Staycation, Fort Edmonton Park

Fort Edmonton Park entrance sign
Let’s have a Staycation and visit local attractions.

Our city has an attraction that follows the history of Edmonton from a Fort on the North Saskatchewan River, through until the 1920’s. The park is divided into four sections, The Fort (1844), 1885 Street, 1905 Street and 1920 Street, each with their own charm and interests. It’s a fun family outing that has things for all types of interests, well if you like history that is. It seemed like years since I had been so we decided to do a staycation trip to check it out.

Fort Edmonton started out called Edmonton House and was built in 1795 by Hudson Bay Company adjacent to the North West Company Trading house. Like most buildings along the North Saskatchewan River it was a part of the supply chain that moved goods up and down the river, mostly furs being transported to Europe.

Three years ago the tourist site closed for some much needed renovations but also to enlarge the exhibits . An indigenous pavillion was added and the 1920’s carnival was expanded to double in size. None of us knew that COVID would come, but in hind site it was a good time to be closed for revamping.

Fort Edmonton corner tower

The Fort was moved to the current site and preserved to be a Historic attraction, drawing up to 170,000 people per year.

Loading onto the century old steam train we rode through the park to the fort at the far end, choosing to walk forward through the years, starting oldest to youngest. Young is a generous term as the carnival was dated 1920 and that’s where the history stops.

Hudson Bay Blanket
Iconic Hudson Bay blanket

In the Barracks the iconic Hudson Bay Blanket is rich with history and scandal, enough for its own post. Beginning in the 1700’s it was 60% of the English trade with the Aboriginal people. It was used as bedding and currency alike. There is a specific point system way to weave the blanket and that weave, or point system is what defines its value.

It is rumoured that the English infected the blankets with small pox virus causing an epidemic which killed alot of indigenous people. but again, that is its own post.

In the old Fort there were rooms that would have held food supplies, alcohol, and dry goods. We would run to the store to purchase these, they had to wait months for these to come!

Dry good barrels
Looking into a supply barrel we found that they mixed the flour with sawdust, it kept the flour dry in transport. They sift it for using which also takes out the bugs. Hmmm? We have it pretty good now days.
Little brown jugs
Little Brown jugs show they came long before the song was made popular in 1869. Fire Water containers.
Beaver written in Cree
Using a dip pen our interpreter wrote beaver in Cree. It was fascinating as I didn’t know they had a written language. Notice the orange ribbon on his shirt which symbolizes Each Child Matters.
Cree Plaque
After touring the Fort we entered the new Indigenous Peoples pavilion, documenting history from the Indigenous point of view. I wanted to honour this so will return with more time to absorb the content. This plaque did stand out to me however.
Old crank telephone

Moving through the years we arrived in the early 20th century. It was funny to explain this was a telephone to Grandson #6. He understood the concept, fascinated with it and how communication was 100 years ago. The crazy part was my older sisters remember having a phone like this!

Entering the 1920’s street, we find it holds an ice cream parlour, fire station and even an old Edmonton Transit bus. There is the Selkirk Hotel, banks and also an operational movie theatre.

Vintage Edmonton Bus
Selkirk Hotel in Fort Edmonton
Capital Theater sing in Forst Edmonton

The Capital Theatre dates back to 1918. It isn’t the original theatre but a scaled down replica, still it was able to represent what theatres of the era were like. Currently it shows historical films which we didn’t watch this time. Perhaps we should have just to get out of the heat! We chose Ice cream floats instead, which seemed like a good 1920’s something thing to do. Yum.

Fence line with flowers

A pretty garden fence full of flowers reminded me of the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. A simpler, slower pace of life.

The final part of the attraction is the 1920’s type carnival which has a ferris wheel, carousel and carnival games. It pulls one back into imagining what life was actually like 100 years. ago.

1920's actors, a nurse and soldier
We saw a nurse take time out to help a wounded soldier enjoy the fair. The food truck takes away the time era elusion though.
Game of strength
Strength tester
Game of skill
Skill tester
Ferris wheel in Fort Edmonton
Courage tester

While this was a small Ferris wheel, one did need to trust that it wasn’t actually 100 years old and would hold us.

Carousal Mounted Police horse

During the renovations these past few years the carousal was taken apart and each horse repainted. A huge endeavour. As you can see though the end result is beautiful. These are the Mounted Police horses which are era correct as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were founded in 1920.

This was a fun day all around. And cost effective as well, a family of 6 can visit for under $100 and once you are in the park the train and all the rides are free. You are welcome to bring a lunch or purchase one at the cafe. Also the horse rides are a small fee. But there is plenty to do that is included in the admission price.

I would mark the park as a 4 out of five star attraction. The site is wonderful and has much to see and enjoy. The only down side was lack of staffing had some of the buildings and rides still closed. That could be an easy fix with more staff raising the rating to a 4.5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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