PEI

Many surprises, mostly good, as Province House renos progress

Renovations at P.E.I.'s Province House have progressed to the point where there is a lot of digging through the walls and floors, and with that has come with some surprises.

Project on schedule, says Parks Canada

The fully renovated lobby of Province House is due to reopen by the end of 2021. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Renovations at P.E.I.'s Province House have progressed to the point where there is a lot of digging through the walls and floors, and with that has come with some surprises.

The biggest surprise is a good one.

"The condition in behind [the walls] is probably better than we had expected," Parks Canada project manager Greg Shaw told CBC Radio: Island Morning's Matt Rainnie.

"We thought the building was going to require a complete disassembly and reassembly."

Instead of completely taking the building apart, the renovation is being done in a more piecemeal fashion, with stones removed in a checkerboard pattern for repairs to the interior of the walls.

Some of the stone itself needs to be replaced, and finding a source has been an issue. The grey sandstone on the exterior came from Pictou, N.S., and a similar stone is now coming from Wallace, N.S.

There have been a few surprises behind the walls. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

The original interior stone is from P.E.I., and finding a suitable replacement for that has been more of a challenge.

One shipment was brought from the U.K., but it doesn't meet all the specifications. Shaw said they are now looking at a source of Island stone that came out of a casual conversation among provincial Department of Transportation engineers about hard stone they had come across.

That stone is still being tested, and Shaw is hopeful it will be suitable.

Finish work is covered up, and its restoration will be part of phase three of the project. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

"It's a lot more than just the cost of stone. It's part of P.E.I. going back into this building," he said.

Phase two includes not just the walls, but the windows, the roof, the foundation, everything that keeps the building weather-tight.

"Those windows were all taken apart, and there's over 60 pieces to every window. Each one of those was photographed, catalogued, very carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, put into crates, and stored for work later on," said Shaw.

Securing the basement and the foundation is part of phase two. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Most of the windows were sent to Ontario for restoration, but two will be done by the Holland College heritage retrofit carpentry program.

Shaw said they have found a lot of signatures of people who worked on the building behind the walls. While it is understandable that these workers wanted to leave their mark, there have also been more mysterious discoveries, such as a cross made of cotton batten and cloth behind a wall on the third floor, and several sherry bottles underneath the floor of the legislative assembly.

Many of the previous workers on the building have left their signatures inside the walls. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Phases one and two of the project are budgeted to cost $61 million. Phase three, for the finish work on the inside, is not yet budgeted.

The renovation started in January 2015, and Shaw said it is still on schedule to be completed by the end of 2021.

More P.E.I. news

With files from CBC Radio: Island Morning

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