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FATHER LACOMBE CHURCH

7 Rue St. Vital, St. Albert, Alberta, T8N, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1983/06/02

Father Lacombe Church Provincial Historic Resource (June 2001); Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, 2001
South elevation, looking northeast
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Other Name(s)

FATHER LACOMBE CHURCH
Father Lacombe Museum
Father Lacombe Church Mission
Father Lacombe Chapel
St. Albert Mission
Fr. Lacombe Church

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1861/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/03/20

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Father Lacombe Church, also referred to as the Father Lacombe Chapel, is a small log building situated on a single lot overlooking the Sturgeon River and the city of St. Albert. The church features whitewashed squared log walls and a gable roof that is crowned with a white cross. The Father Lacombe Church maintains its historical association with the adjacent Bishop's Palace, which is not included in the designation. The church is operated by Alberta Culture and Community Spirit as an interpreted Provincial Historic Site.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Father Lacombe Church lies in its association with Father Albert Lacombe, its connection to the early establishment of agricultural settlement and religious institutions in the province, and its architectural style.

Father Albert Lacombe was a pioneer missionary in the Northwest Territories. He arrived in present-day Alberta as a secular priest in 1852 and took his vows to join the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1856. Over the decades he spent in the Northwest Territories, Father Lacombe would become a legendary figure throughout a vast region stretching from the Peace River Country south to the Bow River and east from Rocky Mountain House into Saskatchewan. He was known as the "Man with the Good Heart," renowned for his rapport with Metis and Native communities and his ability to negotiate disputes between these groups and Euro-Canadian settlers, government officials, and business interests. His diplomacy was essential in the settlement and development of the West.

In 1861, Father Lacombe and Bishop Alexander Tache selected a site on the north side of the Sturgeon River for a new mission. Tache named it St. Albert after Father Lacombe's patron saint. For the next three to four years, Lacombe was stationed at the mission and helped develop St. Albert into one of Alberta's earliest and most significant agricultural settlements. The Roman Catholic Church was at the heart of the community. In 1871, the Diocese of St. Albert was created and the settlement became the Episcopal See of a vast territory. From St. Albert, Bishop Vital Justin Grandin directed the religious and social work of priests and members of religious orders throughout present-day Alberta.

The first building constructed in St. Albert was the Father Lacombe Church, built in 1861. It is believed to be the oldest building still standing in Alberta. The church typifies the early architecture of Western Canada. The church's design is simple. It was constructed of indigenous materials. The use of squared timber in a post-on-sill construction was a common feature of early settlement structures. This modest building was the spiritual centre of St. Albert, an important community in the early settlement and agricultural development of the province.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 428)

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Father Lacombe Church include such features as:
- rectangular form and massing;
- axe-hewn, squared and whitewashed timberframe construction also described as post-on-sill construction or Hudson's Bay Company (H.B.C.) style;
- rough-sawn, shiplap sheathing on front facade;
- fieldstone foundation and gable roof with sawn cedar shingles;
- fenestration pattern and design;
- original pit-sawn painted floorboards;
- exposed rafters and tie beams;
- whitewashed logs on the interior;
- simple panelled altar.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Alberta

Recognition Authority

Province of Alberta

Recognition Statute

Historical Resources Act

Recognition Type

Provincial Historic Resource

Recognition Date

1983/06/02

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land
Settlement
Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Leisure
Museum

Historic

Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer

n/a

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 428)

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

4665-0212

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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