Historical photos and artwork popping up across town.
Long before the construction of the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, Fort McMurray relied on Hopital St. Gabriel and the Grey Nuns of Montreal for its medical needs.
Between 1938 and 1966, it was Fort McMurray’s only hospital and remained open as a chronic care facility until 1972. Today, all that remains of the physical building is its sign, which is at Heritage Park.
But in recent weeks, historic photos of Fort McMurray, which remained in the archives of the municipality and the Fort McMurray Historical Society, are giving historical sites like Hopital St. Gabriel a second life.
In the municipality’s efforts to deter graffiti, collages of historical images can be seen wrapped around municipal traffic boxes throughout the downtown area. The wraps are designed to fill any blank space that would be appealing for a potential vandal.
They are also made of a material that makes wiping graffiti off easier than if the metal boxes themselves had been tagged.
“Tagging is a reality, but we hope it will at least deter people from tagging,” said Theresa Jolliffe, a community strategies coordinator with the municipality.
Similar projects have taken place in other communities across Canada, and have seen some success in reducing the amount of graffiti in their communities, said Jolliffe, such as St. Albert.
Other communities, such as Athabasca, have used historical images of significant places and people to tell the stories of neighbourhoods and monuments.
“We see downtown as the historical downtown,” said Jolliffe. “Some of the photos are linked to the streets they reside on.”
A photo of hockey players coached by Father Patrick Mercredi, a Catholic priest born in Fort Chipewyan who served Fort McMurray and many other northern communities, is on the street bearing his namesake.
In the newer communities north of the Athabasca River, 42 traffic boxes will be wrapped with designs from local artists and photographers. Many of these will be along Confederation Way, Thickwood Boulevard and Mackenzie Boulevard.
A total of 55 intersections and areas will have their traffic boxes wrapped in the community project.
A new location will be featured every Friday on the municipality’s “Wood Buffalo Culture” Facebook page with a story behind the images.
While the cost of the project will total $35,000, Jolliffe says the municipality spends up to $240,000 handling graffiti annually.
“We’re hoping this project will be effective here,” she said.
A photo of Hopital St. Gabriel, which was run by the Grey Nuns of Montreal between 1938 to 1966 as Fort McMurray’s only hospital, is wrapped around a municipal utility box near the corner of Hospital Street and Franklin Avenue in downtown Fort McMurray, Alta. on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. The hospital remained open as a chronic care facility until 1972.