Whenever I step into what we call the ‘Great Hall’ of the 1913 Canadian Northern Railway Roundhouse, my breath is taken away as my gaze moves upward to the high ceiling with the huge timbers and the light flowing through the upper transom windows. it is an amazing space that hearkens back to the past when the building housed steam train engines for repair. When we held a reunion for retired railroaders, I saw tears well up in the eyes of men who worked in this place so many years ago. In recent time we have seen the tears of joy in the eyes of a bride celebrating her wedding in this space. We have seen the enthusiasm of our local grads as they worked along side the Society volunteers in preparation for their grad photos. I think of the future this Provincial Historic Resource can have an the contributions it can make to tour community in terms of keeping history alive, providing a useable space for a variety of events, for bringing visitors from far away places to our wonderful town. These visitors will support our hotels and restaurants and other local business. Even without advertising we have received several inquiries for weddings to be held in this unique and special venue.
In 2019, we thought we had complied with the necessary safety requirements but were informed there was more we needed to do in order to hold future events inside the building. We have brought on boar architects, engineers, safety code specialists, fire department authorities, our Alberta Heritage Representative and construction contractors. We need to be able to hold events in the building n order to raise funds for the ongoing restoration work. The next first step in this process is what we call our “Fire Safety Project 2020” to install fire rated wall portions in an existing concrete firewall along with constructing a foyer and installing 5 fire safety doors. This work has been designed by our Calgary Architect and the doors will be installed by Anchor Glass in Hanna. The work complies with safety codes and the requirements of Alberta Heritage. After possible grant funds and available HRS funds we still need $6,700 to put toward this $36.000 fire safety project. Whatever help we could receive from 100+ Women will go to this project. We are keeping records of any help we receive and will be acknowledging that help in future public displays as well as currently via social media.
I love this building and I realize that for most people, the task of restoring it seems insurmountable. It will not be done quickly but if we persevere one project at a time, it is not impossible…and the benefits will be huge for our community of Hanna & District. I anticipate that long after I am gone, new generations will be continuing to restore and maintain and use this building. Each generation will be able to teach history and point out to their offspring just what their contribution was to this amazing project. The Hanna Roundhouse Society is a non profit society with no personal agenda other than to let this building benefit our community.
Presented by Carol Kurbis