Vancouver consultants Elana Zysblat and John Atkin spent four flurrying days in Fernie preparing Conservation Plans for local heritage buildings and helping to kick-off the Fernie Heritage Master Plan Task Force.

Accompanied by Ron Ulrich, Executive Director of Heritage Fernie and Chair of the recently established Fernie Heritage Master Plan Steering Committee, we zoomed along the highway from the Cranbrook airport straight to Knox United Church – our first old ‘patient’ on this trip. We were invited to Fernie to help the stewards of four historic buildings understand and articulate the significance of their buildings, assess their current condition, plan for any immediate necessary interventions and for their ongoing maintenance.

We visited Knox United Church, the Fernie Museum, the Courthouse and the Holy Family Church from top to bottom, inside and out. We crawled through attic spaces, up steep ladders into bell towers and turrets and met the fantastic groups and individuals who take care of these iconic Fernie landmarks. The variety and expressiveness of material and design of the buildings is impressive: the local ochre-coloured Fernie Brick was used on Knox United, the stained glass windows at Holy Family were commissioned from France, the Courthouse was designed as a collaboration of Vancouver and Calgary architects and the Museum building, the former Home Bank, features a lovely galvanized steel balustrade along its roofline. For buildings ranging from 105 to 108 years old, built in relative haste after the Fire of 1908, they are all fairing well! We will now be preparing illustrated Conservation Plans for each building to help guide their continued and relevant use and maintenance for another 100 years.

A Heritage Conservation Plan can be summed up as “…a document which explains why a place is significant and how to sustain that significance in any new use, alteration, repair or management.” – Kate Clark, English Heritage. These documents are often commissioned when a challenge arrises (leaky roof, unexplained cracks, the need to adapt to new uses etc…) and although they help to solve the immediate problem, they are also excellent “user manuals” for current and future property managers.

© 2016 Fernie & District Historical Society