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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
St. Edmund's Anglican Church is a small church painted blue, with a sheet metal spire and cross, located on two lots in the northwest corner of Big Valley, overlooking the town.
The historical significance of St. Edmund's Anglican Church lies in its service to the community and district of Big Valley, and its associations with the town's history as a railway boomtown. The "blue church on the hill" is a very good example of a modestly-designed Late Gothic Revival church and is a landmark for the region.
Between 1912 and 1922, Big Valley was the major divisional point on the Canadian Northern Railway branch line between Vegreville and Drumheller. As a railway boomtown, however, Big Valley initially lacked social facilities. Church services were held in private homes or commercial buildings; for example, Catholic and Anglican services alike were sometimes held at Backstrom's Hardware Store by visiting clergy from Stettler. In 1918, a Mrs. Caroline Leffler in England offered the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary - a diocese encompassing south-central Alberta, that had attracted thousands of English emigrants - a cheque for $500 to establish a church where he felt it was most needed. The Bishop selected Big Valley, and in 1919 this simple wood frame church called St. Edmund's was erected on a hill on the west side of Main Street; the bell tower was added in 1923. After the Canadian Northern and the Grand Truck Railways became the Canadian National Railway in 1921, the use of the Big Valley-Vegreville line - and the town's population - dropped dramatically, though St. Edmund's remained in use until 1966.
St. Edmund's is also significant for its architectural design, in a simple Late Gothic Revival style, and possesses a high degree of its original historical integrity.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1788).
The heritage value of St. Edmund's Anglican Church is contained in such character-defining elements as:
- the wood frame building. The lower field is sheathed with horizontal bevel siding boards, enclosed by corner boards and terminating at the sill and eave levels in wide horizontal trim boards surmounted by wood water tables; the upper field is covered with sawn cedar shingles;
- a cruciform plan with an entrance and vestibule at the west end of the nave;
- the bell tower on the north facade of the west end of the building, with a crenellated parapet and a sheet metal cross, original sheet metal panels on the spire, a flat roof and flashings;
- the fenestration pattern, notably two gothic windows in the apse and the main entry doors in the east wall of the tower, and the window and door trim woodwork;
- the ceiling of the apse which forms a large gothic arch;
- extant interior details, including finished woodwork and wood strip flooring, baseboards and shoe mouldings, overhead beams and altar railings, and pews consistent with the age and style of the interior;
- the ghost image of a built-in open stair on the west wall of vestibule;
- the plaster walls; and
- the hilltop location, on an east-west axis with a viewscape to and from the church.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
1919/01/01 to 1966/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (Des. 1788)
Cross-Reference to Collection