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Father Lacombe Church

St. Albert

Other Names:
Father Lacombe Chapel
Father Lacombe Church Mission
Father Lacombe Museum
Fr. Lacombe Church
St. Albert Mission

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
Father Lacombe Church, also referred to as the Father Lacombe Chapel, is a small log building situated on a single lot overlooking the Sturgeon River and the city of St. Albert. The church features whitewashed squared log walls and a gable roof that is crowned with a white cross. The Father Lacombe Church maintains its historical association with the adjacent Bishop's Palace, which is not included in the designation.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Father Lacombe Church lies in its association with Father Albert Lacombe, its connection to the early establishment of agricultural settlement and religious institutions in the province, and its architectural style.

Father Albert Lacombe was a pioneer missionary in the Northwest Territories. He arrived in present-day Alberta as a secular priest in 1852 and took his vows to join the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1856. Over the decades he spent in the Northwest Territories, Father Lacombe would become a legendary figure throughout a vast region stretching from the Peace River Country south to the Bow River and east from Rocky Mountain House into Saskatchewan. He was known as the "Man with the Good Heart," renowned for his rapport with Metis and Native communities and his ability to negotiate disputes between these groups and Euro-Canadian settlers, government officials, and business interests. His diplomacy was essential in the settlement and development of the West.

In 1861, Father Lacombe and Bishop Alexander Tache selected a site on the north side of the Sturgeon River for a new mission. Tache named it St. Albert after Father Lacombe's patron saint. For the next three to four years, Lacombe was stationed at the mission and helped develop St. Albert into one of Alberta's earliest and most significant agricultural settlements. The Roman Catholic Church was at the heart of the community. In 1871, the Diocese of St. Albert was created and the settlement became the Episcopal See of a vast territory. From St. Albert, Bishop Vital Justin Grandin directed the religious and social work of priests and members of religious orders throughout present-day Alberta.

The first building constructed in St. Albert was the Father Lacombe Church, built in 1861. It is believed to be the oldest building still standing in Alberta. The church typifies the early architecture of Western Canada. The church's design is simple. It was constructed of indigenous materials. The use of squared timber in a post-on-sill construction was a common feature of early settlement structures. This modest building was the spiritual centre of St. Albert, an important community in the early settlement and agricultural development of the province.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 428)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Father Lacombe Church include such features as:
- rectangular form and massing;
- axe-hewn, squared and whitewashed timber frame construction also described as post-on-sill construction or Hudson's Bay Company (H.B.C.) style;
- rough-sawn, shiplap sheathing on front facade;
- fieldstone foundation and gable roof with sawn cedar shingles;
- fenestration pattern and design;
- original pit-sawn painted floorboards;
- exposed rafters and tie beams;
- whitewashed logs on the interior;
- simple panelled altar.


Street Address: 7 Rue St. Vital
Community: St. Albert
Boundaries: Lot 15, Block 12, Plan 2550NY
Contributing Resources: Building: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
11 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
2550 NY

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.638549 -113.630876 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1983/06/02

Historical Information

Built: 1861 to 1861
Period of Significance:
Theme(s): Building Social and Community Life : Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Peopling the Land : Settlement
Historic Function(s): Religion, Ritual and Funeral : Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Current Function(s): Leisure : Museum
Context: N/A

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0212
Designation File: DES 0428
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 29043
Website Link: http://www.culture.alberta.ca/museums/historicsiteslisting/fatherlacombechapel/default.aspx
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 428)
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