Parks Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

National Historic Sites in the Mountain National Parks

Jasper House National Historic Site of Canada

Map of the National Historic Sites in the vicinity of the Mountain National Parks
Interactive Map of the National Historic Sites in the vicinity of the Mountain National Parks
© Parks Canada

Etching of Jasper House, 1872 Jasper House, 1872
© Parks Canada

 

 

 

Originally named Rocky Mountain House, Jasper House took its name from its first postmaster, Jasper Hawes, who ran the post from 1814 to 1817. To avoid confusion with the Rocky Mountain House located on the North Saskatchewan River, the post became known as ‘Jasper's House.’

Strategic Location

Jasper House was located at a strategic point on two routes through the Rockies: one through Yellowhead Pass and the other via Athabasca Pass. In addition, it was in a prime location for Aboriginal peoples traveling the historic route through Snake Indian Pass into the upper Smoky River drainage, the Fraser River drainage and the interior of British Columbia.

Jasper House I

The name ‘Jasper House’ has actually been associated with two different fur trade posts. The first Jasper House, established in 1813, was located on the shore of the Athabasca River at the entrance to the Rockies. Most likely located at the outlet of Brûlé Lake near the confluence of Solomon Creek, (or the eastern boundary of today’s Jasper National Park) the post provided food, horses and other needs for travelers crossing the Rocky Mountains.

Jasper House II

After its amalgamation with the North West Company in 1821, the Hudson’s Bay Company reorganized the western and trans-mountain trade routes resulting eventually in the abandonment of Jasper House I in favour of a new location further upstream. Jasper House II was established at the north end of Jasper Lake in 1830. The post became the centre of a modest and diverse community and an important staging post for travelers. It did not trade many furs, but was established as a warehouse for those crossing either Athabasca or Yellowhead pass.

The Final Years of Operation

After 1853, the post operated sporadically, as a general departmental reorganization saw the fur territories west of the Rocky Mountains reporting directly to London from Fort Victoria. The need to supply the Pacific Slope from east of the mountains ended, as did the role of Jasper House as an important supply and transfer point between east and west. Seasonal use of the post continued over the next few years until, in 1857, Sir George Simpson ordered the post closed.

Reopened in 1858 by trader Henry John Moberly, the post operated on a seasonal basis until 1861. During this time, Moberly restored the 30-year-old building, expanding the footprint of Jasper House. The building was officially closed by the HBC in 1884, although it had been out of use since Moberly left, more than 20 years prior.

Homesteaders

Lewis Swift, a miner from Ohio, settled at Jasper House in 1891 or 1892 and modified the surviving structure from the Moberly years. Swift used Jasper House as a base from which to survey the valley for a suitable homestead location. By 1894, Swift and his family relocated to the ‘Henry House Flats’ in the shadow of the Palisades, closer to the present Jasper town site.

Visitors

Jasper House served as a meeting place for all persons journeying through the Athabasca and Yellowhead passes throughout much of the 19th century including Aboriginal people, explorers, missionaries, surveyors and homesteaders. Among those who visited:

  • Canadian landscape and native culture artist Paul Kane
  • Hudson’s Bay Company governor Sir George Simpson
  • military surveyor and artist Henry J. Warre
  • missionaries Father P. J. De Smet and Father Albert Lacombe
  • Dr. Cheadle and Lord Milton
  • Dr. James Hector of the Palliser Expedition
  • Canadian Pacific Railway surveyors Sandford Fleming, Walter Moberly and Charles Horetzky

The Site Today

The remaining structures at Jasper House were destroyed in 1909 when a party of surveyors to the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway converted materials from the surviving cabin into a raft. Today, the field where Jasper House II stood is an archeological site with few remaining vestiges of the past but a strong sense of history.

The site of Jasper House
The site of Jasper House
© Parks Canada
Historic Sites timeline Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site Howse Pass National Historic Site Athabasca Pass National Historic Site Kootenae House National Historic Site Yellowhead Pass National Historic Site Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site Jasper House National Historic Site Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site Fort St. James National Historic Site Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site First Oil Well National Historic Site Skoki Ski Lodge National Historic Site Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin National Historic Site Jasper Information Centre National Historic Site Twin Falls Chalet Historic Site Yellowhead Pass National Historic Site Rogers Pass National Historic Site Banff Park Museum National Historic Site Cave and Basin National Historic Site Bar U Ranch National Historic Site
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada placed a plaque on site commemorating Jasper House National Historic Site of Canada
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada placed a plaque on site commemorating Jasper House National Historic Site of Canada
© Parks Canada

Jasper House National Historic Site of Canada plaque states:
In 1813 the North West Company built Rocky Mountain House on Brűlé Lake as a provision depot for the brigades crossing the Athabasca Pass to the Pacific. When Jasper Hawes took command of the post in 1817 it became known as 'Jasper's House' to avoid confusion with Rocky Mountain House on the Saskatchewan. The Hudson's Bay Company moved Jasper House up river to this site in 1829, but by mid-century decreasing traffic over the pass sent the post into decline. When Paul Kane was here in 1846 this was a remote outpost commanded by Colin Fraser, George Simpson's former piper. A half-century later Jasper House was finally closed.

Fast Fact:

Jasper House National Historic Site of Canada is located on the shores of Jasper Lake, a unique geographic location. The lake is actually a wide, shallow section of the Athabasca River, which acts as a sieve removing silt and sand from the river and allowing it to sink to the lakebed. In the fall, the water level recedes exposing vast sand flats vulnerable to the strong westerly winds of the lower Athabasca Valley. These winds blow the sand and silt down the valley, forming two large dune islands near the northwest shore of Jasper Lake.

Fast Fact:

In 1814, Jasper House was staffed with one interpreter, one horse keeper, two hunters and two hired fur traders

Sources:

Payne, Michael, “The Fur Trade on the Upper Athabasca River 1810 – 1910,” Western and Northern Service Centre, Parks Canada, 2004

“Jasper House National Historic Site of Canada Commemorative Integrity Statement,” Parks Canada, 2005