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Kisbey man wins provincial heritage award for restoration project

A Kisbey resident has won a provincial heritage award for his efforts to restore an old stone house that is part of his family’s history.
Kisbey stone house
Richard Krehbiel has been recognized for restoring this old stone house northeast of Kisbey that has been in his family for generations. Photo courtesy of the Carlyle Observer

A Kisbey resident has won a provincial heritage award for his efforts to restore an old stone house that is part of his family’s history.

Richard Krehbiel was recognized with a Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Physical Heritage Conservation Award in the architecture category for the Smithfield Heritage Restoration Project.

Krehbiel has been working to restore the Smithfield stone farmhouse, located about 10 kilometres northeast of Kisbey in the Percy district. Named for pioneer James Mitchell Smith, the house was completed in 1903 when the Smiths immigrated from Scotland to start a draft horse farm, and it was abandoned in 1988.

“It’s an old three-story stone farmhouse basically that was part of a much larger draft horse raising operation,” said Krehbiel.

Smith is Krehbiel’s great grandfather.

Krehbiel recalled that the old house was occupied by his family until the early 1970s when the last member of that line of the family died. It went through several different owners over the years until it was abandoned.

“I started getting interested in it again in 2005,” said Krehbiel. “I came back from British Columbia, where I lived at that time, and I worked to stabilize it for a while, and eventually it appeared that we’d be able to salvage it.”

In the past few years, he was been carrying out the heavy lifting to preserve the architecture and to restore the home.

“We’re almost finished the exterior,” he said. “The key to restore old buildings, of course, is to do the exterior work first and make sure it doesn’t fall down. So we’ve redone the roofing, we’ve replaced all of the windows. We need to do some door work yet, but we’ve almost finished the stone work.”

The exterior work has been taking place over the past two years, and should be finished in one more season. Then the attention will shift to the interior.

Krehbiel is pleased with how the restoration work has progressed, as it’s moving as quickly as it can.

He recalled that three of people who lived in the old stone house relocated to the White Fox area, where he grew up. His mother played at the old house when she was a child. They always talked about the building and how great it was.

“As I got older and started to retire, I thought it would be a good thing to revisit some of that heritage, and do what we can to keep it alive,” he said.

Krehbiel hopes the building will be inhabitable at least on a seasonable basis. It could be difficult to reach in the winter months if the snow drifts get too high. He’s also looking at opportunities to commercialize it by finding a contemporary use for it other than a residence.

“I would love to be able to turn it into an economically viable and sustainable part of the community,” said Krehbiel.  

People take photographs next to the building, and they love to see an old house in its recovering state.

The award was presented at Government House in Regina by Lieutenant Governor Russell Mirasty on Oct. 9 and recognizes the support of Percy View Farms and the RM of Brock which designated Smithfield as a municipal heritage site in 2014, as well as the CAP Masonry stonemasons and various local contractors who provided their expertise to the project.