Riding high last Thursday during a community rally

Riding high last Thursday during a community rally

Grain elevator brushes with history

Preservation society hosts open house in support of painting tower

The P&H needs some TLC.

Stettler’s historic grain elevator — out of operation for 10 years but still a town landmark — is banking on community support to refurbish the towering structure.

Dollars signs were painted on the faded siding last Thursday during a community rally to spur a paint job for the 93-year-old elevator.

Music, food, tours and striking sunshine greeted visitors, who responded with donations to the Paint the Elevator campaign.

“I think anybody that I talked to here today, it was certainly positive and encouraging comments,” Stan Eichhorn, the president of the Stettler P&H Elevator Preservation Society, said after hosting guests for three-plus hours.

“They feel that it’s worthwhile hanging on to Stettler’s last elevator.

“It’s a bit more interesting, maybe, with this complex, because we do have the feed mill and feed shed, which wasn’t common on most elevators. We also have the coal shed, which is unique, because there’s only three coal sheds left in Alberta on the original site — and we have one of them.”

What’s more, Stettler’s grain elevator stands alongside the base for a provincial tourist hotspot, Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions.

The former feed shed has been converted into a meeting and dining room that was used Thursday during the open house.

People also mingled outside at the picnic tables, near the entertainment stage and antique vehicles, including three colourful International trucks.

“We would like to preserve the feed shed and keep the (wooden) décor as it is,” said Eichhorn, sporting coveralls and sitting on a couch while placing his Zeb Walton-style hat beside him.

“We’re going to insulate the outside of the wall, putting up studs and insulating out there, and then putting the cedar siding back on. But this (interior) will stay the same as you see it today. We won’t touch the walls. We could have put Gyprock up, but then it would be like every other room or hall in town.”

The preservation society hopes to promote the area as a meeting room that can accommodate 50 people for functions, Eichhorn said.

“It’s all by donation. We don’t charge.”

Likewise, the society is seeking community donations for the Paint the Elevator campaign. The group gained financial and moral support Thursday, as visitors included Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman, Stettler Mayor Dick Richards and County of Stettler Reeve Wayne Nixon.

“The weatherman was certainly with us today,” Eichhorn said with a laugh. “Maybe he’s from Stettler.”

“It’s a beautiful day. Just great.”

“We were really hoping that we would get to the people in the town, especially working people that have a lunch hour. They could pop by, have a look at what we have, and if they can offer us a little donation, great.”

While the turnout wasn’t as great as the historical group had hoped for, Eichhorn said the latest contributions were still being tallied.

The society spread its message clearly with signs on the side of the elevator. “Help Paint the Elevator,” read a slogan posted high above symbolic dollar signs painted on the tarnished surface.

“Not too many people have commented on the appearance of it, but we know it isn’t great,” Eichhorn said. “It’s kind of shabby, as a matter of fact. So that’s why we’re so keen to get it painted.

“That’s the main, big project that we have that will make a difference. People have been pretty generous, as far as (not) negatively commenting. But it’ll sure be nice to get it done.

“We have contracted to have part of it painted this summer. We’re putting new siding (and paint) on the elevator, and we’re leaving the siding on the annex, which is basically just a grain-storage area. It was built in later years, so the siding on that — with a few repairs — will be fine with this paint job.”

The entire project can’t be done with the amount of money raised so far, Eichhorn said, “because it’s about $165,000 to do the complete project.”

The immediate work includes siding and painting the elevator, “but the annex and the top of the elevator won’t be” done this year, he said.

“As a matter of fact, they might start within about two weeks. But we won’t be able to do it all unless our fundraising goes pretty well.”

In 2004, Eichhorn bought the elevator for $1 from Parrish and Heimbecker grain company.

“We then set up a non-profit society in 2005,” he said.

“Our membership has been growing since then. It’s about eight or nine years that we’ve been working on the (elevator preservation).

“It’s really about a 20-year project. There’s lots of work still to be done.”