By George Siamandas
Recently the contents of the old CP Rail's Royal Alexandra Hotel's Selkirk Dining Room were sold to a Vancouver antique dealer after sitting in storage for 25 years. It poses the question of how much else is out there from Winnipeg's demolished heritage buildings?
Demolition contractors have always recognized the value of preserving these stone pieces. The Manitoba Historical Society began to gather some stuff. And later so did Heritage Winnipeg. In the early 1970s the City of Winnipeg initiated a heritage conservation program. The city has several old warehouses that contain more of this architectural salvage. Now if a building cannot be saved from demolition the important pieces are saved and can be reused. Of course it is much better to try to preserve the original building.
As you go through city parks you will find stone architectural pieces that had been parts of long demolished heritage buildings. The food court under the TD Bank under Portage and Main has pieces from the old 1950s Toronto Dominion Bank. The Lane-way behind the Concert Hall called John Hirsh Way has lions heads that originally came from the Royal Alexandra Hotel.
The fountain in old Market Square contains carved column segments that came from the old Merchants bank that was located where the Richardson Building now is.
And the decorative tiles in Old Market Square stage came from the old Scientific Building that had housed Shainos in the 1970s, now site of Portage Place. Other tiles from this building are used at the Forks, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet Building Residence, the serpentine wall of Pantages Theatre and even in Eaton Place.
City Park has several elements. In the area where the flags fly is the original city hall crest. The English Gardens have a face element that had been in the Old Post Office.
Mostyn Park also has column segments and capitals from other old buildings.
The best that remains is the entry of the old Alloway and Champion Bank entrance that had been located near Main and Water. This is a two story entrance door surround in rare granite. But there is also the pressed metal facade of the old Empire Hotel. There has been talk of trying to use it as a facade on a future parkade.