The Sullivan Mine & Railway Historical Society is applying for Columbia Basin Trust’s Built Heritage Grant to complete an extensive renovation to the exterior of the powerhouse building at the old mine site.
President of the Society Mick Henningson recently presented to Kimberley City Council, requesting support for the grant application.
Henningson explained that renovations to the powerhouse will cost over $260,000. Teck, he says, has committed $30,000 and the society has asked the City for $20,000.
“This restoration is incredibly labour intensive,” said Henningson. “The building is over 260 feet long and 30 feet high with 1200 panes of glass.”
Council approved a letter of support to go along with the Society’s request, and discussed the finances at a Committee of the Whole meeting this past Monday. Mayor Don McCormick explained that the matter of financial support will be a topic at the next Council meeting.
The Bulletin spoke with Heritage Consultant Elana Zysblat, who was hired to complete a statement of significance for the powerhouse.
She explained that CBT has two different programs for heritage resources.
“There is the Built Heritage Grant, which the society has now applied for and I think they will be very successful in,” said Zysblat. “There’s also what I call the planning grant, which gives groups funding to asses, plan and understand their historical resources.”
That is precisely what Zysblat was hired to do. She wrote a statement of support, which informs the plan for conservation and how it will be used and adapted.
“The building, which was built in the early 1930’s, is generally in really good shape,” she said. “It is the exterior; some brick work and many, many windows, that will cost the most with this renovation.
“The windows are part of the character of that building. Not only were they vital to operations; keeping things well lit and ventilated, but they are also part of that wow-factor. Wether you’re a kid on a school trip or an aspiring geologist, or even a Kimberley local, those windows are incredible. It makes you feel small – in awe of the extent of the building. When you walk in, it’s almost like walking into a church.”
She says that working on this project has been fun because although everyone knows the powerhouse, there were no real records in terms of chronology and context.
“I helped the society to understand how significant this building truly is,” Zysblat said. “It’s very important to mining history, not just in Kimberley but in the province and country. It was a massive operation and there used to be many buildings and many processes. The powerhouse is now just one of two buildings remaining. Its legacy to the history of mining and to the community is very important.”
She adds that the society’s work in education is equally as important.
“The way that the society is using this building is incredible. It’s an information and education centre and I don’t think any other former mine site is doing anything similar. It’s interactive and authentic – it’s a cultural tourism operation and one of the top experiential education destinations in the province.”
Zysblat says the society has a very good chance of receiving grant funds from CBT for the renovation and restoration for many reasons, one of them being the fact that they were recently announced as the recipients of the 2019 BC Heritage Award for Distinguished Service in Outstanding Volunteerism.
“This is the highest award that can be received,” said Zysblat. “Those boys work incredibly hard, and they are all volunteering their time. They are extremely organized and have sourced the best trades possible, who are all excited and honoured to be a part of this project. I have a very strong feeling they will be successful with this grant.”