Lacombe Main Street Project

Lacombe, Alberta


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The Alberta Main Street Program was initiated by Alberta Culture in 1987. Lacombe was one of 5 Alberta communities selected for the first round of main street projects, which continues to this day. The purpose of the program is to assist the revitalization of historic downtown and city central business areas by preserving and restoring the remaining historic buildings and developing a comprehensive economic and marketing plan for ongoing viability of the historic commercial core. Lacombe was chosen as an early Main Street project because of the extent and originality of its historic commercial core buildings.

Lacombe is named after Father Albert Lacombe, a French-Canadian Roman Catholic Oblate missionary who lived among and evangelized the Cree and Blackfoot First Nations of western Canada. In 1932, Father Lacombe was recognized as a National Historic Person by the government of Canada.

In 1880 the first land surveys of the Lacombe area took place and three years later, in 1883, the first permanent settler arrived, Ed Barnett. Barnett was a retired member of the North-West Mounted Police. He left Fort Macleod in August 1881 at 23 years of age. Along the Calgary-Edmonton Trail, he established a “stopping house” for travelers on a land grant given to him for serving his service in the NWMP. His family and friends from Ontario moved out and the community began to grow. The stopping house then became known as Barnett’s Siding. The Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in 1891. This provided better access to the area and new opportunities for settlement and the name Lacombe was given. By 1893 the downtown blocks and lots were surveyed. Village status was granted in 1896 and town status in 1902. (excerpted from Wikipedia)

The stock of Edwardian-era buildings in their original state is impressive. This is mainly due to the fact that Lacombe’s post-war economy was not very strong, resulting in significant building retention rather than the redevelopment that occurred in nearby Red Deer, Alberta. The Main Street restoration project reached several dozen downtown buildings and as a result, the downtown ambiance retains its historic integrity. The Main Street project was completed in 1994.

Photo Credit (after photos), James Dow