Sister City Sketch: Public Art, April 10, 2021

Our theme for the week with our Sister City Sketch group, Calgary Urban Sketchers, was “public/pop-up art”. Both of our cities have wonderful public art collections. The weather was not very cooperative with a big spring snowfall, but some of us still managed to make it out for on-site sketching and some of us posted sketches from the past.

You can see what Calgary Urban Sketchers created here, and our sketches are posted below. Thanks for all the great work everyone!

Amanda Parer’s “Down There”: sketch by Sarah Lee

“Apr 10 (Public Art): ‘Down There’ part of Downtown Spark Fantastic Planet. Tomorrow is the last day for this installation so go check them out if you haven’t already. I like big arts and I cannot lie.”

Tony Bloom”s “The Convergence”: sketch by Yvonne Rezek

“Finally able to get out and sketch today. My choice of public art was entirely contingent on finding a place to park. Even so, I parked in a no-parking zone (but didn’t leave the car). 😁 ‘The Convergence’ by Tony Bloom of Canmore stands at the eastern end of the Victoria Promenade. It is made up of a waterfall and four steel spires (only three pictured here). Unveiled in 1990, it represents a convergence of people, water, the city, earth and sky. Drawn on my iPad.”

Stewart Steinhauer’s “Bear Spirit”: sketch by Abha Hoedl

“Bear statues at the Faculte St Jean, 11 April 21”

Mimi von Gaza’s “Broken Families”: sketch by Karen Boschee

“Found this unique beautiful monument in Grant Notley Park today. Each side shows a different view of our skyline and people joining hands. Commissioned by a long list of civic and labor organizations that are mentioned on the plaque. If anyone knows more about the significance of this artistic monument overlooking the river valley in the ❤ of Edmonton please share. Experimenting again with different washes on black paper. Sketched on site then added some color with crayon.”

NOTE: This is a monument to honour those who died in the workplace. More info here.

Mural on Habaneros Restaurant: sketch by Marty Stark

“Habaneros is a local Mexican Restaurant in Leduc. The mural is painted on the south side of the building. Drawn on site, coloured with pencil crayon at home.”

NOTE: If anyone knows who the mural artist is, please let us know.

Chinese terracotta horse replica: sketch by Marlena Wyman

“My sketch from 2014 on our sketch-out at the Muttart Conservatory. For the Lunar New Year of the Horse, the Muttart had installed sculpture replicas representing China’s ancient terracotta horses and warriors.”

Granville Island totem pole: sketch by Karen Wall

NOTE: If anyone knows who the totem pole artist is, please let us know.

Sketch by Marty Stark

“Miniature lookout tower at the main look out on the boardwalk at Telford Lake Park in Leduc. Cold and Windy there today.”

Our next sketch theme is a “sketch from your vehicle” event on Saturday April 17 from 11 am to 1pm at Alberta Terminals Ltd. 13020- 127 Ave. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Marlena Wyman

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Sketch From Your Vehicle: Alberta Terminals Ltd.

Time for another in-person but distanced sketch-out! Join us Saturday April 17 from 11am to 1pm for a Sketch From Your Vehicle event. If you are not able to sketch then, you can come on you own at another time this week.

We thought we would change things up a bit and sketch an industrial subject. Alberta Terminals Ltd. and the railyards beside it provide great on-location subjects (130 Ave and 127 St). It is an interesting industrial site for sketching because it is surrounded by residential housing. The terminals were built in 1924 as a grain handling facility and in the 1950s the neighbourhood of Althlone grew up around it. It is still a functioning terminal, now owned by Cargill.

If you leave your vehicles, remember to follow Covid19 protocols of distancing and wearing masks, and respect private and company property.

The weather is looking much better by then so we hope to see you there! 

Photo Wikimedia Commons

Posted by Marlena Wyman

Posted in Urban Sketchers Edmonton | 2 Comments

Sketch Out & About, April 3, 2021

We are returning full-on to Urban Sketchers’ manifesto with on-site sketching starting in April, so no more sketching from photos. Enjoy sketching in the fresh air with the warmer weather finally here. But if there is rain (or gasp, spring snow!), sketching from your vehicle is always an alternative.

This week’s prompt was “highlight a local business”. Local, small businesses need our support to help get them through the pandemic and beyond. They are a big part of what makes our communities great to live in.

