(Re)visiting Fort Edmonton Park Part II: 1905 Street

Last time: (Re)visiting Fort Edmonton Park Part I: 1920s Street

Fire Station Red Brick, Red Engine:  This building is one of the reasons that the man who interprets the police officer on 1905 street is often mistaken for a fireman.  The interpreter this past summer kept a running tally of how many time he was mistaken for a fireman over the course of the season, and it was in the hundreds.

The Lost Kids.  When we were small kids my brother and I crawled into one of the sections of the building that was roped off to prank our mom and hide.  We didn’t always consider the rules…  or the angry mother… or the angry interpreters…”

God Save the King

God Save the King:  The Canadian flag in 1905.  Until the 1930s or 1940s, there was no separate Canadian citizenship.  All “Canadians” were British citizens and subjects.  Canadian patriotism really meant Imperial patriotism, at least in English Canada.

Happy Dominion Day!  Since English Canada started out as a British colony, the Union Jack was our flag until well into the 1900’s.  I don’t recall ever seeing the flag placed here before so I’m assuming that it was part and parcel of the holiday decorations.”

The Fifteen Year Long Streetcar Ride

The 15 Year Long Streetcar Ride: The streetcars run the uninterrupted lengths of both 1905 Street and 1920s Street.  Once in my final year at the park, while riding the streetcar on 1920s Street in my lipstick and short 1920s-style dress, the driver didn’t stop for me even after I dinged the bell and I was taken on to 1905 street entirely by accident.  How embarrassing, inadvertent time travel!  “Time warping”, as it is called (defined as going onto a street in an inappropriate costume), is a cardinal sin amongst costumed interpreters.  To make the situation worse, I was with my junior volunteer at the time, which is just setting a bad example! Then, of course, the streetcar stops in front of Reed’s Bazaar on 1905 street and who should get on but the interpreter portraying Constable Decoteaux, the police officer, who saw me, grinned, and started to “berate” me for being improperly dressed.  I had to promise to wash the makeup off of my face right away.  He let me off with a good-natured warning – we were actually joking, though it was kind of embarrassing at the time.  Luckily, when we finally disembarked, safely on 1920s street, when women had the right vote and it was almost socially acceptable to wear makeup noticeably in public again, I just barely escaped being caught coming from 1905 street by a supervisor.

 “Stepping out into 1905.  This was taken from inside the Fire Hall.”

Where There's No Smoke...

Where There’s No Smoke, There’s No Need for a Fire Truck: 1905 street technically covers the time period between the arrival of the railroad (1891?) to the beginning of the First World War (1914). This fire engine is from the tail end of that time period, if not the late 1910s. Incidentally, Fort Edmonton staff have excellent fire safety training due to the common use of fires on site in fire pits, fire places, and wood burning stoves for cooking and heating.  We always get a few alarms every year, though, where the (modern) firemen are called on site whether because a visitor thinks it’s funny to pull one of the many fire alarms (a ticketable offence) or because one of our fires gets too smoky and sets one off.  We haven’t had ant serious incidents involving fire, though, as far as I am aware.  Knock on wood.


 Sunshade:  Some of the streets can get quite brutally hot during the summer as the sunlight reflects off of the boardwalk. 1885 street is more forested and so get more shade, but there’s no such luck in many other areas of the park.  I’m sure that the underside of our chins get tanned as well from the reflected sunlight.

 “Yes, I used this in Capture the Colour.”

Learn Your Lesson Well

 Learn Your Lessons Well:  I don’t think you have the orientation of that “D” written properly.  Unless, I suppose this is only half of an algebraic equation?

That potbelly stove is not likely one of the ones in use.  In the last decade, the City of Edmonton revamped its fire codes and now many of the stoves on site that are actually used – generally for cooking – have to accord to new safety regulations, which involve things like metal pans being placed underneath the legs and so on, and several of the artifact stoves were deemed in need of replacement because they were too old.  (That is kind of the point, in our minds.) For a whole summer, the park couldn’t afford to replace them all, so they remained unused, though now each street has slowly caught up to fire regulations and the smell of cooking, baking, and burning wood can be found in the air again.  Fort Edmonton Park staff are trained in fire safety and are not allowed to leave fires unattended.

“Ancient iPad.  I was going to make a remark about the desks but they actually look pretty comparable to some of the desks in the older classrooms at the U of A.”

