Deconstruction delayed for historic buildings

Nisbet Church in Kinsmen Park, prior to deconstruction. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Prince Albert city council has reversed course on plans to deconstruct a pair of historic buildings in Kinsman Park.

Nisbet Church and the accompanying blockhouse, both of which were built more than 100 years ago, were originally slated for demolition due to a lack of funds to keep them standing.

However, during recent budget deliberations, city council voted against providing $10,000 for the Prince Albert Historical Society to save what they could and knock down the rest.

Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick, a former historical society president, led the charge to remove the funding. He’s worried the society is giving up on the buildings, and thinks there are options available to save them.

“They can be saved, it’s just at what cost, and when we pass a budget, we say to society, ‘this is what we value as a community,’” he said.

According to an engineering assessment performed last spring, roughly $750,000 in repairs are needed to keep both buildings standing. The main problems are the bottom logs on both structures, which are rotten and require replacing.

Representatives from the Prince Albert Historical Society say they don’t have the funds to save the buildings, and because both were moved from their original locations in the 1930s, neither can be declared National Historic Sites.

Other historic buildings in the area, like the Saint-Antoine de Padoue Church in Batoche, faced similar problems, but were saved due to their status as National Historic Sites of Canada.

“With the heritage and the history of these two buildings, it’s a shame that we aren’t at least putting in place a plan to save them,” Ogrodnick said.

Mayor Greg Dionne was the most fervent opponent of Ogrodnick’s motion. He’s concerned the buildings will fall over before anything can be saved.

Other council members, like Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski, said the $750,000 price tag simply wasn’t a credible option. He viewed the $10,000 deconstruction as a chance for the city to save historically significant parts while they still could.

The City of Prince Albert currently has $14-million in a rainy day fund, which could be used on short notice should the society conduct an emergency deconstruction at a later date.

While the budget line item has listed the $10,000 project as a demolition, Community Services Manager Jody Boulet described it as a “systematic deconstruction.” He said whatever can be salvaged for future museum displays will be prior to the final demolition.

The Reverend James Nisbet originally built Nisbet Church and school in 1872. According to the Prince Albert Historical Society, it is the second oldest church in Saskatchewan, and the oldest school between the Red River and the Alberta foothills.

The blockhouse was originally built by Archie Ballantine as a stable for Prince Albert’s first lawyer. It was converted into a blockhouse, which was used for the city’s defence during the Northwest Rebellion.

@kerr_jas •