Here are the lovely sketches for the week:

Tasty Tomato Restaurant, 14233 Stony Plain Rd by Karen Boschee

“Every Friday night during the pandemic we have supported local businesses by choosing a favorite restaurant for take out. This is one of them. Tasty Tomato on Stony Plain Rd has been a family go to place for many years now.”

CH Chocolates & Coffee, 14802 Stony Plain Rd by Anna Nowakowski Hayes

“New little chocolate place..’CH’ on Stony Plain road near 149th st. Sadly closed when I showed up, but I will be back!”

Transit Hotel, 12720 Fort Rd by Gordon Ramsey

“Transit Hotel I guess it is a local business but not that small. I believe it is under renovation which is good. Of all historic buildings in Edmonton that should live on – the Transit Hotel is near the top of the list .”

Ralph’s Handi-Mart and Juniper Cafe & Bistro, 9514 – 87 St by Sarah Lee

“Small businesses: Ralph’s Handi Mart and the Juniper Cafe. I recommend the fried chicken at the former and the handheld eggs benny at the latter.”

Small business strip mall, 107 Ave & 142 St by Abha Hoedl

“At the parking lot of Club Fit on the west end. There seems to be a lot of small business here!”

Re:Plenish, 9912 – 77 Ave by Marlena Wyman

“The tree beside Re:Plenish actually still has a few brown leaves on it but they looked a bit like blossoms. We can always dream!”

Delton Grocery, 12202 – 88 St by Yvonne Rezek

“The little Delton Grocery Store has been an important part of the Delton community since 1914 and was recently approved for historical designation by the City of Edmonton.”

Northgate Medical & Professional Centre mall by Yvonne Rezek

“Eager to get the jab today, I arrived 40 minutes early, so I stayed in the car and sketched. The Walmart parking lot is not very inspiring but what the heck. This is NOT a tribute to a small local business, obviously.”

This coming week is a Sister City sketch with Calgary Urban Sketchers. The theme is “public (or pop-up) art”. Edmonton has lots to offer in that category, so have fun out there!

Posted by Marlena Wyman

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April 2021 Sketch Themes

We are returning to outdoor on-site sketching for April! Three on your own and one where we can get together in person, with pandemic protocols in place.

Thanks to Yvonne Rezek for the suggested themes and this reminder:

With the return of reasonable weather and our ability to move around outdoors in relative comfort, Urban Sketchers Edmonton is no longer allowing the use of photographs. We may revisit the practice when winter is upon us once again. As a reminder, here is the Urban Sketchers manifesto, which aims to define what urban sketching is:

1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.

2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.

3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.

4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.

5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.

6. We support each other and draw together.

7. We share our drawings online.8. We show the world, one drawing at a time

Get ready. Get set. Sketch!

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Sketch In & Around March 27, 2021

For our last “Heritage Buildings” theme for March, we suggested two Edmonton buildings that are at risk of demolition. Sketches of those and some other wonderful heritage sketches were created.

Archibald Block by Gordon Ramsey
  1. The Archibald Block at the corner of 82 Ave and 105 Street was built in 1909. It presently houses When Pigs Fly and several other small businesses on both the 82 Ave and 105 St sides. Wexford Developments has plans to demolish the Archibald Block and build a mixed-use nine story tower dubbed “The Baron”. This is doubly concerning because Old Strathcona is a provincially designated historic area. The proposed tower is over the four story allowed height in Old Strathcona, but that can be vetoed by both the Province and the City if they want the development to go ahead.

Dr. Seymour Archibald came to Strathcona in 1898 to serve as one of the first medical doctors here. He built the brick construction Archibald Block in 1909 which housed several small businesses over the years. One of Edmonton’s historically significant businesses began operations there in 1912: Lebanese immigrants, John Assad and Fred Assad Morie opened a confectionary and fresh fruit wholesale store. The Archibald Block has continued to served as a location for small businesses throughout its existence.

El Tovar Apartment House by Gordon Ramsey
El Tovar Apartment House by Diane Smarsh (from a photo)
El Tovar Apartment House by Yvonne Rezek
El Tovar Apartment House by Marlena Wyman (from a photo)

2. El Tovar Apartment House, 10029 – 114 Street. El Tovar is a modest, historic apartment building in the Oliver neighbourhood. Although the proposed development for the lot is unknown, it is likely that another high rise building will take its place.

