Every story has a beginning. This is ours…..


Coaldale is home to the first established Mennonite Brethren Church in Alberta. In 1929, they constructed a church on land, formally a sugar beet farm. The congregation immediately outgrew the 32×52 foot building, requiring an immediate addition. Needing more space again led to the congregation built a second addition in 1932, but in 1939, there was still insufficient space. The church was torn down in preparation for constructing a larger building with enough space, except for the 1932 addition. Volunteers from the congregation built a new church on the same site in just three and a half months. The building featured a large main sanctuary, separate men’s and women’s foyers, two choir rooms, fourteen Sunday School rooms, a kitchen downstairs, and a balcony upstairs.

In 1971, the Mennonite Brethren Church constructed a new building more centrally located in the community. It sold the present building to a local company, L&D Masonry, who turned it into a factory. To accommodate all the factory equipment, a large portion of the sanctuary floor had to be removed. The building served as a factory for a few years.

In 1995, a group of dedicated residents, led by the visionary Erna Goertzen, approached the Town of Coaldale with a bold proposal. They suggested that the town purchase the building, which was unused and in poor shape at the time. Their aim was clear-to preserve the historic structure and establish a museum that would serve the community by collecting and displaying its rich history. This was not just a suggestion, but a testament to the community’s deep-rooted pride in its history and heritage.

This dedicated group became the Gem of the West Museum Society, formed to restore the building and oversee the new museum. The society took its name from the historic slogan for the Town of Coaldale, “The Gem of the West.” Erna became the society’s first President. They embarked on an ambitious ten-year renovation project to restore the former church. The 1932 addition to the original building became a working blacksmith shop for the museum.

The building, a testament to the community’s resilience and commitment to its history, was declared a Registered Historic Resource in May 1999. In 2001, it officially opened its doors as the Gem of the West Museum, a living testament to the community’s past. Today, the building houses the museum and serves as a vibrant venue for public programs and events, private rental events and functions. The town also used the building for many years as an office for the Community Services Department. Its transformation into a museum stands as a beacon of the community’s appreciation for its history and its commitment to its preservation.

The Gem of the West Museum is one of the largest rural museums in Southern Alberta.

It showcases over 15 unique exhibits in 15,000sq.ft., and includes an art gallery and a working blacksmith shop on site.