This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most picturesque historic landmarks in Red Deer. In the summer of 1912, Emanuel Pettersson Cronquist built a beautiful three-story brick mansion, which originally stood in West Park Estates, but is now located at Bower Ponds.
Emanuel Pettersson was born in Sweden on April 10, 1854. He became a successful merchant. On Feb. 6, 1886, he married Hilda Carlsdater in Varmland, Sweden. Over the next seven years, they had four children, three boys and one daughter.
Emanuel was energetic and ambitious. In May 1892, he went to western Canada to look for new opportunities. He liked what he saw. He returned in July 1893 with his wife and family to settle on a homestead in the Burnt Lake district, west of the fledgling hamlet of Red Deer.
Tragedy struck when two sons passed away on the trip to Canada. Despite the blow, the family began the hard work of starting their farm and creating a new home.
Initially, they lived in a one-room log house, with a sod roof. However, as they became more established, they were able to build a two-storey addition to their home. The family grew as well with two more sons being born.
Because there was another Pettersson family in the district, the mail often got mixed up. Emanuel consequently added the surname Cronquist after Pettersson in order to end the confusion.
As Emanuel continued to build up his farm, he became a skilled trader in livestock, particularly cattle, horses and sheep. He also assisted other Swedish immigrants to settle in the area.
In the fall of 1901, the Cronquists bought land on the south west side of Red Deer, in what is now the West Park subdivision. This became their new home. Over the succeeding years, the Cronquists acquired more quarters of land, until they were farming nearly 800 acres.
In 1902, Emanuel Cronquist branched into new businesses. He opened a sandstone quarry on the south bank of the river. He subsequently supplied building stone across Central Alberta.
With his successful farming and livestock operations, expanding business interests, and skillful investments in real estate, Emanuel gradually found himself to be a wealthy man. Consequently, he decided to build an impressive new home.
The site he picked was carefully chosen to maximize its visibility. It stood near the high riverbank, so that the house could be seen across the Red Deer valley. It was also located next to the old Calgary-Edmonton Trail (now part of 43 St.) so that many travelers would notice it as they passed by.
Initially, it was estimated that the house would cost $8,000. However, by the time it was finished in the late fall of 1912, the price had risen to $10,000. To put that number into perspective, at the time, two dollars per day was considered a good wage.
After the First World War, the Cronquists became much more active in community affairs. They became active with the United Farmers of Alberta, the Elks Lodge and the Freemasons.
In September 1924, Emanuel passed away at the age of 70. Three weeks later, his son Holger died of typhoid fever. Another son David passed away in 1941 at the age of 45. Hilda passed away peacefully in her room in 1942 at nearly 90 years of age.
Hannah, the only daughter in the family, passed away in February 1969.
When Elias, the last surviving member of the original family, passed away in June 1974, the grand old house stood vacant for some time.
The house was eventually acquired by the Red Deer International Folk Festival Society (now the Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society). In March 1976, the house was moved across the river to a new site at Bower Ponds. Over the subsequent years, the Society worked diligently to restore the house to its original glory.
On Aug. 16, 1982, the Cronquist House was designated as the first Municipal Historic Resource in the Province of Alberta.
On Sunday Aug. 26 from 1 to 4 p.m., the Cultural Heritage Society will be celebrating the centennial of the Cronquist House with a full afternoon of entertainments and activities. Phone 403-346-0055 for more information.