Episode 3: The Story of the Sheppard House

Christy smiles on a sunny day. A large red brick house is behind her, but mostly blocked by trees.
Christy Boulter stands in front of the Sheppard House
This episode: The Story of the Sheppard House. Christy Boulter asks what exactly is the story behind her home, and its original owner William Sheppard.

Investigating that question gave us a surprising look at booze, the behind-the-scenes machinations around prohibition, and what your dining room says about you.

The house was built by William Sheppard (aka WH Sheppard), so we dug through the provincial government’s archives on him and the home itself. Then historic homes expert Johanne Yakula walked us through the house pointing out some of the clues about the family hidden in the house’s design.

Listen first, then learn more about what happened next below the spoiler bar.

spoilers below

Ron Kelland digs through a stack of papers with Christy in his office
Our first stop was at Old St. Stephen’s College, on the University of Alberta campus. Ron Kelland, a Historic Places Research Officer with Alberta Culture and Tourism there, pulled up a big pile of stories from their archives about the house and the family who lived there. They gathered the stories back in the 1980s when the Sheppard House was added to the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Ron showed Christy the first picture she’d seen of William Sheppard, and his impressive moustache.

Young William Sheppard (B&W)
The young William Sheppard
One of the most fascinating things we learned was William Sheppard’s role in the Albertan brewing industry, and the fight against prohibition.

At various times, William Sheppard’s Edmonton Brewery and Malting Company ran the Rossdale Brewery and the building now known as the Molson Brewery in Oliver (check out Lawrence Herzog’s amazing story on that building on the ECAMP blog).

We found letters back and forth between Sheppard and Calgary brewer A.E. Cross in 1915, strategizing on ways to press the provincial government for compensation before the ban on alcohol sales began in 1916.

After that, we took a tour of the house itself with historic home interiors expert Johanne Yakula, who runs a business called From Times Past.

Johanne Yakula (in white) examining the house with Christy (in black) and another housemate (in orange).
Johanne pointed out some fascinating markers of wealth written into the placement of a fireplace, the types of wood in the floors, and the plate rails in the dining room.

One of my favourite details was the pass-through – a portal between the part of the house where “the help” lived, and the dining room where the family ate. It’s one of the only parts of the house where the two worlds connect.

The Sheppard House is listed on Edmonton’s inventory of historic resources, and Christy is hoping to more fully protect and preserve the house by getting it designated as a Municipal Historic Resource. You can learn more about both programs from the City of Edmonton.

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