Friday, 09 August 2013 08:20

Val Marie elevator receives provincial heritage grant

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The crib-style wooden grain elevator in Val Marie, which was built in 1927, is a municipal heritage property. The crib-style wooden grain elevator in Val Marie, which was built in 1927, is a municipal heritage property. Photo by Matthew Liebenberg

Community efforts to restore the historic grain elevator in Val Marie has received a boost with the provision of a $15,000 grant from the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation.

The crib-style wooden elevator, which was built in 1927, is a municipal heritage property. The Val Marie Elevator Committee has been raising funds for a number of years to restore the building.
According to President Maurice Lemire, it was quite important for the committee to receive this grant.
“We’re in a small community and there’s more than our organization that’s trying to raise funds for different things,” he said. “So we’ve got quite a chore trying to raise probably close to $100,000 by the time we’ve got the job complete.”
This funding assistance from the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation is conditional upon completion of the work by September 2014, which is giving additional urgency to the committee’s fundraising efforts.
“We just got to keep chugging at it,” Lemire said. “We have to get it done before that or we lose this grant.”
The committee’s next fundraiser over the Thanksgiving weekend will be an auction of various artworks donated by local artists.
The main focus of the exterior renovation work is to replace the old roof shingles and siding.
“So far we’ve done the two lower roofs,” he said. “We’ve bought all the material, the siding and the cedar shingles to replace them as they were before.”
To complete the remaining work will require the use of a crew from Alberta with the specialized equipment to work at a height of 75 to 90 feet.
The elevator’s interior will be cleaned up, but their intention is to keep it as it is and to create a museum by adding some period agricultural equipment.
Lemire’s own memory of the elevator goes back to his childhood, when his father was the first elevator agent in Val Marie.
“My father came to run this elevator in 1927, so this is the reason that I’m really interested in it,” he said. “He ran it for 32 years.”
His father, who came from Quebec, homesteaded in the Coderre area north of Gravelbourg.
“He didn’t like farming too much and he was one of the fortunate ones in those days that had a pretty good education,” he recalled. “So he was able to get this kind of a job.”
The end of the railway service to Val Marie about 12 years ago was a turning point for the old elevator.
“They used it a bit after that, but then they quit using it because they had to start using semi trailers and it wasn’t big enough for weighing and hauling in with those big trucks,” he said.
The village decided it was important to preserve the elevator and Lemire got involved after he noticed the deterioration of the building as he went by every day to go for coffee in town.
“Every second day there’ll be a shingle on the ground or a piece of siding or something and I thought if we’re going to do something we got to do it now before it gets too bad,” he said. “So I talked to different people and we got some interest going.”
An annex was added to the original structure in 1956, but it has deteriorated badly. By late 2009 it was torn down and Lemire, who is now 73, did most of the work.
The lumber from the annex was used to manufacture various items that were sold as part of the committee’s fundraising efforts.
Two carpenters made furniture items and Lemire made a few saddle stands, but their main project was to construct a cabin with the annex lumber. It was raffled off and they raised $10,000 for the renovation work.
For Lemire, it is important to preserve the old wooden elevators that were such an important part of the prairie’s agricultural development. He believes the one in Val Marie will attract some tourists to the village.
“Quite often people are there, taking pictures of it, and I’ve taken people through the elevator,” he said.
To make a tax deductible donation towards the restoration of the Val Marie elevator, contact the Village of Val Marie at 306-298-2022 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
The Val Marie elevator was one of 17 heritage conservation projects that received grants from the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation for the 2013/14 fiscal year.
Three other properties in southwest Saskatchewan also received grants: the Jasper Cultural and Historical Centre in Maple Creek ($4,500), the Commercial Hotel in Maple Creek ($20,000) and the St. John’s Lutheran Church in the R.M. of Riverside No. 168 ($2,500).

Read 4418 times Last modified on Friday, 09 August 2013 08:31
Matthew Liebenberg


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