Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Heritage Canada Foundation gives Saskatoon black eye; downtown Legion building, owned by Remai Ventures Inc., on endangered list

Saskatoon was in the national spotlight recently but for the wrong reason. In conjunction with Heritage Day on Feb. 19 the Heritage Canada Foundation (HCF) released its Top Ten Most Endangered Places in Canada list. The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #63 in Saskatoon had the dubious distinction of being on the list. Residents wouldn’t know it though because local media didn’t report it.

The list of endangered Canadian places also include the Art Deco Vogue Theatre in Vancouver and Creston’s downtown grain elevators; the modernist Central Pentecostal Tabernacle in Edmonton; Winnipeg’s King Building; the former lamp factory at 48 Abell Street in Toronto; the historic Sir Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine House in Montréal; Nova Scotia’s Seal Island lighthouse; the town of Tilting—a national historic site—in Newfoundland; and the Yukon’s Herschel Island, an important cultural heritage site threatened by conditions attributed to global climate change.

Regarding the Legion building, which was designed by prominent Saskatoon architect David Webster and built in 1929 by veterans of the First World War, the HCF said: “the solid brick building is the last remaining heritage building in Saskatoon’s most historic area along the riverbank, where the city was founded. It is also the area in which developer Remai Ventures is proposing a hotel and spa complex as part of a larger riverfront redevelopment project.”

“Many supporters believe there are external and interior aspects of the building that lend themselves very easily to adaptive use and incorporation into a redevelopment plan. The Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society sees the demise of the Legion building as another prime example of big development and city politics trumping vision and heritage.”

Sadly, if the Legion building is demolished it could make next year’s list of worst heritage losses in Canada.


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