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Red Deer museum saves local church

Sunnybrook Farm Museum acquires historic building
Work on the foundation for Willowdale Zion Presbyterian Church at Sunnybrook Farm Museum is underway. (Photo from Facebook)

Willowdale Zion Presbyterian Church will soon be on the move to Sunnybrook Farm Museum.

Executive director Ian Warwick said the church will likely be loaded onto a big truck and moved 10 km to the museum during the first week of November.

“We’re trying to get the church moved before the snow flies in a big way,” Warwick said.

The museum’s first church will sit next to the historic Calder School that was moved to the south end of the museum’s property in 2017.

He said the church, located just southeast of the city, was set to be demolished. The property had been sold to a private owner and the church was in the way of new construction, so the owner contacted the museum.

Warwick said the museum tells the story of the history of the farm community and churches were an integral part. The search for a church started about 10 years ago for the museum and two years ago an anonymous donation of $250,000 was made which kickstarted the $410,000 project.


Sunnybrook Farm Museum officially opening on July 1

The original Willowdale church was constructed in the early 1900s and was rebuilt in 1950, which is the structure coming to Sunnybrook Farm.

Originally, the museum’s development committee considered rebuilding the downtown Red Deer Methodist Church.

The 10-acres Sunnybrook Farm Museum sits on land that was donated by the Bower family. And Catherine and James Bower attended the Methodist church when they first moved to Red Deer.

“In the end, it was nice to be able to save an original building instead of building a replica,” Warwick said of Willowdale Zion.

“We didn’t want anything too large, or too tall, or too ornate. I think what attracted us to this building is it’s kind of a standard, rural church.”


Memories shared at the Calder School opening at Red Deer’s Sunnybrook Farm Museum

Work on the church’s new foundation at the museum started about a week ago. The new basement will be used to store artifacts that aren’t on permanent display. Right now the items are stored in the steel barn which is not heated.

Warwick said the main floor will be the church exhibition. Over the winter, the church will be boarded up and heated so volunteers can start addressing the interior. Pews will have to be rebuilt and the search for original artifacts will begin.

“We hope to have the building open to the public next July.”

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Work on the foundation to move Willowdale Zion Presbyterian Church to Sunnybrook Farm Museum is underway. (Photo from Facebook)
Work on the foundation for Willowdale Zion Presbyterian Church at Sunnybrook Farm Museum is underway. (Photo from Facebook)