El Tovar Apartment House was built as a two and one-half story stucco-finished building with arched front entrance, recessed arch metal light fixtures and wrought iron decorative railing; simpler but echoing in some ways the design of the El Mirador Apartments. Built in 1934 in the midst of the economic recession that began in 1929, the El Tovar Apartment House is significant for its association with the changing housing demands of the time. Edmonton’s population was increasing due to the large number of people moving to the city in search of work. The construction of the El Tovar Apartment House was in response to the need for affordable accommodations in close proximity to the city core.

Land Registration building, 10523 – 100 Ave Edmonton by Karen Boschee

“This makes me happy. Some old buildings can be saved. Over the past year I’ve noticed that the white stucco has been removed and the original red brick structure has been revealed again on the oldest Land Registration and Crown Timber Offices in Alberta built in 1893. Located on 100 Ave between 105 and 106 Streets. Converted to Victoria Armouries in 1915. Since 1995 was home of Elizabeth Fry society. Sketched from a photo I took myself. Was going to add more color but had a busy weekend never got back to it today. Will post as is. Enjoyed the historic themes this month. What’s next?!”

Heritage residential houses by Janet E Smith

“A heritage neighbourhood sketch, looking east from Saskatchewan Drive at 99 Street, Edmonton. This is from a photo during a snowfall a few years ago. These grand, big old houses are so very close to one another, and are painted to make each stand out from the other, I always like seeing them as we drive near there. They are right at the top of the valley, looking south.”

Chateau Lacombe Hotel by Sandra Der

The Chateau Lacombe Hotel located in downtown Edmonton at 10111 Bellamy Hill opened in 1966 as a Canadian Pacific hotel. The revolving restaurant La Ronde is on the top floor. It is now an independent hotel.

Rocky Rapids store/ Drayton Valley museum by Pamela St Laurent

The Rocky Rapids General Store was built in 1935 in Drayton Valley AB. It still operates as a store and is one of the Drayton Valley Museum buildings.

A cultural heritage lunch by Debbie Ha

“We made kathi rolls for brunch today. I did a quick sketch before wolfing it down. Added colour from a photo reference.”

Our theme for this coming week is “Highlight a Small Business”. The past year has been difficult for many small businesses. Many are struggling, some have closed their doors permanently, and others have found ways to survive, even thrive. Tell a story in an urban sketch of one of these. It can be a favourite restaurant, a shop in your neighbourhood, or a store you’ve never been to but looks interesting. This week, let’s give a spring shout-out to Edmonton’s small business community, and be sure to sketch on site.

With the return of reasonable weather and our ability to move around outdoors in relative comfort, Urban Sketchers Edmonton is no longer allowing the use of photographs. We may revisit the practice when winter is upon us once again. As a reminder, here is the USk manifesto, which aims to define what urban sketching is:

1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.

2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.

3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.

4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.

5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.

6. We support each other and draw together.

7. We share our drawings online.8. We show the world, one drawing at a time

Posted by Marlena Wyman

4You, Jo-Anne Farley, Gordon Ramsey and 1 other

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Sketch from your vehicle, March 20, 2021

Our first sketch-out of the year and our third Historic Building sketch theme for March was a Sketch from your Vehicle event at the 100 year old horse barn on the University of Alberta Farm (South Campus).

Photos by Marlena Wyman

There were 5 sketchers (that I saw), a sketcher’s driver, a dog and several geese who came out to our sketching event. More sketchers also came on their own at different times. That’s OK – it will take a while to get used to sketching as a group again! It was great to actually see some sketchers in person and yell at each other from a distance.

Thanks to PearlAnn Riechwein for her excellent photos.

Photos by PearlAnn Reichwein

The University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agriculture came into being in 1915 on the main campus. Lectures were in Pembina Hall and an animal husbandry lab was in a barn to the west of Athabasca Hall that housed a small number of cows and horses. Field test plots were grown along Saskatchewan Drive. More farm buildings were added where the Jubilee Auditorium and Stollery Hospital stand today.

