Crystal Village's original miniature church (photo: Kurtis Kristianson-SPL)

Crystal Village in Pincher Creek

By Tracy Hyatt

Long before fiber-optic cables and cell towers, there were telegraph and telephone lines connected by tall wooden poles. These poles were topped with glass insulators to prevent the loss of electrical current. But as technology advanced, the poles—and insulators—were taken down. Pincher Creek’s last telephone poles were uprooted in the early 1970s, right around the time area resident Boss Zoeteman decided to build his granddaughter a backyard playhouse.

No ordinary structure, it was a chapel made with 5,500 colourful glass insulators that Zoeteman had collected. Inside it had pews for a make-believe congregation and a pulpit for an imaginary preacher. A glass-bulb schoolhouse, coal shed and warehouse soon followed. Zoeteman crafted 13 small-scale buildings before his death in 1989. His Crystal Village can now be explored at Heritage Acres, an outdoor farming museum in the Pincher Creek area.