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My June sketchbook includes the subjects of heritage architecture and heritage trees and the efforts to save both. Progress and history can live comfortably side by side but it takes ingenuity and vision and the efforts of both government and citizens together. Hopefully, this will be the case here.

Urban Sketchers Edmonton are joining me in one of my goals as Edmonton’s 5th Historian Laureate: sketching Edmonton’s architectural heritage (or as much as we can!) You can see some of their inspiring sketches on our Urban Sketchers Edmonton blog.

For our second in this series of sketchouts, we sketched the historic A. Minchau Blacksmith Shop in the Ritchie neighbourhood of Edmonton. It was a clear choice because it is at risk of demolition. There has been a surge of support, including the Facebook page Save the Minchau Blacksmith Shop. It is a good example of vernacular architecture and represents the history of the regular folk of Edmonton who worked hard to support their families and help build this city. However, its fate is yet to be determined.

Heritage trees have also been in the news. The Manitoba Maple beside the First Presbyterian Church that I sketched here is thankfully not at risk, but it represents the fondness that Edmontonians have for their trees and green spaces.

The trees that citizens are concerned about are some of Edmonton’s signature elms and other mature trees that form a green canopy along Stony Plain Road where there is presently a plan for the Valley Line West LRT construction route. If the plan goes forward, over 1000 trees are at risk of destruction along with several historical buildings and residences, some of which date back to the early 1900s.

Heritage Manitoba Maple at the First Presbyterian Church, downtown Edmonton

The issue of preserving of Edmonton’s heritage and green spaces is not a new concern for Edmontonians. I am doing some archival research right now for a fall art exhibit, and I have been reading about the efforts of Gladys Reeves and the citizen-led Edmonton Tree Planting Committee. Many of the trees that grace Edmonton’s boulevards, school yards and parks were hand-planted by these publicly spirited citizens in the 1920s, keen on beautifying Edmonton and making it a lovely place to live.

Excerpt from a speech by Gladys Reeves [ca. 1925] (Provincial Archives of Alberta Acc# PR1974.173.39a)

Posted by Marlena Wyman