Boswell Historical Society creates space for community connection
The practices of nurturing community connection and preserving history are alive and well in Boswell on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake.
When the Boswell Historical Society (BHS) identified a need to reduce social isolation and enhance relationship-building among the residents of their rural town, they embraced the opportunity to acquire the church they’d been leasing since October 2016, transforming the now deconsecrated building of worship into a warm, welcoming meeting space.
With support from Columbia Basin Trust, regional grants, donations and fundraising, the non-profit society purchased St. Anselm’s Church from the Anglican Diocese of the Kootenay in October 2022 and renamed it The Heart a gathering place.
“Our most recent initiative is a free monthly support group called the Compassionate Cafe for caregivers facing bereavement and loneliness, which aims to fill an identified gap in the community,” shares Margaret Crossley, a representative of the BHS Board of Directors.
“It’s run by our current Chair and retired nurse Karen Arrowsmith. The Heart is also the venue and practice space for the Heart to Heart Singers, a community service choir that provides music for memorial services and other events.”
As of September 2023, the BHS has been running a monthly Community Cupboard out of the space, referred to as the “Mid-month Heartbeat,” where donated food boxes are delivered to those in the region that need it.
The BHS has partnered with a food recovery program in Cranbrook for this initiative, which donates recovered food from grocery stores, butchers, etc. that is made into frozen meals by one of the BHS board members. And it doesn’t stop there.
“We plan to host monthly neighbourhood meetings to welcome and support new residents and open the space as a venue for weddings and other social events at a flexible, minimal rate that will go toward fundraising,” adds Crossley.
“Our next renovation will involve upgrading the lower level into a more functional space, and then increasing general accessibility. The members of the Boswell Historical Society are very proud and extremely gratified by this acquisition, but we could not have accomplished this without tremendous community involvement and the generous support of the Trust. I can’t speak more highly about the guidance and support we received.”
Buying the property after leasing for six years allowed BHS to plant permanent roots in the space. The society enlisted the help of local graphic artist Warren Clark to create an honour wall in acknowledgment of their contributors and new signage with a Ktunaxa Nation translation.
BHS also installed a beautifully restored wood-burning stove from the original Boswell log schoolhouse circa 1920, amongst some cosmetic upgrades.
“As a historical society, one of the most important things we do is preserve,” says Crossley.
“The church was built in 1963 but some of the liturgical furnishings are from even earlier, like the lectern from 1911, lovingly hand-built by two residents for the first religious gathering in the young community. We wanted to respect the original look, but we’ve also been able to paint the church pews, put in new flooring, and add upholstered cushions thanks to community connections and donated labour. I’m almost brought to tears when I walk into the refreshed space because it’s so beautiful!”
With capacity for up to 65 people, the small building goes without running water and a septic system, but those modern amenities aren’t missed much in The Heart.
Functioning as a small library, museum and official meeting place for the BHS, the space also serves as a venue for community events such as author readings, fundraisers, live performances and more.