Monday, January 15, 2007

ENDANGERED HERITAGE! Historic Canadian Legion Building in downtown Saskatoon may soon face demolition at the hands of developer Remai Ventures Inc.

Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #63 (1929)
Architect: David Webster (1884-1952)
Photo by Joe Kuchta - January 15, 2007

“The [Legion] building is significant not only to our membership but also as a historical Saskatchewan building. It was built by First World War I Vets in 1929, a memorial to their fallen comrades. Since that time, it has housed an active Legion membership through W.W. II and the Korean conflict. Our current membership consists of Vets, active service members, as well as new members. It is one of the few existing original Legion buildings in Saskatchewan still occupied by a Legion branch.”
December 1, 2003, letter to Saskatoon City Council from John Sargeant, Chairman, Building Review Committee, Branch #63, Royal Canadian Legion

‘Moved by Councillor Hnatyshyn, Seconded by Councillor Birkmaier,

THAT the Mayor contact each Veterans’ Association in the City, and request that they meet with him to discuss the possibility of creating a veterans museum within the existing downtown Legion building.

CARRIED [Unanimously].’
April 5, 2004, Minutes of the regular meeting of City Council

‘More than a year ago, Coun. Elaine Hnatyshyn floated the idea of turning the [Legion] hall into a veteran's museum to house memorabilia held by local families whose loved ones served in past wars.

Hnatyshyn's worst nightmare would be to see the building demolished.

“I just think there aren't many buildings like that left. It's not impeding any other development there. Everything else can happen. I think it would be something lost to Saskatoon that would have been a benefit. People go to museums when they're tourists in a city . . . and it would certainly give another element to that whole corner,” she said.’
December 21, 2005, The StarPhoenix, Remai looks at Legion’

Saskatoon should be mustering its resources to save and enhance amenities such as the King George Hotel or the downtown Legion building.’

‘…the Legion Building is not only physically attractive, it is a monument to the great suffering of Saskatchewan people who risked everything to serve their country.

Protecting and building on this culture is not only important for preserving who we are, but it has the potential to enhance the economic development of the city and province.’
Gerry Klein, SP Civic Affairs Columnist
December 21, 2005, The StarPhoenix, ‘City culture underfunded’

“I would weep to see it gone. We would certainly hope that the building could be saved somehow.”
Victoria Neufeldt, president of the Saskatoon Heritage Society
December 21, 2005, The StarPhoenix,
Remai looks at Legion’

“This is really terrible. There’s something really dirty about it.”

Anonymous branch member saying the December 14, 2005, membership meeting was hastily called and was only attended by about 50 people out of a total membership list of about 300.

‘The meeting was told Remai Developments was offering $1 million for the property and wanted an answer by noon the following day, and Legion officials had already hired a lawyer who was in attendance, the branch member said. The latest property tax assessment for the building valued it at just over $250,000.’
December 22, 2005, The StarPhoenix,Legion approves land sale to Remai’

“What a pity.”

Victoria Neufeldt, president of the Saskatoon Heritage Society, following the announcement by Remai Ventures Inc. that it plans to demolish the historic Legion building the last remaining piece of the city’s built heritage in the south downtown area.
February 02, 2006, The StarPhoenix,Legion hall to be demolished’

‘On May 28, 2004 a letter was delivered to the Mayor’s office. The letter stated that a museum could be established but the Branch would not be responsible for renovations, upgrades, or it’s day to day operations. The letter also stated there would need to be compensation for loss of revenue for the hall.

The City of Saskatoon did not respond to the letter. There has been no other discussions with the city regarding this issue.’
March 4, 2006, letter to Joe Kuchta from John Davidson, President, Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 63

‘I was shaken when I read your letter of May 28, 2004, as I had no recollection of having previously seen it. Tuesday morning, March 14, I called the Mayor about the matter and he had no recollection of the letter. I then asked the City Clerk to search the records to see if the letter had been received. To my dismay I discovered your letter was submitted to Executive Committee [in-camera] on June 14, 2004 and the minutes state it was resolved the conditions outlined in the letter were not acceptable. The City Clerk no longer has her notes that may have reflected on any discussion regarding this issue.’
March 14, 2006, letter to John Davidson, Chairman, Building Review Committee, Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #63 from Councillor Elaine Hnatyshyn (Ward 6).

‘The Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society (SAHS) sees the demise of the Legion building as another prime example of big development showing little or no consideration for built heritage.

“This building was erected with the sweat equity of First World War veterans. They hand-dug the basement,” noted Al Rosseker, SAHS executive director.’
Heritage: The Magazine of the Heriage Canada Foundation (Spring 2006)


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