525 Buffalo Street
Attracted by stands of trees and glimpses of the Bow River, the first premier of Alberta, Alexander Rutherford, commissioned J. Luckett to build this small cottage in 1908.
Mr. Rutherford revered trees, so much so he refused to have a Christmas tree. Instead the family would decorate a large cactus that otherwise lived in an unused corner of their Edmonton home. Both he and his wife, Mattie (nee Birkett) were avid amateur horticulturists.
In part because of Banff’s natural landscape, and in part because it was a respite from the provincial capital, the Rutherford’s cottage became a haven for them, Alexander’s University of Alberta colleagues and their many friends. Mattie was an excellent cook and hostess, known for her warm hospitality. The family was generous with the cottage, often lending it to faculty, authors and change-makers.
The Rutherford’s Cottage and the Mountain School may be linked to the birth of the Banff Centre. The Rutherfords introduced their many University of Alberta guests to Banff’s possibilities as a unique place to learn. Attending plays staged by Margaret Greenham’s students clearly inspired those guests; drama was the first course offered when the University of Alberta’s Extension School started the Banff Centre in 1933.
Remarkably, the building is largely unchanged since Alexander’s death in 1941. This makes it easy to imagine the early twentieth century conversations that took place, ideas that were born and debated along the banks of the Bow River.
We invite you to follow its restoration, and the plans being developed to prepare the Cottage for an equally-storied next chapter.
Interactive Location Map
The Rutherford Cottage by Alex Emond, 2018