Stettler’s historic Parrish and Heimbecker grain elevator continues to move on up with a long-planned upgrade to restore the iconic structure that has stood the test of time since the early1920s.
“We want to restore the elevator to its original features and character,” said Stan Eichhorn, president of the Stettler P&H Elevator Preservation Society, the gentleman who initiated the project to preserve the building that has long reminded people of the rural and agricultural way of life of this area.
To promote its next major step in the project and raise further funds, the society will host an open house Nov. 4 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for tours, pie and coffee and other refreshments and an opportunity to “buy a shingle” for 50 cents each, $25 a bundle or $80 a square (four bundles).
“To me, there is a lot of history here and this is one of the last icons of a bygone era,” said Eichhorn, reminding that many of the rural skyscrapers have become obsolete falling victims to progress as technology has modernized many economic processes.
“Down the road, in the next year or two, we want to repaint the exterior of the elevator to the original elevator red colour,” said Eichhorn.
Raising funds to restore the rural reminder continues to keep the society busy, with some much needed support from the provincial government.
“We recently received a matching grant of $26,000 from the Community Facility Enhancement Program that will help us upgrade the roofs on the elevator and feed mill, install electricity in the feed shed and a new smoke detector and security system and further restore the feed shed in the elevator building,” said Eichhorn.
“We’re trying to raise our matching funds with a campaign to buy a shingle.”
“For the society and volunteers, getting this grant is encouraging and it enhanced the outlook to restore this building.”
“By knowing the past, we can help shape the future,” said Eichhorn.
Built around 1920, the 100-foot-high wooden elevator with a capacity of 40,000 to 45,000 bushels of grain is one of the main structures along the railroad that greets visitors on Highway 12 near downtown.
Since 2006, when the society received a provincial historic resources grant of about $8,000, sale of memberships, donations and other fundraising events have helped improve many of the buildings on site.
“Well over 5,000 to 6,000 hours of volunteer labour have been invested in the project,” said Eichhorn.
Formerly a hub of agricultural activity, the elevator site could again become a centre of rural and farming history as he envisions it.
“I would like to develop a place where younger generations can learn about what happened here in Stettler to develop the town and rural area,” said Eichhorn.
Closed on Jan. 3, 2003, the elevator was purchased by Eichhorn for $1 from P&H in 2004.
The society is also seeking a roller mill, hammer mill, blender and other related equipment to complement the facility.
“At some time in history, this was used by about 90 per cent of farmers in the region for livestock feed preparation,” said Eichhorn.
P&H was one of the very few grain companies to add a feed mill and offer livestock feed services.
“This is the last elevator-feedmill complex still standing in Alberta – so it’s unique to Alberta,” said Eichhorn.
As well, this facility had one of the few scales in the area, he noted.
“It’s one of the last structures in town that sort of provided the commerce and the groundwork for the development of this community.”
Along with the old creamery, grain elevator, egg-grading station, cattle stockyard by the railroad and other landmarks in town that have disappeared over the past few decades, P&H – in his opinion – is one of the pivotal points in the growth of the town.
Already the elevator is a place the be with the coffee shop open weekdays 9 to 11 a.m. and the rustic and refurbished feed shed available for small meetings and gatherings.
For more information, phone Eichhorn at 403-742-4703.