Listen to Teacher

Listen to Teacher: The school house programs terrified me as a child.  Coming to the park as a visitor  when I was in elementary school, I didn’t understand that the “teachers” were acting and I just thought they were mean for threatening to make me kneel on grain or stand in a corner facing the wall if I didn’t behave as a student.  There is a certain similarity in the programming at school houses at various sites.

“Things you won’t find in a modern classroom.  1.  A Child’s Bible Reader.  2.  Kerosene lamps.  3.  Is that a just a stick to point at things on the blackboard or, you know, spare the rod spoil the child?”

Hornet's Nest

The Hornet’s Nest: “Tent City” – such an interesting site of interpretation!  These were homeless people, yes, but homeless people in a housing boom who would otherwise be middle class.  Apparently some of these tents would even have such things as pianos and full sized bedframes in them!  These tents, along with the teepees, have to betaken down every winter, lest the canvas get mouldy.

New Wallpaper

New Wallpaper:  Rutherford House was refurbished a few years ago with more authentic wallpaper and artifact displays than before!  It looks so posh now!  Previously, the wallpaper was fine, if a bit tired looking, but much research was done to make sure that the wallpaper matched as closely as possible what had actually been on the Rutherford’s walls.  In the earlier years of the park – the 1970s and 1980s – the site was growing so quickly that they didn’t always have enough time to do all the research that they really wanted to, to make sure that the buildings were being restored as “accurately” as possible to a certain time period.   This is also the first of two houses constructed by Premier Alexander Rutherford.  The second still stands and is also an interpretive site – and tea shop! – on the University of Alberta Campus on Saskatchewan Drive.  The second house is more typically Edwardian in style, but the first house is much more quintessentially Victorian in its fussy, busy décor.  

“European staircase.  Ok, so they’re Canadian stairs but they’re so small that they always remind me of the little staircases the you find in places like St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The Rutherford house is one of my favourite houses at the park.  It just feels like people still live there.  I’ve also been to the other Rutherford house on the U of A campus – both Lauren and I were students there so it became a rather familiar site.”

Fine Teas

Fine Teas etc.:  Behind these buildings is Gyro Park, which is a playground that was originally meant to be on 1920s Street.  Playgrounds became more and more popular after this time period because of the preoccupation with physical exercise during the First World War.  However, the donors who helped make  Gyro Park happen wanted it to be placed on 1905 street, which was more developed, than the rather empty-looking 1920s street.  (Uh, you have to start building up 1920’s street sometime?)  Technically, interpreters in 1920s street can wander in behind 1905 street to make use of the “Memorial Park” with the fountain for programs like picnics and weddings.  (The “Memorial Park” is of course dedicated to the memory of the men who died during the Great War, which occurred after 1905 street’s time span.)


Auto-Camping?  I am unfamiliar with this program, but it may have come out of the auto-camping program in some way.  The vehicle on the left is the 1915 International Harvester and is considered accurate enough to drive on 1905 street.  George the mechanic really enjoys driving it, though it’s very tricky to start.  The area in behind these interpreters, by the greenhouse, is a grey area between 1905 and 1920s streets, and is used on occasion by both for programming, though never at the same time.  

“Interpreters interpreting.  Another example of the Park’s interpreters.  Again, they just really contribute to the overall ambiance of their respective street.”


New Modern Streetscape: (a leap back in time to look in on 1920s Street again)  This corner looks far busier this year than it was in my first year at the park in 2009!  The Capitol Theatre hadn’t yet been constructed, and now it adds quite a bit to the look and feel of the street.  Edmonton in 1920 was much more bustling and metropolitan than is portrayed so far at the park!2013 was also the first season in which the jewelry store and optometrist office on the right hand side of the theatre was not just a façade but an actual interpretive space. I didn’t get to see it or interpret in it when I worked on 1920s Street in the summer of 2012.

Sun Drugs was also one of my favourite places to interpret because it gave me the chance to talk about not only the history of medicine, but also the history of photography and the history of hygiene and beauty standards, which were all undergoing fascinating changes during the 1920s.

