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Tribe, IDPR receive award for Old Mission work

by JOSH McDONALD
Local Editor | June 16, 2023 1:00 AM

CATALDO –– On Tuesday morning the Idaho Heritage Trust presented the first-ever Frederick Walters Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.

The award, which included a check for $5,000, was the result of efforts by both groups at the Old Mission State Park, specifically the work that has been done over recent years to preserve and restore the Cataldo Mission.

Presenting the award on behalf of the Idaho Heritage Trust (IHT)was Dennis O’Brien, who was honored to be handing out the inaugural award.

“No one embodied the aspects of the Idaho Heritage Trust’s mission more than Fred Walters,” O’Brien said. “His attention to detail and meticulous work as a historical architect was second to none and only match by his passion for the stories that he learned along the way.”

The award was created in honor of Walters’ retirement from the Idaho Heritage Trust and is given to those “who go above and beyond to protect Idaho’s cultural resources.”

“We’re thrilled to honor the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation for their Herculean efforts,” O’Brien said.

Herculean is an appropriate way to describe the work that was completed at the Mission, including re-roofing the building with four-foot cedar shakes and the replacement of several of the church's massive exterior columns – all of which was done in a way to replicate the exact look of the original construction from the 1850s.

“Both of these undertakings embody the quality of work consistent with Mr. Walters’ meticulous attention to detail and drive for excellence,” O’Brien stated.

Accepting the awards were David White and Ernest Stensgar – White, the Northern Region Manager for IDPR, and Stensgar, a former Chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and a current member of the Tribe’s Council.

“I was sitting here thinking about our ancestors, thinking about our chiefs, our old chiefs – Chiefs Vincent, Seltice – I think those chiefs are smiling down today,” Stensgar said. “Because of the importance of the church to the Tribe and that it’s still here after all of these years, we just appreciate the endeavors of everyone. It was so important to bring the tribe and people up here together and I think we’ve established a relationship that will go on forever.”

Stensgar thanked numerous people for their efforts, including the IHT, the Idaho Historical Society, and the late Harry Magnuson – all of which were instrumental in the preservation of the Cataldo Mission.

“The Old Mission is a labor of love,” White said. “From its construction by the tribe and the priests in the 1850s to the work done by the local community in the 1920s, and again led by Harry Magnuson in the 50s to make repairs to preserve the structure, which had fallen into disrepair.”

White noted a few of the important dates for the site, including it receiving landmark status in 1962, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, and it became an Idaho State Park in 1975 under the management of local icon Bill Scudder.

In 2017, the park completed a quarter-million-dollar project to replace the roof and front columns, using custom four-foot cedar shakes that came from Canada.

“We wanted it to be historically correct and that’s when Fred Walters got involved with things here,” White said. “His vast amount of historical architecture became a prominent part of figuring out what needed to be done. His involvement in the Old Mission, as well as other state park historical buildings, has been extensive and of great benefit. So we as the Department of Parks and Recreation in partnership with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe are greatly honored to be accepting the first Idaho Heritage Trust Frederick Walters Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation for this work of love that started a long time ago and continues now and into the future.”

The Idaho Heritage Trust was founded in 1990 by Idaho's Centennial Commission and the Idaho Legislature with a mission to preserve Idaho's historic buildings, revitalize historic theaters, restore Idaho's rural "Main Streets," and research Idaho's archaeological history.

Prior to his work with IHT, Walters served as the curator for the Idaho State Historical Society before undertaking a 14-year apprenticeship and becoming a licensed architect.

Walters was with the Idaho Heritage Trust for 27 years prior to his retirement in 2022.