After years of challenges, the Castor and District Museum was able to reopen its doors and hold a grand opening celebration after renovations were made to its freight shed.
The museum, which resides in an old Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) house with attached freight shed located on the truck route in Castor, began having problems in 2017.
Where the house portion of the museum is built on an actual foundation, the freight shed, apparently moved in later, sat atop railway ties.
Unfortunately, in the four-decades-plus since the structure had been placed at the location, the railway ties began to rot due to moisture pooling between the museum and the former Golden Circle building.
The rot became very noticeable in 2017 when the entire structure of the freight shed had a lean towards the north.
Thanks to support from the town, fundraising efforts, some timely grants, and private donations, the at the time cash-strapped Castor and District Museum Society was able to come up with a plan to demolish and rebuild the freight shed.
Fortunately, withe the influx of support the society was able to build a slightly larger freight shed, allowing for even more display space and do extensive renovations on the CPR house as well, including the removal of the stucco siding, replacing it with wood siding in close to old CPR colours, replacing the roof, replacing the windows and the furnace — all paid in full.
Construction on the project started in 2018 and completed in 2019, just in time for the world to shut down with the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Phil Dietz, past society president during the renovations and COVID, the museum was only able to be open for a total of two-and-a-half months total in 2020 and 2021, yet still managed to attract 244 visitors.
“The future looks positive for the Castor and District Museum,” said Dietz in his turn at the microphone during the grand opening.
“Your story is our history.”
Mike Bain, another past president, had the honour of emceeing the event and introducing the grandchildren of one the foundational Castor museum members from the 1960s: Tom Embree.
“To have a museum, you need someone with vision,” said Bain.
“Tom Embree had that vision.”
Bain quoted a Castor Advance article from 1973 stating that the museum would have a plaque mounted on it honouring Embree’s work. The promised plaque never materialized … until now.
Part of the grand reopening celebration was the unveiling of a new Castor and District Museum Sign, dedicated in Tom Embree’s honour. The sign, mounted in front of the CPR house, sits attached to two gas streetlights which once adorned the Town of Castor streets.
Ross Embree, grandson of Tom, has been a large supporter of the Castor museum and his family has helped support the CPR house renovations and the current work at the grain elevator across the road.
Other dignitaries on hand for the well attended grand opening event were Battle River-Crowfoot MP Damien Kurek, Castor Mayor Richard Elhard, several town and county councillors, and Walter Pickles, the current Museum Society president.
For the event, the full museum was open and the road was blocked off between the CPR house and the machine shed and school yards across the street to allow for safe pedestrian traffic.
The museum served free hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch followed by the ribbon cutting ceremony at 2 p.m.