LaCombe is a small town of around 13,000 residents in central Alberta, between Calgary and Edmonton. It has a charming historic core and an interesting collection of street murals.
Lacombe is named after Father Albert Lacombe (1827–1916), a Catholic missionary who served as peacemaker between the Cree and Blackfoot tribes and facilitated the Canadian Pacific Railway construction of Canada’s transcontinental railway.
LaCombe’s mural program is unusual in that the murals are located BEHIND the buildings, often in alleyways or facing rear parking lots, and are hard to see from main roads. You really need to look for them, but I found them worth seeing. The murals feature historic scenes from the city’s past and incorporate the building’s design into the mural itself.
Most of murals were painted by Tim Giles, a self-taught artist, who started creating the LaCombe murals in 2004. Giles has painted most of the town’s 40 murals.
There are two general themes for the murals, one group depicting the life of early pioneers (from 1890 to 1910), including the original train station, steam trains, farms, horses, etc. In 2009 Mr. Giles completed another series of murals depicting life in the 1930s, featuring vintage cars, diesel locomotives and so on.
Guided walking tours are available in the summer (check at the visitor information building for more information) and by appointment at other times. Or you can just explore the city on your own, as I did. The town is not large and it doesn’t take that long to walk most of its downtown core. You’ll be rewarded by an interesting of life in the past.
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