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History of Montrose site celebrated

The next time you’re visiting the library or art gallery at the Montrose Cultural Centre, take a moment to find a new plaque commemorating the history of the site. It was unveiled by members of Grande Prairie city council Thursday in a ceremony that included a look at how the property came to be.

In 1917, Reverend Alexander and Agnes Forbes donated part of their homestead so a school could be built. While it wasn’t the first school in Grande Prairie, museum curator Charles Taws says it was essential to the development of the city.

“In many cases it’s a school that’s at the heart of the community or neighbourhood. All these stories are intertwined into how Grande Prairie developed into the way it is today. It’s important for us to remember there were people here before us who set the stage.”

The original Montrose school was built in 1917 and named after the town of Montrose, Scotland where Mrs. Forbes was born. It went on to become Grande Prairie’s first high school in 1925, and the junior high was added in 1960.

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Part of the high school structure still remains and makes up the west side of the art gallery. The Forbes family also donated other parts of their quarter section to become the hospital and a church. Taws believes they would be happy to see how the community has grown.

“When [the reverend] came it was an empty prairie with some stakes in the field, but he had faith in the community. He not only built the first Presbyterian church here, but he built several in the area, so he had an idea that this was going to become a great community and a big community and that it was going to be a centre.”

The Montrose Cultural Centre was built in 2009 and in addition to the public library and gallery, it houses the Teresa Sargent Hall, a coffee shop and an outdoor patio. The Mamawe concourse was added in 2017 with a grand opening set for the end of September.

Now that a plaque has been added, Taws hopes it will help others appreciate the work that continues to go into building the city.

“History is all around us and sometimes I think we tend to forget that. Even in a fairly new community like Grande Prairie, just 100 years old, there’s still a lot of history here.”

Anyone wanting to learn more is encouraged to visit the Grande Prairie Museum or the Heritage Discovery Centre in Centre 2000, as well as the Forbes Homestead.

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