HISTORY

Rossdale end on squa#B6933B

The entire Rossdale power plant site is imbued with deep history. According to the Spirit of Edmonton proposal by Lewis Cardinal and the Indigenous People’s Arts and Culture Coalition (IPACC), “Edmonton was born at Rossdale Flats as a gathering place for Indigenous peoples 8,000 to 10,000 years before Europeans came.” It was a “pehonan,” or waiting place, and a centre of trade, celebration, and ceremony. It was also here that settlers arrived and met with First Nations groups, and then built the Hudson’s Bay outpost, Fort Edmonton. This area was the original site of the fort, and of its cemetery. This was also the site on which Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier officially designated the province of Alberta, on September 1, 1905. Much work has been done to recognize the significance of this site. One such project was the comprehensive Rossdale Historical Land Use Study.

Architecturally speaking, the Rossdale power plant is unique in Edmonton. Designed by Maxwell Dewar, an award-winning architect and the president of the Alberta Architects Association, the power plant reflects the warm, elegant style of early-twentieth-century American industrial design, as well as the art deco style popular in that period. Reminiscent of a steamship, the power plant is a sophisticated structure and iconic element in our city’s skyline.

Constructed between 1931 and 1954, the power plant was expanded six times in 22 years to accommodate changing technology and Edmonton’s growth. Each expansion, therefore, tells the story of a particular technology, and of the growing demand for power in Edmonton homes, commercial and industrial buildings, schools and hospitals, streets and transit. All other power-generating buildings of this scope and size in Alberta (and most in Canada) are gone…as are the opportunities to repurpose those buildings.

Even before the current buildings were constructed, the Edmonton Electric Lighting and Power Company generated power from this site; in 1902 owner Alex Taylor sold the company to the city of Edmonton. The Rossdale power plant itself originally generated power from coal, as the seven tall stacks testify. In fact, looking at Edmonton from a satellite map, one can still see the trace of the railway line that brought coal to the site from the west, along River Valley Road. Boilers helped form the structural framework of one of the buildings, and are still intact.

Four buildings comprise the current site: the low-pressure plant (including both the large, west boiler house and the large, east turbine house), the smaller switch house (on the far east side), plus the two pumphouses. The low-pressure plant is characterized by handcrafted brickwork detail, large, open interior spaces, and high windows that provide exceptional quality of light. Pumphouse no. 1 is characterized by its classical design. More architectural details for all buildings can be found here. In 2008, the station ceased generating power, and the buildings were decommissioned between 2010 and 2012.

The Rossdale power plant is recognized nationally as one of Canada’s Historic Places, by the Heritage Canada Foundation. In 2001 it was also designated a Provincial Historic Resource.

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