Sylvan Lake town councillor Kjeryn Dakin and her husband, Kevin, recently purchased a property not too far from Sylvan’s Lakeshore Drive. And while many purchasing a home might expect to find a leaky tap or a drafty window after the purchase goes through, the Dakins found a veritable treasure trove of history in their newly acquired basement.
The couple found a cardboard box, wrapped in a garbage bag, as well as some plastic totes in the basement and the contents range from books and newspapers from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, to vinyl records from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, as well as camera equipment, camera instruction and photography books, recording equipment and car encyclopedias.
The vinyl records include Elvis’ first albums, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams and many other country artists, as well as a few Disney movie music records from the 1950s.
The newspaper clippings span a wide variety of years and topics, but many focus on historical events, such as the Titanic sinking, the return of the Atlantic Air Voyageurs after crossing the Atlantic Ocean in an airship, a treaty signing in 1925, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 750-mile voyage across the Southern Ocean in 1916, Pope Leo XII passing away in 1903 and much, much more.
“There’s so many things,” said Kevin, as he leafed through all of the clippings. “There are significant historical events, a lot of stories on Alexander Graham Bell, a lot on the royal family and Queen Victoria’s time, as well as other royal families in Romania and Italy.”
The Dakins also found several older books, such as a copy of Alice In Wonderland from 1905 that came from Red Deer School, a Charles Dickens book from the early 1900s, a book by Kerry Wood, a lot of Canadian history and wildlife books, as well as cowboy-type stories and outdoor information books. There’s even a book from 1870, titled Princes Of Art, which features Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Canova, and a doctor’s manual from 1858, titled Health and Disease with Recipes by E. B. Foote, M.D., which discusses conditions and medical knowledge of the time, everything from cells and blood disorders to mental health. Dr. Foote was an American doctor, author and one of the earliest advocates for birth control.
Kevin estimated the oldest book in the collection is from 1809, a religious type of book that focuses on the human body and resurrection.
“You never plan on finding stuff like this,” he said. “It’s fascinating.”
When asked what he was going to do with their newfound historical pieces, Kevin said he has no idea.
“It might be nice to save as a collection,” he said. “Maybe it’s somebody’s old treasure. I have no names, no way to get in touch with anyone.”
Kevin said there isn’t much information on the property’s title that might suggest a previous owner or someone to contact, but he figured that at some point in time, it’s likely a doctor lived in the house, possibly someone from England since a lot of the newspapers come from there, and then more recently an artist or musician occupied the house. There are some old photo albums, but they don’t contain any identifying information, either.
Kevin said he believes the house is the oldest in Sylvan Lake, and it was built in 1906.
“It’s a long-term investment,” he said of the house. “We’re going to have to do some work to it, but we want to keep it as original we can.”