skpic Old weather vane Plains Hotel

Artist Ted Godwin conceived the weather indicator that stood atop the old Plains Hotel in Regina. The unique beacon will be incorporated into a new condo-hotel being planned for the site. (Craig Shutko/blogspot.ca (the plains and good time charlie - regina))

The revised plan for a condominium and hotel complex on the corner of Albert Street and Victoria Avenue in Regina includes a promise to restore a famous city landmark: the Ted Godwin weather indicator that used to sit on top of the old Plains Hotel.

The hotel was torn down in 2011 to make way for a new high-rise, originally designed as a 19 storey building which was subsequently increased to 26 floors.

The initial project — which was announced with much fanfare in 2009 — stalled, but the owners are back before city council with the latest configuration of the building. Council had approved the first plan, but that approval lapsed when no substantial work was done for two years.

The revised project is again for a 26-storey building, but with more hotel rooms and more condominium units.  (From 130 hotel rooms to 144 and from 126 condos to 180)

According to a report to council, the developer plans to incorporate the old weather indicator from the Plains Hotel as part of the new building. The report says meeting that promise, to the satisfaction of officials at city hall, would be a key condition to granting a development permit.

Ted Godwin conceived of weather tower

According to research by artist and writer Gary Varro, for the book Regina's Secret Spaces, the weather tower was conceived by celebrated artist Ted Godwin. Godwin was a member of the much-admired Regina Five group of modernist painters who rose to prominence in the 1960s.

skpic new proposed hotel and condo regina

A revised proposal for a condo-hotel on the corner of Albert Street and Victoria Avenue goes before Regina city council Dec. 16. (City of Regina)

Varro learned that Godwin had experience with neon signs and proposed a tower that would use different coloured lights to provide weather forecasting information.

He took his concept to the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in 1956, pitching it as a visual display to inform farmers who might be visiting Regina.

But, as Varro learned from his research, the Wheat Pool turned down the idea. A few years later, however, the owners of the Plains Hotel, which was undergoing a remodel in 1962, decided to install Godwin's unique weather vane.

The colours of the beacon were the key to understanding the forecast:

  • Green meant rain was coming.
  • Orange conveyed 'unsettled' weather.
  • Blue, not surprisingly, connoted fair conditions.

There was additional meaning if the bands of colour were moving up the tower or down. Up meant the temperature was rising, down meant a fall in temperature. If the lights were steady, so was the temperature.

While the unique spire became a landmark along the Albert strip, its utility as a weather indicator never really caught on.

The new plan for the condo and hotel is set to go to city council for approval on Dec. 16.