Winnipeggers remember iconic mansion gutted by fire
Wellington Crescent home was 'the centre of the universe' for former resident
A well-known Winnipeg mansion that was destroyed by fire on Sunday is being remembered by residents in the area, as well as a man who lived in the house for years.
The large luxury house at 1021 Wellington Cres. was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday.
Crews spent the entire day battling the blaze, which caused an estimated $3 million in structural damage alone.
Originally built by construction magnate Frank Lount in 1933, the Tudor-style mansion was owned by a number of prominent Winnipeg families, including the Aspers and the Siftons.
Jason Halter, who grew up in the house, said it was a beautiful venue for many parties and events with the best of the city's arts and cultural community.
"We were there for 25 years, and it was my first 25," Halter, who lived in the house from 1966 to 1991, told CBC News on Monday from Toronto.
"As far as I was concerned, it was the centre of the universe at that point in time, and in my mind, it remains so."
Halter credits the house with inspiring him to become an architect and designer.
"It had both a front stair and a back stair on both the basement and ground floor, which meant that there was a terrific circulation," he recalled.
"The basement was a phenomenal space for us as we grew up — like a European chalet or something down there. It was such a beautiful and fun space."
'We can't believe it yet,' says owner
The mansion underwent a major renovation in 2009.
The house's current owner, Karl Dornetshuber, was out of the city with his wife and two children when the fire started.
"It will take some time for us to believe it, to understand it, because it was our dream house and now it's gone. We can't believe it yet," he said Sunday.
"We worked on it for many years. We moved over from Austria for this house, and now it's gone."
Halter said he has sympathy for the home's current owners, who have lost almost everything in the fire.
He added that losing the iconic house is a loss to the entire city.
Hollywood stars spotted there
In addition to well-known families living at the mansion, some Hollywood stars were spotted at 1021 Wellington Cres. over the years, according to area residents.
Next-door neighbour Archie Cham said actor Dan Ackroyd rented the mansion at one point. On another occasion, Cham said he spotted Richard Gere hanging out in the backyard pool.
"So I ran into the house and told my wife, 'Marion! Marion! Richard Gere is swimming in the pool! Come on, have a look,'" he said.
"She says, "Oh, come on Archie, leave him alone. Let him have his own privacy, my God!'"
Cham said he's heard that what remains of the mansion may be torn down, but he hopes the home's classic turrets are not demolished.
"People are saying to me all the time, 'Are they going to rip down the house?' And I believe it's up to the fire department," he said.
"If the fire department says it's not safe, they're going to rip down everything. As a matter of fact, they started doing a little bit already in the back, because the house is not safe the way it is."