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Rossland Drill Hall named finalist in $50K contest

A Rossland heritage building is among the finalists in an online contest to win $50,000.

The Drill Hall, completed in 1904, is up against nine other sites in Canada, including four in BC, in the Next Great Save competition hosted by National Trust of Canada. Starting Friday, you can vote online once a day for a month.

The drill hall has been vacant since 2014 but a local group wants to turn it into the Rossland Arts and Innovation Centre.

Sarah Taekema-Slot, a director on the Rossland Arts Centre Society, says winning the context would “make a significant dent” in fixing the foundation and looking after the roof trusses.

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“Rossland gets snow so we have to maintain the roof and add an extra truss,” she says. “We also have to do code upgrades. So not fancy stuff, but really important stuff that gets us closer to opening the doors of the arts centre.”

Taekema-Slot says other work needs to be done too, but that can be done over time. The group recently signed a 30-year license of occupation for the building.

The Drill Hall started life as a military training space that doubled as a place for sports and social events. It was also the local Legion branch from 1919-45. The school district bought the building in 1957 from the War Assets Branch and has used it as a school annex. Most recently it was home to the francophone school.

The arts society incorporated in 2018 and asked if the city needed an arts centre.

“We heard very loudly yes, we absolutely do,” Taekema-Slot says, noting the original board was made up of artists from communities across the country that have arts centre and artist-run cops.

“We wanted something like that in Rossland, a place to collaborate and make art together,  and not have to do it on their kitchen table alone. Very quickly afterward we saw this giant vacant building, which is an absolute anomaly in Rossland. We said that’s the one, how do we get it?”

Part of the problem with the building is its large size, she says, making it hard to find the right group to take it over.

Results from the Next Great Save contest will be announced on Feb. 23.

“It’s a win for heritage projects and heritage awareness across the country,” Taekema-Slot says. “But we would really love if our project won. It’s a great project, it’s a fantastic building, and its story is not done, so we’re excited to continue its use and legacy in our community.”

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