This magnificent Building, the Lebel Mansion, was built in 1910 by Timothy Lebel, one of the town's most prominent businessmen. Timothee Lebel was born in Cacouna, Quebec on May 24, 1857 and migrated west in 1881. After working in a number of places across the prairies he arrived in the Pincher Creek area in 1884. He opened a small store on Main Street in partnership with Tom Hinton. Mr. Hinton’s interest in the store was later bought out by Charles Kettles. In 1900 they built a large three storey sandstone building to accommodate their growing business and it became one of the main trade centres of Southern Alberta. The building was gutted by fire in 1915. The bottom two stories remain as part of the present day Legion.
The Lebel Family
In 1886 Timothee Lebel’s fiancee, Marie Hortense Chasse, also of Cacouna, came west and they were married in Ft. Macleod. In 1889, Mrs. Lebel’s sister recently widowed with a new baby and four children, became ill. The Lebels decided to adopt the baby, Marie Blanche Ouellet.
Father Lacombe’s Hermitage
The Lebels lived in a house on Main Street, just across from the store in 1909 Timothee decided to build a new home for his family and bought the land where the Mansion now stands, the most prominent site in Pincher Creek. It was on this site that Father Lacombe built his “Hermitage” in 1884. The Hermitage had been used, from time to time, by Father Lacombe but never for very long periods. The building was moved across the street to a site north of St. Michael’s School. Today the building has been restored and is on the grounds of the Pincher Creek Museum.
The Lebel House 1910-1924
Construction of the new Lebel home was finished in 1910. Timothee Lebel kept meticulous records and his ledger shows that the cost of the building was $22,305.21. There were 1587 square feet on the main floor and storage space in both the basement and the attic. This was a huge space, a that time, for a family of three and rumour has it that it was also to provide office space for Blanche’s fiancé for a medical practice. However this fiancé (name unknown) either was killed in the 1st World War or failed to return to Pincher Creek. Blanche never married.
The Lebel Mansion as Hospital
In 1924, Timothee Lebel sold the mansion to the religious order Daughters of Jesus (Filles de Jesus) for $10,000, and the Lebel family moved to Schofield St., the small, white frame house to the south east of the Mansion. Both Timothy and Marie Hortense died in 1935. Blanche continued to live in the house until her death in 1972.
During 1924 renovations took place in the building and on November 19, 1924 it was officially opened as the St. Vincent de Paul Hospital. In 1927, the first of what were to be several additions to the original house was built in order to accommodate the growing population of the town.
In 1974 the Alberta Government bought the hospital from the Daughters of Jesus for $504,409. The hospital then became known as St. Vincent Municipal Hospital. That same year the original Mansion part of the building was condemned for use as a hospital and this area was then used as office space. In 1976, after lobbying by local citizens the Mansion was declared a Provincial Historic Resource.
The Lebel Mansion and the Allied Arts Council
In 1983 the new hospital on the north hill was opened and the Lebel Mansion was abandoned and left to sit unheated over two winters. In 1984 the town purchased the building from the Provincial Government for $1 and lively discussions began on what to do with it. That year the newly revitalized Allied Arts Council (AAC) approached the town about managing the original Lebel home and additions (but not the 1949 east wing) as a community and cultural centre. In November 1984, the town agreed to the AAC proposal and a lease was signed in 1985. The AAC was responsible for the management, preservation and restoration of the building. In 1986 the east wing of the hospital was demolished.
Evangeline: A Lebel Ghost Story
EVANGELINE OF THE ORDER
I had almost reached the top of the stairs when a change in the light, a change in the air raised the nerves on the back of my neck in a rush and the building fell to a mighty hush...
Softly at first, then in increasing song, a choir of night sighed mighty and long, and image took form in the dark of the night and the sound was soon lost in the shimmering light of a face and a cloak and a cross in hand...
Three steps beyond the figure would stand... never letting me near, never letting me know the features of face in the soft silver glow.
The voice was weak and strained the ears, words came rushing through crying and tears, and the air turned cold and mystical fast brought the image to turn in the pale light cast...
"I am Evangeline... a nun of the order brought early to death and hence to the border of places that lie twixt heaven and hell... and now you have entered that place where I dwell. I am trapped on these stairs in eternal distress neither able to free, nor able to rest...
This habit once crisp and rustling alive worn soft and silky clings to my side... the wailing you hear in the night it mine, the footfall is the sounds I make as I climb and retreat for hour upon hour to try to be free of this cold ancient tower.
Now you have caught me you mere mortal man, but freedom can't grant me... for no one can... I am locked to this devilish place of the night and can only live on asa translucent light to knock on the walls, and in bitter cold air cause quickening heartbeat and frightful stare.
It is time as you stand and so you are free that to get to the top you must pass me... and each time you do... your soul I'll diminish until in the end as we near the finish there will seem nothing strange about me at all...
For you'll be the same...
And trapped in this hall..."
DAVID GREEN, 1987