Summer is the perfect time to jump in the car and take a day tour to one of the many interesting places the West Kootenay has to offer.
One of these is an historic building located on Avenue A in the Village of Kaslo, called the Langham Cultural Centre.
Over the 125+ years of existence, the Langham has been a boarding house, a bank, a bar, a bottling plant and a boat factory.
At its darkest moment, the Langham was home to 80 Japanese Canadians who were forcibly interned during World War II.
Today, the building is in great shape and — while honouring its history — serves as a significant arts and culture centre.
“It’s really the cultural hub of the North Kootenay Lake region,” says Paul Grace-Campbell, outgoing executive director of the Langham Cultural Society.
“Here, you’ll find art galleries, a performance theatre and studios rented to artists and community organizations. You’ll also find the Japanese Canadian Museum, plus regular programming focused on the Japanese Canadian community.”
While in impressive condition today, it was a different story when the society purchased the building in 1974.
“Graffiti on the side of a wall said, ‘Burn it down,’” Grace-Campbell recalls.
Thankfully, they didn’t take a flame to it.
Rather, initiatives across the decades have made the Langham the historical icon it is today.
Over more recent years, Grace-Campbell says that Columbia Basin Trust (Trust) has been key in helping with a huge list of renovations.
Exterior paint; new carpet, theatre seats and doors; structural work in the basement and attic; improved ventilation; upgraded lighting and sound systems; and the addition of a second art gallery have modernized this important hub into the great shape it’s in today.
So good, Grace-Campbell points out, that the Langham is a provincial and federal historic place, and is recognized by the Architecture Foundation of British Columbia as one of “B.C.’s 100 Best Buildings.”
The Trust also aids when it comes to the Langham events.
Funding through Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, which delivers the Trust’s arts and culture program, helps cover special exhibitions and recurring activities like the Halloween Haunt as well as the more recent Kaslo Summer Music Series.
The building’s Japanese Canadian focus is also getting a boost, such as this fall, final fencing is going up on a Japanese garden.
“The Trust has been very instrumental in making this project happen,” Grace-Campbell says. “We have really felt very, very well supported by the Trust over the years.”
All told, the building preserves the past, celebrates arts and culture, and helps create a vibrant future in the Basin — three aspects valued by people across the region, and a key component for projects the Trust supports.
“Kaslo would not have an arts centre, a cultural centre or a heritage centre if it weren’t for the Langham building,” Grace-Campbell says. “It has really become such an important asset to the community.”
If you’re planning to visit Kaslo and tour the Langham this summer, check out their website for hours and details at: thelangham.ca.