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‘Sad day’ for central Alberta town after it loses ‘important historical building’: official

The chief administrative officer for the central Alberta town of Bentley said Tuesday was “a sad day” for the community after a fire broke out at a bar in a building rich with history.

In a statement emailed to Global News, Marc Fortais said firefighters were called to the Monkey Top Saloon at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

“Based on what we know, there are no casualties, and no one was injured in the fire,” he said. “Just over a year ago we experienced the loss of the iconic grain elevator and today we have lost the Monkey Top.

“We have lost another important historical building.”

A file photo of the Monkey Top Saloon in Bentley, Alta. COURTESY: Town of Bentley

Fortais said local firefighters had help from firefighters in Lacombe County, City of Lacombe, Blackfalds, and Eckville and that they were able to isolate the fire to the one building.

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“Mayor and council, along with administration, would like to thank the first responders for their efforts to keep the community safe and ensure that the fire was isolated to the Monkey Top building. Our empathy also goes out to the property owner for their loss and the challenges ahead in working with insurance.”

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According to Fortais, the building sat on the Putland and Thorp site, which had been a store until it was destroyed by fire in 1919.

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“The gentlemen who owned this store were Archie Putland and Frank (Cappy) Thorp,” he said. “Cappy was the first mayor when Bentley was first incorporated into a village in 1915.”

The site then became home to the Bentley Co-Operative which was sold to WM. A. Holmes in 1933 and then operated as the Bentley Mercantile.

“In the early years, supplies were brought in by train and picked up by horse and dray and delivered to the store,” Fortais said. “Store merchants were well known for carrying credit for many customers during the 1930 depression years.

“Nostalgic memories include the smell of freshly oiled floors, buying a slab of cheese cut from the bulk cheese cutter, seeing bananas hanging from the ceiling and the fact that Mr. Holmes would deliver groceries with his Chevrolet car in the Lockhart area where he could be greeted with an invitation to stay for a home-cooked meal.”

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In its latest incarnation as the Monkey Top Saloon, the building was known as a “staple for residents, tourists and visitors, regardless of if they were the leather-worn, done-it-all biker or the time-worn seen-it-all senior or families having a meal with their kids after checking out the amazing businesses or farmers market in Bentley,” Fortais said.

“It was a place of celebration for our hockey and ball teams and for the parents who drive their kids to and from games and practices. The Monkey Top was not just a place to gather, but a place where it did not matter what your background or style is. It was a place of spirited declaration of independence and togetherness.”

Fortais said Bentley’s mayor, town council and administration are grateful for the firefighting efforts by first responders who were deployed to the blaze and that they empathize with the owner of the property for their loss.

“The investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing and nothing has been determined at this time,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Bentley grain elevator destroyed by fire'

Bentley grain elevator destroyed by fire

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