Reflections of Ponoka: Saluting our community’s 20th century landmarks!

It was in the late 1990s that the Ponoka Town Council entered into a partnership with the Alberta Historical Foundation to introduce

The Sweet Block on Chipman Avenue was built in 1937 by former Ponoka Mayor Don Sweet

The Sweet Block on Chipman Avenue was built in 1937 by former Ponoka Mayor Don Sweet

It was in the late 1990s that the Ponoka Town Council entered into a partnership with the Alberta Historical Foundation to introduce a vigorous and exciting downtown ‘Main Street Project’ that would identify and set out to enhance and restore some of our communities most historic buildings and sights!

Fraser Shaw was named as the Co-ordinator of the ongoing project, with committee members including Barb Greshner, Marnie Wilkins, Dave Spink, Merle McMillen, Earl Roberts, Bob Taylor, and the late Doug Nelson. Working closely with the Ponoka Town Council and the community, the dedicated group searched through photographs and information at our Fort Ostell Museum, the Provincial Archives, and the Glenbow archives to identify historic buildings and sights in the community that would qualify for the energetic program. Plans discussed the opportunity to not only recognize the importance of these historic treasures to the early progress and establishment of our town, but to also possibly work closely with the owners to assist with the funding of the revitalization of their longstanding architecture and features.

The buildings and sights identified in the early stages of Ponoka Mainstreet program included: Siding 14 (Canadian Pacific Railway), The Railway Depot, Canadian Pacific Railway dam on the Battle River, early Grain Elevators, Ponoka Plaza, Royal Hotel, Bank of Commerce, Thomson’s Grocery, Lux and Stephen’s Garage, Capital Theatre, Allan’s Furniture, Jack’s Men’s Wear, Brody’s, a Ladies Wear Shop, Ponoka Radio Electric, F.E. Algar Building, Ponoka Meat Market, Imperial Bank, Robert’s Equipment Dealership, Maple Leaf Garage, Ponoka Herald, Community Rest Room, Cold Storage Service, the Medical Art’s Building, Chipman Avenue, Bird Drug Company, Leland Hotel, Green’s Gents Furnishers, Thirsk’s 5 cent to $1.00 store, the Club Cafe, Bill’s Billiard Hall, the Sweet Block, Cash Foods, Ranks Drug’s, Alberta Treasury Branch, the old Town Hall, the old County office, Field’s Motors, Baptist Church, Bowker Funeral Home, Ponoka Provincial Building, Ponoka Jubilee Library, Central Alberta Dairy Pool, the old Ponoka General Hospital, the Brekke house, the Red Brick School, the Riverside Store, the Ponoka Stampede, Vold-Jones-Vold Auction, Fort Ostell Museum, Calgary/Edmonton trail, the Alberta Hospital, several stages of aerial photographs, and more to be added later! The Ponoka News has already featured some of our cherished historic sites in past editions of Remember When? and Reflections and we will continue to show you their unique early features, their owners and staff, and their great and exciting stories from in and around our community over the past century and counting!

F.E. Algar Building

A young and enterprising Frederic Algar arrived in the Ponoka Village sight in 1895, and established his first store in the C.P.R. (Siding 14) Railway depot. Doing a brisk business supplying new settlers with their supplies, Algar expanded in January 1896 to a nearby log building at the corner of Railways street and 51st Avenue.

This building burned down in 1902 and was replaced by a palatial 2-story structure with tin siding. Unfortunately this popular store also burned 12 years later, and the dedicated entrepreneur went to work on his third and last store, a sturdy brick structure, which was completed in 1914. Just behind the Algar Store was the ‘sugar shack’, a tiny building where hundreds of sacks of sugar and other goods were delivered by the dray man Dick Slater and stored for future distribution. Both of these structures still remain in the same location to this very day, have been refurbished, and have the information plaque of the ‘Main Street Project’ next to the front door, which outlines their proud and very colorful history!

Now a designated historic resource, the Algar building features front and rear storefronts with large display windows and metal cornices. Found inside are high metal-clad ceilings, and a the rear of the store, a little office once known to the employees as the ‘eagle’s nest’, which overlooked the interior. Behind it is a huge steel vault where valuable muskrat firs were stored. In 1944, after 49 years of business in Ponoka, Mr. Algar sold the building to Abe Abousafy of Wetaskiwin, who operated under that name for another decade. Later owned by Elmer and Esther Prediger (Uncle Elmer’s Bike and Tackle Shop), the building was restored in 1996-7 during the Main street program!

The Sweet Block

Built in 1937 by Don Sweet, one of Ponoka’s most colorful Mayors, this stucco building reflects the influence of the Moderne style almost a decade before it became fashionable in other Alberta towns! The architect was inspired by the streamline forms of cars and planes, and the unique style is evident in the curving entryway and the horizontal stucco ‘speed lines.”

The building, which also featured apartments upstairs, was earlier occupied by Jacques Jewelry, as well as a beauty parlor run by Mrs. Sweet. Later businesses included: the Ponoka News and Advertiser, a bus depot and cafe operated by Lee and Whitman, the offices of Jones Agencies Insurance, and a Shoe Shack. The gap between this building and its neighbour was used to reach the many back alley businesses, and one of these Andy ‘Gump’ Lundgren’s tailor shop, dates back to the 1930’s and still remains. Also a participant in the Ponoka Mainstreet Project, some of the most recent tenants include: Frenette Chiropractic, Cranberry Lane, and Diversified Financial.



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