In 1930, five farm buildings including the horse barn and dairy barn were moved to the University Farm site, now South Campus.  Other new buildings were added including the livestock pavilion, grain elevator, feed mill and seven houses for farm staff. The horse barn was moved again in 2010. Today it stands near the Green and Gold Community Garden and the Prairie Urban Farm.

It is unknown what the plans are for the historic horse barn, but it seems that nothing is safe from “development” any more. We keep out fingers crossed that it will live well beyond its 100th birthday.

Here are the wonderful sketches that capture its charm:

Terry Elrod
Debbie Ha
Karen Boschee
Beth George
Gordon Ramsey
Diane Smarsh
Sarah Lee
Abha Hoedl
Julie Daly
Marlena Wyman
Marlena Wyman, Sept 2018
Pamela St Laurent
Lorie Taylor Leech

Join in and sketch one or both of the two at-risk historic buildings that we have suggested this coming week for our last Historic Building sketch theme of March:

The Archibald Block in Old Strathcona built in 1909 (82 Ave & 105 st)

El Tovar Apartment House built in 1934 (10029 – 114 Street).

Posted by Marlena Wyman

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Final Heritage Sketch Theme for March 2021 – Don’t Replace Heritage with High Rises

For our last heritage-themed sketch of March, we thought it would be a good idea to sketch the theme of “Don’t replace heritage with high rises”. There is a place for densification, but not at the cost of losing our few remaining heritage buildings. The two that we are suggesting for sketching are at risk of being demolished. They are modest buildings, often overlooked for their heritage value because they are not “grand”. However, they contribute greatly to the story, identity and historic development of our City, just as much as any ornate building.

  1. The Archibald Block at the corner of 82 Ave and 105 Street

This 1909 block now houses When Pigs Fly and several other small businesses on both the 82 Ave and 105 St sides. Wexford Developments has plans to demolish the Archibald Block and build a mixed-use nine story tower dubbed “The Baron”. This is doubly concerning because Old Strathcona is a provincially designated historic area. The proposed tower is over the four story allowed height in Old Strathcona, but that can be vetoed by both the Province and the City if they want the development to go ahead.

Dr. Seymour Archibald came to Strathcona in 1898 to serve as one of the first medical doctors here. He built the brick construction Archibald Block in 1909 which housed several small businesses over the years. One of Edmonton’s historically significant businesses began operations there in 1912: Lebanese immigrants, John Assad and Fred Assad Morie opened a confectionary and fresh fruit wholesale store. The Archibald Block has continued to served as a location for small businesses throughout its existence.

Photo by Dane Ryksen


2. El Tovar Apartments 10029 – 114 Street

El Tovar is a modest, historic apartment building in the Oliver neighbourhood. Although the proposed development for the lot is unknown, it is likely that another high rise building will take its place.

El Tovar Apartment House was built as a two and one-half story stucco-finished building with arched front entrance, recessed arch metal light fixtures and wrought iron decorative railing; simpler but echoing in some ways the design of the El Mirador Apartments. Built in 1934 in the midst of the economic recession that began in 1929, the El Tovar Apartment House is significant for its association with the changing housing demands of the time. Edmonton’s population was increasing due to the large number of people moving to the city in search of work. The construction of the El Tovar Apartment House was in response to the need for affordable accommodations in close proximity to the city core.

Photo by Marlena Wyman

It is always preferred if we are able to sketch on site, but otherwise we can sketch from photos and indicate that.


Another opportunity to hone our architectural sketching skills!

Posted by Marlena Wyman

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Sister City Sketch, March 13, 2021

Our theme for March is Historic Buildings, and for our Sister City Sketch with Calgary Urban Sketchers this week, we sketched a historic structure of our choice. It didn’t have be in danger of imminent demolition, and it didn’t have to have a heritage designation – just a historic structure that appealed to us or one that we’ve always loved. Lots of great sketches came in!

For this coming week, we will be gathering for our first sketch-out of the year (Covid-modified) to sketch the historic horse barn on the University of Alberta Farm on Saturday March 20 from 11am to 1pm. This is a sketch from your vehicle event. If you are not able to join us, you may come on your own at another time or sketch from a photograph (indicate this with your sketch). It would be great to see everyone – from a safe distance!

Go here to see Calgary Urban Sketchers’ beautiful Sister City Sketches of the historic Eau Claire & Bow River Lumber Co. and other historic building sketches on their blog.

