The Keremeos museum is on the move.
After several months of whispers in the community, the South Similkameen Museum Society has made the official announcement that if all goes well they could be in their new but still historical home on 9th Avenue by next season.
For quite some time, the society has been in negotiations with members of the Hedley Masonic Lodge #43 to buy their building.
John Armstrong, president of the South Similkameen Museum Society, said the deal is almost complete and members of the museum couldn’t be more thrilled.
“The building as we have it right now is just a little too small for us,” he said during a phone interview Monday. “The new building is probably five times larger. It’s two stories. The present museum will fit twice into the upper room, which was the lodge meeting room.”
Despite the name, the Hedley Masonic Lodge is located in Keremeos, although it first started in the small mining town. When the population of Hedley declined the lodge meetings moved to Keremeos but retained its original name.
The building on 9th Avenue was constructed sometime in the 1960s and Armstrong remembers helping out on-site when he was a child while his Dad and other lodge members worked on it.
Hedley Masonic Lodge #43 members have decided to hold meetings in Peachland going forward. They will still operate under the name Hedley Masonic Lodge #43.
“We’re so grateful to them. The masons gave us a really good opportunity to buy a new building,” Armstrong said.
In honour of the masons a special permanent display will be setup in the museum’s entrance showing important information and historical artifacts of the lodge.
Armstrong declined to comment on how much the museum paid for the building but said the society has saved money for many years hoping to have an opportunity to move.
By moving locations the museum board hopes to attract new members as the new building has a meeting room with a kitchen, which will make holding functions and fundraisers easier.
“With the museum the way it is now we’ve never been able to have meetings on site. Now we have a real home and we are so happy,” Armstrong said.
Several renovations and upgrades will need to be undertaken at the building over the next while including a roof replacement and the installation of a new furnace and air conditioning unit.
The society will also be working towards making the new building fully accessible.
The former masonic lodge meeting room will now house the museum’s collection. The room, of course, doesn’t have any windows.
“There’s a real shortage of windows, which most people think is a negative but for a museum it’s an absolute positive,” he said.
The current museum, on 6thAvenue, which was the original jailhouse in Keremeos and thought to be the only existing provincial police station left in the province, will hopefully be moved to the new building.
Although there isn’t a lot of outdoor space at the new site, there is a good chance the building might fit on a concrete slab in the front of the building with minor concrete work needed.
“It’s a very historic building. The police building is 109 years old. The building itself is an artifact. As far as we know it’s the only remaining provincial police building in B.C.,” he said.
Over the next two weeks the Review is running articles about the history behind the former jail and the Hedley Masonic Lodge #43.
The museum will start holding its regular meetings at their new location in the fall.
For more information about the museum or contact information visit keremeosmuseum.ca.