Friday, July 14, 2006

Letter to City Council regarding Heritage Canada's 2004 Annual Report Card

March 1, 2005

His Worship the Mayor
and Members of City Council
222 Third Avenue North
Saskatoon, SK S7K 0J5

Dear Mayor Atchison and Members of City Council:

Re: Heritage Canada's 2004 Annual Report Card

Please find attached a copy of the February 21, 2005 news release by Heritage Canada regarding its second annual report card - a listing of Canada's "Top Five" worst building losses and its "Top Ten" most endangered places of 2004. Topping the list of destroyed heritage is Saskatoon's 1931 Gathercole Building. Attached as well is the February 23, 2005 StarPhoenix article ‘Heritage group gives city black eye’.

Mayor Don Atchison has suggested that the 1931 Gathercole Building was not historic, compared with some of the other buildings in Saskatoon that date back to the 1850’s. To the best of my knowledge there are no 150-year-old buildings in Saskatoon, the oldest is the Marr Residence, which was built in 1884.

I would like to mention the City’s recently completed Capital Project 2064 Heritage Properties Identification. According to a February 10, 2005 Community Services Department report ‘the project involved the identification of significant heritage buildings, structures, and properties in Saskatoon, including City-owned properties, in accordance with pre-established criteria.’ Among the criteria are ‘the structure was constructed prior to 1945.’

It is appalling that the mayor would imply that only buildings from the 19th century have heritage value. Such a dim view does not bode well for the city’s remaining heritage resources.

On the February 23, 2005 CTV News the mayor said that a majority of Saskatonians were in favour of demolishing the Gathercole Building.

On the contrary, a survey conducted by Sigma Analytics for The StarPhoenix and Global Television, which was published in the June 13, 2003 SP, revealed that 55.5% of respondents wanted the former school saved.

A December 4, 2003 CJWW News Poll showed that 63.4% of respondents felt that the Gathercole Building should not be demolished. This was four days prior to Council’s decision to extend 2nd Avenue South and Spadina Crescent, which triggered the demolition process.

It's seems clear that Saskatonians did have an opinion, a positive one, but Council chose to ignore it.

It is being suggested that the Gathercole Building did not have any heritage value. It should be noted that the City of Saskatoon’s February 4, 2002 Request for Proposals for the Adaptive Re-Use Assessment of the Gathercole Building stated: ‘The City of Saskatoon has conducted a heritage evaluation to determine the heritage characteristics of the buildings.’ Among the findings were: ‘the structure has significant heritage merit.’

The February 19, 2004 assessment by the Department of Culture, Youth and Recreation concluded that the Gathercole Building possessed historical, architectural and engineering significance on a local level. It also determined that the site was ‘not without viability’. Unfortunately, “The fact that the owner does not support renovation and that the property is now vacant, presents the greatest impediment to viability.”

In 1982-83 the MVA produced its Heritage Resources Manuals Parts I & II. The executive summary of Part II stated that the intent of Meewasin’s Heritage Resources Program was to identify, protect and interpret the Valley's Heritage Resources. The purpose of the resource manual was, in part, to identify the significant heritage resources within the Meewasin Valley – which included schools. Meewasin defined a Heritage Building as: "A building deemed to be representative of the social, cultural, economic, military or political history of the city, province or nation." The Gathercole Building was selected and given the code HB-45.

It should be noted that Meewasin’s Heritage Resource Manual was updated in 1999 and the Gathercole Building retained its place as a heritage building. Sadly, Meewasin appeared to distance itself from its own publications and mandate. Its stated goals and principles as an agency devoted to the preservation, conservation and protection of the natural and heritage resources of the Meewasin Valley were virtually abandoned. Meewasin never publicly advocated for the building’s preservation and I think its credibility suffered accordingly. For that, all three MVA partners must take responsibility – the City of Saskatoon, the Province of Saskatchewan, and the University of Saskatchewan.

In 1989, and again in 2004, the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee advised the City that it did not support demolition of the Gathercole Building. The Saskatoon Heritage Society, on numerous occasions, advanced the same sentiments. The City dismissed both.

In Winnipeg, The Forks' Heritage Interpretative Plan states: "Heritage resources are, by their very nature, finite and non-renewable; once they are lost or destroyed, they are gone forever. Accordingly, they must be preserved, protected and conserved if there is to be any chance of their being interpreted and enjoyed by future generations." In Saskatoon, however, demolition appears to be the first step.

Thank you for your time.


Joseph Kuchta
Saskatoon, SK



Meewasin Valley Authority Board
Heritage Canada Foundation
Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, City of Saskatoon
Saskatoon Heritage Society
Hon. Lorne Calvert, Premier of Saskatchewan
Peter MacKinnon, President, University of Saskatchewan


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