The Buttermaker’s House Opens for Artist Residencies

Recently, the Trust was excited to learn that the Buttermaker’s House, a restoration and fundraising initiative in Markerville, Alberta celebrated their Grand Opening in September 2023. The project began before the pandemic, and was in part, supported by a Launch Pad Coaching Grant from the Trust. And today they are ready to welcome writers, musicians, painters and performers from across the country to their fully renovated and restored single-family home.

Back in 2019, the Stephan G. Stephansson Icelandic Society, based in Markerville, with the full support and engagement of their Board, applied for a Coaching Grant to help restore the Buttermaker’s House and to pursue new ways to generate revenue for the area. 

The Buttermaker’s House is one of six historic places and sites the Society operates within the hamlet of Markerville, in Red Deer County, central Alberta. Along with the Buttermaker’s House, the sites Fensala Hall, the Lutheran Church, the Markerville Creamery Museum, Hola School and the Tindastoll Cemetery — reflect the culture and agriculture of the Icelandic pioneers who began settling the area in 1888.   

By pursuing the Coaching Grant, the Society was responding to circumstances impacting its capacity to sustain funding for their operations. A decrease in donations due to community numbers declining, and because of local economic impacts, meant that the Society was ready to pursue new ways to develop sustainable funding.  The Buttermaker’s House was also in need of restoration, and it was seen as a potential revenue generator.   

“The Grant helped us to focus on really looking at what story we were trying to tell about Markerville and our historical buildings. What better way to do that than to highlight our newest building in the Restoration of the Buttermaker House, reflected Society’s representative, d’Arcy Gamble, highlighting the importance of the role that this coaching opportunity played.

What’s interesting to note is that this role of Launch Pad, as a kick-start to a larger campaign or restoration project, is something that the Trust has heard before. The Coaching works to build the project team, it encourages community groups to focus their efforts and to determine how to develop a cohesive and succinct plan that is both actionable and realistic. Many of these projects are executed by groups of devoted volunteers who are advocating and supporting, not just the saving of historic places in their communities, but also working to bring about change for the betterment of their community in the long term.   

Gamble also noted that the Historic Markerville sites “all contribute to the community’s well-being. Not just as connectors to an important aspect of the community’s past, but these special historic places also support stronger tourism visitation and revenue to the whole area because of their presence.”  This includes creating more events and including more musicians and community experiences for those visiting and living in Markerville.  

Now with the rejuvenated Buttermaker’s House, the community is looking forward to their second artist-in-residence arriving in the summer of 2024.

Congratulations to the Stephan G. Stephansson Icelandic Society for their grassroots efforts in the successful restoration of the Buttermaker’s House! 

The Grand Opening of the Buttermaker House and the cutting of the red ribbon by, left to right: Joan Sandham, writer and granddaughter of W.H. Jackson, Val Osborne granddaughter of Dan Morkeberg, and John McKechnie president of SGSIS. Photo courtesy of the SGSIS.

Interested in applying for the Artist Residency program at the Buttermaker House? Click here for more info

Interested in applying for a Launch Pad Coaching Grant with the National Trust? Apply for a grant


About William Jackson, Buttermaker and resident of the Buttermaker’s House 

Built in 1913, the Buttermaker’s House strongly reflects the social and economic context of the dairy industry in early 20th-century Alberta. It was constructed for William Jackson who had been recruited to work as Buttermaker at the Markerville Creamery after several years’ experience in Innisfail.

Jackson was strongly representative of the class of skilled artisans who oversaw butter production and quality control on a modern, scientific basis in the early 1900s as dairy production increasingly shifted from individual farms to large-scale industrial facilities like the Markerville Creamery. Jackson lived at the Buttermaker’s House and worked at the creamery for 10 years, during which time he won multiple quality awards at provincial competitions and played a leading role in the Alberta Dairymen’s Association. The house was thus a residence that served the needs of Jackson and his family and also reflected the creamery’s need to attract skilled workers vital to the facility’s long-term success.

The building’s overall design and high level of interior and exterior integrity clearly convey its primary domestic function, while its close proximity to the Markerville Creamery communicates its historic association with this crucial local industry and, more broadly, the social context of rural industrialization in early 20th century Alberta.

Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 0872) 

The Historic Markerville area includes the four historic buildings of Markerville and is now promoted as Historic Markerville. The Creamery, now a museum, remains the hub of the district. Summer months are filled with tourists seeking experiences with the local history and sites of the area and learning more about historic Icelandic settler culture and knowledge. Winter months, the museum is the local gathering spot for descendants of the pioneers and those who farm(ed) within the area.



Historic Markerville 

The Buttermaker’s House 

The Buttermaker’s House on the Alberta Register of Historic Places 

Passport Places