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Creston’s skyline enhanced with grain elevator preservation

New siding was installed and painted in the original Alberta Wheat Pool red colour
At left: A 2018 photo of the aging and deteriorating elevators badly in need of repair and preservation. At right: The like-new refurbished and conserved Alberta Wheat Pool grain elevator in Creston. Photo: Keith Powell

by Keith Powell

Skylines in Vancouver’s or Toronto’s may be dotted with towering skyscrapers, but Creston’s skyline is graced by historic grain elevators – two of only a handful of prairie-style elevators built in British Columbia.

The skyline of Creston now features the freshly painted red hues of the newly restored Alberta Wheat Pool grain elevator on the western edge of downtown.

This iconic grain elevator along with an adjacent United Grain Grower’s elevator have been a distinctive landmark in the Creston Valley for many decades.

In 2018, Columbia Basin Trust (Trust) invested over $1,000,000 dollars into the restoration and conservation of one of the two grain elevators – the Alberta Wheat Pool elevator.

However, significantly higher costs associated with the project halted the work until more funding partners could be found.

“This conservation project has come a long way since we purchased the elevators in 2018, and we thank everyone involved for the progress made to date,” said Johnny Strilaeff, president and CEO of the Trust. “The project is a huge undertaking, and costs are significantly higher than expected. We remain committed to conserving this landmark, and we’ll be reaching out to other organizations to discuss potential funding partnerships.”

Eventually other funding partners were found, including the Town of Creston, Regional District of Central Kootenays, Heritage BC and several others.

According to the Trust, the elevators “Represent a Canadian symbol that is rapidly disappearing. The Creston grain elevators are two of just four wooden grain elevators left in British Columbia. Approximately six storeys high, they were built in 1935 and 1936. During their prime they were used to collect, store and ship locally grown wheat, barley, oats and rye. They ceased operations in the 1980’s.”

The project included the removal of the deteriorating exterior siding so repair work on the interior framework could be done.

New siding was installed and painted in the original Alberta Wheat Pool red colour.

The structure’s foundation received substantial structural upgrades, and the site was graded to level out the surrounding area, thus improving water drainage and preventing future damage from rain and moisture.

Doors and windows were also replaced or refurbished.

According to media reports, locals and visitors have been admiring the restoration/conservation project. “The elevator looks brand new,” was one of the common comments overheard.

Sandy and Dirk Kunze, co-owners of the Kunze Gallery which operates inside the historic grain elevator are more than happy with the renovations. “It’s not just the paint,” said Dirk Kunze in an interview with the local radio station. “It’s the full [thing]. The full cladding, the roof, and everything.”

Though an official grand opening date has not yet been set, Ulli Mueller, senior manager responsible for the delivery of benefits at Columbia Basin Trust and lead person on the project, said that a major funder announcement is forthcoming in the near future.

Standing at sixty feet tall the almost 90-year-old Creston grain elevators have stood as stalwart sentinels over the agricultural richness of the Creston Valley.

Now one – the Alberta Wheat Pool — of the two iconic elevators has been saved and preserved for the benefit of future generations.

The question remains as to what will happen with the other aging United Grain Grower’s elevator?