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Arts group buys Crawford Bay heritage building

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An East Shore arts organization has acquired a Crawford Bay landmark.

The South Kootenay ArtConnect Society has purchased the 101-year-old Harrison Memorial Church from the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay, intending to preserve it for community use.

Board member Zora Doval says they were determined to save the building, which might otherwise have been lost.

“When I first heard about the church, I was told it would be sold and most likely demolished because ‘it’s an eyesore,'” she explains.

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“Meanwhile, it’s the nicest building we have on the East Shore. We have nominated it for heritage status. But some people look at it as an obstacle to development, because it’s sitting on a nice lot that a developer could use for a new house.”

Doval says arranging the purchase was not easy.

“It was one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted. It looked impossible because we had been negotiating with the Diocese of the Kootenay over a year. We thought we had a deal for a lease to own for one year, but they cancelled it and listed the building on the open market, which was really hard for us to deal with.”

Doval said they had little time to fundraise, but some community members who appreciate their vision agreed to provide a bridge loan. While the society is the owner on paper, a philanthropic couple will hold the mortgage for five years.

In that time, the community will need to raise $170,000 just to pay for the building. There are some repair issues on top of that. Adding water and septic is another long-term goal, Doval says, but she is optimistic it can be done.

“We have a big [project] but the community’s quite vibrant. In the past, whatever the community put its mind to, we were able to accomplish.”

The church was built by Commander Matthew Harrison in memory of his two sons, killed in the First World War, and his late wife. However, it has not been used as a church for several years.

“Since we have many musicians and artists living on the East Shore, it was logical to think of it as a dedicated arts venue,” Doval says.

While it needs some work, they will begin using it immediately, starting with a Christmas open house on Dec. 18 between 5 and 8 p.m. Doval says afterward they envision concerts, poetry readings, drama events, weddings, memorial services, and art shows. “We hope there will be a lot of very diverse use for the building,” she says.

But they will need donations to make it a reality. You can contact Doval at 250-777-1856, send an etransfer to esartconnect@gmail.com or mail a cheque to Box 207, Crawford Bay, V0B 1E0.

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