Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary, Alberta brings history to life
with historic buildings, working antiques and costumed interpreters
Heritage Park Historical Village, an accredited museum spread over 127 acres in Calgary, Alberta, recounts history through a collection of reconstructed and original buildings, interpreters and displays. Original buildings have been moved from other parts of the province and restored. Signs outside the buildings provide information about their origin and history. Inside, rooms are decorated in period style. Costumed interpreters contribute to the old-time ambiance and provide information. The park’s attractions span Western Canadian history from the 1860s to the 1950s in four main areas of the park.
1900s Living Historical Village
The 1900s Historical Village comprises the largest section of the park. It contains assorted businesses, community buildings and residences.
By 1900, western farmers were delivering grain to more than 450 elevators. The elevator agent graded, weighed and determined the moisture content of the grain to determine the price to be paid to the farmer before dumping the grain into the “pit”. The pole the interpreter is holding in the above photo was stuck into loads of grain to probe to the bottom and confirm the load was all grain and that there was not something else at the bottom added to increase the weight.
I asked the interpreter about her costume, a dress which seemed to be modelled after a North-West Mounted Police uniform. She spoke of her desire to join the force, expressing certainty the Police would very soon start accepting women as police officers. In actuality, that didn’t happen until 1974.
It’s the many details within and without the buildings that give a feeling of authenticity. I was impressed with the flowers planted in front of houses. These were the type of plants one would expect to see in this time period.
There is much more to see than what I’ve highlighted. There are other homes, a laundry, a café, a bakery, a snooker parlour, a dairy barn, an opera house, a railway car shop, a hospital, a bank, a post office, police barracks and assorted shops. Wagon rides are available as are boat rides on the Glenmore Reservoir.
1880s Pre-Railway Settlement
The modest log Gleichen School House was built in 1888 by Victor Beaupre and donated to the town of Gleichen. Like many rural schools, it did not have formal grades or exams. Students worked through a series of readers and primers. When I went into the school house, I saw a young boy and girl at one of the desks talking with the teacher-interpreter about those old school days. The boy was surprised to learn the students studied history because they were part of history. The teacher-interpreter told him the students would have learned older history. He was also curious about how all ages and grade levels co-existed in the one room, asking if different desk groupings were used for different grades. The teacher-interpreter told him that would have been the case, although that might vary a bit depending on the numbers of children at each age level.
1860s Fur Trading Fort and First Nations Encampment
In the latter part of the seventeenth century, European demand for furs attracted trading companies to North America. At Hudson’s Bay Company forts, aboriginals of many tribes exchanged furs for a variety of European-manufactured goods.
When I entered the fort living quarters, a group of girls dressed in aproned dresses and white bonnets, styles from the 1800s, were finishing up a craft. Their leader beckoned her “time travellers” outside for lunch. I asked about the group and learned that Heritage Park has a variety of summer camp programs for children aged six to fourteen, ranging from day camp experiences to week-long overnight camps.
Heritage Town Square and Gasoline Alley Museum
Heritage Town Square is located before the Park gates and does not require admission. The square contains five shops, a café, a restaurant and a park. Every Wednesday evening during July and August, Heritage Town Square hosts free concerts.
Gasoline Alley Museum contains automobile memorabilia dating from the turn of the 20th century to the 1950s. Local businessman Ron Carey donated the items.
Heritage Park Town Square and Gasoline Alley Museum are open year-round. The rest of the park is open from mid-May to early-October. In those summer months, admission to Gasoline Alley Museum is included with the entrance to the rest of the park. In the winter, there is a separate entrance fee for the Museum.
Some but not all of the buildings are wheelchair accessible. The map you receive with your entrance identifies which buildings are wheelchair accessible as well as listing activities of the day. Although all sections of the park are accessible on foot, a railway running through the Park has five station stops to help you get from one area to another.
With over 180 exhibits and attractions, expect to spend the better part of a day at Heritage Park Historical Village. There are restaurant facilities as well as an ice cream store, a candy store selling a large selection of old-fashioned treats, and a bakery offering bread, buns and cookies. There are also several places to sit and picnic if you prefer to bring your own lunch.
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