Our History

Vermilion, AB was established as a village in 1906, and incorporated as a town later that year. The town got its name from the red clay in the river valley, and means, ‘A bright red mercuric sulphide used as a pigment.’

One early enterprise was the Vermilion Brick Factory, which operated from about 1906 to 1914, producing more than 1.5 million bricks in that time.

The Imperial Block on Main Street, still in use today, is one building constructed of the local brick. Downtown Vermilion also reflects the community’s intriguing past. Many older buildings in the business core have been recently restored through a cooperative initiative of the Town, local businesses, and the Alberta Main Street Programme.

A self-guided walking tour provides a history of these buildings. A look back …

Historic Walking Tour

Downtown Vermilion, AB is bursting with pride, with every building, landmark and home a thoughtful reflection of our community’s past.

Get out and go for a walk! A self-guided walking tour reveals a fascinating history of the historic buildings in our town. Plaques are displayed on the exteriors to give you a more in depth understanding of times past, and the histories of several other buildings were compiled with a vision of future restoration.

From 1992-1997, Vermilion was a project community of the Alberta Main Street Programme, which facilitated the façade restorations of a number of historically significant buildings.

The Vermilion Heritage Museum contains cleverly designed thematic displays which tell the tale of days gone by, and is located in a restored school with six galleries, displays and Stavelock buildings.

The Historic Walking Tour Guide can be obtained at the Tourist Information Booth or the Town Office. And would you believe Vermilion, AB offers so much more?!

Take a walk on our Historic Tour!

1897 • A rancher drove the first herd of cattle into Vermilion, about two miles east of
the present town.

1902 • Region was surveyed and significant number of settlers began to arrive.

1904 • First post office opened in at Breage, three miles east of present-day Vermilion.

1905 • Railway arrived and a station was erected.
• Post office was relocated there.
• By the end of 1905, the thriving community could boast three hotels.

• Town incorporated.
• The first school opened.
• The agricultural society was formed.

• Telephone service was installed.

• A board of trade, forerunner of today’s Vermilion and District Chamber of
Commerce, was in operation as early as 1908.

• Electric lighting.
• Vermilion’s first grain elevator was built in 1909.
• The Vermilion Standard newspaper was established in 1909.

  • Vermilion, AB operated its own lighting plant until 1953.
• The provincial government established a demonstration farm on the western
outskirts of the town. Two years later this became the Vermilion School of
Agriculture, known today as Lakeland College.

• A devastating fire on April 10, 1918 obliterated the heart of Vermilion’s business
district, razing 28 stores and business blocks. Undaunted, many businesses were
quick to rebuild, and several of the post-fire structures still stand in Vermilion’s
downtown core today.

• An oilfield discovery east of Vermilion in 1937 signalled
a new economic era. In 1939, the Waintown-Battleview well at Borradaile, six
miles east of Vermilion struck heavy crude.
• It was the second-highest producing
oilfield in Canada for the first eight months of 1941, and made a valuable
contribution to the war effort. With the later discovery of oil at Leduc, the
significance of this field became less important.