Tucked out of view behind a grove of trees just a couple of minutes from downtown Banff is a white cottage decorated with green shutters and a wraparound veranda. This quaint home was once the summer cottage of Alexander Rutherford, Alberta’s first premier, and now, his historic home is being renovated to its former glory—and then some.
Rutherford served as premier between 1905 and 1910. He was also the treasurer and minister of education, and he is lauded for co-founding the University of Alberta and promoting public education and a railway expansion. He commissioned his Banff cottage to be built in 1905, just steps away from the Bow River.
“He would lend the cottage to faculty at the University of Alberta, and a lot of students went there for educational purposes,” says Joel Piecowye, an architect at Shugarmann Architecture and Design. “The cottage itself has got deep roots with the founding of Alberta.”
After Rutherford died in 1941, the building changed hands between various other private owners, and its historical relevance faded into obscurity. More recently, the lease to the property was acquired by the Bowstrings Heritage Foundation and reclaimed historical records revealed the building’s significance.
Despite being over 100 years old, much of the exterior of the building looks as it originally did. With the renovation, Piecowye plans on restoring some of the interior to its original design, including returning it to its simple four-room plan. Most notably, Piecowye plans on adding a building extension that will include a kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms. To distinguish the new dwelling from the old, it will be built with similar but complementary architecture and connected to the old building through a glass corridor.
Piecowye and his team are also working towards maximizing energy efficiency. “We’re pushing to make this building net-zero after its constructed so that it’s set for the government’s net-zero 2050 goals,” he says. Plans include improving insulation and possibly employing solar power in the new development.
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The newly renovated cottage could go up for sale or potentially become a community building for the town of Banff.