Fernie’s Arts Station became more than a dream for a handful of art enthusiasts when Canadian Pacific Railway donated land and the old CPR building to the City of Fernie for use as a community arts centre.
The CPR Station was built in 1908 after Fernie’s second fire. It is known to be the last surviving first-class CPR station of this design, as this construction was built especially for the Crowsnest Branch Line.
In 1986, the Fernie & District Arts Council began the renovation and restoration of this remarkable piece of history. A new foundation was laid and the building moved to its new location a few metres from its original home. Most fixtures in The Arts Station are restored originals, while some are replicas.
In October 1990, after four years of hard work by many volunteers, The Station held its grand opening.
Andy Brice commented, “In the mid-1980’s the Fernie and District Arts Council took over the decrepit old CPR station in order to move, renovate and turn it into an Arts Centre. Anyone who has been to Fernie since 1990 knows what a success that project has been. But in the summer of 1986, the Arts Council had just gotten enough money to get the station moved off CPR land and put on a new foundation. I was the Community Programmer for Kootenay Cable and it was one of my jobs to document these community projects. The footage went missing until Elk Valley historian John Kinnear (Fernie Historian) found it. So, here it is.”
Today the station remains a busy place as Fernie’s creative hub, home of the Fernie & District Arts Council. The original lobby is a gallery for the display of works by local artists; the ticket office is a restaurant; the baggage room is a 100-seat theatre used by visiting and local performers. Quilters, painters, stitchers and weavers use the upper floor while photographers and pottery enthusiasts practice their crafts in the basement studios.
The Arts Station now operates with more than 20 volunteers who put in hundreds of hours each month to provide many of the services available to members and visitors. It is still possible for visitors to stroll along the platform, admire the peaks and sense the pulse of the new activities. A visit to The Arts Station is a rewarding experience.