2016 was a very busy year for the Lac La Biche Mission, and that’s continuing into this one, with many renovations, restorations and new exhibits planned.
The exterior of the schoolhouse on the sight has already been renovated. Despite being an old building, the project is not considered a restoration as it is not original to the site. “With the schoolhouse we were able to use more modern materials to make it a little bit more energy efficient,” explains Site Administrator Jennifer Mueller. “So we replaced the windows and siding. We had to do some roofing repairs and re-shingled it. We also gave it some new doors.”
A few interior repairs still need to be done. “We’re not going to do too much in the interior because we want to maintain the original features. It just needs a little bit of TLC and we’re hoping it will be ready for the summer for visitors to see.” The mission plans to include a cultural exhibit as well as an art gallery featuring local talent in the completed building.
A garage on the sight has also gotten some improvements as well, getting the full historical restoration treatment. “It’s a building that dates back to 1947. Because it’s a historical building we have to take extra care to maintain its original features. We have to be very true to things like the same kind of materials that were used then. So for instance we had to have our siding specially milled in order for it to be consistent with what was used back then.”
The Mission is now working on putting a new exhibit in the garage full of tools and farming equipment. They plan to have it ready for the public in time for the May long weekend.
Winter 2017 will see even more buildings at the mission restored. Two projects are on the list. A hundred year old chicken coop will get new roofing, siding windows and doors. A century old laundry house will receive interior fixes. Flooring will be replaced and a new staircase and exit ramp will be installed. It too will host a new exhibit once completed.
Mueller says the Mission was able to fund all this through a mix of grants and private donations. “I’ve been very busy here over the last year or two trying to secure grants for the various buildings. Some of the organizations and government levels that have contributed to our projects include Alberta Culture and Tourism, Alberta Heritage, Parks Canada, MAG Energy, Lac La Biche County and Access Pipeline. So there’s been quite a few different groups that have helped us out to make this possible.”