Historical Society fundraising for reconstruction of Prince Albert’s oldest buildings

The Prince Albert Historical Society has launched a fundraising campaign to reconstruct the city's oldest buildings, the Nisbet Church (left) and the Blockhouse (right). (Prince Albert Historical Society/Submitted)

The Prince Albert Historical Society is launching a campaign to raise the $200,000 it needs to rebuild an old church and blockhouse.

Both buildings used to stand on the northwest corner of Kinsmen Park, but were disassembled in June of 2018. They weren’t being used enough and were deteriorating.

According to the Historical Society, the Nisbet Church was originally constructed downtown in 1872 by Rev. James Nisbet for his Presbyterian Mission. The mission lasted until 1881. Nisbet named the mission ‘Prince Albert’ after British royalty.

The building was also used as a school.

It was moved to Kinsmen Park in 1932 and used as the museum until 1950, and again from the early 1970s until 1977.

“(Nisbet is) considered to be the founder of Prince Albert, so it’s important to keep something that he made,” said Connie Gerwing, president of the Historical Society’s board of directors.

The other building, the Blockhouse, was initially built as a stable for Prince Albert’s first lawyer, William Maclise, who arrived in the city in 1881.

However, it’s best known as a significant piece of history in the 1885 North-West Resistance.

“It was used as kind of a mini fortification,” explained board member John Thompson. “It had rifle slits cut in the logs along the sides of the building so that it could be used as a fortification, protecting the militia, soldiers inside to fire at the opposing enemy.”

Another board member, Fred Payton, said soldiers also built a stockade around the Blockhouse.

“People went into the stockade and stayed in the stockade until after the resistance was overcome. So there would be men, a lot of women, children, even some pregnant women in there,” he said.

The materials of these two buildings are currently being preserved.

“They have historical significance besides just being the oldest buildings and that’s why they were preserved the whole time,” said Gerwing.

She said they’ll be reconstructed along the riverbank, west of the Historical Museum. They’ll be operated by the Historical Society for programming and contain displays that reflect their significance. The church will also be used for small wedding ceremonies.

The Historical Society has a $25,000 bequest from Phil West, which will be put towards the reconstructions. West was a Historical Society board member, a lawyer and a longtime city councillor.

The Historical Society is relying on donations, grants and fundraising events to reach $200,000. The money will be used for concrete flooring, new roofs and logs to replace the ones that are rotten.

You can donate through their GoFundMe page called ‘Reconstruct the church and blockhouse’ or call (306) 764-2992 to donate directly to the Historical Society.

Donations over $20 will be issued a tax receipt.

Thompson said although the buildings had to be taken down last year because they were a public hazard, it’s crucial to build them again.

“It’s an effort to bring history alive.”