Pieces of Winnipeg's history for sale

If you’re willing to shell out the cash, everyone can now purchase a chunk of Winnipeg history. A collection of 56 building fragments is on sale at the Shelmerdine Garden Centre in Headingley, Man.

56 building shards available at Shelmerdine Garden Centre; proceeds go to Heritage Winnipeg

Shards of Winnipeg buildings that have been torn down are now for sale at Shelmerdine Garden Centre. All proceeds go to support Heritage Winnipeg. (Ismaila Alfa/CBC)

If you're willing to shell out the cash, everyone can now purchase a chunk of Winnipeg history.

A collection of 56 building fragments is on sale at the Shelmerdine Garden Centre in Headingley, Man., just west of the city.

Prices for the fragments — which can give a dash of romance to the backyard — range from a few hundred dollars to nearly $10,000 for larger pieces.

"When you look at these building fragments, these shards, you don't just look at the facade … you look at the history," said Cindy Tugwell, executive director of Heritage Winnipeg.

"People have stories about what happened in these buildings."
This stone carving of a face, salvaged from a building facade, is for sale at the garden centre. (Shelmerdine Garden Centre)

Many of the pieces were recovered from historic buildings built more than a century ago — the Alloway and Champion Building, the Royal Alexandra Hotel, the Main Street Post Office and the McIntyre Block.

The fragments are made of sturdy materials like granite and Tyndall stone and come with a certificate of authenticity. Some pieces almost look like Roman ruins, while others are carved faces or fragments of vines.

"I'd love to see some of these as downtown projects. They can go in parks, they can go in building projects," said Tugwell.
Prices for the shards range from a few hundred dollars to nearly $10,000. (Ismaila Alfa/CBC)

In the 1960s and 1970s, Winnipeg came under pressure to modernize and it demolished a number of heritage buildings.

"You had to get rid of the old and in with the new. People felt it was very expensive to retrofit and rehabilitate these buildings," Tugwell said.

In its day, the McIntyre Block was a massive commercial and retail building in downtown Winnipeg. Located near Portage and Main, the building was completely sound before it was knocked down.

"Sadly, had we been around, it may not have been destroyed," said Tugwell.

The McIntyre Block was removed to make way for a parking lot that still exists today.
Heritage Winnipeg's Cindy Tugwell says she hopes these building shards are used in public spaces in Winnipeg. (Ismaila Alfa/CBC)

Tugwell said she has a personal connection to pieces from the Royal Alexandra Hotel, which was where her parents met and were married.

"The interior was brass and marble; it was absolutely beautiful," she said. "One of the most amazing hotels before it was demolished in the mid-1970s."

At the time the McIntyre Block came down, it was "unheard of" to preserve parts of a building's facade before it was demolished, said Tugwell.
This postcard shows an image of the Royal Alexandra Hotel, taken in 1912. (University of Alberta Libraries)

"I have to applaud the City of Winnipeg because along with Heritage Winnipeg and the Manitoba Historical Society and even the Winnipeg Foundation … it took a lot of work and a lot of money to preserve these," she said.

All of the money made from selling the shards will support Heritage Winnipeg.

Tugwell said the advocacy group has many more smaller shards, still in storage, that are also for sale. People who are interested in checking them out can contact Heritage Winnipeg directly. All prices are negotiable, she said.

With files from Ismaila Alfa


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