The Michener House Museum and Archives, located in Lacombe, Alberta, is an important part of the region's heritage. The house, in which the museum and archives are located, is the birthplace of the Rt. Hon. Roland Michener, Governor General of Canada. The Michener House is also the oldest remaining building in Lacombe. Today, the Lacombe & District Historical Society operates both the museum and archives.
The purpose of the museum is to preserve the birthplace and legacy of the Rt. Hon. Roland Michener and to showcase and preserve artifacts that relate to Lacombe's early history from the 1890s to approximately 1950.
The archives preserve artifacts, documents, and historical photographs that are significant to the Michener legacy as well as to the history of Lacombe.
In 1894, the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church built this house as a parsonage, located directly beside the original church. The house was built by Reverend E.J. Chegwin, the 1st ordained Methodist minister to serve Lacombe. Until 1922, eleven ministers including Edward Michener, father of Rt. Hon. Roland Michener, resided in the parsonage.
In 1918, members of the church added an addition to the rear of the house, making it more spacious for its occupants.
In March 1922, the Grace Methodist Church, and the St. Andrew's Presbyterian church joined their congregations and formed the St. Andrew's United Church. As described by the Lacombe Globe in its centennial edition published in 1967: "This church is a rather unique institution having been in existence for three years prior to national church union." The house was sold in 1922 and became a private residence until 1971, until the Maski-Pitoon historical society (now the Lacombe & District Historical Society) bought the house in order to preserve the building. Grace Methodist Church was demolished in 1984.
After thirteen years of preparatory work, on May 25, 1984, the dedicated members of the Historical Society officially opened the doors of the Michener House Museum to the public. Today, the Lacombe & District Historical Society continues to operate the Michener House Museum and Archives.
The pump organ displayed in the museum belonged to the church. A picture of the church can be seen above the display case in the parlour.
The only part of the home that is truly original is the wall along the staircase, the frame of the house, the floor on the second level, and the wood moldings. Since then, there have been additions to the home as well as renovations.
The main level of the house is home to many pioneering artifacts, dating from the late 1800s to mid-1900s. Many of the items on display have been donated to the museum over the last three decades. Some items are original to the parsonage, including the Grace Methodist Church, which is no longer in existence today.
The second story of the house displays artifacts from Roland Michener's personal collection. These include; original bedroom furnishings, photographs, clothing and more.
The Rt. Hon. Roland Michener's father, Mr. Edward Michener, was originally from Almonte, Ontario. After being ordained as a minister, Mr. Edward Michener was first stationed in Banff, Alberta before accepting the post in Lacombe in 1899.
The four paintings in the parlour of the house are by Roland's mother, Mrs. Mary Michener, and depict the natural landscape from the couple's time in Banff as well as from the Ottawa/Gatineau region.
Though the Rt. Hon. Roland MIchener was born in the Michener House, the Michener family moved to Red Deer shortly after his birth. The family grew to include nine children, Roland being the second eldest.
After moving to Red Deer, Mr. Edward Michener became involved in local politics and became an important political figure in Alberta. In 1904 he was elected mayor of Red Deer and in 1918 he was appointed to the Canadian Senate.
Rt. Hon. Roland Michener was Governor General from 1967 to 1974 while Lester B. Pearson and Pierre E. Trudeau were Prime Ministers.
The upper level of the Michener House displays items related to the life and career of the Rt. Hon. Roland Michener. Many of the articles on display were donated by Michener himself and reflect his life as a scholar, athlete and politician.
Roland Michener was influenced by his father's involvement in municipal and provincial politics and desired to take part in public affairs. He graduated from school in Red Deer and then attended the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The U of A is Alberta's oldest post-secondary institution offering instruction since 1908 and awarding degrees since 1912.
In between his 2nd and 3rd year of studies at the U of A, Roland Michener joined the Royal Air Force (RAF). When he returned he graduated with honours and received a Bachelor of Arts in May 1920. Following this, Roland was accepted as a Rhodes Scholar and went to Oxford (along with Lester B. Pearson) where he would receive a law degree.
Upon returning to Canada and getting permission to practice law here, Michener moved to Alberta and established a law firm. He then became involved in politics eventually becoming the High Commissioner to Nepal and India and later speaker of the house in the Canadian House of Commons – which, in Michener's entire career, was his favourite job.
Roland Michener was an active and health-oriented individual who was known for his love of jogging. In 1979, he climbed Mount Michener.
Michener died on August 8, 1991 at the age of 91.
The Michener House Museum was declared a Provincial historic resource in 1977.
From 1977 until the Museum's opening in May 1984, the historical society worked closely with Roland Michener himself in order to restore the house and gain particular items for display in the Museum.
In addition to the Museum which preserves Roland Michener's legacy and birthplace and items from Lacombe's history, this building also houses an archive in the basement. The Archives preserve historical documents, photographs, newspapers and a variety of other historical items. For example, the Archive preserves the entire historical collection of the local newspaper, the Lacombe Globe, which has been in existence since 1900.
The Michener House Museum and Archives is a result of the tireless efforts of the dedicated members of the Lacombe & District Historical Society.