Heritage group moving to make sure Kelowna’s Benvoulin Heritage Park stays in place forever | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Heritage group moving to make sure Kelowna’s Benvoulin Heritage Park stays in place forever

Benvoulin Chursh carries a formal heritage designation. Now the Central Okanagan Heritage Society wants the same for the rest of the park.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna
January 17, 2021 - 3:32 PM

One of Kelowna’s favourite wedding locations is on route to becoming protected in perpetuity.

The Central Okanagan Heritage Society is asking city council to have the entire 1.26-acre Benvoulin Heritage Park and all its buildings formally designated as a heritage site. Right now, only the church carries that classification.

“We are just doing everything we can to make sure that building carries on forever, ideally,” society president Don Knox told iNFOnews.ca.

There are about 200 buildings on Kelowna’s Heritage Registry but that does little to protect them from being modified or even demolished.

There are three dozen buildings that carry a formal heritage designation which provides a great deal more protection.

Being designated means they are protected by a city bylaw in perpetuity and restoration work has to meet formal standards.

Benvoulin Church was built in 1892 and was the first Presbyterian church between Vernon and the U.S. border, states a report going to city council Monday.

It was given official heritage designation status in 1983 but that does not extend to Reid Hall, the McIver House, or the land itself.

If city council agrees to the designation, that not only offers the park protection into the future but makes it easier to get restoration grants, including up to $12,500 every three years from the city itself.

“Granting agencies like to see that, if they are putting money into something, it is protected,” Knox said, citing the example of a city grant that helped pay to reroof a heritage home on Park Avenue that was torn down two years later.

The formal designation prevents that happening at Benvoulin.

Authentic restoration is not cheap.

For example, it cost almost $20,000 a few years ago just to restore the windows in Benvoulin Church.

“The thing that is always in our minds is that, you can do a really good job right now but, when you’re gone – 100 years from now we want to ensure the protection is in place and things are going the way they should,” Knox said. “This is another way to maintain it into the future.”

It prevents, for example, a future council from deciding to change the use of the land or buildings.

The report going to council gives some details of the history of the site.

BENVOULIN CHURCH

The land was donated by G.G. Mackay in 1861. He was a real estate developer who was trying to create a townsite in that area. The church is all that remains.

Lord and Lady Aberdeen owned the neighbouring McDougall Ranch, which they renamed Guisachan Farm. They donated most of the money to build the church.

Prominent builder H.W. Raymer built the church and later became Kelowna’s first mayor.

Initially a Protestant church, it later became a United Church and served the community for seven decades.

“After the church closed in 1964, its condition deteriorated until it was almost demolished in the early 1980s,” the report states. “In 1982 the COHS (Central Okanagan Heritage Society) was formed, and the restoration of the church was its first project. The restored building opened in 1986, with the tower rebuilt to its original appearance.”

McIver House will get the same protection is City Council agrees.
McIver House will get the same protection is City Council agrees.
Image Credit: Submited/City of Kelowna

MCIVER HOUSE

The McIver farmhouse was built in 1904 in a “vernacular saltbox” style that is typical of Eastern Canada but rare in this region.

It was originally located at 1950 KLO Road and it was bought by Bernard and Harriet McIver in 1927.

The family donated the house to the heritage society in 1994 and it was moved to Benvoulin Heritage Park and restored. It replaced the church manse which was destroyed by fire in the 1960s.

The park site manager lives in the house now.

REID HALL

Reid Hall was built in the 1950s as a Sunday school and meeting hall. It was replaced by the existing hall in 2000, following heritage guidelines.

It was named after the Reid family who still farm land on nearby Byrns Road.

If the park is designated as a heritage site it will join the Father Pandosy Mission, Guichican Heritage Park, Laurel Packing House and more on the list. See the full list here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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