Monday, January 30, 2017

Nordegg, Abraham Lake and almost Crescent Falls

Abraham Lake

I live in Central Alberta, and it's not too far to some amazing natural wilderness playgrounds. I packed up the car. Camera, snacks, extra clothes, kid. I told my son (7 y/o) that he should be playing with his imagination but that didn't go over well so I also packed the iPad. When I went on road trips as a kid...we had mad libs and word games like name a place beginning with the last letter of the previously named place. I would say Alberta..then someone would say Arkansas...etc etc. Also spot the weird license plates was a good one. I also had siblings to fight with. I wish I'd had an iPad.

First stop, Nordegg. Once leaving Rocky Mountain House there is next to nothing until Nordegg. Not even cell service in certain stretches of the tree lined highway. It's beautiful and peaceful. Nordegg was a coal mining town that came to be when Martin Nordegg discovered coal in 1911 and soon started the Brazeau Collieries. The Canadian National Railway arrived in 1914. The town boomed to 3000 souls and had many amenities including a hospital, fire hall, pool hall, hotel, bank and a Trading Company. Tragedy struck the mine on October 31, 1941 when a massive explosion killed 29 miners. Declining use of coal finally did the town in and the mine closed for good in 1955. Most of the town is gone but a few buildings remain. Almost all of the processing plant buildings of the Brazeau Collieries are still standing and the area was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2002. The mine site is open in the summer month for tours. I will definitely be going back!

Main Street Nordegg - Trading Co and Bank buildings

Canadian Bank of Commerce
Provincial Archives 

Next stop, Abraham Lake.  This lake was created in 1972 with the building of the Bighorn Dam. If you google pictures you'll be amazed at the photos of the frozen methane bubbles. I was not able to get good photos of the bubbles this time around, but had a nice walk....despite the very windy conditions. Here is a link to the famous bubbles:

Last stop on 'The Road Less Travelled' is Crescent Falls. I had never been down this road and stopped at a small parking area and look out.  I assumed this was the falls but no water was flowing and could not see anything but cliffs. I found out later I had to keep going up the road to see the frozen falls. Another day I guess! This area is great for camping and hiking and general outdoorsiness and I am excited to come back in the summer!

Nordegg Church 

Abraham Lake
Crescent Falls minus the falls
Bighorn Sheep

Monday, January 23, 2017

Wood Lake School Fail and Hoar Frost

I usually have Mondays off and since I was done my errands early enough, I decided to go look for Wood Lake School.  It was not too far away and it looked like it was still there from what I could find (top secret research, remember?). I would normally take some back roads but wanted to make sure I had enough time so I took the most direct route, however with the hoar frost that has been hanging around the last couple of days, it was like an entirely different drive. Also I saw some interesting things that I hadn't seen before so today it paid off to take the road often travelled. After a couple of stops, I arrived at my destination and wouldn't you school.  I did a couple of no avail. Resigned, I gave up and headed back.

Wood Lake School
(Google Streetview)
Fast forward a few hours...You may not know this but things can quickly change in the fast paced world of blogging and as I discovered, while writing this post, I have seen the 'missing' school before and did not put 2 and 2 together. It is now part of a museum in Delburne, AB and I actually saw it earlier this month. This was a DOH moment if I've ever had one, also #facepalm. I intend to go back to the museum in the summer when they are open.

Time allowed for me to take a more leisurely way home, so I did. Occasionally while out exploring back roads I'll see a sign for a community centre, I always try to follow these.  More often than not they are old schools that were sold to the community.  Today I followed a hand made sign, nothing official (the best kind) and I found myself at the Great Bend Community Centre. It was formerly a consolidated school built in 1918 and housed grades 1-9 until it closed in 1966. Part of Wood Lake School District was included in the Great Bend consolidation. Further up the road I came across the Great Bend Cemetery.  I don't typically enter cemeteries, nothing superstitious or anything, I just take a moment and then go.  I also followed a sign for Cumberland Community Centre and found another former school, it was fenced off so I couldn't get a good look.
Great Bend Community Centre

Great Bend Cemetery Est.1904
In Memory of the Pioneers - Settlers of the
Great Bend District 1905-2000

All in all it was a pretty good day, lost a school and then found it, saw some cool buildings and abandoned places (all made more interesting by the hoar frost), and even saw some deer, a couple coyotes and a llama. I also made it home with time to spare before school let out. My work here is done.  For today.

