June 15th, 2024

Historic building have multiple benefits, says LHS


By Troy Bannerman - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 9, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Historic buildings, such as the old Fire Hall No. 1 just down the block from the recently burned Lethbridge Hotel, have economic and environmental benefits, says the Lethbridge Historical Society.

Historic buildings have economic and environmental benefits say two members of the Lethbridge Historical Society.

Belinda Crowson, president of the Lethbridge Historical Society, and Lorien Johansen, vice-president of the LHS, addressed the topic in a recent interview.

“One of the reasons for preserving historic buildings is it actually impacts the entire economy of your community. They actually maintain their value better in recessions than new buildings. They actually support local business better than new buildings. If you actually look at where many of the restaurants are in downtown Lethbridge they are in historic buildings,” said Crowson.

“So if you care about the economic well-being of your community you will support historic buildings. And it’s always fascinating that it’s the historical society that has to make this economic argument. We should be right there with the chamber, Tourism Lethbridge, EDL because this is an economic fight as much as this is an historic fight.”

Building on Crowson’s point, Johansen added “there is also a significant environmental impact in that reusing and adapting these older buildings has a lower carbon footprint than producing all new materials. Not just the demolition, removal, and destruction of those, but then the production of the new materials. So reusing and adapting an existing historic significant building has a lower environmental impact. Environment Lethbridge could also be one of those partners that we would like to work with, and those green industries, and construction companies that work in LEED certification and green building. Those are some of the impacts to consider as well.”

Crowson noted the integrity of historic buildings.

“We’ve seen several historic buildings, more in the U.S. than Canada because they have the tax incentives, that have actually got LEED designation, that have got environmental designation on historic buildings because they are incredibly well built. When you actually, unfortunately, see them being demolished you realize the amount of workmanship that goes into them. And these are some of the strongest best buildings we have in Lethbridge.”

Crowson described the role of the Historical Society in preserving our built heritage.

“You have to remember when you are talking to the Lethbridge Historical Society, we are a chapter of the Historic Society of Alberta. And the Historic Society of Alberta has put their money where their mouth is. They’ve actually developed a brand new grant program. It’s for members only, but there is a part of it that is for built heritage. So if there are member organizations or members that are doing work in built heritage they can apply for a grant. It’s not huge, we are not for profit. We don’t have a great deal of money, but there is money that can go towards this. So, we’re not only just talking about this, but we are actively trying to help partners maintain their buildings as well.”

Johansen said individuals can also get involved.

“If there is someone who is interested in applying for a grant for the built heritage or the other options the easiest thing to do is become of your local chapter, and then you are eligible to apply for the grant. So, that’s the only caveat is that; just become a member and then you are able to access, not only the research, and the knowledge and experience of historically minded individuals, but access to this grant that has just been released.”

Crowson emphasized the importance of historical buildings in films.

“People wonder why Alberta, like certain towns in Alberta, have a film industry and it is because of their historic resources that they have. And Lethbridge has some amazing places. And as we are trying to build the film industry and trying to reach out to them if you are not also looking at built heritage as part of that; that’s the reason they come.

“We have what we call the cookie-cutter new buildings. Certain buildings look the same in every community. Historic buildings don’t. You know your home, you know you’re in a place. And what we’ve seen, of course, tourism is around historic sites. It’s around historic buildings and districts. And so we can support tourism also when we support these buildings. We can support the film industry. If that’s something Lethbridge wants to actively support then you must also support the historic sites that we have,” added Crowson.

Recent examples, according to Johansen include places seen in the HBO series “The Last of Us.”

“The public reception to seeing a familiar place in ‘The Last of Us’; people have been talking about it all over the place. They saw the horse outside of a building in Nanton. And everyone was talking about how they recognized it. And the CGI destructed high level bridge was all over the front page of everything. And those are some of the things that if they hadn’t been preserved would not have been in that television series. And I know that Alberta is actively trying to encourage film and television production; and Belinda is very right that keeping these unique visual elements to our built heritage and to our province is going to only benefit that industry.”

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