Creston grain elevator moves closer to a rejuvenated future

Pass by Creston’s two grain elevators and they’ll look like they have for a long time—historically and visually fascinating but in need of repairs and a good coat of paint. Peek into the red elevator, though, and you might spot a different story: one that means this significant icon is even better prepared to stand and serve the community for many decades to come.

What’s different? “It’s way cleaner,” says Mark Brunton, Senior Manager, Delivery of Benefits, for the Trust, which owns the elevators. This sounds insignificant and simple, but wasn’t. Rather, it required in-depth removal of old, mouldy grain and droppings from rodents and birds—“all of which was quite a significant biohazard.”

And being clean means the elevator is now ready for next steps: significant repairs and restoration, and a re-imagined use.

Important icons for the Creston community and its residents, the two elevators are a rarity: there are only two other wooden grain elevators in British Columbia. Which is why the Trust purchased them in 2018: it’s working “to save them for the community,” Brunton says, “and secure the heritage for future generations.”

Heritage consultants Elana Zysblat and John Atkin evaluated their historical value in 2017. Zysblat says, “The fact that we have two of them side by side, in such an accessible location, makes them more unique and more valuable than most grain elevators in the entire country.”

Approximately six storeys high, the elevators were built in 1935 (the white one) and 1936 (the red one) and were used to collect, store and ship locally grown wheat, barley, oats and rye. The white one closed in 1971 and the red in 1982.

Now, with most of the hazardous material removed and many assessments complete—including health and safety, historical and structural—the Trust is ready to progress into restoration. Because the red elevator is in much better shape than the white one, current efforts are focusing on it.

An architect who will oversee the restoration should be on board this summer. Construction is expected to start in early 2021 and finish by the end of that year. By that time, passers-by should be able to notice the difference: new roof, fresh siding, and refurbished windows. Inside there will be structural and safety upgrades.

The public will also get a hand in deciding what to do with the elevators. “In fall 2020, we will consult with residents of the town of Creston and other stakeholders,” Brunton says. “We’ll be asking people what they think the red elevator should be used for and discuss options for the white elevator.”

The community consultation process will invite ideas and suggestions online and through a series of in-person discussions, as public health guidelines allow. Once the Trust gets this feedback, it will work with the architect and other professionals to see what can be done.

Currently, the Kunze Gallery, which is opens for the summer, is located at the elevators, but other future uses might also be possible. For now, the public can be assured that progress on these landmarks is moving steadily forward and that people will have a chance to give their input soon. Watch for updates from the Trust in the coming months.

“From the outside, it may look like not much has been happening,” Brunton says. In fact, this aspect of the region’s history is well on its way to being preserved and starting a fresh, modern life.