IMMIGRATION HALL HISTORY
After one year of ministry, with barely enough time to get their feet wet, the Edwardsons, Hope Mission’s founders, were plunged into the kind of emergency effort that even with today’s equipment and resources would be daunting. They accepted an appeal by the City of Edmonton to utilize the old Immigration Hall and daily prepare enough soup or porridge to help give relief to hundreds, even thousands, of unemployed people for the duration of one year.
It was a task almost beyond them, but they shouldered the responsibility with conscientious determination. It was in fact the original three-story wooden Immigration Hall built in the mid 1890s from which the Edwardsons served; construction of a new brick structure was just being completed. Nevertheless, today with Hope Mission taking ownership of the post WWI facility, the historically unique connection the Mission has with Immigration Hall has now, some 80 years later, come full circle.
Most significantly—not unlike the Immigration Hall’s original intent—the practical application of welcoming, accommodating and caring for people who are opening a new chapter in life is preserved. The Immigration Hall continues to be a gateway through which men and women enter a new life in community.
Among the streetcars, covered wagons and steam trains, Edmonton’s old Immigration Hall was the first home to many in a new province called Alberta. Its doors opened in 1906 welcoming a variety of new immigrants looking for a better life in the land of opportunity.
Like its predecessor, Immigration Hall soon needed more space on top of the 70 beds it had. Rather than constructing a new larger building, an addition was built in 1954 at a cost of $108,000. After the 1970’s the processing of new immigrants had changed and Immigration Hall eventually closed its doors. Newcomers didn’t travel here by train and Edmonton’s downtown core was quickly developing into a modern day metropolis.
In the early 1990s, the 1954 addition was leased to the Alberta Department of Social Services for use as a women’s emergency shelter. However the Immigration Hall later fell victim to graffiti and vandalism. With help from the three levels of government, CMHC, Alberta Real Estate and Homeward Trust, Hope Mission was able to restore Immigration Hall. 44 self-contained units will be available for those in Hope Mission’s Break Out recovery and transitional program, as well as those who are in need of long- term supported living.
Located on 101 Street and 105 Avenue, the wooden, three- story building accommodated many brave newcomers. For those fortunate enough to have had family or employment in Edmonton, the move to a brand new province was not as daunting. But for those who had nothing, Immigration Hall offered asylum and hope in their journey to a new beginning. However, 24 years later, this once-beautiful and adequate building was out-grown and deemed insufficient for such a thriving city.
In 1930 local contractor John Dunlop headed the construction of the new building (which was designed by Dominion Government Architect T.W. Fuller) located one block east of the original Immigration Hall, at 10534 – 100 St. In the midst of the Great Depression, the new Immigration Hall, a two-story building made of brick and reinforced concrete, opened its doors.
In 1946, shortly after WWII, a new wave of oil-seeking immigrants headed to Leduc to make their fortune. Many eastern Canadians, Americans and WWII refugees made their way off the trains and, for most, Immigration Hall was their first destination.
Once beautiful and new; once derelict and almost demolished; Immigration Hall has now been transformed and deemed a Historical Site. Now it will provide those who are transforming their own lives, a new beginning and once again a new sense of hope.