Saturday, July 15, 2006

The StarPhoenix - February 16, 2006

City has most history to lose
Tops endangered structures list

Lori Coolican

The StarPhoenix

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Saskatoon has the dubious distinction of being home to three of the province's 10 most endangered historical structures. The King George Hotel, the Royal Canadian Legion hall on 19th Street and the Victoria Bridge all made the Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society's 2006 Watch List of Endangered Structures, to be announced on Feb. 20 during events marking Heritage Day across the country. No other community in the province has more than one piece of architecture on the list.

"Being on the list is certainly not an honour," Al Rosseker, executive director of the society, said in a release issued to media outlets around the province this week. "Structures on the list could fall down or be taken down if communities and governments do not rally to preserve them for future generations."

This is the first year the list has been compiled and there was no shortage of contenders, Rosseker said in an interview, adding the society isn't trying to point fingers at communities, but to draw people's attention to what could be in store for the old landmarks they've known for years, so that concerted efforts can be made to preserve them.

"We think these structures are important to each community in their own way, and the province in a more global way," Rosseker said.

The society's criteria for selecting endangered structures to appear on the list include age, structural integrity, degree of neglect, exposure to weather, vandals or other destructive forces, involvement of the community and vulnerability to new development.

The 94-year-old King George Hotel, one of Saskatoon's most popular spots in past years, now sits vacant and boarded up while the city takes steps to seize it from a B.C.-based developer for nonpayment of property taxes. The developer had planned to convert the old building to a luxury business hotel with retail and restaurant space, but the project never got off the ground.

The downtown Legion hall, located about four blocks south of the King George, was recently sold and is slated for demolition to make way for a luxury hotel and spa complex on the River Landing site sometime next year. The building was constructed in 1929 by local First World War veterans, and features one of the last remaining horse-hair dance floors in the province.

Construction of the Victoria Bridge is widely considered the deciding factor behind the formation of the city of Saskatoon in 1906. Nutana residents refused to incorporate with Saskatoon and Riversdale without a traffic bridge over the river.

The aging steel truss bridge carried about 10,000 cars and numerous pedestrians daily until last November, when city offi - cials announced that engineering consultants found severe corrosion problems that leave it in danger of collapsing under its own weight. The bridge has been closed to traffic since then, while council ponders options for its repair or replacement.

The Saskatoon Heritage Society is eager to see the Victoria Bridge kept intact, with its original character preserved.

The group "is particularly interested in the possibility of replacing the most severely corroded spans of the bridge with used spans from similar bridges that are out of commission," past president Peggy Sarjeant wrote in this spring's issue of the SAHS's newsletter.

Other historic structures on the list are the Bell Barn at Indian Head, the CBK Transmitter Building in Watrous, Fort San Conference Centre in FortQu'Appelle, Regina's Harding House, the wooden McCloy Trestle Bridge in the RM of Invergordon, the Natatorium in Moose Jaw, and Souris Valley Hospital in Weyburn.

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2006


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