Take a jump into Sylvan Lake's Past
Sylvan Lake has been a haven for residents and visitors alike since the days of settlers in the early 1900s. Whether it was building and purchasing cabins or local homesteads, people throughout the ages have been drawn to the spring-fed waters of the lake.
In 1913, Sylvan Lake became a village until 1946 when a boom in population to 900, warranted “town” status. While Sylvan Lake has grown since the early days of dance halls and homesteads, the town has not forgotten its roots thanks to the Sylvan Lake & District Archives Society.
Past and present stories
The society collects, preserves, and provides access to records that tell the story of Sylvan Lake and area. Some records date back to the arrival of settlers in the early 1900s. The not-for-profit organization is primarily run by volunteers. For the last 35 years, the society has collected photographs, documents, and other forms of donated media.
Whether it’s family members discovering treasured photographs of the past or organizations donating print materials, the society relies on volunteers. The hard-copy files are preserved in a climate-controlled room and the group also keeps a record of events as they happen.
“We are a valuable resource, and we can help people find information about their family or the cabin they visited every summer when they were kids,” said archives office manager Christina Lust. “We’ve been involved in quite a few projects such as the historical information pillars along the lakefront.”
The archives are a significant resource for events such as 1913 Days, an annual celebration of Sylvan Lake’s incorporation. The society also recommends street names for new subdivisions based on individuals who’ve contributed to the community.
Visitors and residents can come check out the impressive archive and learn more about the unique history of Sylvan Lake. The archive consists of over 7,600 records and 12,000 images dating back to the 1900s. Now history buffs can check out the impressive archive online at archives.sylvanlake.ca.
“We recently launched the online archive. The pictures online have a lower resolution but we can provide high resolution photos on request,” Lust said.
It’s not hard to imagine generations of beachgoers donning swim dresses to bikinis while walking along Sylvan Lake’s waterfront. Summer visitors arrived at the same time as homesteaders and have played an important part in the community.
There are still plenty of historical spots to check out in Sylvan Lake itself such as the White Frog Café stone house. The stone house was built in 1913, the year the town was founded and is one of the last original buildings from the period. Now you can check out an amazing piece of history while getting a bag of fresh roasted coffee beans or a cold drink.
“There’s so much to Sylvan Lake. At one point we had three dance halls at the end of main street. Right from the beginning, it was a recreational destination area,” Lust said. “A lot of people have gravitated to the area and that hasn’t stopped.”
Sylvan Lake is steeped in history but check it out yourself online or in person at the Sylvan Lake & District Archive Society.
The Sylvan Lake and District Archives is located at the Municipal Government Building. It’s open between noon and 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Visit the Sylvan Lake & District Archives website for more information.