Fire destroys Stonewall landmark, artifacts

A fire that police deem suspicious has destroyed the only museum in Stonewall, Man., consuming hundreds of irreplaceable historical items.

Fire has destroyed the only museum in Stonewall, Man., consuming hundreds of irreplaceable historical items.

The Quarry Park Interpretive Centrein the town, about 25 kilometres north of Winnipeg, burned to the ground early Sunday morning. The RCMP and fire officials are investigating what they say is a suspicious fire.

Todd Kozokowsky, chief of the Stonewall-Rockwood Fire Department, said it took firefighters 40 minutes to get the fire under control after the first call came inaround 2 a.m., but crews were still battling flames four hours later.

"You know to have this loss is just cruel. The timing couldn't be worse," said Mayor Ross Thompson.

"We're on the eve of our 100th anniversary of the town. And we had decided as a council to build a new walkway that would be safe and secure and state-of-the-art. And now that walkway, just about nearing completion, is to nowhere."

Officials estimated the fire caused $2.5 million in damage to the building and another $3 million in artifacts that went up in smoke.

One of the historical itemswas the Speaker's chair from the Manitoba legislature once used by Samuel Jackson, Stonewall's founder, in the 1890s.

Park manager Cathy Precourt told CBC News Monday it will be impossible to replace everything.

"I have one little vase that was sitting on an antique piano that was in the building and so far that's —it's charred and blackened, but that's pretty much all that we've been able to pull from the rubble at this point," she said.

Quarry Park commemorates the history of limestone production in Stonewall and the role it played in the development of the town.

The distinctive cedar-clad interpretive centre had a tower for viewing the 32-acrepark but Precourt said it had also become a big part of the community since it opened in 1984.

"I think just utter disbelief and shock that it was gone, that a landmark in the community isn't there anymore," she said.

Atemporary office will be set up at the Town Hall, until council meets later this week to discuss how or if the centre will be replaced.