It was a move nearly a decade in the making. On Friday morning, a 106-year-old house made its journey through the streets of Beaumont to its new location about a kilometre away where it will eventually open up as an interactive museum.
“It’s been a long time coming and residents of Beaumont have longed for a museum for years and years and yet we haven’t had anything like this,” said Carol Hudson, vice-president of the Beaumont and District Heritage Society.
The home is not only the oldest house in the small French-founded town south of Edmonton, but the oldest building. It was built in 1912 by Joseph St. Jacques, a family that’s called Beaumont home for three generations.
Years ago, the property was sold to a developer. In hopes of preserving the structure and its piece of history in the community, the heritage society stepped in and was able to negotiate ownership of the house.
But because the land was now in the developers hands, it was up to the heritage society to find a new location for the house. A park space along 50 Street was secured, but it took a bit of time to coordinate the final move.
“The house was donated to the heritage society and we’ve been waiting until all the arrangements necessary could be made,” Hudson said. “We’ve been waiting basically seven years since it was approved by the town to move it to this location.
“They said that we would be able to have the house if we could move it expeditiously, and then it took a few years to get it sorted out.”
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Needless to say, Friday’s move was a long time coming for the society and long-time Beaumont residents who came to watch the house make its way to its new location.
“It’s very exciting because Carol and I started the heritage society, so this is a long-time project that we’ve been working on,” Raymonde Boyachuk said.
“There’s a lot of heritage here and so far, our heritage is being lost. So it’s very important to preserve what we can because we have lost a lot of it.”
The move was no easy feat either. The coordination from ensuring the house was structurally sound to building a new foundation was a journey on its own.
“It was a bit of a task in turn because you have a very old house that needs to be fit in here,” engineer Harry Zuzak said. “The foundation of it had to be such that it would carry it and the necessary beams for us to preserve the house as it is in the best way.
“The biggest stress actually was making sure that everything was ready at that end and at this end.”
In the end, the move went on without a hitch. The house will be fitted into its new spot and eventually turned into an interactive museum. The heritage society hopes it will be a destination for community members to come and learn about the town’s rich history.
“It’ll be an interactive museum. It’s not one where we’ll put things on display, you’ll look at them and them and then you never come back,” Hudson explained. “It’s going to be especially designed for children, schools, families, communities to come in and some parts of it can be rented – we have to get that all worked out.
“Because Beaumont’s history is French Canadian, we’ll certainly have the kids learning about French Canadian recipes and cooking them in the kitchen.
“We’ll do anything and everything to educate the general public, the school kids, everybody. That’s the kind of museum that is the most valuable, I think, than just looking at items you can’t touch or do anything with.”
A room in the basement will be dedicated specifically to family history research.
Restoration work and upgrades to the house are required before it can open to the public. The heritage society hopes to open the museum and offer basic programming within a year.