A Turn of the Century Museum: the John Walters Museum

John W 2e
Note the difference in height from the main level to the door.

Recently I did a workshop for the City of Edmonton’s “This Old Edmonton House. These workshops are for homeowners of houses that were built more than 50 years ago. The speakers at the different sessions discuss the many issues that deal with houses of that vintage. My session was about “Floors and Millwork.”

John W 2f
An 1880’s version of a bachelor pad.

In the past, these events have taken place at Fort Edmonton but this year the sessions are taking place at the John Walters Museum located next to the Kinsmen Sports Arena. It is amazing how many Edmontonians  do not know about this museum site or have never been inside the structures that make up this historic site.

John W 2g
This room was used for his office and for living. Walters slept upstairs in a loft.

The site comprises three buildings, each representing a different period of John Walters’ life in 19th century  Edmonton. Walters was a successful entrepreneur who in his life would own and operate a ferry business, a transport business, a sawmill, a blacksmith and carriage shop, a general store, a coal mine, and a boat building business. Although the sawmill became John’s biggest success, he was most recognized for his ferry.

The earliest building on the site is from when John Walters was a bachelor. The building is crude as you can see by the pictures above. The small building served as his home, and office for his many business interests.

John W 2d
Walters had married Annie and had two boys when he lived in this home. It was a step up from his first home.

The buildings were located on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River, directly across from Fort Edmonton. on a location near the ford for crossing the river for the Calgary-Edmonton trail. This was a prime location for his boat building business and his future ferry operation.

By 1884, prospects were looking good for John and he decided to build a second home on his land.He built a 2-story dwelling close to the river bank made from logs chinked with mud. In 1886 he met and married 21-year old Annie Elizabeth Newby 6 months later. John and Annie settled into his second home and soon welcomed 2 sons, John William (1887) and Stanley (1890).

John W 2c
Annie and John Walters’ master bedroom.
John W 2a
One of the boys’ room. Note the planks used for the walls.

John Walters was to suffer great personal and financial loss before his death on Christmas Day in 1920. The photographs of that home will be featured in my next blog entry.

The staff at the John Walters Interpretation Center are wonderful to deal with and the interpreters put on amazing programs for school age children in this city. Perhaps by doing more of such programs there will come a time when the young will be inspired to appreciate history.

2 thoughts on “A Turn of the Century Museum: the John Walters Museum

  1. I almost didn’t read this thinking it would be about MCM homes. This home is definitely more than 50 years old!

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