The Lacombe and District Historical Society (LDHS) has officially moved into their new space at Lacombe’s historical Flatiron Building located downtown. Not only is the building beautiful and an important landmark to the city, it also has a long history. 

“The Flatiron building is obviously one of the most iconic buildings in central Alberta.  It was built in 1904 as the merchant bank originally. While downtown Lacombe saw many fires over the years, this building always stayed standing because of the way it was constructed with brick. It’s a very secure and safe building which is what they wanted to have as a bank at the time as well,” said Melissa Blunden, Executive Director of the Lacombe and District Historical Society.

The building was formerly used by Lacombe Tourism which has recently become more mobile in their operations with their tourism van.  Now, LDHS and Lacombe Tourism share an office space on the upper floor of the building which is also used for extra exhibition space as well as a public space for people to come together. 

Blunden says the space will provide opportunities for travelling exhibitions which was simply not possibly in the Michener House Museum. The Michener House only had the space for the organization’s historical displays and a basement that is dedicated to the society’s collection and storage. 

“We’re just really excited to be able to have this grand gallery space for art exhibits and history exhibits. We do have up to 2024 already booked through different exhibits nationwide. There’s something coming from Vancouver, the War Museum of Canada, and the Canadian History Museum and we’ll be mixing those with our own exhibits in November and December,” explained Blunden. 

The organization is also looking into providing museum quiet hours for those who are living with autism or dementia as well as programming aimed at younger people. 

The basement of the building is in the process of being dedicated to housing some of the society’s collection. However, redefining that space and preparing it for safe collection does come at a cost. 

“For fundraising we did just present and were approved for the Community Builder’s Fund through the City of Lacombe. The Rec and Culture Board has that grant available and so that is about 25 per cent what we need for the basement work,” said Blunden. 

The work in the basement will cost around $80,000 and the other two floors will cost LDHS around $200,000. 

After years of struggling with the small collection space at the Michener House Museum, Blunden says the extra storage space in the Flatiron Building will be very welcome.  They also hope to get an archivist on site to assist people with their research in the collections. She noted that the space at the old museum has become overburdened with items and they have even had to turn items away, due to the lack of space.

“One of the concerns with the Michener House, besides the fact that it is the oldest residence in Lacombe is that when they built the basement in the 80’s they actually put it underneath the City’s waterline and so that has a few concerns,” said Blunden. 

Executive Director of the Lacombe and District Historical Society, Melissa Blunden inside of the Flatiron Building.

The collection has been threatened by a septic tank back-up as well as a flooding event that took place earlier this year in June where LDHS also discovered asbestos. 

“It had nothing to do with the septic tank and everything to do with how the weather dropped below 0 for a couple of nights. That luckily caused very minimal damage to the building but it did soak one of the exterior walls. In order to have that repaired we had to do asbestos testing which came back positive in the compound,” said Blunden. 

Although the discovery of asbestos wasn’t necessarily a good one, throughout these events, none of the collection was damaged. Over the last year, the museum has spent over $20,000 protecting the collection at the Michener House. 

The new space at the flat iron building does assist the organization with their fundraising efforts. Visitors can now purchase hand-made and locally made goods from the museum’s gift shop. It also provides a space to offer fundraising events such as their ongoing silent auction. You can click here for more information on that. 

Additionally, the Flatiron building provides a space that can be open to the public year-round while the Michener House Museum and the Blacksmith’s Shop have not been open over the summer months. 

You can check out their new space at the Flatiron Building from 10 AM to 4 PM from Wednesday to Saturday weekly.