Friday, July 14, 2006

Heritage Canada - The StarPhoenix February 24, 2005

Heritage group gives city black eye
Gathercole demolition tabbed worst loss of 2004

Lana Haight and Darren Bernhardt

The StarPhoenix

February 24, 2005

The Heritage Canada Foundation has named the demolition of the Gathercole building as the worst loss of a heritage site in the country in 2004

"It's not the kind of No. 1 that you want to be identified with as a city," said Lenore Swystun, who as spokesperson for the Gathercole Initiative Group fought to save the former Saskatoon technical collegiate from demolition.

While the foundation identifies the Gathercole as an historic building, it was never designated as such by the provincial government or the City of Saskatoon.

Opened in 1931, the high school was razed last summer after more than a year of heated debate regarding its historical merit. The site is key to the city's effort to revitalize the south downtown.

The Gathercole Initiative Group worked for months to derail the city's plans to level the site.

Swystun and others tried but failed to collect enough signatures on a petition that would have forced council to call a vote on the future of the building.

It was the "exhaustive opposition from a citizen's group" that caught the attention of the Heritage Canada Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes the preservation of historical buildings and places.

"Part of our job is to follow the media, so we are constantly getting information on heritage activities and heritage-related issues that are going on right across the country. We keep a file and we follow particular stories that seem to be galvanizing a strong response from the community," Carolyn Quinn, the foundation's director of communications, said from Ottawa.

She believes with some creative thinking, the Gathercole could have been incorporated into the development planned for the site.

But Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison disagrees with the foundation's assessment of the Gathercole.

"It was a 1931 building. That is not historic by any stretch of the imagination, compared with some of the other buildings around here, they're from the 1850s."

In fact, the history of that site may be more to be ashamed of than celebrated, he suggested.

"That was land where Chinatown was at one time. They were expelled from the area to build the collegiate building. So there's history there too, that's not such good history."

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2005


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