Historical riverfront idea put to the public

Tyler Clarke
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A map shows the city’s elected officials where the Prince Albert Historical Society hopes to situate the Nesbit Church and Block House, which are currently standing at Kinsmen Park. Society president Dennis Ogrodnick, pictured, also noted that the society would like to see a tipi of some sort constructed on the riverfront. 

Throwing an ambitious idea into the winds of public discourse, the Prince Albert Historical Society wants to see something done with the riverfront.


A swath of riverfront parkland east of the Diefenbaker bridge could see its historic name, “Kistahpinanihk,” better realized, society president Dennis Ogrodnick told city council at Tuesday’s meeting.

Cree for “sitting pretty place,” “a great gathering place,” or “meeting place,” moving the Nesbit Church and Block House to the riverbank might help draw people to the area, he reasoned.

“What we’re looking at, as a society, is to save two of the oldest buildings in Prince Albert to help rejuvenate the downtown waterfront,” he said.

“We’re hoping that we, as a society and city council will share our vision as well.”

The Nesbit Church was constructed near the riverfront in 1866 by Rev. James Nesbit, and is currently recognized as the second oldest church in the province.

The Block House was built in the 1870s at First Avenue West and 12th Street by Archie Ballantyne and was used as a stable and later as a blockhouse during the Northwest Resistance of 1885. 

Both buildings were later relocated to Kinsmen Park where they are currently recognized as museums, but neither building is currently inhabitable or of any use.

“We’d like to see the block house and the church house either rebuilt or reconstructed somewhere in this area,” Ogrodnick told council, referencing the riverbank around the Prince Albert Historical Museum.

The re-built Nesbit Church “could be a place of marriage, which is what Rev. Nesbit used it for,” he said.

“The focus of this building would be diversity of faith in this community -- that’s what we’d house in this building.”

What we’re looking at, as a society, is to save two of the oldest buildings in Prince Albert to help rejuvenate the downtown waterfront Dennis Ogrodnick

The Block House would be focused on commerce, with business leaders of the past and present memorialized.

Recognizing First Nations history, Ogrodnick said that the society also wants to see a tipi constructed on the riverbank – a structure more repetitive of local area First Nations than the totem pole currently standing west of the gazebo.

On the gazebo front, Ogrodnick noted that this building -- historically significant in its own right -- is also underutilized.

“Revitalizing that bandstand instead of having it sitting there and getting vandalized or whatever -- let’s use it and make it a fun place,” he encouraged.

Why not partner with a restaurant and host weekly meals in the gazebo, he reasoned -- or hold regular music or drama events?

With Tuesday’s presentation intended to get city council and the public talking about riverfront revitalization, Coun. Don Cody said after the meeting that he’s a fan of the idea.

Cody is also chair of the Pehonan Park board, which oversees the riverfront park area and has been in dialogue with the Historical Society regarding their ambitious riverfront ideas for more than a year.

“Sure we have to flesh out all the things they’ve proposed, such as the costs and everything, but you don’t’ start by doing the costs first -- you do an idea,” Cody said.

“I think their ideas are sound and I look forward to seeing them exposed, now, to the public and let the public have some input as well, and I think there’s merit in looking at what they’re doing.”

Organizations: Nesbit Church, Block House, First Nations Prince Albert Historical Museum Pehonan Park board Historical Society

Geographic location: Prince Albert, 12th Street, Northwest Resistance Kinsmen Park

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