A great view taken from the south side of the Ponoka Provincial Building at 5110-49th Avenue

A great view taken from the south side of the Ponoka Provincial Building at 5110-49th Avenue

Our Ponoka Provincial building was a Douglas Cardinal creation

This week's Reflections looks at the history of the Ponoka provincial building, a Douglas Cardinal creation.

For all of us who lived in and around Ponoka in the mid-1970s there was a great deal of awe and excitement as a massive construction project began along the entire block beside 49 Avenue, which in a couple of years would become our magnificent Provincial Building.

As the wandering three story facades fashioned by thousands of red bricks rose along that quiet neighbourhood street its sculptured and naturalistic curves and unique features would finally be completed in all its glory as the newest creation of renowned international architect Douglas Cardinal. At first, during construction, many of us Ponokans, especially the youngsters, imagined the huge building as some sort of a legendary castle or a majestic mountain range, but when it was all done we were very impressed with its grandeur and just couldn’t wait to get inside to have a look around.

With the construction and amazing inside and outside landscaping finally completed by 1975, the Ponoka Provincial Building would soon become known as a unique and very welcome one-of-a-kind addition to our community, but also to the quickly changing skylines, trends and progress of the booming Province of Alberta. This superb and unconventional building in Ponoka was one of the Alberta architect’s earliest works, and Douglas Cardinal would soon become internationally recognized for his powerful but peaceful natural construction themes and superb site vegetation, which all reflect a proud native tradition of harmony with the land and a brave departure from the modernistic forms of right angles.

Other early landmarks of his outstanding architectural skills included the St. Mary’s Church in Red Deer, the Grande Prairie Regional College and Performing Arts’ Centre, and Ottawa’s Museum of Civilization, and there would be many more project milestones throughout the long and illustrious career of the now 82 year old Mr. Cardinal. Throughout the design and planning process for the Ponoka project, Cardinal worked very closely with deputy managing director Brian Parsk, managing director Ed Clarke and other planning and executive staff of the new Alberta Opportunity Company, which would become the major tenant of the Ponoka Provincial Building immediately after the 1975 opening.

Ponoka welcomes the Alberta Opportunity Company

The Alberta Opportunity Company (AOC) was a Crown Corporation with an independent board of directors which was formed in 1972. The long-term goals of AOC were to provide financial and management assistance to qualified small and medium sized Alberta businesses, which were unable to obtain reasonable terms and conditions from the private sectors. The approved loans were used for a number of purposes, including land or equipment purchases and loan refinancing, as well as ongoing assistance with counselling, accounting, and marketing for its customers.

With the head office of the AOC occupying three floors of the new Ponoka Provincial Building and employing hundreds of qualified men and women, their services were also extended to include 10 Branch offices throughout the Province of Alberta. This very active and progressive company would operate for several decades, and then merged into the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation in 2002, whose offices are now located in Lacombe.

Always a special place to visit

Throughout its 42 years in our community the Ponoka Provincial Building has been a welcoming and friendly landmark in the heart of our downtown core that has served the town and county in many vital capacities, as well extending warm greetings to many thousands of celebrities, special guests, and visitors from near and far. The bright, spacious and immaculately decorated lobby and meeting rooms have and always are very pleased to host countless unique and colourful ceremonies, conferences, and community events on so many year-round occasions.

Our stately Provincial Building at 5110-49th Avenue Ponoka has been the home of the Alberta Opportunity Company, the Provincial Courthouse, the Alberta Mental Health Centre, the Alberta Water and Wastewater Operators Association, and many other government related services offices over the years. Local organizations such as Neighbourhood Place and other Family and Youth Service agencies and groups have also happily laid out their ‘welcome mat’ to thousands of clients of all ages at the east end door or the main entrance on the south side. Please feel free to drop in and get more information on this amazing community facility.