The April 21 fire at Brent’s Grist Mill may have destroyed an unoccupied building, but the damage leaves a blemish on Kelowna’s history.
That’s according to the president of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society Donald Knox.
He said the building damaged by the fire was built around 1871 during a recession, which means there aren’t many buildings around the city that can also stand in as an example from that time.
“It’s really well-constructed. The site is also the oldest grist mill in British Columbia, even older than the Keremeos mill,” Knox said.
“And, it was the first commercial building in operation in Kelowna, so the first business.”
According to Knox, Kelowna doesn’t have as many heritage buildings as Vernon and Penticton, which is why the society wants to protect the little we have.
He did say the building itself can be rebuilt, but they have to follow the federal government’s guidelines on how to preserve heritage buildings.
“The experts we’re working with assured us there is still material (from the original building) that we can save.”
“The federal government’s guideline is to retain as much of that material as possible. So whatever we have should really be maintained.”
But, because the site is city-owned, he said the society itself can’t do much, unless directed.
“They have the say on what to do with the material and how to go about reconstructing it. But we need to be able to sit down with them and work together on this, but that hasn’t happened yet.”
Knox said they have already reached out to the City of Kelowna to set up a meeting, but because of the current circumstances due to COVID-19, they have yet to have the meeting.
The City of Kelowna has been reached for comment.
Kelowna RCMP said the fire is suspicious. The incident is still under investigation.
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