Earlier this year, Heritage Winnipeg held its 35th Annual Preservation Awards for exceptional heritage projects.
Because the awards were made a month before the mid-March government-mandated shutdowns, Heritage Winnipeg is one of the few Canadian industry associations to have been able to present its awards in this year’s winter/spring season.
Four buildings received a 2020 Conservation Award for Excellence: Fortune Building (230 Main St.); Westminster United Church (745 Westminster Ave.); Redeemed Christian Church of God (635 Sargent Ave.); and St. John’s Library (500 Salter St.).
Built in 1882, the Fortune Building is a historic commercial building that is well known to Winnipeggers.
It has the distinction of being the fifth oldest building in the city’s downtown. The oldest is the Winnipeg Hotel, built in 1872, and immediately south of the Fortune on Main Street.
In 1883, the Fortune was sold to Alexander Macdonald, who immediately built a near-identical addition, sometimes referred to as the Macdonald Building, on the south side of the structure.
Jilmark Construction Inc. won for managing the heritage construction project.
“The project had many challenges, because we had to recreate the original building before it had fallen into disrepair,” said Jilmark project manager David Regehr-Wiens.
The challenges included shoring up the adjacent Macdonald Building, which was leaning to one side; installing modern sprinkler and HVAC systems; replacing the old stairways with new ones; adding elevators; making everything wheelchair accessible; and adhering to the new Winnipeg Building Code.
Alpha Masonry Ltd. was recognized for its masonry work on the building’s exterior and for its “sympathetic undertaking” of the removal of paint, the restoration work of the exterior brick and the extensive repointing.
“We did the project out of passion,” said Konstantinos Kotoulas, president of Alpha Masonry Ltd. “It took a lot of work and a long time, a year-and-a-half, off and on.”
Alpha needed to be very careful to not damage the exterior.
“It required five coats of special paint,” said Kotoulas,
At Westminster United Church, Yarrow Sash and Door won for its role in restoring the church’s rose-coloured stained glass window.
Completed in 1912, the church was added to the City of Winnipeg’s List of Historical Resources in 1992.
Beginning in 2018, Westminster United rebuilt the crumbling front steps of the building.
Contractors used materials appropriate to its construction period, while making slight alterations to increase the functionality of the steps and meet modern building codes.
In 2019, work on the steps continued while conservation of the rose window began.
Parts of the wooden frame of the rose window had rotted, compromising its integrity. Westminster United hired Yarrow Sash and Door to repair and restore the window.
Work on the rose window involved stabilizing what was salvageable; replacing what was beyond repair; installing a new dual pane clear exterior window; and touching up the plaster and masonry surrounding the window.
“The window was in a serious state of deterioration after many years of neglect and needed structural and component restoration,” said Yarrow president Michael Neufeld.
Yarrow did a thorough job on the rose window as they repositioned the window and strengthened it with internal reinforcements; removed all the exterior glass stops and replaced them with new stops; removed and restored all the stained glass; removed all the single pane exterior plate glass and changed it with energy-efficient dual pane glazing; and painted the exterior of the refurbished window.
Not every renovation project in Winnipeg is as successful as the 2020 Heritage Winnipeg award winners.
For example, when renovations to the Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall at 216 Princess St. were being made, the 110-year-old building started to collapse.
In February 2020, the City of Winnipeg authorized the demolition of the historic building, which was named after a man who was executed by Louis Riel in 1870.
Previous Heritage Winnipeg Preservation Award winners include the Bank of Hamilton, the Pantages Theatre, the Bank of Montreal on Portage and Main, the Walker Theatre, the Hotel Fort Garry and Young United Church.
Heritage Winnipeg executive director Cindy Tugwell said the city has many old buildings that are still in good structural shape and worth restoring to their original condition.
“Winnipeg has a larger store of old buildings than other cities in Western Canada,” said Tugwell. “Before the Panama Canal was completed in 1914, many warehouses were built here when Winnipeg was a major east-west transportation hub and the city had ambitions of becoming the Chicago of the North.”
The city’s Exchange District, located just outside the central business district, has more than 130 heritage buildings in 20 square city blocks.