Old GP courthouse to gain historic resource designation

·3 min read

The Old Courthouse in the Grande Prairie will be the next building to receive a municipal historic resource designation.

City council decided on May 2 to give consent for the designation and directed administration to develop a process to manage the city’s Municipal Historic Resources.

The old courthouse, which currently houses the Centre for Creative Arts, is located at 9904 101 Ave.

Coun. Chris Thiessen said the old courthouse is one of many buildings in the city eligible for the designation.

“With this designation comes the opportunity for grants to maintain the exterior facade as a historical site,” said Thiessen.

“It also might mean extra costs as well, because we'd have to renovate as to the specifications of how it was built back in the day.”

Coun. Grant Berg was in favour of the historical designation for the old courthouse and said he has served on historical boards in the past.

“The County (of Grande Prairie) and Sexsmith have far many more designations than Grande Prairie and we have some catching up to do,” said Berg.

“I think this is an exciting first step.”

Sexsmith currently has six buildings with a historic designation (two provincial and four municipal): Innes residence, Richards McNaughton Company Limited General Store, Emmanuel Anglican Church, Alberta Wheat Pool grain elevator and annex, Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop, and the Northern Alberta Railway Station.

The County of Grande Prairie says it has 26 properties designated as historical sites or resources, along with six provincial historic resource sites. The county noted it has 21 sites for potential designation as well.

The city currently has two provincial historic resource sites, the Grande Prairie High School (now Art Gallery of Grande Prairie) and the Reverend Forbes Homestead.

Berg noted that the old courthouse's new designation would still allow renovations to the building’s interior — as it would follow the same standards as at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie with the 1929 schoolhouse front.

“What happens inside can be renovated to current standards and expectations; it's the exterior that has to be maintained,” said Berg.

In 2006, the city created a Grande Prairie Heritage Inventory report which noted 32 buildings of significance; 19 were identified as designation worthy.

In 2008, a heritage management plan was created but not adopted by council at the time, according to city documents.

“We found that about 15 (sites) were still worthy of designation and that they were still intact as they were back then,” said Charles Taws, City of Grande Prairie curator and historical resources supervisor.

Some of the buildings are no longer standing or have been modified too extensively to be designated as a historic resource now, he said.

The old courthouse is also the only city-owned building currently on the list, says Taws.

“The building is a corporate style architecture, which makes it significant; it was very popular to be used in federal government buildings in the 1950s,” he said.

“It also is significant because of the role it played in the judicial history of this area from its opening in 1957 to about 1985 when it closed.”

Local historian David Leonard wrote when the courthouse was then taken over by the city; it either sat vacant or was used for storage until 1988 when it accommodated the Grande Prairie Christian School. Then in 1992, it was leased to the Centre for Creative Arts.

Leonard said the first person tried in the old courthouse was Douglas Hogan, convicted of a minor traffic violation.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News

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