Peonies Peonies Peonies

Peonies, Peonies, Peonies:  This garden doesn’t look big, but trust me, it takes a lot of work to weed and tend every season.  It’s so worth it, though.  The peonies themselves could be considered artifacts; they’re grown from split roots from plants that were sold in the Silver Heights Peony Garden (the one represented in miniature form here) prior to its closure in the 1940s.  Some of them could theoretically be over eighty or ninety years old.  They also get gigantic.  For a few days on 1920s street when I was there I cut a whole whack of these flowers and distributed them throughout carious buildings in gigantic vases.  A few people have pictures of me almost overwhelmed under a mountain of peony flowers.  Some of the blooms are bigger than my head.

White Picket Fence

White Picket Fence:  St. Anthony’s: one of several churches on site, though this one also has a schoolhouse.  It hosts plays like the Gift of the Magi during Christmas programming in December.  I’m sure interpreters in 1905 street have many interesting stories to tell about this building, but I am not privy to many of them.

Parade Through Time

Parade Through Time:  Fun fact: at one point, some of the higher ups at Fort Edmonton proposed doing a daily parade of all of  the interpreters, sometime at the end of opening hours.  It, uh, didn’t become a daily event.  We save it for special occasions – and for when there are enough staff in costume to make it really, really impressive.  Were they singing “the Maple Leaf Forever” and “God Save the King/Queen”?  If not, I am disappointed!

Parade through time.  In honour and celebration of ‘Dominion Day’ there was a parade through the park at noon.  Costumed interpreters and visitors alike!  They sang “God Save the King” or “God Save the Queen” depending on the street they were on.  Oooh and would you look at that!  We even came up with the same title!”

Parade Through Time II

Parade Through Time II:  Parades like these are the only official condoned instances of “time warping”, when costumed interpreters from one era stray onto the streets of another time period.  The only other time this occurs is under very specific conditions limited to first aid emergencies, a few programs involving (usually male) interpreters who have costumes that can pass for another time period’s (e.g., George the mechanic from 1920s street driving one of the older cars onto 1905 street.), and the last fifteen minutes of the last work day in August, when interpreters from all eras storm the Midway and ride the carousel as one last hurrah before we all say goodbye… though that may not be condoned, actually.  Shh.

“Back to the… Not future.  Another parade shot including a view of another older version of the Canadian flag.  In all honesty, the parade was nothing huge or singularly spectacular.  It was just right though, in that it added perfectly to the feeling that this was a special day.”

Gentle Giants

Gentle Giants: I always forget how big the draft horses are when I see them at a distance.  Then I get close and I realize that my head jut about reaches their nose and that if they tried to push me over there’s probably nothing I could do to stop them.  Generally, though, they are sweethearts who put up with a lot of tourists taking photographs of them.

Big Scary Giant Animals.  Confession: I’m scared of horses.  I’ve been kicked, bitten and bucked off by horses in the past so I don’t like them much.  So, I basically took this picture and ran.  Yes, I know they’re behind big sturdy fences and tame; never said my fear was rational.  Anyways, I still think they’re beautiful creatures to look at so I really did want a good picture.  Ha.  How different could our titles be?”

Other Parts in this Series

Related Posts On Costumed Historical Interpretation and Fort Edmonton:


4 thoughts on “(Re)visiting Fort Edmonton Park Part II: 1905 Street

  1. Even though the Saskatchewan Drive Rutherford house is much grander, I prefer the one on 1905 street – the Edwardian architecture is so dark!

    I’ve seen the auto-camping program near the Penny Arcade, and also on the porch of the Firkins or Rutherford house, although it’s just a pile of suitcases and trunks there – no car. The black box on the table is a camera (a Brownie, I think) which the interpreter let me handle. It has two viewfinders – one for portrait, one for landscape – that you look into at arm’s length, rather than putting your eye up to them. Neat.

    1. I think that both of the houses Rutherford had built are interesting in different ways. I do like the simple but elegant lines of the Edwardian style after the clutter of the Victorian era, but there’s something to be said for excellent wallpapers!

      I really also like the simplicity of Brownies. I get a kick out of seeing photographs of photographers “shooting from the hip” with them! As you say, they’re not held up to the face. The little viewfinder squares/bulbs are really nifty to look through.

  2. Pingback: (Re)visiting Fort Edmonton Park Part III: 1885 Street | History Research Shenanigans

  3. Pingback: (Re)visiting Fort Edmonton Park Part IV: the 1846 Fort and the return to 2013 | History Research Shenanigans

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s