Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site - Atlas Obscura

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Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site

Spruce View, Alberta

This colorful historic site tells the story of Icelandic poetry and community in Central Alberta. 


Between Alberta’s two major cities lies a charming pink and green heritage home that once belonged to a famous Icelandic poet. While it might look like a still from a Wes Anderson film, the house is actually a significant part of Canadian-Icelandic history.

A pacifist, atheist, and community leader, Stephan G. Stephansson was born in the Skagafjörður district of Northern Iceland in 1853. He first immigrated to the United States before making his way north to the Icelandic settlement of Tindastoll in 1889, which was in its infancy at the time. Stephansson was an active member of the local Icelandic community, serving as justice of the peace, secretary of the local creamery, and building and founding the settlement’s first school. A lifelong insomniac, he farmed during the day and wrote late into the night. Visitors to the historic site can sit at his writing desk. This desk is stained with ink from Stephansson knocking it over in the dim candlelight while his wife slept close by.

The house contains original furnishings and original Icelandic newspapers repurposed as wallpaper. Historical interpreters walk guests through daily life as it would have been in Staphansson’s time. Visitors can sample traditional Icelandic baked goods and attend poetry readings in the front garden. The house offers educational programs to students (Arni the Icelandic Troll, a program for Kindergarteners, is sure to be as adorable as it sounds.) 

Since 1982, the Writers Guild of Alberta has sponsored the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry. Past nominees and winners include Robert Kroetsch, Christian Bök, Joshua Whitehead, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Jon Whyte, and Sheri-D Wilson.

The Stephansson House is eight minutes from the historic hamlet of Markerville; where, by 1897, the Icelandic settlers had established a community with a school, library, and creamery from a plot of uncleared land with no roads or bridges. Visitors to Markerville can visit the Markerville Creamery Museum (and have a scoop of Alberta’s finest ice cream), Tindastoll Cemetery, and Fensala Hall, the longest-operating community hall in Alberta.

Know Before You Go

Stephansson House is open from May to September, Wednesday to Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Check their website for exact dates.

Admission is $5.

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August 22, 2023

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