Sources: Pioneering With a Piece of Chalk and Schools of the Parkland: NWT 1886 - Alberta 1967

Monday, January 16, 2017

Goshen United Church

They say today is Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year.  If you believe in that kinda thing. So cheer up dear reader, the days are getting longer and you woke up so it can't be all bad.

It still amazes me to see abandoned places, I am really not sure why I am fascinated with them but I am and I will drive for hours, pull over unexpectedly (safely), make u-turns (safely!) and take photos from as many angles as possible. Winter is not my favourite time to explore, snow makes it hard to pull over wherever I want and sometimes the seemingly endless white landscape doesn't make the most interesting my opinion of course. I have seen stunning winter photos but I can't take one for the life of me.  Plus getting myself or my car stuck would not be fun. I stepped off the roadside on my latest excursion and got snow over the tops of my never know what is under the snow or how deep it is.

Log church c.1925 
I recently visited Goshen United Church and Cemetery. On this quiet back roads corner sits the original log church building built in 1899 and also the 'new' church that was purchased by the congregation in 1925. The 10 year old frame church was moved from St. Albert and onto the site of the log church. The log church was moved to the corner of the yard and a large kitchen was added to it. The new larger church was used for gathering before and after dinner service in the old building. Goshen Church was registered with the Presbyterian Church and continued to serve Protestants from miles around when it became part of the United Church in 1925. The church closed it's doors in September 1958.

There was too much snow to look around the grounds (the gate was almost totally obscured by snow) but someone is looking after this old place as the covers on the windows and doors are recent. An internet search shows a photo of the churches in January 2014 and the windows and doors are not covered.

"The old order changeth, yielding place to new" Tennyson. That about sums it up.

Original log church - Provincial Archives photo c.1910
Provincial Archives photo 1935
Provincial Archives photo 1950

Resources used:

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mount Olive School and Gophers

Former Mount Olive School

As you all know, I love finding old schools. I have a very complicated system of research, mapping, government contacts and satellite......wait...I've said too much.  Just kidding, it is a system though and I can say I have found quite a few this way and helped identify others.

I was planning a road trip through the area around Three Hills, AB,  The trip also included meeting my sister in Torrington, AB to visit the World Famous Gopher Hole Museum.  This is a place you must visit at least once in your life if you are in the area.  An adequate description escapes me but basically it is a small museum of stuffed gopher dioramas.  Yes, stuffed gophers in various scenarios. If you can't make it to Alberta, check it out here:

Undated photo of Mount Olive School.  
I had learned in my 'research' that there was an old school, turned into a church near Three Hills. That's all I knew at first and I thought it might be worth a look. Mount Olive School operated from 1909-1946.  It was sold in 1953 to the Mount Olive Evangelical Free Church (who now have a newer building in the town of Three Hills). The school was moved north a 1/4 mile in 1967 and was then used as a barn. It remained on that site and was restored in 1998 to become a residence. The church was kind enough to direct me to the website for the current owner, who operates a bakery business ( She let me come take photos (yaay!) and I am so glad she did. Living in this historic home in a beautiful and peaceful country setting....sounds and looks near perfect to me.  I know I said in my last post that if  I win the lottery I'd buy a castle but I think living in a historic building might be more me.

A perfect hot summer day!

School's out!  Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sylvan Lake Historic Buildings

Sylvan Lake CNR Train Station - courtesy Sylvan Lake Archives

I have lived in Alberta my whole life and I can say with certainty that there is no other place in the province like Sylvan Lake. It's more than just the beach, the lake and nice vacation homes. There is a rich history here including a few interesting historic buildings left from the early days of Sylvan Lake. My 2 favourites are the Stone Castle and the Stone House, both are a block or 2 from the lake (a stones throw you could say!).