Here are Edmonton Urban Sketchers inspired historic sketches for this past week:

The Bennett Center by Sarah Lee

“Today’s historic structure: The Bennett Center in Cloverdale. My first time sketching outside since the fall. It’s been too long.”

The Bennett Environmental Education Centre on 97 Ave and 94 St began as the Bennett School, built in 1913 in the Cloverdale neighbourhood of Edmonton, and named after Strathcona’s first mayor and early school trustee Thomas Bennett.

Old Molson Brewery by Lorie Taylor Leech

“A success story. The old Molson Brewery conversion now is The Brewery District and houses businesses – a district now as others were built around it. This view from 121 Street (N of 104 Ave) is great to sketch. March 14, 2021. Graphite. Ljtl. Grey day into evening so photo blued.”

The Molson Brewery was originally built in 1913 as the Edmonton Brewing and Malting Company. It was designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2015.

Westminster Apartments by Karen Boschee

“Westminster Apartments elegant pre-WW1 lodgings. Designed in Edwardian style using fancy brick work along the facade. Built in 1912. One of the first apartment buildings in Edmonton located on 100th Ave and 114 St. A desirable location for affluent and prominent Edmontonians. Shadows of the big old elms were being cast on the building when I was there in the late afternoon.”

Gibbard Block by Brent Baim

“Gibbard Block in my neighborhood of historic Highlands from google earth drive by.”

The Gibbard Block was built in 1913 on 64 St and 112 Ave in the Highlands neighbourhood of Edmonton as an apartment building. It was restored in 2018 by Sparrow Capital and now houses restaurants and commercial space.

Sketches of Oliver Crossing by Marlena Wyman

“A sad story of upcoming demolition. These are solid historic brick buildings and they are the last two structures from the railyards era that dominated our downtown streetscape for almost a century. The buildings are at 111 St and 104 Ave in Oliver Crossing. Now nothing will remain to commemorate this important era. I sketched one of these today and the two others in 2019.”

Hangar 11 by Marlena Wyman

For a bit of balance to my other post, here is a good news story. I made this sketch in 2019 when Hangar 11 was in imminent danger of demolition. Concerned citizens managed a stay of demolition. Just recently, the City drafted a sales agreement to sell the hangar to Archituer Inc., with a heritage designation proviso. The developer will be maintaining the historical integrity of the building in their design.

Built in 1942 on the NE corner of Blatchford Field (later Municipal Airport), Hangar 11 is one of only two remaining WWII-era hangars there. It was built in partnership with the US Air Force and served a vital function in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during the war. It was an airport in the Northwest Staging Route and helped move American bombers, fighters and transport planes though to Alaska and the Soviet Union, in what became a crucial program in the Allied war effort.

Rutherford House by Aeris Osborne

“Rough sketch for Garneau Rutherford House. One of the 12 YEG Old House Paintings project.”

Rutherford House garden by Aeris Osborne

“Sharing Garneau Rutherford House summer garden. Work in progress”

Rutherford House, on the NE edge of the University of Alberta campus, was built in 1911 for Dr. Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Alberta’s first premier, serving from 1905 to 1910. This elegant house was almost demolished in 1966. After public outcry, the house was saved and restored to its former glory. It was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1979 and is now a museum.

Mill Creek Bridge by Karen Wall

“The historic Mill Creek bridge on 82 Ave.”

This bridge carries vehicle traffic over Edmonton’s Mill Creek Ravine. There are another 5 historic pedestrian bridges that traverse the nature trails of Mill Creek Ravine Park in the Ritchie/King Edward Park area of the ravine. This peaceful oasis was once threatened. In the 1960s, Edmonton’s Transportation Department proposed a freeway connecting Cloverdale and downtown through the west side of the ravine, under 82nd Ave, curving through 91st St, through Argyll to reach the QE 2 highway. Opposition from community leagues, the head of parks and recreation, and individuals halted the destruction.

Stovel Block by Yvonne Rezek

“The Stovel Block on 97 street was in the news this week. I drive past it all the time and it’s looked rundown for quite a while, so I was pleased to find that it is being renovated to provide transitional housing for women. An historic building being repurposed. Yay! Sketched on my iPad from a CTV photo.”

