Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Initial planning for the Centennial Plaque project was part of the ACC Manitoba and St. Boniface section’s centennial celebration in 2006. The plaque was to memorialize the founding of the Alpine Club of Canada and its first meeting in Winnipeg in 1906 at the YMCA building at the corner of Portage Avenue and Smith Street.
Funding for the project was generously provided by Mountain Equipment Co-op. Once their cheque was received it was promptly deposited into the bank at which point the project fell off the radar screen.
However it wasn’t completely forgotten as it was revived under the part of the November 2011 Manitoba Section executive meeting agenda called “very very old business”. I was volunteered to get on with the project in conjunction with André Mahé, President of the St. Boniface Section.
When I contacted André he was most happy to resume work on the project. Over the winter we developed a design, drafted fully bilingual text, researched the photo, made arrangements with the building owner, and worked with Lloyd Abrey from Parks Canada on final design and material. Luckily for us Lloyd was responsible for similar Parks Canada plaques across Western Canada and he gave his time and expert advice freely.
We had two complete plaques and two spare vinyls made in case the plaque was damaged or destroyed by vandals. Following Lloyd’s advice we used thick aluminum sheet material covered by a heavy vinyl material which was well suited for capturing the detail of the historic group photo and ACC logo. Installation was by Bob Davis from Robroy Signs in mid-March.
Well a big project such as the Centennial Plaque is not complete without a celebration, so Thérèse Dubé from the St. Boniface Section and I organized an unveiling ceremony for mid-June. We invited our President Peter Muir and Lawrence White, Executive Director from the ACC National Office, Simon Statkewich, Manitoba Section President, André Mahé, St. Boniface Section President, Allan Schepens Director Customer Services at the CPR, Lloyd Abrey, and the Winnipeg Free Press to the unveiling.
Winnipeg Free Press Article: Alpine Club Marks Prairie Birthplace
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was instrumental in the history of climbing in Canada and in the organization of the inaugural meeting of the ACC in Winnipeg in 1906. Below are the insightful remarks of Allan Schepens of the CPR from the unveiling ceremony on the relationship of the CPR and the ACC.
Hello ladies and gentlemen,
Like many of you, i personally love the outdoors, especially hiking, and fully endorse the mandate of the Alpine Club: to preserve our Canadian wilderness. But, my personal interests are not the reason why I am here today!
My name is Allan Schepens, and on behalf of Canadian Pacific Railway, one of the founding organizations, I am honoured to attend this plaque dedication ceremony for the Alpine Club of Canada.
When the Alpine Club of Canada was founded in 1906 by A.O. Wheeler and Elizabeth Parker, Canadian Pacific Railway was quick to lend its support.
Not surprisingly, CPR recognized the important role the mountains played in attracting tourists and safe and easy access to them was critical.
As early as June 1899, Christian Häsler and Edouard Feuz, the first two CPR Swiss guides, arrived on the scene. Their skills safely guided CPR hotel guests at Glacier, Field and Lake Louise on countless climbs – and their legacy continues today.
In 1923, CPR established the Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies, an organization that shared the Alpine Club’s profound love and respect for the mountains. The Trail Riders offered guided horseback trail rides, which were especially important given the growing number of adventuresome tourists.
At the Alpine Club’s founding meeting in 1906, CPR director Sir Sandford Fleming was accorded the title of honorary president of the club.
Fleming was appointed chief engineer of the CPR government project in the 1871, before the formation of the company as it is constituted today. He surveyed the proposed, but never used, route of the transcontinental railway across the prairies and through Yellowhead pass, one year later.
It was during a survey trip in 1883 through Kicking Horse Pass and Rogers Pass that he, along with fellow surveyor George Grant, founded a precursor to the Alpine Club of Canada.
Sir Sandford Fleming had a remarkable career – a 30 plus-year association with CPR and many honours for his achievements and for his contributions to society, however, it is said, that no organization pleased him as much, as his role with the Alpine Club of Canada.
Canadian Pacific is proud of its 106-year long association with the Alpine Club. A number of CEOs have remained active members to this day.
In fact, the R.J. Ritchie – Balfour Pass hut, was donated and named for Ritchie upon his retirement several years ago.
CP wholeheartedly supports the Alpine Club of Canada’s original mandate to give environmental enthusiasts an opportunity to explore, conserve, steward and experience the vast Canadian wilderness.
Thank you for honouring CP as a founder of your club. We are grateful for your efforts to sustain our environment and recognize our shared past. The Alpine Club is a Canadian legacy, and is Canada’s national mountaineering club.