The history of Smeltzer House

Frank Smeltzer Farm
This 1954 aerial of Smeltzer House shows the mature trees, outbuildings, farmland in the foreground and country road in the background. (#315-35-12, Homestead Aerial Photo Ltd.)

Smeltzer House Centennial, 1920-2020

In 2020, Strathcona County is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Smeltzer House.

Smeltzer House is located at 1 Broadmoor Boulevard, Sherwood Park (access is from Broadmoor Boulevard travelling north from traffic circle).  View map


Ongoing at Smeltzer House through 2020

  • View the new interpretive sign to learn about the history of the Smeltzer family, their house, the district and the times.
  • View the updated Heritage Mile interpretive signs to learn more about Strathcona County’s history.
  • Stroll the grounds to take in the botanic gardens or plan for a picnic in the warmer months.
  • Book the gazebo for a special event.

Family Day celebration

While the windchill caused us to have to cancel the wagon rides, even still, over 400 people attended the celebratory event on February 17, 2020, enjoying storytelling, ice carvers, maple taffy making, pottery and fused glass demonstrations.

History

Built for Maurice Smeltzer, one of the Salisbury district’s first homesteaders, this handsome Foursquare has stood steadfast since 1920, even as surrounding rural farmland shifted to urban streets. Having served as the Smeltzers’ family home for more than a half century, “Smeltzer House” lives on as a visual reminder of Strathcona County’s pioneering past. 

Download the booklet (2.4 MB)

View the historical photo album

Family roots

Born in Ontario in 1867, Maurice Smeltzer first ventured west in 1891 to deliver a railcar of draft horses. Arriving on one of the first trains to travel the new Calgary and Edmonton Railway line, he scouted for good farmland while he was here. Maurice returned west the following year with another shipment of horses, and this time he stayed. He paid the $10 fee to apply for the “right of entry” on a quarter section—the homestead land just west of Smeltzer House.

In 1899, Maurice Smeltzer married Eliza Pithie, and the couple lived in the house on the homestead. They had two sons. James, born in 1905, died in infancy; Francis John (Frank) was born in 1907. Early on, Maurice supplemented his farm income working nearby in coal mines and the lumber industry. In time, he turned to full-time farming, winning prizes for hogs, oats and barley.

A new home

In 1920, the Smeltzers moved across the road from the homestead into their new house, what we now call Smeltzer House. The two-storey house has the square profile and pyramidal roof characteristic of the Foursquare style. The family enjoyed such welcome modern features as double brick walls (which helped insulate the house), leaded glass windows, a full basement and indoor plumbing. Electricity in the home was generated by a Delco plant until 1944, when the area was connected to Edmonton Power. The original garage was built at the same time as the house. The larger “truck garage” was built in the mid-1950s.

Generations

In 1933, Frank married Agnes Kirkwood and the couple lived together with Frank’s parents, a common practice in the day. They had two sons, Ian and William (Bill); a daughter, Wyona Agnes, died in infancy. After graduating from the Olds School of Agriculture in 1926, Frank took on more of the farming responsibility and when his parents passed away in the 1930s he continued to operate the successful venture his father had established. Frank built up a purebred Yorkshire hog operation with as many as 250 hogs, and over time the farm encompassed 600 acres (including 120 acres of leased land) as well as a mix of livestock.

Becoming urban

The discovery of oil at Leduc in 1947 and the launch of nearby refineries prompted the municipality to approve a satellite community; it was located immediately south of the Smeltzer farm. Beginning in 1952, the Smeltzers began selling portions of their land to developers for this new urban centre. By 1955 the first houses were going up, with Bill Smeltzer among many, many locals who helped with the construction effort. In remarkably short order, the successful farming community known as Salisbury was transformed into Sherwood Park one of the first “planned communities” in Canada. Frank and Agnes sold their house and final three acres, and moved to British Columbia in 1974.

Wanting to retain the home’s historic presence in the community, Strathcona County purchased the property in 1976. A decade later, Smeltzer House was designated a provincial Registered Historic Resource; and in 2013, it was designated a Municipal Historic Resource. The site is now home to the Smeltzer House Visual Arts Centre

There’s much more to learn about local history at strathcona.ca/history

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Last updated: Friday, February 12, 2021
Page ID: 48075