Prairies n’ Peaks – Coleman, AB

Good afternoon,

I just got back from teaching a two-day Fabric Painting Workshop in Coleman, Alberta; about 2 ½ – 3 hours south of Calgary, close to the British Columbia border and the US border, and about 50 km West of Pincher Creek.

I had a lovely time driving south from Calgary, with my car packed with sewing machine, painting supplies, kits for the class, and a my clothes, of course.  I decided to take the scenic route, through Turner Valley, Black Diamond and Longview.  The weather cooperated until Longview, when it started raining; I still had a chance to stop in Black Diamond and visit the art gallery and buy a very undrinkable cup of coffee.

In Longview, I stopped to take some photos of some interesting pieces to be found out and about, one of them is below.


Isn’t it great?  A couple of blocks from there, there’s an antique store, which was closed, so I couldn’t walk in, but I took a photo of a bench they had in the front and which I decided would look great in my backyard.  I’ll have to go back for it someday.


As I mentioned before, it started raining right outside of Longview, which took care of some of the stops I had planned on the way for photography.  So I did that on the way back.  After I turned on highway number 3, I came to Frank’s Slide, below is the story:

On April 29, 1903, at 4:10 a.m., 82 million tonnes (30 million cubic metres) of limestone crashed from the summit of Turtle Mountain and buried a portion of the sleeping town of Frank. The dimensions of the rock mass that fell are 150 metres (500 feet) deep, 425 metres (1,400 feet) high and one kilometre (3,280 feet) wide.  The bustling town of Frank was home to approximately 600 people in 1903. Of these, roughly 100 individuals lived in the path of the slide. An estimated 70 people were killed.

The primary cause of the Frank Slide was the mountain’s unstable structure. Underground coal mining, water action in summit cracks and severe weather conditions may have contributed to the disaster.

The mechanism of movement that enabled the rockslide-avalanche to spread over 3 square kilometres (1.2 square miles) of the valley in less than 100 seconds, has been the subject of considerable discussion and speculation. The debris may have remained in contact with the surface through most of its course, flowing down the side of the mountain and across the valley. Or, lubrication at the base of the slide, compressed air or steam, would permit sliding of a flexible sheet of debris.

The buried section of railway was rebuilt 3 weeks after the slide. A road was completed through the slide in 1906 and improved during the 1920s. Before it was completed, people had to travel over a rough road built beyond the rockslide debris. This temporary route passed through what is now the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre parking lot and the Frank Slide Trail follows the old road bed for some distance. Highway #3, as it is seen today, was constructed in the 1930s and improved in 1979.


Highway number 3 cuts across the slide, and the photo above is one I took from the highway.  It is very impressive, and a sobering sight.

I continued on the highway until I reached Coleman:  In 1903 a new townsite was laid out a few kilometres west of Blairmore, Alberta, to service a new coal mine operated by the International Coal and Coke Company. Initial names of Paulson’s Camp or McGillivray Hill were rejected by the post office, settling on Coleman (after Coleman Flumerfelt, the daughter of the mine owner A. C. Flumerfelt). A feature of the town was the mine’s 100 (later 216) coke ovens located at the edge of town, which operated from 1906 to 1952. The town grew rapidly, surpassing its neighbour Blairmore as the largest in the region. Coleman boasted a successful opera house from 1908 until it burned down in 1948.

Coleman persevered through strikes (1911 and 1932), floods (1923 and 1942) and fires (1948). As the coal mines in the region gradually closed, Coleman’s commercial importance waned in favour of Blairmore. Coleman amalgamated with four other municipalities to form the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass in 1979.

Coleman’s coal mining heritage is evident in its several historic buildings, a regional museum, the ruins of its coal plant and coke ovens, and several nearby abandoned mines.

I imagine that the building I took photos of, now in ruins, and with a very clear sign that says “No Trespassing – Extreme Danger” was used for the mining industry.


Throughout Coleman, a small town, there are lots of old buildings, dilapidated houses, abandoned structures and lots and lots of rusted pieces of machinery abandoned at different sites.  Below are some photos:




The building above is the Bed & Breakfast where I stayed; and the door to the left is the entrance to the classroom.  Dawn and Mark are the hosts and they also own a catering business, so we had wonderful breakfasts and lunches during the class.


That first night after I dinner I went for a walk around town.  It was very cold, considering that it was mid-June, but I estimate it must have been around 5 degrees Celsius, and my hands were very cold by the time I made it back about and hour and a half later.  I had a lovely walk, though, and I took some photos of the old buildings.  I also took the photo below; these little ceramic dogs were perched on a window, between the glass and a curtain, and they were so ugly, they were almost cute!  I thought I’d share with you as they made me smile …


The next day we had the Fabric Painting class. Below is Eileen’s pear.  She decided to paint a green one.


And below, the last day, here’s the class with their projects; two of them almost done!


That evening, in Pincher Creek, there was a lecture by Elly Sienkiewicz.  We drove to Pincher Creek after dinner at Popiel’s in Coleman.  Elly’s talk was very interesting, as I did not know much about Baltimore Album Quilts and the meaning of the blocks; it made me want to learn more.

On the drive back to Coleman, as night was falling, I took some photos of the wind turbines, which are very famous in the area.  They stand like tall elegant sentinels atop hills; the wind plant generators stand 24 to 43 meters high.  There are 77 wind turbines in Cowley, and a lot more in the surrounding areas.


I also found out that Cowley was featured in the 2005 motion picture Brokeback Mountain as the fictional town of Signal, Wyoming.

It was a very interesting trip; and I made new friends.  We are hoping to go back in the near future, maybe organize a small retreat at the B&B.  The best part about that is that the quilt store is 1 block away!.

Have a good afternoon. And until I blog again … keep quilting.


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  1. Thank you for your article on Coleman, Alberta. I live in Calgary and I am going to Coleman with my husband to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary. We will be touring the area & eventually will make our way back to tour the big Waterton Park hotel for a few hours, including a nice dinner there, then back to Calgary. I loved hearing about the area from your perspective. I learned a few new things about this area from your article. I worked for one of the companies involved with the Oldman River Dam Project in the late 1980’s. I visited Pincher Creek quite often for work meetings but I never got a chance to see some of the history of the southern parts of Alberta & BC. I hope to do that on this trip. There is so much history to see.

    1. Hi Gail, I am so glad you found the post interesting. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve been there. I know that the town has changed a bit since then, as part of the old mine is gone. There was a beautiful blue structure – if I remember correctly – that is no longer there. Regardless, the area is full of history. I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating such a milestone. Congratulations!

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