Situated just 17 kilometres out of Edmonton is a small town with an usual feature. Nestled among the boutique stores and old-style black lampposts are more than 30 painted murals. These paintings represent Stony Plain’s history and provide a glimpse into how this slice of Alberta was settled by people from all walks of life.
Here’s a look at a few of the murals.
Stony Plain’s first sheriff, Israel Umbach is the town’s folk hero. In 1907 the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) owed the town taxes, but they weren’t paying up. Sherriff Umbach purchased a heavy chain and strong padlock from the local hardware store and literally tied the train to the tracks! CPR quickly relented and paid the back taxes. Today, this act of bravado is memorialized in a mural called “Strong Arm of the Law”. The plucky sheriff also has his own statue in Rotary Park.
Long before Wal-Mart became Stony Plain’s go-to one-stop-shop for household goods, residents flocked to Jacob Miller’s General Store and Post Office. Miller also ran a men’s clothing store and was the town’s second mayor. His many contributions are captured in a 1,452 square foot mural called “The General Store”. Miller’s triplets and a couple of his employees are also featured on the mural.
Now this is a mural that has many millennials asking, “What’s that?” “The Connection 1906-1963” depicts the excitement of Stony Plain getting its very own telephone office. Ottila Zucht, at the tender age of 13, was the first telephone operator. This position was later occupied by Ida Smith in 1923. Smith would hold this position for the next 20 years. This mural, showing residents enthralled (and confused) by the new technology, increases in historical significance as mobile phones continue to dominate the way we communicate today.
What’s a farming town without a livery stable? Even today Stony Plain pays homage to its agricultural roots by holding an annual Farmers’ Day Rodeo and Exhibition, a Cowboy Poetry Festival (2016 marks its 24th year) and other events on exhibition grounds specifically designed to accommodate horses and other livestock. The small mural, “Making a Friend” is tucked into a corner on Main Street and shows two children feeding a horse in Joe Zucht’s livery. The time period is 1905. Travellers could rest their horses at the livery or rent a horse and buggy. The livery has long since been replaced by dealerships and garages, but this small 39 square foot painting is a loving reminder of days gone by.
The Canadian Bank of Commerce (CIBC) was nothing more than a tent in 1906 where clients came to deal in fur and gold. CIBC morphed into a wooden building two years later and then was replaced by a brick one in 1953 (and upgraded in 1983). CIBC is still standing on Main Street and boasts a tall 800 square foot mural showing its transformations.
These are just a few of the many murals you can explore in the historically significant town of Stony Plain. If you are visiting the Edmonton region, it’s a quick jaunt from the city – and a side trip that is worth the short drive. To learn more about the murals, visit www.stonyplain.com and click on the Historical Outdoor Murals link under Attractions and Activities. Better yet, plan to visit “The Town with the Painted Past” in person.