Municipal Historic Resource spotlight: Lacombe

Written by: Ron Kelland, MA, MLIS

In June, we featured several buildings that the City of Lethbridge recently designated as Municipal Historic Resources (MHRs). But Lethbridge isn’t the only city that has been actively protecting its heritage resources and listing them on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Over the past few months, the City of Lacombe has designated five places as MHRs and added them to the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Lacombe has been one of Alberta’s most active communities in protecting its historic places. As an early community in the former Alberta Main Street Program, Lacombe has restored and maintained one of the largest historic downtown cores in the province. As of June 1, 2019, there are six sites in Lacombe designated as Provincial Historic Resources and seven designated as Municipal Historic Resources.

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Register Now for the 2014 Municipal Heritage Forum!

MHF v1

We are pleased to announce that registration for this year’s Municipal Heritage Forum is now open!

The Forum is being held on October 16th and 17th at the Lacombe Memorial Centre in the City of Lacombe. The theme for this year’s Forum is “New Ideas for Historic Places: Conservation through Technology and Innovation”.

Our keynote speakers for this year include Kayla Jonas Galvin of Archaeological Research Associates in Kitchner, Ontario and Larry Laliberté, GIS Librarian at the University of Alberta. Kayla specializes in social media and will be speaking about how you can use social media to conserve local historic places and Larry will be presenting his research on the application of Geographical Information Systems and geovisualization to linking local digital collections.

Kayla Jonas Galvin
Kayla Jonas Galvin
Larry Laliberte
Larry Laliberté









A preliminary version of the Forum schedule is available here. Registration is available online. Space is limited so please register today.

We look forward to seeing you in beautiful Lacombe!


Municipal Heritage Forum 2014 – Request for Presenters

As previously announced, the 2014 Municipal Heritage Forum will be held on October 16th and 17th at the Lacombe Memorial Centre with sessions to be held in and around their award winning Main Street. The theme of this year’s forum is “New Ideas for Historic Places: Conservation through Technology and Innovation”. We are planning some exciting sessions to get you thinking about social media, mapping and documentation as well as workshops on using technology for building conservation. We hope to see you there! Registration will open and keynote speakers will be announced in June.

(Note: social media graffiti not actually real!)

For those of you who have attended past Forum’s you will be familiar with the Municipal Show and Tell sessions. Show and Tell is an opportunity for municipalities and volunteer groups to present projects they have been working on to their peers. It is a great way to learn about different heritage initiatives and to make valuable contacts for the future. The challenge we always have organizing Municipal Show and Tell is that you heritage conservationists are a humble group – many of you don’t realize how interesting your projects are and how much others can learn from you. Year after year we get feedback telling us how valuable the Show and Tell is to participants so we strongly encourage you to send us your ideas or recommendations! Presentations are approximately 15 minutes long, with time for questions included. If you would like to forward an idea for the Municipal Show and Tell e-mail us at 

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Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Lacombe wins the Great Places in Canada competition!

Lacombe’s Historic Main Street named Best Street in Canada.

The City of Lacombe’s historic main street was just named Best Street by the Great Places in Canada competition. The Great Places in Canada competition is sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Planners, annually. Lacombe’s Historic Main Street was shortlisted in the Best Street category by popular vote. It was then selected as the winner by a panel of experts from the Canadian Institute of Planners. We’re thrilled that one of Alberta’s historic main streets has received national recognition.

A photo showing a block of 50th Avenue in Lacombe.
a block of 50th Avenue in Lacombe (2009)

You may recognise Lacombe’s main street—50th Avenue in Lacombe is one of Alberta’s iconic streetscapes. Most buildings in downtown Lacombe were constructed in the decade before the First World War. A building bylaw, aimed at limiting the destruction that a fire could bring, required that anything built in the downtown be constructed of brick. Many of the Edwardian-styled commercial buildings—such as the Flat Iron Building—are Alberta icons. Several of the buildings, such as the Flat Iron Building, the M & J Hardware Building and the Campbell Block are Provincial Historic Resources.

These landmarks would most likely have been lost if not for the foresight and dedication of Lacombe’s citizens. The owners of these gems took a great deal of pride undertaking the conservation work often needed. Lacombe’s forward-looking business community was an early participant in the Main Street Program (from 1987 to 1993). The rehabilitation work undertaken during this time is an important reason why so many of these buildings remain standing.

