The outside wall of a vacant and derelict house on Spence Street is torn away, spilling splintered wood and exposing rooms stuffed with unwanted contents. ((Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC))

A vacant and derelict house on Spence Street, which has been home to as many as a dozen feral cats, was demolished Tuesday.

But feral cats were the least of the problems inside the 2 ½-storey structure, which was packed with unwanted belongings.

Wayne Imrie, owner of Imrie Demolition, said he's never seen anything like it in 40 years of demolishing houses.

Each wall that crews pulled away revealed more and more boxes, stacks of newspapers, applicances, and clothing. Every floor, from the basement to the attic was stuffed.


A backhoe stands at the ready moments before tearing into the house. ((Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC))

Imrie said the elderly man who lived there had junk piled so high in the basement that it came up the stairs. The man must have pushed the pile down each time he tried to stuff more inside, Imrie said.

He estimates it will take 60 truck loads to clear the site. Usually, it would take 20 truck loads for a similar-sized structure.

The house, across the street from the University of Winnipeg campus, has been vacant since the elderly owner was removed in late July. He is now living with his daughter.

Not long afterwards, the City of Winnipeg declared the house unsanitary, uninhabitable, and a health risk.

It was then condemned and ordered demolished but there was a delay on bringing it down because of the many cats that lived there.

They would enter and exit by way of broken panels on the side of the house.

The Winnipeg Humane Society had tried in August to get in the house to see exactly how many cats were there and how they were faring in the absence of their caregiver, but the city would not grant access because of the health risks posed by the condition of the building.

Officials with the city insisted the cats were feral and not the man's pets.

People in the area placed food dishes in the front yard of the house for weeks to lure out the animals. The Humane Society also set up traps to corral as many cats as possible.

The city and Humane Society said the house was finally empty and ready to be brought down.

"They had sealed up the access through the foundation that the cats were going in and out of, and then went into the building and checked and they couldn't find any cats, so we're very confident that there's nobody inside," Humane Society executive director Bill McDonald said on Tuesday.

But during the demolition process, two cats were seen running out of the pile of rubble.

The family of the man who lived there has sold the property to the university, which plans to use it — as well as neighbouring land — to build a $20 million recreation complex.


Equipment has to crawl across mounds of garbage pulled out of the house being demolished. ((Darren Bernhardt/CBC))

With files from CBC's Meaghan Ketcheson