Stone Castle 
The Stone Castle was built in 1912 by the Archambault brothers, who were part of a group of French settlers to the area. They built the castle by hauling stones from the lake. Raymond Archambault built the castle for his bride Eugenie.  It's said that she was homesick and it was made to resemble a smaller version of her family home in Southern France.   The flat roof was used to keep goats and sheep before a barn was built. The Archambaults didn't live here long and Raymond passed away in 1918 while they were living in Montreal.  It stands empty today but has been lived in and rented out over the years.  A couple of local ladies plant flowers and a wreath has been left on the door.  Here's hoping the current owner doesn't just let it go to ruin. I always said if I win the lottery I'd buy a castle. This would be a like a starter castle, but a castle nonetheless.

Stone House
The Stone House, also built in 1912, is closer to the lake and was originally a residence and then various businesses over the years, but it is currently vacant and for sale. (I'm looking for investors, I think it would make a great tea house/book store!) At one point in 1980 it was condemned due to the old wiring but the family raised the money to have it replaced. I saw inside briefly last year and was glad to see some original woodwork and other details. The narrow steep staircase to the upper floor made me wonder how any furniture ever made it up there. It also has a dirt basement accessible from the back yard.  I spoke to a lady who worked there when it was a spa and she told me that it is haunted. She experienced strange things there that can't be explained.  The rumored spirit is a little girl who drowned years ago in the lake.  When I was there I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, it was just very empty and quiet.

Ozarks Cabin  today
These 2 stone buildings plus Holbrook Cottage, Loiselle House, Ozarks Cabin (the first cabin built), and Dingwalls Boarding House (which is currently Hazzard County Bar & Grill) have been mentioned for historical designation.

Next time you are in Sylvan Lake, take the time to visit these places and to read the plaques along Lakeshore Drive, the path by the lake and various other places around town. They have a wealth of historical information and photos from the archives, My kinda thing....I'll even show you around and finish the tour with a drink at the old Dingwalls Boarding House. Cheers!

Stone Castle and Holbrook Cottage - Sylvan Lake Archives

Courtesy of the Sylvan Lake Archives
Dingwalls Boarding House, now Hazzard County Bar & Grill

Special thanks to the Sylvan Lake Archives who answered my questions and provided me with photos and information.  Oh to have seen some of these places..especially the Dance Halls!
Cool photos and more history can be found through these links:

January 9th, 2016 **UPDATE**
The Stone House is now home to a new business called Crafted for the Home.  They sell art and craft items from local vendors.  Yours truly might have something in store soon! Stay tuned!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Ghost Signs - Winnipeg

It's 2017, let's get nutty!

Happy New Year Everyone! Today is probably my least favourite day, the Christmas decorations are down and packed away (the living room looks so booooring) and back to work tomorrow. It's also the day I look at all our Christmas cards and letters again and feel slightly bad about chucking them in the recycle bin. I picture my mother standing in the card aisle looking for the most sentimental, mushy, gushy card about what a great daughter I am and feel guilty as I toss it.  Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying one more day of whatever they want to do before it's back to work, life, school etc. 

On with the show!  Today's featured ghost signs are from Winnipeg, MB.  I spent a glorious afternoon by myself wandering around downtown Winnipeg, I was told later that was probably not the best idea but I am here to tell my tale. Winnipeg has a very picturesque downtown and I would like to get back and explore more.  

You might recognize the Nutty Club name if you're in Canada. Founded in Winnipeg in 1905 by A.E. Scott and J.L. Bathgate. They still make candy, nuts, baking items and some products under the 'Food Club' label and have warehouses across Canada. Their striped packaging and logo seems to have remained the same over the years and is a nice reminder of days gone by. I found a complex of a few buildings here but found out later that the oldest buildings are on another street and I never saw them unfortunately. The Mr. Can-D-Man logo looks like he is about to tip his hat and break into some barber shop quartet style song.  I hope he never retires and I hope to see his other buildings next time I go. Here's to another 100+ years of the Nutty Club and the Can-D-Man!

Thank for visiting!  Cheers to a happy and healthy 2017!