A bustling mountain town nestled in the beautiful Athabasca River Valley, Jasper is a historic jewel of the Canadian West.
Jasper Forest Park, as it was once known, dates back well over a century. This spectacular section of the Canadian Rockies became a national park in 1930, and today, more than 2.4 million visitors enter the park gates each year.
The historic buildings of Jasper—the five listed here are recognized heritage sites—represent the history of tourism in the area, and help visitors relive the thrill of adventure in one the country’s most beautiful natural settings.
Icons of Western Canada's History
A cluster of iconic buildings in Jasper’s downtown core and near Athabasca Park have great historical and architectural significance. Add to that a few outlying buildings and you have plenty of architectural heritage to keep amateur historians busy!
The buildings listed below, as well as the people who built and used them, had a huge influence on the growth of tourism in the West and on the development of one of Canada’s first national parks.
With the exception of the Jasper Park Information Centre, built in 1914, all were built in the 1920s and '30s in an attractive rustic style favoured by national parks at the time. They incorporate design and natural materials that complement the spectacular alpine surroundings.
1. The Jasper Park Information Centre
Built around the year 1914, this striking and classic rustic structure was originally the park administration building until it became the visitor centre in 1972.
Designed by Edmonton architect A.M. Calderon, this National Historic Site was one of the first of its kind built in a Canadian national park. The rustic architecture that defines this building became a template for further construction in Jasper and influenced building designs in the park system Canada-wide.
This unique building once housed a fish hatchery and museum. Today, the eye-catching log-and-stone structure remains in the heart of the vibrant Jasper townsite.
2. Maligne Lake Chalet
Pioneer businessman Fred Brewster built this rustic log chalet in 1927 as accommodation for trail riders exploring the spectacular Maligne Lake area.
The saddle-notched chalet was one of Brewster’s Rocky Mountain Camps, the main headquarters in a system of camps and chalets that served the iconic Maligne Lake. Closely connected with the early history of Jasper and the development of tourism in the park, the Chalet played a key role in the recreational development of Jasper.
Situated near the lakeshore and nestled in the woods, the Chalet design was based on the signature rustic building style found throughout national parks at the time. From 2008 to 2009, this building was lovingly restored by Floyd Coleman, the Operations Manager for Maligne Lake, who still works at the location. Today, visitors to Jasper National Park can take in breathtaking views of its namesake lake from the deck of the picturesque lodge.
3. The Former Canadian National Railway Station
A federal heritage site built in 1925 by the CNR, it was one of the biggest and finest stations of the CNR in its early days.
Influenced by the post-1918 Arts and Crafts movement that applied local building materials, and keeping with the theme of early Canadian tourism, the railway station introduced tourists to the West in style. The former CNR station was constructed to suit a luxury resort facility. A resounding example of the early pioneering days of the national parks system used as a grand entrance to the park, the heritage building is considered an important landmark in Jasper because of its design and function.
4. CIBC Bank Building
This building has housed the local branch of the Imperial Bank of Canada since it was built in 1928, just in time for the opening of the road between Jasper and Edmonton. Back then, the bank manager lived upstairs with his family. Today, it's called the CIBC, since the Imperial Bank and the Canadian Bank of Commerce merged in 1961. Situated on beautiful Athabasca Park amidst the historic ambiance of its neighbours, including the Information Centre (above), the CIBC bank building is a field stone and half-timbered landmark - and one of the most picturesque banks in all of Canada!
5. Jasper Fire Hall
Jasper's original fire hall was a tiny log cabin that went up in 1914. As the town grew, a new one was needed to house firefighters and offices. When the current one was constructed across the street from the Administration Building, they also made room to house the local weather bureau and the town's courtroom. Its steeply-gabled roof, corner tower and stucco represent classic Tudor or Rustic Style that was typical in the national parks during the 1920s and '30s. These days, Jasper's team of firefighters consists of a team of 30 volunteers and the Fire Hall is the home to the Jasper Artist Guild—stop in to peruse beautiful work by local artists and artisans.