Ensuring the preservation of one of the city’s most well recognized landmarks, the Keyhole Castle received a municipal heritage designation this week.
The city’s elected officials came to the unanimous decision during this week’s regular meeting of council, at the request of the property’s owner Jonathan Smith.
“It is Prince Albert’s most famous building,” Mayor Jim Scarrow said after the meeting.
“I think it would rank as one of the top five structures of residential historic buildings and I was delighted that council was able to support the motion … I think it’s a big tourist attraction, as well.”
“A heritage designation can be a bit of a pill for the owner, but you have to think of the greater good,” Smith explained. “Just for the protection of the property, I know that it will ensure its protection.”
Smith purchased the property with his wife Denise in 2009 with the insistence of the building’s previous owner, Alan Logue, that the couple preserve the historic building.
To help pay for the extensive costs maintenance and restoration of large historic buildings entails, it’s been made into a bed and breakfast — an effort that only partly covers its upkeep.
“We are proud that it’s become a bed and breakfast, which allows Prince Albertans and visitors to see the type of home, which was built in such a unique way, and to learn some of the history of the building,” Scarrow said.
“We had a pretty decent year,” Smith said of their bed and breakfast.
Preserving the historic building and meeting interesting people who come in as guests has made it a worthwhile endeavour, Smith said.
Well-known local businessman Samuel McLeod had the Keyhole Castle constructed between 1911 and 1913, at the tail end of Prince Albert’s big construction boom.
The two-and-a-half storey mansion, built with high quality red Alberta bricks, was constructed in the Queen Anne Revival style of architecture that features a unique level of detail.
I think it would rank as one of the top five structures of residential historic buildings and I was delighted that council was able to support the motion … I think it’s a big tourist attraction, as well. - Mayor Jim Scarrow
Another character-building quality that Smith cites as a contributing factor to its heritage designation is its keyhole-shaped windows.
To renovate or change any of these qualities will now require council approval, which is something Smith plans to seek on an ongoing basis in his efforts to maintain the historic building.
Next year’s work will include some painting and other basic ongoing maintenance projects.
Prince Albert Historical Society president Deb Honch said that she’s excited to see the Keyhole Castle’s inclusion in the municipal heritage designation program.
“It’s a hats-off to the homeowner for wanting to preserve the heritage home,” she said.
“The building is … a treasure to our community and has been a symbol in our community for 100 years.”
McLeod paid a lot of painstaking attention in the construction of the building, she said, with subsequent homeowners devoting additional efforts in maintaining it.
“It’s recognized as one of the most well-preserved heritages homes,” Honch said, noting that it’s known across Canada.
The building’s preservation will continue, Smith said. In addition to his own financial efforts, the heritage designation allows him the ability to apply for the provincial government’s Heritage Conservation Grand Program dollars.
“We’re looking at rejuvenating the building as Prince Albert is rejuvenating itself a bit,” Smith said.
The Keyhole Castle has already received its federal heritage designation, though with the availability of grants and renovation restrictions implemented on the municipal level, the municipal designation has more teeth.