Clockwise from top left: The Studio Stage Door (Barry Coulter photo); Spencer Kerr (left) and Ferdy Belland, have along with Casey Wright purchased the historic Armond Theatre in downtown Cranbrook (Barry Coulter photo); St. Eugene Mission Resort (Jim Cameron photo); Juniper Lanes Bowling Alley (Trevor Crawley photo)

Clockwise from top left: The Studio Stage Door (Barry Coulter photo); Spencer Kerr (left) and Ferdy Belland, have along with Casey Wright purchased the historic Armond Theatre in downtown Cranbrook (Barry Coulter photo); St. Eugene Mission Resort (Jim Cameron photo); Juniper Lanes Bowling Alley (Trevor Crawley photo)

Cranbrook’s Heritage Buildings: The Age Of Restoration

Cranbrook History Centre’s next “Ed Talk,” April 28, is “Building Community in Heritage Buildings”

The past and the future will be covered in depth during the latest “Ed Talk,” courtesy of the Cranbrook History Centre.

The History Centre launched its series of ongoing community forums last year, via Zoom . Named after the iconic elephant Cranbrook Ed, the Ed Talks feature invited panel guests, discussing their knowledge and experience of East Kootenay natural and local history, and the skills they have honed in this regard.

The next Ed Talk, set for Wednesday, April 28, is “Building Community in Heritage Buildings,” and features a panel of four people with experience working with restored historic buildings, who have done the restoration themselves or been part of it, in the Cranbrook area.

Nathalie Lim Picard, Programming Coordinator for the Cranbrook History Centre, who is moderating the panel discussion, says she wanted to capture in the talk the spirit a wave of citizen-generated heritage preservation, that can be seen in such projects as the Armond, the Fire Hall, or the Studio Stage Door — perhaps Cranbrook’s most famous heritage building with a famous story of how it was saved from destruction.

The panel includes: Ferdy Belland, one of the co-owners of the Armond Theatre, which is being restored as a live music venue; Janice Alpine,the Business Development and Tourism Engagement officer with the Ktunaxa Nation Council, who was involved in the development of St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino; Peter Schalk, President of the Cranbrook Community Theatre Society; and Fred Williams, one of the co-owners of the Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap (the old fire hall), and now the Juniper Lanes Bowling Alley.

The talk is scheduled for April 28, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Zoom. To register online for the free talk, click here.

Cranbrook has had a fraught history with its heritage. Many beautiful works of architecture have been lost to attrition, fire, or simply been torn down in the name of progress. But in recent years, there has been a movement to preserve and restore those vintage buildings that remain, and make them part of the community once more.

“What’s the catalyst for the frustration, and impetus to preserve heritage buildings in Cranbrook,” Picard said. “For me, it is 1971, 50 years this summer, when Cranbrook City Council decided to tear down the old post office on Baker Street, a controversial and divisive action.

“A crowd formed outside, July 6, to watch the wrecking ball tear through this beautiful brick structure, built with Cranbrook brick. There was a lot of civic pride, and to see it torn down really affected people, to the point where, years later, a movement gathered to save the little brick building behind City hall. The degree to which people fought tooth and nail to save that building. A lot of that stemmed from the demolition of the old post office, which was the pride and joy of Cranbrook for so many years.

“Why do we value these buildings so much? If you don’t think about the meaning they have to people and the community, then they’re just brick and stone. And the value that humans put on them, the memories we make of them, the sense of identity we attach to them. That is what makes them special. It us who give them that spirit.”

Some of the questions that Picard, as Ed Talks moderator, has for the panel include: Why is it important for you to operate your business out of an historic building? What benefits do you see this bringing, not only to your business but to the community that you’re serving? What did you go the extra mile for to keep, and what did you have to let go?

“All these challenges,” Picard said. “It’s a lot easier to build new than to restore in many cases.”

The upcoming Ed Talk in May features Sophie Pierre, on the Ktunaxa’s historic relationship with nature. Previous talks featured Janice Strong and Jamie Levine, talking about key events in the history of life; Jim Cameron on Cranbrook history, Pat Morrow on wetlands, waterways and overlooks in the Columbia Valley, archivist Michelle Barroca on preserving your family history, and others.

The Cranbrook History Centre’s Ed Talks are funded by the East Kootenay Community Credit Union.