The Stovel Block at 97 St and 103a Ave was built in 1912 as a commercial building for local businesses. It was built by James Stovel and his wife Mary, one of the first hardware merchants in Edmonton. It was saved from demolition in 2018 by designation as a Municipal Historic Resource, and Gather Co. will be repurposing it to bring this housing initiative to the community.

Houses in Riverdale by Yvonne Rezek

“My neighborhood, Riverdale, is gradually filling up with large, modern housing, replacing many of the modest, one-story family homes built in the earlier part of the last century. But there are still a number of these old homes still hanging in, like these three that look like old friends. Sketched on location on my iPad with minimal touch ups at home (trees again, and that enormous tree stump on the right).”

Riverdale is a one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Edmonton, near the North Saskatchewan River and Edmonton’s downtown.

Juneau House by Julie Daly

“Juneau House , 1890. Home of Michif Institute, Metis Living Museum in St. Albert.”

Built in 1890, Juneau House is St. Albert’s oldest residence. The house is named after its first owners—brothers Edmund and Frank Juneau. Edmund married Marie Beauchemin, a Blackfoot woman from Montana, and worked as a farmer and schoolboard trustee. Frank was a carpenter and trader. In 2004, Juneau House became Senator Dr. Thelma J. Chalifoux constituency office. As the first Métis woman appointed to the Senate of Canada, she established the Michif Cultural Institute in Juneau House as a Métis cultural centre. 

Sketch by Pamela St Laurent

“Collapsed house behind trees.”

Sketch by Debbie Ha

“Not really historic…. we went to Edmonton nut and bolt and this is someone’s garage across Argyle St that I could see and sketch from the parking lot. There was a weathered red fence and lovely mottled moss creeping over the grey roof.”

Sketch by Abha Hoedl

“I didn’t get to sketch a heritage building but I did sketch what I saw outside my hotel in Jasper this weekend. It was lovely to get away.”

Posted by Marlena Wyman

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Sketch from your vehicle – U of a Farm Barn

Our first sketch-out of the year! (Covid-modified). We will be gathering to sketch the historic horse barn on South Campus on Saturday Match 20 from 11am to 1pm.

The horse barn is located on the University of Alberta Farm on 118 Street south of 60 Ave across from the Green & Gold Garden (see map below). You can sketch from your vehicle from the road beside the barn. If you venture out of your vehicle, please be sure to follow Covid protocols of distancing and masks.

If you are not able to join us, you may come on your own at another time or sketch from a photograph (indicate this with your sketch). We hope to see you there! 

A bit of background on the barn: The University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agriculture came into being in 1915 on the main campus. Lectures were in Pembina Hall and an animal husbandry lab was in a barn to the west of Athabasca Hall that housed a small number of cows and horses. Field test plots were grown along Saskatchewan Drive. More farm buildings were added where the Jubilee Auditorium and Stollery Hospital stand today. In 1930, five farm buildings including the horse barn and dairy barn were moved to the University Farm site, now South Campus. Other new buildings were added including the livestock pavilion, grain elevator, feed mill and seven houses for farm staff. The horse barn was moved again in 2010. Today it stands near the Green and Gold Community Garden and the Prairie Urban Farm.

Photo by Marlena Wyman

Posted by Marlena Wyman

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Ring Houses, University of Alberta

Art can be a way to bring awareness; to provide us with a new way of seeing what we thought we knew. Because there has been so much interest in efforts to save the historic Ring Houses from demolition, I have combined Urban Sketchers Edmonton’s two sets of Ring House sketches (Feb 13 and March 6) into one post here. Perhaps we can inspire others to see the beauty and value of these historic buildings, and inspire further artistic interpretations as well.

Ring Houses 2, 3 and 4 -by Jo-Anne Farley

The first Ring House was built in 1911 as faculty housing, and over the next four years another nine homes were built in a “ring” on the NW corner of the University of Alberta campus. The architects of the first four ring houses were Wilson & Herrald, also responsible for other prominent buildings such as Rutherford House and the Strathcona Public Library. Cecil S. Burgess, the University’s first and only Professor of Architecture, was the architect for the final six. In 1970, six of the Ring Houses were demolished to make way for the Windsor Car Park. The four remaining are among the oldest buildings on campus.

