To see all that Fort Edmonton Park has to offer, please download our map by clicking the link at right or, see a full list of the site properties and a brief summary of their history below. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the park.
A fort built on fashion
In the 1800s, every respectable European gentleman sported a shiny felt top hat. These hats were a status symbol, the height of fashion, and luckily for Edmonton, made from beaver pelts. It was this demand for beaver pelts that prompted the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish a trading post called Edmonton House in 1795. The sole purpose of the post was to trade European goods to the local Cree, Blackfoot and other Aboriginal people in exchange for valuable beaver pelts.
By 1846, Fort Edmonton was the most important Hudson’s Bay Company post west of the Red River Settlement at Fort Garry (near modern Winnipeg). The Fort not only traded furs, but produced goods and supplied other smaller posts. The population of Edmonton House varied according to the season, but generally visitors could find approximately 110 men, women and children taking residence.
Each spring, the men at the Fort would stock the York Boats with ninety-pound bales of pelts.
Joined by boats from other posts, the “brigades” would paddle through swift, freezing currents to Hudson Bay. There, they loaded the furs onto ships that sailed back to England. After a brief stay, the men would reload their boats with trade goods to replenish the post trade store and begin their long journey back to Edmonton.
While at the Fort you can:
- Explore the Fort from top to bottom, from bunkhouse and stables to the Indian House filled with furs and goods for trade.
- See the giant York boats and find out how they were made.
- Watch a demonstration of the fur press.
- Play traditional Aboriginal games.
- Visit a Cree encampment and learn about trading furs for goods.
|1. MAIN ENTRANCE
This gate, perhaps more appropriately referred to as the ‘trading gate’, would have opened south towards the North Saskatchewan River, with a path leading down to the river ford. The impressive entrance, flanked by two bastions, had a second set of gates that could be closed during trading to ensure the privacy of the non-commercial areas of the post, guiding aboriginal traders to the TRADE HOUSE.
|2. WEST GATE
In the 1846 Fort’s original location, this gate would have opened East in the direction of what is now Rossdale. It’s proximity to the Gentlemen’s Horse Yard led it to being used as a departure point for horse-mounted expeditions, both for pleasure and business. This gate may have been more likely to be used by Company personnel and their families than the ‘main gate.’
|3. TRADE HOUSE
Trade took place here between the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and Aboriginal traders. This building includes a trade room, trade store, warehouse and a loft for fur storage.
|4. COURTYARD & FUR PRESS IN COURTYARD
Often the scene of lively activity including welcome ceremonies for Aboriginal traders, fur packing, food processing and loading of supplies. The Fur Press was said to pack dried pelts and hides for shipment to the Hudson Bay by York boats.
|5. ROWAND HOUSE
This impressive residence was built in 1842 for John Rowand, Chief Factor of the HBC’s Saskatchewan District.
|6. COLUMBIA HOUSE
Used as layover quarters by the HBC’s Columbia District brigade on their annual journey to and from York Factory. Currently used as washroom facilities.
From this tower, the men at the Fort could view surrounding vegetable gardens and crops, and watch for approaching Aboriginal and mixed-blood traders, York boat brigades, hunting and work parties, and other occurrences in the vicinity.
|8. MEAT STORE
In addition to the preparation of salt meat, sausages and buffalo tongues, dried meat and grease were processed into pemmican, a fur trade staple. All were stored in the adjoining section and in other locations within the Fort.
|9. RUNDLE HOUSE AND CHAPEL
The Hudson’s Bay Company provided this dwelling and chapel to Robert Terrill Rundle, a Wesleyan Methodist missionary, in 1843, it became his home base for the next five years.
|10. CLAY BAKE OVEN
Heated by building a fire in the cavity and subsequently scraping it out, the oven’s radiant heat baked excellent bread.
|11. BACHELORS’ HALL OR CLERKS’ QUARTERS
So called because this building, during the 1840s, contained the sleeping quarters for the company’s clerks, gentlemen visitors, a gentlemen’s mess, a great hall, the Chief Trader’s office and quarters, a kitchen, and the cook’s quarters.
|12. ICE HOUSE
With a sod roof and a deep pit filled with layers of river ice and straw, such structures preserved meat brought in by hunters or traded by Aboriginals, throughout the year.
|13. MARRIED MEN’S QUARTERS
These units were shared by the working men of the post, as well as the families of those who had proven themselves and been allowed to enter into a ‘country marriage’ with either an Aboriginal or mixed-blood woman.
|14. GENTLEMEN’S STABLE AND HORSE YARD
The personal horses of Company gentlemen, and sick or foaling horses were kept secure in this area.
|15. BOAT SHED
8 to 10 York boats were built every year at Edmonton House as their service life was short due to the harsh conditions of river travel.
|16. TRADESMEN’S QUARTERS
Tradesmen enjoyed a higher standard of living than the labour servant class, with salaries similar to those of clerks. They were afforded their own family dwellings, unlike lower-class labourers, who had to share their dwellings with 1 or 2 other families.
|17. BLACKSMITH’S SHOP
Carpentry, boat building and ironwork were all essential trades in the daily regimen of the fur trade. Repairs to traps, guns and axes, making nails, hardware for buildings and boats, tools and garden implements all required the skills of the smith.
|18. PALISADES & NATIVE CAMP
High wooden walls and formidable bastions helped secure order during trading sessions when hundreds of Aboriginal people could converge upon the fort. This Cree Camp represents a small Plains Cree group whose members, though involved with the fur trade, retain an independent existence and whose culture is a marked contrast to that of the European and mixed-blood fur traders.
|19. YORK BOAT
These heavy but reliable freight boats were the backbone of the HBC’s transportation network, plying the waterways that connected forts all the way to York Factory at Hudson Bay.
Built in 1847 in an attempt to aid farming efforts at the Fort, the windmill stood on the site of the present Legislature Building. The first miller was Métis William Bird, who processed crops of wheat, barley, and oats. Neither windmill nor farming efforts were very successful in this period, however. The Fort depended on its own hunters and fishermen, Aboriginal nations, Métis Freemen and the Red River settlement for provisions.
|22. TRADING POST
This structure is not based on any historical precedent, but serves as a retail opportunity and carries fur trade and indigenous related merchandise, as well as tickets for 1885 Street’s rides.
Fort Edmonton Foundation
The Fort Edmonton Park Adminstration office is open Monday through Friday from 9AM - 4PM.
Mailling Address: Fort Edmonton Park Box 2359 Edmonton, AB T5J 2R7
Some images above were taken from Google Street View on our property. Fort Edmonton Park claims no rights to the images included above.