Fort Edmonton Park on the banks of the North Sask river in Edmonton Alberta.
Fort Edmonton Park is an attraction in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Named for the first enduring European post in the area of modern-day Edmonton, the park is the largest living history museum in Canada by area. It includes both original and rebuilt historical structures representing the history of Edmonton (including that of post-horse Aboriginals), and is staffed during the summer by costumed historical interpreters.
The history of Fort Edmonton Park’s conception goes back as far as 1915. In that year, the remains of the old fort next to the Alberta Legislature Building were torn down, amidst opposition from citizens who wished to see the old structures relocated so that they could be cherished for their heritage value. A renewed interest after the Second World War began the momentum that saw the park begin construction in 1969 under the direction of the Fort Edmonton Foundation.
The Foundation’s Master Plan of 1968 envisioned a park that would present a cross-section of the Edmonton area’s history from the distant geological past, to the areas that it currently embodies, and even an area that would prophesy Edmonton’s future. This original plan speculated that the completed park would be spread over ten phases. By 1987, however, it became clear that the park had evolved incompatibly with the ambitious 1968 plan, and the Master Plan was amended to focus instead on the four sections that had materialized to date.
The fort was the first portion of the park to open in 1974, originally accessible directly by road. 1885 Street opened by the late 1970s, followed by 1905 Street in the early 1980s, and then 1920 Street by the beginning of the 1990s. A working steam train has transported visitors from the park’s entrance to the fort since 1977. Each street was opened as a work in progress, and the latest version of the park’s development plan calls for still more additions, especially to 1920 Street.
As of 2008, Fort Edmonton Park is made up of four sections, each representing an era, all spread over 158 acres (0.639 km2). The park is located along the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River in southwestern Edmonton. The first era is represented by the fort of 1846, followed by 1885 Street, 1905 Street, and 1920 Street. Visitors may board a fully functional steam train at the park’s entrance which transports them across the length of the park to the fort, from which they proceed on foot and abstractly move forward through time by visiting all four eras.
Aside from the train, visitors may also ride horse-drawn carriages, streetcars, and automobiles in the appropriate eras. Rides on the train and streetcars are free with admission; however, rides on horse-drawn vehicles typically require a fee, and rides in the automobiles are at the discretion of the park staff who drive them.
From May long weekend through to Labour Day, and Sundays in September, visitors may also interact with costumed historical interpreters. These personnel utilize a variety of techniques to reveal the lifestyles and attitudes of the era that they represent. Additionally, throughout the year, public tours may be booked with non-costumed interpreters.