Contributed photo The survival of the historic Parsons House at 4801-49th St. is in doubt.

Will Red Deer’s new courthouse development mean the end of historic house?

Alberta Infrastructure is considering whether Parsons House land is needed for the project

As one historic Red Deer building is saved for posterity, the survival of another is thrown into uncertainty.

Just a block southeast of the old federal post office building, which was granted provincial historic status last month, is the historic Parsons House at 4801 49th St.

Now home to the law firm Lee Inglis Albrecht, this corner building from 1903 was Red Deer’s original medical clinic. Dr. Richard Parsons once cared for patients in the downstairs clinic, while living upstairs in the house.

According to local historian and city councillor Michael Dawe, the two-storey structure is one of only about a half-dozen that remain clad in the sandy-coloured brick made at the defunct Red Deer brick yards.

But, although Parsons House is considered special enough to warrant municipal heritage status, it sits on a land that could be needed by Alberta Infrastructure for the construction of a new courthouse, or Justice Centre. (The same parcel also includes the old RCMP building across from the downtown Red Deer Public Library.)

Parsons House’s co-owner Gerene Albrecht has been questioned about the property by the province, but no formal purchase offer has yet been made.

Dallas Huybregts, spokesperson for Alberta Infrastructure, said discussions are at a preliminary stage, since neither a detailed needs assessment, nor project design, have been completed to determine the amount of land required.

If the Parsons’ property is needed, Huybregts said the province would have to work with the city to determine what to do with the old house before it starts building the new courthouse.

Tara Lodewyk, director of planning for the city of Red Deer, said city council would determine whether to save, demolish, move, or incorporate the old building into the new development design — as has been done in other cities.

Dawe fears history is repeating itself. He recalled another old Red Deer home that used to sit on the land that’s now occupied by the existing courthouse that the city has outgrown.

The Snell house was about to get municipal heritage designation, but the process was dropped as soon as its land was possibly needed for the 1980s courthouse development, said Dawe.

While Snell house was initially saved, its old design was thought to not go well with the modern courthouse next door, so it was destroyed in the end. Its brick was used for the landscaping in front of the courthouse.

Parsons House – which Albrecht described as having few interior historic features – does still retain its original exterior. In the city’s historic archives Parsons house is described as “one of the best examples of an Edwardian Classical Revival style residence in Red Deer. As one of the largest remaining early homes, it represents the economic growth and social aspirations of Red Deer’s citizens in the pre-World War One era.”

Dawe can imagine the structure serving as judges chambers or Crown prosecutor quarters if incorporated into the new courthouse design.

Huybregts expects to know more about the provincial land requirements by February. The goal is to start courthouse construction in the spring.

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