Demolition begins on Winnipeg heritage building at risk of collapsing

Demolition has begun on a heritage building in Winnipeg's Exchange District that the city said was at risk of collapsing.

Plans to turn Scott Memorial Orange Hall into condos thrown out as city deemed building public safety risk

Crews demolishing the Scott Memorial Orange Hall at 216 Princess Street on Thursday. ( Tyson Koschik)

Demolition has begun on a heritage building in Winnipeg's Exchange District that the city said was at risk of collapsing.

Winnipeg historian Gordon Goldsborough watched a crane dig into the bricks of the Scott Memorial Orange Hall, located at 216 Princess Street, on Thursday. 

"It's really sad," said Goldsborough, president of the Manitoba Historical Society.

Goldsborough took a fallen yellowish brick that had some remnants of pink from a ghost sign painted on the side of the building. 

He's adding the Scott Memorial brick to his collection of about 50 bricks, mostly from demolished buildings. 

"Tell me what kind of historical nerd I am," Goldsborough joked.

Winnipeg historian Gordon Goldsborough took a brick from the Scott Memorial Orange Hall as it was demolished Thursday. (Gordon Goldsborough)

Goldsborough said bricks usually have identifying marks, such as stamps, that would say the name of the facility the bricks were made. His Scott Memorial brick doesn't have any marks but he can tell it's constructed well since it only chipped when it fell from the top of the building.

"That's one of my hopes is that in the future I'll be able to figure out where exactly the bricks came from that made that building," Goldsborough said. 

'It was going to have a good, long life'

The hall was built in 1902 by local architect James McDiarmid and it received historical designation in 2017.

Most recently, the building was slated to be renovated into condominiums, Goldsborough said. 

"Here was an example of what you'd like to see happen with old buildings," he said.

"The building was going to be re-purposed. It was in the process of being renovated. It was going to become a residential property. It was going to have a good, long life."

The department of planning, property and development looked at options to potentially save the façade of the building, but that would have taken time and the threat of collapse was deemed imminent, the city told CBC in a statement last week.

Princess Street has been closed between Pacific and Ross avenues since January because the city believed the building was a risk to public safety.

"That building was going to fall on its own if they didn't do something soon," Goldsborough said. 

Hand-sized gaps in building

Goldsborough was in the hall in December and saw evidence that the building was falling off its foundation. 

"I could see large gaps, gaps big enough that I could put my whole hand in them easily, where the wall had simply moved away from the floor," Goldsborough said.

"It was pretty scary because what it looked like is that sooner or later it was just going to go catastrophically falling on to the ground."

Princess Street between Rupert Avenue and Pacific Avenue is completely closed until further notice. The east sidewalk between this stretch remains open. 

The southbound curb lane and west sidewalk are closed on Princess Street between Rupert and Ross avenues during this demolition. 

For Transit re-route and schedule information, people can call follow @transitalerts on Twitter or contact 311.

People can get updates on lane closures through an interactive map on the city's website.


Danelle Cloutier

Associate Producer/Technician

Danelle Cloutier is an associate producer and audio technician in current affairs at CBC Manitoba. She has a background in audio engineering and journalism.


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