A moment in history: July 3, 1969

A moment in history: July 3, 1969

· The Pulse

On this day in 1969, Edmonton's other Rutherford house was being moved to a new location.

Many people are familiar with Rutherford House, the striking brick mansion on the University of Alberta campus that was once the home of Alexander Rutherford, the first premier of Alberta. But fewer know that two of the former premier's homes are historic sites in Edmonton.

Alexander Rutherford first visited Edmonton in 1894. He was a successful and prominent lawyer from Kemptville, Ontario, near Ottawa. In Edmonton, Rutherford found a growing settlement that promised professional opportunity. The dry climate was also much kinder to Rutherford's bronchitis. Ten months after his first visit, Rutherford moved here permanently. His wife and children rode the train to join him shortly after this, although they were apparently less enthusiastic about the move (perhaps they didn't have bronchitis).

Rutherford didn't waste time. Less than two weeks after moving to Edmonton, he set up a law practice, bought land, and started building a new home. The structure was a modest, one-storey house with an attached kitchen, built at 87 Avenue and 104 Street. For a while, Rutherford was the only lawyer in Edmonton. In addition, he was active in a lot of community groups, including a football club, an agricultural society, and the South Edmonton School Board. He also expanded into other businesses, including mining for gold.

Over time, Rutherford's prominence in the community grew, and so did the family's home. In 1899, the Rutherford family added a second storey to the house. By 1905, they expanded the house once again, adding a maid's room.

That year, 1905, was when Alberta became a province and Rutherford was elected as the first premier, representing the Alberta Liberal Party. As premier, Rutherford built the foundations for Alberta's future. During his time in office, railways were expanded, the legislature was established, and he helped choose Edmonton as the provincial capital. But if there was one priority that topped Rutherford's list it was education. During his term, the number of schools across the province more than doubled. Rutherford also led the creation of the University of Alberta and served as its first chancellor.

In 1910, Rutherford resigned as premier following allegations of a sweetheart deal for the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway, although he remained a member of the legislature. In 1911, the family moved from their first home into their better-known residence on the campus of the university that Rutherford helped establish.

Rutherford died in 1941. By the late 1960s, the two Rutherford houses were on very different paths. The 1911 mansion at the university had spent a few decades as a frat house and was facing demolition to make way for an expanding campus. Meanwhile, an anonymous donation meant that Rutherford's first house was moved to Fort Edmonton Park, where it was restored and became the focal point of the then-new park's 1905 Street. This year, Fort Edmonton Park celebrates its 50th anniversary as home to the original Rutherford House, as well as many other artifacts from early Edmonton.

This clipping was found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse of @VintageEdmonton.