Heritage structures are physical reminders of our communities’ pasts. They may represent community-defining businesses that have come and gone, or early ways of life that no longer exist. They may stand alone as singular examples or be part of a string of historic structures that add interest to a neighbourhood.

Now, 16 heritage structures in the Columbia Basin will be better able to take on the future after being upgraded thanks to support from Columbia Basin Trust. Through its Built Heritage Grants, administered by Heritage BC, the Trust is committing over $1.4 million to these projects.

The three-year, $6.15-million funding program helps groups preserve heritage structures to withstand time, rehabilitate them for continued use or new uses, or restore them to the way they once were.

“Heritage buildings are markers of our history, add character to our communities and remain valuable for many types of activities,” said Wayne Lundeberg, Columbia Basin Trust Director, Delivery of Benefits. “Improving them for both today and tomorrow—whether they’re important architecturally, culturally, visually, for tourism or otherwise—is one of our priorities.”

In Fernie, for example, Home Bank built a downtown corner building in 1910, at the height of the area’s coal production, which it occupied until the bank failed in 1923. Since then, the building has had a variety of occupants, and is now home to the Fernie Museum and Visitor Information Centre. With some interior renovations in the past, many of the building’s defining interior details—including its ceiling mouldings and bank vaults—have largely remained intact. Now the Trust grant is enabling the building’s owner, the City of Fernie, to replace its leaky roof.

“The Home Bank is one of the oldest buildings in Fernie and helps define the historic character of downtown Fernie,” said Lloyd Smith, Director of Leisure Services, City of Fernie. “It has been well maintained, is in excellent condition and appears to have had little alteration from the original. These factors make it one of the most important heritage buildings in Fernie.”

In Nelson, the Nelson Coke and Gas Works building was constructed in 1910 and helped establish a waterfront section (now known as Railtown) as the industrial area of the young community. In addition to making products like coke, tar, creosote and paint, the business supplied the town with coal gas for heating and cooking. Once natural gas arrived in Nelson in 1957, the plant closed down. Now the City of Nelson will be undertaking exterior renovations on this long-vacant building, with hopes it can soon be occupied and useful again.

“An important and culturally significant part of Nelson, Railtown borders the downtown core and waterfront and features a number of historical landmarks,” said Peter Sinstadt, Facilities Maintenance Manager, City of Nelson. “By modernizing the Coke and Gas Works building, we can ensure that this historic building remains a cornerstone of Nelson for years to come.”

There will be two more intakes of the Built Heritage Grants, in 2018 and 2019. Learn more at ourtrust.org/builtheritagegrants.

The program is administered by Heritage BC, which supports heritage conservation through education, training and skills development, capacity building in heritage planning, and funding. Learn more at heritagebc.ca.

The Trust has also committed to supporting heritage in the Basin by funding a new professional heritage position. Located in the Basin, this person will help local groups and organizations build their capacity for conserving our heritage.

These activities are part of a greater emphasis on supporting heritage values in the Basin. In recent years, the Trust has supported major restoration and preservation work on several heritage buildings, including St. Eugene Church, Ɂaq’am, the Rossland Miners Union Hall, the Langham Cultural Centre and Kaslo City Hall.

Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit ourtrust.org or call 1.800.505.8998.

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