Built in 1902 by Johann Schwartz as his family home, the house was originally located on 5th Avenue N.W. (between 1st Street and 2nd Street) in Altona.
Johann Schwartz built his first grain elevator almost as soon as it was evident that the CPR would establish a station. He was an innovative, ambitious businessman, who also built elevators elsewhere and over the years realized considerable wealth.
Many years later the house served as a residence for Elim Bible School students before it was purchased for $1.00 by what was then known as the Schwartz Heritage Group. This group coordinated the first restoration of the house and moved it to its current location. The house was then used for various exhibitions and even art classes. For a number of years after, it was run as a Bed & Breakfast.
In 2004, the Town of Altona took responsibility for the Schwartz house and in early 2005 a local committee was struck with the intent of finding a new purpose for this grand home. Struggling to find an affordable and appropriate use the committee turned to the Town of Altona in hopes of finding a feasible and sustainable reuse.
Every alternative studied was costly and some in the community suggested demolition.
Then a new dream emerged when Friesens Corporation approached the Town of Altona in late 2005 with a vision for an art gallery and expansive sculpture garden. Friesens—a premier printer in North America—has had a long standing reputation for commitment and philanthropy in the Altona area. The project was given the name “Gallery in the Park” and would help mark Friesens 100th anniversary in business and would leave a lasting legacy of the appreciation for art and culture in Southern Manitoba. Friesens envisioned this new gallery and outdoor sculpture garden would position Altona as a destination for tourists and art enthusiasts alike.