The city has since developed policies to ensure that conservation of its historic commercial district is an important part of its’ development process. The city recently completed both a Downtown Area Redevelopment and Urban Design Plan—which features detailed plans for maintaining the streetscape. The city also recently adopted a Heritage Management Plan (with the help of the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program) ensuring that locally significant historic places are inventoried and can be designated as Municipal Historic Resources.

What is really fitting about this award is how it recognises the community’s involvement in these special places. 50th Avenue is not a museum piece, but a destination people go to meet friends, shop and celebrate. This is a lively area with many restaurants and businesses. The Lacombe and District Historical Society operate a museum on the main floor of the Flat Iron Building. Social service agencies and the provincial government have offices on the street or nearby. Popular annual events—the Light Up the Night Festival, the Lacombe Culture and Harvest Festival, and Lacombe days, among others—draw large crowds downtown annually.

Recent development has reinforced 50th avenue’s central place in this community. Lest We Forget Park, where the annual Remembrance Day ceremony is held, is just at the end of the commercial area. The Lacombe Memorial Centre, a (relatively) new development, contains the public library, meeting rooms and a hall, reinforce 50th avenue’s centre place in Lacombe’s daily life.

Jennifer Kirchner, Planner with the City of Lacombe, showed us around main street.
Jennifer Kirchner, Planner with the City of Lacombe, showed us around main street.

Jennifer Kircher, Lacombe’s Planner, told me about how important individual community members were in winning this award. “The Community got really excited about it”, she said. During the voting period people she hadn’t yet met came up to Jennifer to tell her they voted.

I’m sure this is just the beginning of our work with Lacombe. The re-launch of the Alberta Main Street Program brings a great opportunity to again work with Lacombe on conserving one of Alberta’s pre-eminent main streets.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.

Alberta Historical Resources Foundation board steps out

Lacombe's main street from the alleyway
Lacombe’s main street from the alleyway

Foundation board tours the streets of Lacombe before heading back to the boardroom

The board of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation held their spring meeting in Lacombe. Before heading to the boardroom, the members enjoyed a guided walking tour of Lacombe’s main street, seeing some beautiful Provincial Historic Resources : the Flatiron Building, the Roland Michener House and the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop. (Incidentally, all three properties are currently managed and interpreted by the Lacombe and District Historical Society.)

Matthew Wangler, the foundation's Executive Director, tired his hand at blacksmithing.
Matthew Wangler, the foundation’s Executive Director, tired his hand at blacksmithing.

Board members and staff enjoyed the unique opportunity to watch a blacksmithing demonstration (similar to this one) and experience “branding” at the Blacksmith Shop, and view the public murals that artistically captured the city’s rich heritage.

In its continuing efforts to reach out to its heritage stakeholders, the board also held an informal roundtable discussion with the talented members of Lacombe’s Heritage Steering Committee and the Lacombe and District Historical Society. The insights shared during the discussion revealed the strong commitment of this active community in meeting the many challenges and opportunities in preserving and promoting their local heritage.

The board would like to thank the Lacombe and District Historical Society for the tour. Our Kudos goes to the Lacombe community for all their hard work. The board definitely felt refreshed before heading to the boardroom to adjudicate grants.

Written by: Carina Naranjilla, Grants Program Administration, Alberta Historical Resources Foundation

Managing Lacombe’s Heritage

I had the pleasure of attending the City of Lacombe’s Heritage Open House on February 28th. The city presented a draft of their heritage management plan for community perusal and input. The event was hosted by Lacombe’s Heritage Preservation Program at the beautiful St. Andrew’s United Church hall. People started arriving from the moment the doors opened and kept coming until the end, asking great questions about Lacombe’s Heritage Preservation Program. The turnout was wonderful. You can read a bit more about the event itself at the City of Lacombe’s blog.

