By Stuart Fullarton
A glimpse through the guestbook at Beatty Heritage House reveals the historical site to be appreciated far beyond just Rimbey — and Central Alberta, for that matter.
Germany, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Calgary are just some of the locales marked in the book’s most recent pages, affirming the provincially designated heritage house’s status as something of a hidden gem for visitors to Central Alberta.
And while some stumble on to the house while in transit through town, many go out of their way to include it on their itinerary as they traverse the region, province or country.
“There’s a mixture,” said Florence Stemo, secretary of the Beatty Heritage House Society. “It’s just all kinds of people (that visit).”
Built in 1925, the house has remained largely unchanged throughout its lifetime. It was originally owned by local businessman Jack Beatty, who lived in it with wife Violet until his death in the mid-1950s. Violet remained in it for several years after, and died in 1984. Many of the house’s original features both inside and out remain the same.
“When we started, we had two or three parts to our mandate: one was to not improve the house, but to make it so that it was being preserved — at the same time keeping it historic as much as we could — and making it accessible to the public,” said Stemo on the society’s decision to save the house when its future became threatened a number of years ago.
It’s now open to the public May through August, and acts not only as a centre for tourist information, but also as a hub of recreation, culture, heritage and activity.
“In and around the fact that the house is open seven days a week, we’ve had several parties there this year, there’s been a musical evening, and there’s a bridal shower scheduled for a bit later (this year),” said Stemo. “It’s mostly for social and cultural events.”
The house’s decorated history becomes apparent immediately upon entering the house, where guests are able to read about its original occupants and their family history.
During the summer months, the house also acts as a tourist information centre, offering a variety of maps, pamphlets and information about Rimbey and the surrounding area.
A series of concerts is planned to take place at the house in the coming weeks, although details of those events are currently limited. More information was expected to become available as they draw nearer.
Yet, despite the many events and activities that occupy the house throughout the year, it’s the building itself that remains the real attraction, said Stemo.
“The house that we took over has hardly had any changes in 85 years,” she said. “In those days, it would have been quite a classy home, and it still stands out.”