when the 1913 section of the school was closed and continued to deteriorate.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Sketch by Brenda Raynard

Sketch by Joanne Wojtysiak

Sketches by Merts Belmes


Sketch by Jessica Lui

Many people in the Ritchie neighborhood fought to save the building but were unsuccessful. It is slated for demolition and the new Josef Moreau Junior High school is being built on the site. There is hope that parts of the original school might be preserved to be incorporated into a new community hall, but for now citizens can put in a request for a souvenir brick when the building is demolished.

Sketch by Jo-Anne Farley

Posted by Marlena Wyman


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August 3, 2019 sketchout

Thanks to Yvonne Rezek for organising this sketchout at historic, and sadly about to be demolished, Ritchie School.

Ritchie School was built in the 1920s and served generations of students in the Ritchie area. It is slated for demolition this year to make way for a new francophone school for the area. Apparently, construction has already begun. This sketch crawl may be your last chance to capture a piece of Edmonton’s fleeting history.

Meet at Ritchie School at 11am (9735 75 Ave). After sketching is finished, we will meet at the Blue Chair Cafe at 9624 76 Ave NW for lunch or snacks. In case of inclement weather, we will meet at the Blue Chair at 11:00 and sketch there. It is a great sketching venue in its own right.

Hope to see you there.


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Al Rashid Mosque, Fort Edmonton Park 6 July 2019

The rain held off for our adventure as 17 sketchers made our way past the construction of the upgrade and enhancement project at Fort Edmonton Park. Thanks to the Park staff for giving us special permission to sketch the historic Al Rashid Mosque while the Park is closed.

Sketch by Karen Wall

Sketches by Angie Sotiropoulos

The Al Rashid Mosque was built in 1938 – the first in Canada. As stated in the website, A New Life in a New Land, “In the early 1930s, the total Muslim population in Canada was 645, with highest concentrations in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Edmonton was home to the largest Muslim community whose members became increasingly concerned about preserving and passing on their faith and traditions to their children.”

Sketch by Florian Beltran, Age 9

Sketch by Berta Beltran

The proposal and fundraising to build the mosque was led by local Muslim women, most notably Hilwie Hamdon, after whom an Edmonton Public School has been named.

Sketch by Karen Wall

The Al Rashid Mosque bears some resemblance to the style of a Russian Orthodox Church. The Muslim community hired a Ukrainian-Canadian builder, Mike Drewoth, for the construction of the mosque.

Sketch by Brenda Raynard

Sketches by Asma Burney

Sketches by Marlena Wyman (in my second sketch, the crescents ended up looking like chickens!)

Sketch by Janet Bertsch 

Sketches by Julie Daly

Sketches by Yvonne Rezek

Sketches by Luise Mendler-Johnson

The Al Rashid Mosque was built on the corner of 101st Street and 108th Avenue in Edmonton, but was relocated to 102nd Street and 111th Avenue in 1946 to make way for the expansion of Victoria Composite High School. In 1975, a new, larger mosque was built and in 1988, the original mosque was under threat of demolition. A proposal and fundraising to move the mosque to Fort Edmonton Park was again led by local Muslim women.  The 1938 Mosque was formally opened at Fort Edmonton Park on May 28th, 1992.

The sketchers also made their way around to a couple of nearby sites in Fort Edmonton Park.

Sketch by Terry Elrod of the Capitol Theatre and Selkirk Hotel on 1920 Street

Sketch by Karen Wall of the same scene, with construction machinery

Sketch by Angie Sotriopoulos of the Fort Edmonton Park Midway

Sketch by Julie Daly of Fort Edmonton Park’s recreation of the Silver Heights Peony Garden. The original garden was situated on 5 acres of land in the Bonny Doon area. It operated as a garden and business by Dr. James Brander  from 1921 to 1949.  If you live anywhere from Vancouver to Winnipeg and have peonies in your garden, they are very likely descendants of peonies from Dr. Brander’s Silver Heights Peony Garden in Edmonton.

Sketch by Lucy Rachynski. Lucy turned around and sketched into the past at Fort Edmonton Park. The gray building on the right is the J.B. Little Brickyard on 1920 Street. On the left is Ramsay’s Greenhouse, and in the centre distance is Reed’s Bazaar and Tea Shop, both on 1905 Street.

 Posted by Marlena Wyman

Information sourced from the Edmonton City as Museum website



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July 6, 2019 sketchout

Thanks to the kind permission of Fort Edmonton Park staff, we will be sketching historic Al-Rashid, the first mosque built in Canada in 1938.
NOTE: We will meet at 10:45am at the gates to the left of the Train Station/Main Entrance. Because Fort Edmonton Park is closed for rehab construction, there is no wandering through the rest of the park. A Park Host will meet us and escort us to and from the sketching site.
The W. Ramsay Greenhouse will be our alternate rain-out location in Fort Edmonton Park, from which the mosque and some other Park buildings can be seen.
Due to the Fort Edmonton Park closure, there are no food services on site, so bring a picnic lunch and at 1pm we will go next door to the picnic tables at Whitemud Park.
The entrances to both Fort Edmonton Park and Whitemud Park are off Fox Drive. (See map below)
For those taking transit, there is a bus stop near Fort Edmonton Park Road at Fox Drive, and then a 10 minute walk to the Park gate. For lunch, we can either walk (about 15 minutes) to Whitemud Park or we can drive (and arrange car rides for anyone without a car).
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