After 16 years in the making, the Alberta Provincial Police Barracks celebrated its grand opening in the Crowsnest Pass.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to see this project finally come to completion and a significant part of our history preserved,” chairman of the Alberta Provincial Police Barracks restoration project of the Crowsnest Historical Society, Fred Bradley said.
After being saved from demolition in 2001 by the Crowsnest Historical Society, it now stands unveiled as the newest addition of the Crowsnest Museum.
The barracks can be found in the Township of Coleman where it was first built in 1904 and served the Alberta Provincial Police (APP) from 1917 to 1932.
“We really set out to tell the story of the Alberta Provincial Police,” executive director of the Crowsnest Museum and Archives, Chris Matthews said. “A force that the public didn’t really know about, or knew about but didn’t really know much about, we wanted to tell their story inside these barracks.”
It’s a story centred on an era when Alberta was dry and the Crowsnest Pass was a hot bed for illegal liquor trading.
During this time, the APP was mainly responsible for enforcing prohibition in the early days of its mandate.
One hundred years later, officers marched down the streets of Coleman honouring that history.
Outside the barracks, the story of Canada’s most infamous rum-running murder is told.
“This was the OJ Simpson trial of the 1920s across Canada,” Bradley said.
In 1922, Const. Stephen Lawson was shot and killed during a confrontation with rum runners Emilio Picariello and Flourence Lassandro.
Although it was never clear who pulled the trigger, both were tried and executed for the crime.
Lassandro was the first and last woman hanged in Alberta.
“People can go through the exhibits, take in all the information and really say, ‘Who do you think pulled the trigger? Was justice served? Did they get the right person?'” Matthews said.
In total, the project has cost around $700,000, a combination of restoring the building and creating the exhibit.
“We’re about $35,000 to $40,000 short, so we’re still crowdfunding,” Bradley said.
But with the new exhibit finally coming to fruition, the museum hopes the new attraction increases tourism, letting visitors leave their mark on history.