Prince of Wales Armouries: Celebrating 100 Years

If you’ve taken the Metro Line you may have wondered about the red brick castle-ish building next to the tracks, just south of Kingsway Ave. It’s the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre and it’s just turned one hundred years old.

The Edmonton Drill Hall (re-named the Prince of Wales Armouries in 1921) was officially opened by Premier Borden on October 15, 1915. Today it’s a public building with exhibits, museum galleries, and meeting and event spaces. It’s also the home of the City of Edmonton Archives.

EA-29-168 “Military Drill” ca. 1930 POWA served as a training site for the Department of National Defence until 1977

EA-29-168 “Military Drill” ca. 1930 POWA served as a training site for the Department of National Defence until 1977

The Federal Government started planning an armoury in Edmonton in 1910 but, due to various delays, the building wasn’t opened until 1915. In fact, a permit wasn’t even issued until July, 1914. I suspect the outbreak of the First World War hastened the project along. One of the delays was because the site the Government selected was located in the Hudson’s Bay Company Reserve and negotiations with the HBC for the land took until 1912 to finalize. Interestingly (or confusingly), the date stone at the entrance of the building reads 1913. City Archivist, Kathryn Ivany, believes this is because the architectural plans are dated 1913 and the engineers took them literally. Never mind that the building was actually completed two years later.

Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre main entrance; the date stone doesn’t reflect the actual date the building opened.

Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre main entrance; the date stone doesn’t reflect the actual date the building opened.

EA-29-163 “Exterior of Prince of Wales Armouries” 1920 The edge of the Hudson’s Bay Company Reserve (101 Street) is seen in the background.

EA-29-163 “Exterior of Prince of Wales Armouries” 1920 The edge of the Hudson’s Bay Company Reserve (101 Street) is seen in the background.

The Prince of Wales Armouries (POWA) was home to several regiments which later became part of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the South Alberta Light Horse Regiment. Both organizations are tenants of the building today. Over the years, various organizations like the Royal Canadian Legion and the Naval Officers Association were tenants here. The Naval Officer’s Club had a room in one of the turrets which was known as the Crow’s Nest.

POWA has always had a strong role in the community as well, even when it was a functioning drill hall. For example it was used to hold a memorial service for King George V on January 27, 1936. It was even used for sports events; I found an Edmonton Journal reference to a December 16, 1920 indoor baseball game between the 19th Alberta Dragoons and the “Mounted Police.” Over the years, POWA was used by a community league, various Cadets, theatre groups, as a film set, for dog shows, as a market, and as a storage warehouse for the Edmonton Food Bank. It was also the headquarters for the 1978 Commonwealth Games.

EA-600-388b “All Breed English Bulldog show at the Prince of Wales Armouries” September 8, 1947

EA-600-388b “All Breed English Bulldog show at the Prince of Wales Armouries” September 8, 1947

POWA was declared surplus in 1977 and designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1979. Ownership was transferred to the City in 1982 in a three way land swap with the Federal and Provincial Governments. After much debate on its future, the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre was created with a mandate to preserve and showcase the history of Edmonton. In 1992, the City of Edmonton Archives became the principle tenant in a custom built building-within-a-building facility. This unique design preserves the integrity of the drill hall while allowing for the controlled temperature and humidity needs of archival storage (environmental conditions being notoriously hard to regulate in older buildings).

EA-746-29 “City of Edmonton Archives – East Terrace” ca. 1991 In theory, the Archives could be removed and POWA could serve as a drill hall once again.

EA-746-29 “City of Edmonton Archives – East Terrace” ca. 1991 In theory, the Archives could be removed and POWA could serve as a drill hall once again.

Do you have any memories of the Prince of Wales Armouries? Please share them in the comments!

 

 

 

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About the Author
Elizabeth Walker
Elizabeth has a Masters of Archival Studies from UBC and she’s been the City’s digital archivist since September 2010. She’s passionate about outreach and increasing engagement between the Archives and the community.
4 Comments
  1. Guy Lefebvre CD
    2 years ago

    I did basic military training in the POWA back in 1974. I joined the Loyal Edmonton Regiment which was headquartered out of Ortona armories in the river valley. Many of the reserve units at that time were based out of Prince of wales armouries.
    I pass by the building today and feel fond memories of the armouries and of life long friends that I made while on basic. I moved on the serve in the regular forces and continued my service to this great nation and retired from the military in 1998. Prince of wales armouries is still the home to the Loyal Edmonton Regimental museum Much of the city’s and the regiments military history can be seen there.

  2. Erik Backstrom
    2 years ago

    Thanks for this article highlighting the history of this tremendous building, Elizabeth. In doing you research did you come across anything about the relationship between the Prince of Wales Armouries and the Connaught Armoury?

  3. Elizabeth
    2 years ago

    Hello Erik,

    Thanks for the question. I didn’t find anything on the relationship but that wasn’t something I was looking for.

    I encourage you to contact the Reference Desk at the Archives at cms.archives@edmonton.ca or at 780-496-8711 with your question.

  4. Laurie Kipping
    2 years ago

    I was in the Militia (Student Summer Employment Program) 44 yrs. ago. I was 17 yrs. old and my sister was 18 yrs. old. We trained out of the Prince of Wales Armouries. What a fabulous summer job! The experiences gained during this time were life changing!

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