Land surveyors museum open on Government Ridge

The Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association is now operating a museum out of the old Land Titles building near the former Government House, by an agreement with the Town of Battleford, owner of the property. The site is the first known and oldest standing brick building built in the province.

Angie Stone is one of two local staff members who will be greeting visitors to the newest museum in the Battlefords, open six hours a day, seven days a week until the end of August. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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The museum is open to the public, and Stone said Sunday she’s had numerous visitors, even though all the artifacts and displays are not yet complete. More should be arriving over next few weeks, she said.

According to Travis Wolfe, chair of the museum committee with the SLSA, artifacts being chosen for display include old surveying equipment such as transits, tripods and survey monuments (items used to mark a boundary or corner of surveyed land). Some artifacts, Wolfe said, were donated by members who have long since passed away. He says the museum will feature newer items too, including GPS units no longer used in the field.

Wolfe says the museum will teach the public about the people who surveyed the province and tools they used.

The SLSA originally asked the town about locating a museum in the old St. Vital church, but the cost to restore the buiding is expect to be high. The old Land Titles building has a specific connection to surveying, and seemed a good fit.

Surveyors would frequent land titles buildings for information such as title ownership and maps. Land titles buildings, Wolfe says, were “the hub of land transactions.”

Wolfe characterizes the record keeping of the province and employees over the years as “nothing short of impeccable.”

“We can still pull up the records of the original township surveys and the original hand drawn field notes of the crews that did them,” Wolfe says.

According to the recent agreement, responsibilities of the SLSA include ongoing maintenance and operations of the museum, while the town is responsible for the facility and its conservation.

The SLSA asked to be under the town’s insurance, which, according to CAO John Enns-Wind in an administrative report, is a small cost. The SLSA is not leasing the building, but spending money “to ensure the facility as a museum.”

At the meeting where the agreement was made, Wolfe thanked Enns-Wind and local surveyor Mike Waschuk, who Wolfe said have “been instrumental in getting the project off the ground.”

Enns-Wind called the museum a “good step to start diversifying tourism here in the Battlefords.”

“I think it’s tremendous that we have an organization that wants to take over a historic building and revitalize it,” Mayor Ames Leslie said.

According to the Town of Battleford’s website, the Land Titles (Registry) Office, located 2.4 km south of Battleford on Old Highway No. 4, is the first known and oldest standing brick building built in the province.

Constructed in 1877, it served as the Land Titles Office, housing all land deeds in the area when Battleford was the capital of the Northwest Territories, until 1907.

Between the years of 1907 to 1917 it had been sold to Henry Felix Smart and used as a private residence.

In 1955 the residence had been sold to Clinton Greenwood.

It was designated a Provincial Heritage Property in 1983.

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