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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Edmonton’s Lost Heritage: a troubling decade

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Rossdale Power Plant. Photo: Ed Kaiser

Recently, Heritage Canada listed the Rossdale Power Plant, one of the most significant heritage resources in Edmonton and Alberta, in the top ten endangered heritage sites in Canada for 2013. The reasoning for this listing can be found on Heritage Canada’s website here. Curiously, I want to bring attention to the website’s “Worst Losses” archive and the startling over representation of cases being reported from Edmonton. Aside from Toronto, Edmonton seems to stand out with regards to the number of significant heritage buildings lost to demolition and neglect within the last decade. During that time, Edmonton alone represents half the significant losses in Alberta (Lessard House 2007; Central Pentecostal Tabernacle 2008; Arlington Apartments 2009; BMO Building 2011) while Calgary has only reported one “worst loss” and the rest of the listings being grain elevators.

So, why do we observe this trend? Is there public apathy towards preservation of our history? Perhaps this is a result of boomtown mentality? Maybe Edmontonians are generally not aware of our heritage and the rich stories embedded into our built environment? Or is it simply a reporting bias? Whatever the reasons, the rate of heritage loss in Edmonton is quite disturbing. What do you think?



  1. Personally, I think you’re right that many Edmontonians don’t seem to think our city has anything worthy of saving. We have also experienced far too many years with a spendthrift city council at the helm, eager to put money down on new subdivisions to the serious neglect of our historic inner city neighbourhoods. This is something people are starting to wise up to, and I hope the election this fall continues that trend with the election of forward thinking councillors and a mayor willing to stop the sprawl and focus on density and diversification at our core. Nothing would suck more than to see Edmonton become a donut–thick and doughy around the edge and lifeless in the centre.

    At any rate, it’s fabulous news that the Rossdale plant is getting recognition as a heritage site. I have high hopes for the area and would love to see it turned into a Granville Island-esque area, with eateries, markets, shops, and art spaces to complement both the existing beauty and attraction of the River Valley and that of the power plant itself!

  2. I suspect that part of the reason may stem from the fact that Edmonton (in the grand scheme of things) is a young city. This is not to say that Edmonton doesn’t have a history but that most Edmontonians have relatively shallow roots; many arriving from out of town seeking employment during “boomtimes”.

    In short, Edmonton (this city that I love) has an identity crises.