Investing to Sustain
our Heritage and our Community
John Kinnear photo
Stedman's in Fernie prior to revitilization
In the early 1980’s I was part of a downtown revitalization program for the City of Fernie that was instrumental in restoring a lot of remarkable brick and stone buildings to their former glory. The gaudy wood and stucco claddings were stripped away from targeted buildings and the beautiful brick and stone work brought back into the light of day. It was an amazing transformation and a welcome return to the important historical character of this town that had been destroyed by fire in 1908 and rose again from the ashes in more fire resistant structures.
Last December Shane Stewart of Clanwest Developments and Larry Saloff a business analyst appeared before the Municipal Heritage Board asking for our board to review designating the Peuchen Block as a heritage resource. The board reviewed the extensive historical assessment done by the always thorough Ian McKenzie that night and were amazed at the remarkable and varied history of this distinctive pre-1920’s commercial building in downtown Blairmore.
Recently when the details of the newly formed Crowsnest Opportunity Development Co-op (CODC) were revealed I realized we had a real winner here. The whole concept of re-investing in our community as a tax deductible business opportunity is great. As Shane said recently no one is going to come riding in on a horse to save our building heritage. It is up to the community to try and make that happen and the CODC’s board has a vision to let us do that by local investment.
Work on the Peuchen Block has already started and the restoration of this important building’s character and preparing it for occupation as retail and apartment space is a big job.
It is exciting to see this building returned to its post as a significant structure on the Blairmore streetscape. Its history is a time capsule unto itself and one that as I said has been researched thoroughly. It was constructed in 1911 by Calgary businessman W. J. Budd in partnership with a fairly infamous character by the name of A. G. Peuchen. At various times it has been known as the Budd Block, McLaren Block, Dutil Block and Kubik Block. The amazing and oft times tragic stories behind Peuchen, Budd, Dutil and the Kubik family is a column unto itself and one I will reveal in my next offering of Looking Back.
According to McKenzie’s research one of the first tenants was the Blairmore Trading Company also known as Kalil’s Dry Goods. The original Kalil store was lost in the 1912 fire in Blairmore along with the original Cosmopolitan Hotel and two other buildings. Apparently the physical mass of the Peuchen has been credited with limiting the extent of this fire.
Next into the building was the Blairmore Hardware Store run by Louis Dutil who also operated stores in Coleman and Three Hills at one time. The store operated under the Dutil name until 1938 when it was purchased and remodelled by John Kubik and became Kubik’s Dry Goods. Some of the upstairs was rented out as inexpensive bedrooms to newly-arrived immigrant bachelors. After John’s untimely death from a stroke at age 56 the grocery and dry goods businesses there were taken over by John’s son Joseph and his daughter Veronica (Babe). The store was modernized and operated as Robinson’s department store and then as a Stedman’s department store from 1972 on into the 1980’s.
When the Stedman’s rebranding was done in 1972 some serious exterior alterations occurred with the installation of panels that required the knocking off of the lowest brick dentil course and an infilling of the recessed brick courses with wood. These wood panels were eventually removed and the white painted exterior covered with red paint.
It is so ironic to me that this building’s history should cross my path somehow. The revitalization of Fernie’s downtown core in the 1980’s involved another Stedman’s which was also restored to its former historic character and reconnected with their community as a viable and important part of its historic streetscape. The Fernie former Stedman’s, like the Peuchen, has seen dozens of tenants and businesses and continues to be adapted to new uses.
The Peuchen has seen an incredibly varied list of tenants over the years that has included a poolroom, restaurant, furniture store and believe it or not a Safeway grocery on the main floor. Upstairs has been graced at one time with the likes of a law, insurance and dentist’s office, a place for music lessons, a customs office, credit union and an RCMP office. The large front windows often had sports, hunting and fishing trophies displayed and cultural events advertised.
So it is that the Peuchen will resurface once again to take its place of honor as a Blairmore landmark. It was clearly representative of the optimism of the day back in 1911 and will hopefully serve now to reignite a renewed optimism in the strengthening of our sustainability and the enhancement of Blairmore’s historic corridor.
The CODC is seeking public input into future projects and has been looking at ones like a senior housing complex and a chairlift and resort development for the ski hill. February 19 is your chance to take part in their grand opening and investor gala at the Peuchen (former Work and Play building), where you can have a look at their progress and learn more about the CODC’s vision.