City of Lacombe, Heritage Management Plan Open House - 20130228-00010Lacombe’s Heritage Management Plan will ensure that locally significant historic resources are identified, protected and systematically conserved. Under the plan, the Lacombe Heritage Steering Committee will continue to revise and update the municipal heritage inventory begun in spring of 2011. The city will soon be able to protect locally significant historic places using new policies governing the designation of Municipal Historic Resources. The final elements will be the plan to evaluate changes to designated resources to insure they retain their heritage value.

The plan will be complete and finalized in the coming months. We’ll bring you more information on the plan when it’s complete. The City of Lacombe can soon begin designating its first Municipal Historic Resources. Stay tuned.

For those who are interested in Lacombe’s heritage, you may wish to check out their facebook page: I ♥ Lacombe Heritage.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Heritage Open House in Lacombe

I attended the City of Lacombe’s Heritage Inventory Open House a few weeks ago. Over the past year, Lacombe has been busily evaluating several properties in its historic residential areas for significance and integrity. Thirty properties were selected for evaluation and at the open house draft statements of significance were presented to the community for review. The event was a smashing success. I’d tell you more, but I think you might prefer to head over to the City of Lacombe’s blog and hear about it in their own words.

Flatiron Building, Provincial Historic Resource, City of Lacombe

The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program has worked with the City of Lacombe for three years now, helping them identify and evaluate locally significant historic places. You can also learn more about the City of Lacombe’s Heritage Preservation Program from Lacombe’s website.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Rediscovering a Lost Art – “Take 2”

A previous RETROactive blog post featured the recent designation of the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop as a Provincial Historic Resource. Do you want to do more than simply read about the Blacksmith Shop? Click here to watch some of the designation ceremony AND to watch the two blacksmiths practice their craft. Enjoy!

Check out the Lacombe & District Historical Society blog to learn more about visiting the Blacksmith Shop Museum.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Lacombe: An Evening of Heritage

Back L-R: Donald Luxton, Peter Bouwsema (Councillor), Jason Haggkvist. Front L-R: Kelsey Van Grinsven, Laura Pasacreta, Marie Péron, Andrea Becker, Sean Stroud, Kirstin Bouwsema

It’s been a busy few weeks for friends of heritage in the City of Lacombe. On Friday October 14th, I led a workshop on values-based management for members of the city’s Heritage Steering Committee. The City of Lacombe, with the advice of the committee, will soon begin evaluating several historic places for heritage value.

Then, on Thursday October 20th, the City of Lacombe hosted an “Evening of Heritage”. About 80 residents listened to several presentations and afterwards had many great questions. Over the course of the evening:

  • Laura Pasacreta, of Donald Luxton and Associates, updated the community on the progress of the ongoing heritage inventory;
  • Donald Luxton, Principal of Donald Luxton and Associates, showed the audience how to maintain and repair a historic wood-frame window; and
  • David Holdsworth, a Heritage Planner with the City of Edmonton, spoke about Edmonton’s municipal heritage conservation program.

The City of Lacombe began working with MHPP in 2008. Since that time, the entire community has been surveyed and the heritage steering committee has identified well over 100 places that deserve further study. Since 2009, Lacombe has been steadily evaluating these sites to determine which have sufficient value to the community to warrant Municipal Historic Resource designation.

Not content to simply evaluate historic places, the “Evening of Heritage” marks the first step in Lacombe’s efforts to develop municipal polices to protect and conserve locally significant historic places. The event was a great way to introduce the community to the idea of heritage conservation.

We congratulate Lacombe’s ongoing efforts to conserve locally significant historic places, or at least we plan to just as soon as we catch our breath …

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Rediscovering a Lost Art

On September 24, 2011, the Lacombe and District Historical Society hosted an event celebrating the designation of the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop as a Provincial Historic Resource.  Situated just off the City of Lacombe’s historic downtown, the blacksmith shop opened more than a century ago and is a tangible reminder of an essential craft during Alberta’s early settlement period. Present at the celebration was a veteran blacksmith and his young apprentice. Using traditional tools to shape modern creations, these two men embody the remarkable continuity between the historic identity of blacksmithing as a utilitarian settlement craft and its emerging face as a specialized form of artistry serving both ornamental and functional needs.

Read more about this event and the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop Museum by clicking here.

Learn more about this Provincial Historic Resource by visiting the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Written by: Matthew Wangler, Manager of Historic Places Research and Designation Program