Inside Architecture - Exploring Fernie’s Historical Interiors
Fernie’s historic buildings are well known for distinctive rooflines, unique locally-fired rose-gold brick and stone, and a variety of international influences. Only a few original interiors remain although many hints of the past can be seen in pressed tin ceilings, smoke-stained exposed brickwork and vintage windows.
Of the few more complete interiors, the Fernie Courthouse is perhaps the most impressive. Visitors are welcome in the grand entrance way, where ornate curved golden oak balustrades frame the staircase. Original stained-glass windows can be seen from many vantage points. The current Courthouse building is the fourth Fernie Courthouse to have existed, constructed between 1909 and 1911 in grand Chateau style. Within the building, ornate carvings, a formal courtroom with six art-glass windows featuring Coats-of-Arms historically significant to British Columbia, and west coast cedar trim are preserved to this day.
Across 5th Street from the Courthouse is the Holy Family Catholic Church. Constructed in 1912, it is considered to be the finest religious building in Fernie. Recent CBT heritage funding has allowed for restoration of the 12 art-glass stained windows depicting biblical scenes, a further 16 diamond pattern stained glass windows and a large round window above the entrance featuring the coat of arms of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Inside, many more examples of Romanesque revival design and religious iconography can be found, including an altar of imitation marble with gold filigree and a sanctuary fresco.
In part due to large investments and money related to the coal mining industry, Fernie played a significant role in Canada’s banking history. The 1923 failure of the Home Bank of Canada cost Fernie depositors $800,000 and led to the re-writing of Canada’s banking laws that prevented widespread bank failures in the 1930’s. The Fernie Branch of the Home Bank is a Beaux Arts structure that occupied the corner of 2nd Avenue and 5th Street; following the collapse the property housed a number of other businesses. The City of Fernie purchased the dilapidated property in 2009 and it now houses the Fernie Museum following an extensive interior refurbishment. Inside, several original features can be seen including original office structures, a small section of the original tile floor, plasterwork detailing, and the original doors to the safes. A further safe door can be found inside the Renaissance Revival style brick and sandstone structure on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 4th Street. This property was the home of the Imperial Bank of Canada from 1910 until 1963; the Brickhouse took over the main floor following the purchase of the building by Chernoff Architecture Inc in 2005.
At the Fernie Arts Station, the rumble of passing trains evokes the building’s history as a busy train station from 1909 until 1964. Step inside the classical Van Dyke structure and explore the renovated property. The former baggage hall is now the theatre space, the waiting room serves as the cheerful foyer gallery, the ticket office is now home to the Blue Toque restaurant. Attic spaces (former employee quarters) and basement have been repurposed as working studios. Following the donation of the property from C.P.R. to the City of Fernie, the Fernie and District Arts Council began the 4-year process of moving the entire building to its current spot and renovating the almost-derelict property. Many original features had to be replaced, however, artistic eyes kept the renovation faithful to the integrity of the building and it has been a much-appreciated hub for arts and culture since 1990.
Rebecca Hall is the Administrative and Marketing Coordinator for the Fernie Museum, a dedicated community volunteers, and a lover of winter in Fernie. For more on Fernie’s history, visit ferniemuseum.com.