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Pynelogs Cultural Centre

 

Published in ARTiculate Magazine, Spring 2009

 

            Pynelogs is 95 years old this year – let’s have a party!

            A lovingly restored home and grounds on the shores of Lake Windermere is the showpiece art gallery and administrative centre for the Columbia Valley Arts Council. Pynelogs has had a storied existence, and CV Arts has chosen 2009 as the year to celebrate this building’s amazing history and highlight its current role as a regional arts centre.

            In 1914 Robert Randolph Bruce, a Scottish-born CPR surveyor who fell in love with the ‘Happy Valley’, built a magnificent log home on the shores of Lake Windermere for his new bride, Lady Elizabeth Northcote. He called the house and surrounding gardens Pynelogs. Lady Elizabeth passed away before she could move in, but Bruce lived there until his appointment as BC’s Lieutenant Governor in 1926. In 1936 he donated the property to the town of Invermere.

            Pynelogs served as the Lady Elizabeth Bruce Memorial Hospital until 1955, housing 11 beds and treating everything from flu epidemics to meningitis. Many of today’s older Invermere residents were born in the 2-bed maternity ward.  In 1961 Pynelogs became a seniors home, then a home for the mentally handicapped. By 1989 it was abandoned, decrepit, and reputedly haunted. In the words of one town councillor, “We’d do better to burn it down.”

            Some local artists came back from a visit to Mexico impressed and inspired by the sight of town squares serving as the heart of their communities. Town squares provided a space for the arts, cultural celebrations, and public meetings. They realized that Invermere needed such a cultural heart. They took over management of Pynelogs and began hosting musical events, arts cafes and festivals. The community responded, providing volunteer hours and fundraising to bring the old building into serviceable shape.

            It was good, but not good enough ...

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