Stettler rallies to save historic grain elevator

One of the last wooden grain elevators left standing in central Alberta is in desperate need of a facelift.

As the Stettler P&H Elevator shows its age

By Lana Michelin, Black Press

One of the last wooden grain elevators left standing in central Alberta is in desperate need of a facelift.

Not only is the exterior of the Stettler P&H Elevator looking worn, but rain is starting to leak through the siding, threatening the interior, said Stan Eichhorn, a member of the elevator preservation society.

The non-profit needs to raise $130,000 to re-side the 90-year-old elevator and give it a new paint job.

Eichhorn wants to turn the faded gold colour back to the flashy red the elevator sported for most of its life.

He came up with the idea of preserving the old elevator and feedmill complex as a museum in 2004 when he bought it from the Parrish and Heimbecker grain company for a dollar.

The 27-metre (90-foot) structure, built in the mid-1920s, had been slated for demolition, like Stettler’s other aging Alberta Wheat Pool elevator.

That one was knocked down in the 1990s, along with many other grain elevators in the province, causing many to call it the end of an era.

Eichhorn was among the local residents who didn’t want to see Stettler’s last remaining elevator disappear.

The looming structure is located right next to the local rail line, lending extra ambiance to the historic Alberta Prairie Railway steam train tours.

And Eichhorn remembers the elevator that can hold 25,000 bushels of grain from his boyhood.

“To me, it was a very basic and important part of our past and our agricultural history,” he said.

Its nearby coal shed harkens to the days before the wide-spread use of natural gas to heat homes, when grain elevator agents also sold coal because elevators had weigh scales large enough to measure orders.

The structure is also one of the few elevator/feedmill complexes in the province and the only one of Stettler’s significant agricultural buildings left standing.

“It’s one of our last bastions,” said Eichhorn, a retired agrologist who works on a family beef operation.

He noted the local creamery, stockyards, egg-grading station and abattoir are all gone.

The Stettler P&H Elevator Preservation Society has been working to create a museum out of the elevator, feedmill and coal shed.

It’s regularly open to the public during the summer months and on demand during the winter.

In the future, Eichhorn wants to heat the feed shed so the 1,000 square feet of space can be leased out for community functions.

“We’ve left the interior rustic, with exposed two-by-fours and old boards,” he said, so it could provide a unique atmosphere for meetings and various get-togethers.

Revenue from room rentals could be used for future elevator maintenance projects.

In the meantime, the society has already raised about a quarter of the needed money for the re-siding and painting project, and is throwing a benefit concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, at the Stettler legion to try to raise more.

The event features Juno Award-winning country-folk singer Gary Fjellgaard and his opening act, Saskia and Darrel. Anyone interested in buying a $20 ticket can call Eichhorn at 403-742-4703.

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