Ponoka residents are proud of their historic downtown buildings and they’re interested in seeing them preserved.
The Town of Ponoka’s historical committee hosted an open house March 3 to present the initial findings of a municipal heritage building inventory.
“We thought that it went well. We had a turnout of a small but engaged number of people,” said heritage consultant Judy Larmour, who is conducting the inventory.
Larmour and the committee have identified 17 buildings that have the “greatest historical significance.” The buildings are then evaluated against a set of criteria to establish their heritage value.
This inventory focuses on downtown commercial buildings but there could be future inventories conducted to identify significant public buildings such as churches and schools, as well as private residences.
A number of downtown business owners expressed an interested in learning more about the designation process and there were “ a couple of interesting discoveries” made at the open house, Larmour said. “We were impressed with their enthusiasm for the preservation of their buildings.”
She learned former Canadian lightweight boxing champ Sonny Frizzell used to train in the basement of the Sweet Block on Chipman Avenue because it had a nine-foot ceiling.
This municipal heritage building inventory builds on the past achievements and pride that the Main Street Program fostered in the late 1990s. The Main Street Program also helped to uncover some of downtown’s hidden treasures.
The inventory will be a valuable guide to heritage buildings in town for property owners who would like to know more about their building and as a planning tool for town council to plan for the conservation and protection of heritage buildings, whether they are designated Municipal Historic Resources. Fort Ostell Museum plans to use the statements of significance as exhibit material in connection with its walking tours and interpretive plaques.
Larmour said she must present her final report to the town by the end of March and then it will be presented to town council for consideration before “embarking on the next phase, which would be to consider setting up or instigating a designation program for buildings in town.”
Decisions involving a building’s designation by council as a Municipal Historic Resource will require the consent and involvement of the building owner. Owners of designated Municipal Historic Resources listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places are eligible for ongoing grants for approved conservation work that protect the character-defining features of the property.
Anyone with information on the downtown’s historic buildings or who could not attend the open house and would like more details on the program can call Val Somerville at the Town of Ponoka at 403-7834431 or Judy Larmour at 403-748-4862.
Cost of the project is partially covered by a grant from the province’s Municipal Heritage Partnership Program.