Located at 7809 – 18th Avenue in Coleman beside the former Miners’ Union Hospital and two doors down from the Crowsnest Museum, the former Alberta Provincial Police barracks embodies one of the Pass’ most famous pieces of history – the story of rum-running during Prohibition and the shooting death of APP constable Steve Lawson.
The barracks building was constructed in 1904 for the Coleman detachment of the North West Mounted Police, with a front addition made in 1916. In 1917 it was turned over to the newly-formed Alberta Provincial Police. The APP had been created to combat the illegal importation of alcohol from British Columbia and the United States by the so-called “rum-runners” during Prohibition (1916 – 1924, when the sale and consumption of liquor was illegal in Alberta). The APP was disbanded in 1932 during the Great Depression and many of its members were absorbed into the RCMP or local police forces.
It was here, in front of the APP barracks building, that constable Lawson was shot and killed during a confrontation with the flamboyant rum-runner Emilio “Emperor Pic” Picariello and Florence Lassandro. Although it was never clear who pulled the trigger, both Picariello and Lassandro were tried and executed for the crime. Florence Lassandro was the only woman ever hanged in Alberta.
Although it looks like a typical Coleman house, the building exterior has changed very little over its life. The APP Barracks building was purchased by the Crowsnest Historical Society in 2002, and it was moved onto a solid foundation in 2009. Fundraising is currently underway for interior and exterior renovation and the installation of new exhibits, scheduled for completion in 2017 – the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Alberta Provincial Police force. The APP Barracks is identified on the Coleman Heritage Driving Tour.