Yorkton history came alive at the Western Development Museum (WDM) February 17 with the celebration of Heritage Day.
This year’s theme was “Good Neighbours: Heritage Homes and Neighbourhoods,” featuring a presentation by Carla Madsen, WDM education and special events programmer, roughly based on the City of Yorkton’s Self-Guided Heritage Walking Tour.
The standing room-only crowd, along with members of the Yorkton Chapter of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society (SGC) added personal anecdotes and knowledge to the historical facts making for a lively and fascinating afternoon.
“I really like when we have Heritage Day, and do the presentations, all the comments from our guests here at the event adding additional background information, folklore and personal histories and stories of their own,” Madsen said.
Terry Lefebvre Prince, the City’s heritage researcher did a presentation on the history of the Hotel Yorkton. She said it is unfortunate the Hotel Yorkton is often overshadowed by the Balmoral.
“I think this hotel was meant to be a little more stylish,” she said, presenting a menu published in the December 23, 1915 edition of The Enterprise featuring a gourmet selection of items that would have been very exotic to Yorkton 100 years ago. No price was given.
“If you had to ask, you couldn’t afford it,” quipped one member of the audience.
Lefebvre Prince also debunked the existence of tunnels between the Yorkton and Balmoral, long rumoured to have been involved in the Bronfmans rum-running operation when the family owned both hotels.
Notably absent from Heritage Day celebrations was the under-50 crowd, but Madsen said that does not necessarily mean younger people are not interested, particularly when it comes to active preservation of historical homes and businesses.
“I think definitely the biggest demographic is still the older people, but there are definitely the younger ones who are interested in the restoration of these buildings,” she explained. “For example, Core Real Estate moving into the Mediterranean, that’s a young businessman. There are younger generations of people interested in restoring these homes back to their original appearance.”
Following the presentations, Genealogical Society members were on hand to help attendees with their own family histories. With the explosion of the World Wide Web, family histories have never been more in vogue.
“I definitely see that trend,” Madsen said. “Ancestry.com and ancestry.ca here in Canada, that’s definitely driving it because it’s become so much easier to search. Before, when people had to physically search stacks and stacks of paper, it was sort of a barrier to starting up a family history project, but now with the sharing of information, email and websites, it’s definitely increased in popularity. And so many more connections are being made that would have likely taken years and years to make.”
The City’s Self-Guided Heritage Walking Tour booklet is available at City Hall.
The Yorkton Chapter of SGC meets the second Tuesday of every month at the WDM and is always seeking new members.