MELSNESS MERCANTILE BUILDING
Post Office / North and Brown Store
Melsness Mercantile Store
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Melsness Mercantile Building is a one-storey, painted wood frame commercial structure designed with a false front boomtown facade. Originally built in 1923, it occupies one lot on the main street of Valhalla Centre (now Highway 59) in the Grande Prairie region.
The Melsness Mercantile Building is significant for its role in the Lutheran Norwegian community around Valhalla, as the only general store and post office in the hamlet of Valhalla Centre for more than half a century. The building is also directly associated with one of the area's first homesteaders and community leaders, Ole Melsness. It is a good example of rural commercial architecture from pre-World War One Alberta.
The building housed commercial space in the front and residential space for the Melsness family in the back. As the general store and post office, it served as a commercial and social centre for the entire district. The store operated until 1943, when it was sold to the newly-opened Valhalla Cooperative, but the building remained the post office until 1970.
Ole Melsness was among the first group of settlers who filed for land in the Valhalla District in 1912-13. He helped organize the school district, the Lutheran congregation, and the local branch of the United Farmers Association. Perhaps most importantly, he was instrumental in the founding of the Valhalla Creamery, which became the major industry of the district outside of farming.
The store is the only significant building remaining in the hamlet from the early 1920s. Its design - including the false front, boomtown facade and inset storefront - exemplifies the practical, economical style that characterized commercial buildings in rural settlements.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1900)
The character-defining elements of the Melsness Mercantile Building include:
- form, scale and massing, including addition at the rear dating to the 1930s;
- wood frame construction with clapboard horizontal siding;
- plain front facade with central recessed entry;
- modified gable roof with narrow eaves and exposed rafters, and restored wood shingles, soffits, and fascias;
- fenestration pattern including single-pane, double-hung, equally divided windows and single door front entry in a five panel pattern with a transom light;
- interior finishing of shiplap walls and ceilings, and tongue-and-groove fir flooring.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
- Post Office
Architect / Designer
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. 1900)
Cross-Reference to Collection