Ring Houses 2, 3 and 4 -by Karen Boschee

Ring House 1 was the home of the first U of A President Dr. Henry Marshall Tory and his wife Annie, and it is Canada’s oldest collegiate presidential residence in Canada. Tory initiated many innovative advances in scientific research at the university to address pressing Canadian issues such as agricultural plant diseases, aeronautics, foods, fuels, and medical disease research. He was instrumental in creating the Alberta Research Council and was the first president of the National Research Council.

Ring House 1 by Marlena Wyman

Ring House 1 served as housing for the first five presidents of the university from 1912 until 1959. It then became a residence for female students, and beginning in 1971 it served as the University Art Gallery and Museum, and until recently was also the Museums and Collections Services offices.

The art works of internationally significant Canadian artists such as the Masters work of U of A grads Janet Cardiff & George Bures Millar, and the U of A post-graduate work of ground-breaking indigenous artist Carl Beam, were exhibited at the Ring House Gallery.

Ring House 2 by Karen Dee

Ring House 2 was the home of William Muir Edwards, the first professor of engineering and son of Henrietta Muir Edwards of the Famous Five. He helped nurture the beginnings of the university’s outstanding sport legacy. He was instrumental in ending a typhoid outbreak in 1910, and died at the age of 39, a victim of the 1918 flu.

Ring House 2 by Janet E Smith
Ring House 2 by Yvonne Rezek
Ring House 2 by Brent Baim

Between 1924 and 1936, Ring House 2 was home to the first electrical engineering professor and then head of the Electrical Engineering Department, Hector MacLeod and family. In the 1960s, Ring House 2 was home to Maury Van Vliet, the renowned first Dean of the Faculty of Physical Education who began teaching in the Department of Physical Education in 1945.

The offices of the University of Alberta Press were housed in Ring House 2 from 1999 to 2020.

Ring House 3 by Marlena Wyman

Ring House 3 served as the Department of Elementary Education Kindergarten in 1969, and is one of the oldest buildings on North Campus.

Mel Hurtig’s Canadian Encyclopedia was developed in Ring Houses 3 and 4.

Ring Houses 3 and 4 housed greats like Adolph Lehmann, chemistry professor and early oil sands researcher, and William Kerr, professor of modern languages, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and third President of the university.

Along with Ring House 1, Ring House 4 served as part of the University Art Gallery and Museum.

Ring House 4 by Karen Dee
Ring House 4 by Janet E Smith
Ring House 4 by Karen Boschee

“Place is not a commodity and shouldn’t be treated as such. … We have created for ourselves a crisis of meaning which is tied to a crisis of value. The relationship between the intrinsic value of something and its financial value is what we have to fix. We humans have lost track of the most important thing, and the hero of the story is a little thing called community.” Zita Cobb

Background to date: A moratorium on the demolition has been requested by concerned citizens so that time can be allowed for adaptive reuse solutions to be formulated for the Ring Houses. Otherwise, these historic houses will be demolished in May. The university has offered the remaining four houses for sale for $1 each, with moving costs to be covered by the purchaser. However, the reality is that it may be unlikely for the houses to be successfully moved, and removal from their contextual surroundings would mean that the value of the houses as a community heritage resource would be lost.

The University of Alberta is our province’s first university, born soon after we became a province, and the Ring Houses were among its first buildings. It is important to note that the Alberta government budget cuts have affected the University of Alberta more than any other post-secondary education institution in Alberta. In its annual ranking of Canada’s universities by reputation, Maclean’s magazine‘s 2020 ranking placed the U of A as 5th and 6th out of 49 for highest quality, most innovative, leaders of tomorrow, and best overall. Along with its distinguished heritage, the university’s stature as one of the best that can attract the brightest is at risk.

National Trust Canada recently added the Ring Houses to its Most Endangered Places List.

For further background, the following sources can be accessed:

An open letter and continuing petition to the U of A

Sarah Carter’s February 9 opinion piece in the Edmonton Journal

Dane Ryksen’s (Citizen Dane) February 12 Instagram post

Ellen Schoeck’s February 17 opinion piece in the Edmonton Journal

Marlena Wyman’s February 19 letter to the editor in the Edmonton Journal

David Ridley’s February 23 letter to the editor in the Edmonton Journal

Global News March 20

CTV News March 24

#savetheringhouses #yegheritage

Posted by Marlena Wyman

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