Connaught School And The Constant Uphill Battle Of Saving Regina’s Heritage

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The group Save Our Connaught is reporting that the Regina Board of Education turned down its request Tuesday evening to get another estimate on renovating the 100 year-old Cathedral area school. I don’t know about you, but I was always told it’s good to get a second opinion.

Author: Wanda Schmöckel

Wanda Schmockel is just trying to get by without shoving. You may follow her on twitter @vschmo

14 thoughts on “Connaught School And The Constant Uphill Battle Of Saving Regina’s Heritage”

  1. What the RBE is doing is beyond ridiculous! It’s their work on the school that appears to have created the issues with the building but they can’t let anyone know that they effed up. And they already have a plan to demolish the building but won’t be swayed by common sense, alone, to change their plan. It’s so hilarious to watch the majority of the board make complete asses of themselves…and I haven’t been involved over the past few months! Now I’m just waiting to see what happens when what we mostly know they are hiding becomes public knowledge!

  2. A second opinion…on the fact the building is falling down? Umm, why? Wasn’t there already a bunch of work done in the last few years to keep the building up right for the short term (please correct me if I’m wrong). The fact the superstructure and foundation are falling apart I thought was well past an opinion and right into a fact.

    I’m all for saving a heritage building…if there is something there to save in the first place. Oh, right, but Connaught isn’t an official heritage building and trying to ‘save’ a building without its main supports is extremely expensive.

    Yet perhaps the most amusing statement on the SOC article was “The building belongs to citizens.” Umm, actually no it doesn’t. It belongs to the Board, who is elected by the citzens. Don’t confuse ownership with a vote on who is elected to the Board. You won’t expect to be able to send independent inspectors into SGI’s head office or City Hall would you? So why would a school be any different?

  3. Tim, I think the issue taken is that only one firm has been asked to assess the cost of renovating vs replacing the building. The Save Our Connaught group are requesting that a firm that specializes in restoration/conservation work to come in to give a second opinion. As far as I know, no one is disputing that work needs to be done.

  4. I’m generally in favour of saving historic buildings or architecturally signficant ones, but this is a brick box that would pass into antiquity unmourned in most other neighbourhoods.

  5. Fight a different fight. This wreck is getting replaced by a newer building that will greatly benefit the kids and the teachers, at a lower cost than massively renovating.

  6. Tim, rep, Bronymous: Exactly which brick box in Regina do you think is sufficiently worthy that a community should rally to try to save it? I’m curious. Because so far, from what I’ve seen, all a developer/consultant has to say is “The building is past its useable life,” and then the school board/city hall/online commentariat replies, “Oh well, we lost another one. Tear the fucker down. We’ll try harder next time.”

    Only there rarely seems to be a next time.

    This is the city that demolished its old city hall and old library main branch, public buildings that should have been treasured and preserved.

    But oh, we have “gumbo” soil in Regina — whatever the fuck that is. Can’t save buildings in the face of that inexorable force of destruction.

    Pfui. I’ve two words for you: “Motherfucking Venice.”

  7. Paul,

    I certainly think there are lots of buildings worthy of saving. The Connaught public library across the street is totally a worthy building to hang onto since it still has the majority of it’s orginal features on the outside…unlike the school that had many of those stripped over the years in renovations.

    I agree there is broad issue with not doing enough maintenance over the years to keep many of these buildings which causes the debate to be heavily titled towards replacement. Perhaps what we need is more proactive usage of heritage designations to ensure proper care of these buildings. I don’t know what the answer is, but yes, something should be done.

    I understand your point of view…I just can’t support it in this particular case.

  8. Which heritage features have been stripped from Connaught? I mean, apart from the thing-a-ma-jig over the front entrance, which I understand had to be taken down because it was improperly maintained. Many of the interior heritage features are apparently still intact, they’ve just been hidden by drop ceilings and cheap flooring.

    The problem I have with the idea that a building should only be kept if it’s basically been kept inviolate from the day of construction is that it provides an incentive for owners to strip heritage features off a building or bury them under inept attempts at maintenance.

    All that said, I mainly agree with your second paragraph. The thing is, as people dither over what could or should be done to maintain or restore our built heritage, the people who have control over its fate are tearing more and more of it down.

    And I get that the school board is in an impossible position with Connaught. They haven’t had enough money to maintain the building and they’re under pressure from the provincial government to just tear down old buildings and build new ones.

    I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that the recently released provincial auditor’s report pretty much says that the education ministry has been doing a crummy job of managing its capital assets.

    Seriously, I don’t know what to do. I get that the situation is complicated and there isn’t an easy solution. But I’m personally inclined to resist this demolition. The province and school board are saying that the fiscally responsible thing to do — that the best thing for the children — is to tear the school down and build a new, state-of-the-art facility. But the lesson this teaches our kids is that building disposable cities is a good idea. And personally, I find that thinking noxious.

  9. I’d be sufficiently ticked if it were Connaught Library, St Paul’s Cathedral… the churches on 13th and around Victoria Park. The Leader Building, the legislative building, that federal government building on Scarth and Victoria, the Hotel Saskatchewan, that apartment block on Victoria and McIntyre and maybe even the Masonic Temple. Quite a few homes around the legislature. The old church on the RCMP grounds. Luther College, the old Methodist school at Albert and 23rd. The onion-domed Ukrainian churches in the eastern part of the city. The train station/casino. I have a soft spot for the old GM Plant. Beautiful or historic places.

    Connaught School? Venice? Please man. 1912 Institutional Architecture. Practical, monastic and utilitarian – a design Kaiser Wilhelm himself would have enjoyed. If preserving 1912 Regina is that important we could take preservation a few steps further and surround a restored Connaught with period standpipes, chicken coups, outhouses and tar-paper shacks.

    The Northwest Territorial Administration building on Dewdney and Montague would be declared a National Heritage in most parts of the world and it’s being left to rot, and I think there is a better case in the history of this city’s working class and aboriginal population for saving Scott Collegiate.

    I’m in favor of preserving history, but let’s not confuse history and architectural significance with being located in a neighborhood with well-to-do-residents.

  10. I’m sincerely curious… What is thereginamom suggesting?

    “I’m just waiting to see what happens when what we mostly know they are hiding becomes public knowledge!”

  11. PD writers,
    What do you mean the firm that did the assessment does not know heritage buildings? I thought they had one of Canada’s leading heritage architects on the team, and didn’t they win a heritage award for restoring the building in which the Prairie Dog offices are located? And aren’t their offices an adaptive re-use of a 1920’s warehouse, and I am pretty sure they are restoring the court house on Vic right now. And Paul, what developer are you referring to? I understand that it is a developer that is assisting Gravelbourg in the preservation of the convent building through an adaptive re-use. The architects are not developers. Are you saying developers are bad? Maybe that is where the SOC group should be looking for support, and not to the general taxpaying public. Convince the ministry to sell the building to an evil developer and let them adaptively reuse it, and sell condos in it to recoup the very expensive foundation repair cost.

    What Real Renewal and SOC want is not a second opinion, but an opinion that supports a small segment of the community and what they want to hear, even if it is not the truth. A structural engineer with experience building, restoring and underpinning buildings provided an opinion, and according the report had it reviewed by a construction company that specializes in the work, so what else do you want?

  12. Paul,

    To answer your question: “Which heritage features have been stripped from Connaught? I mean, apart from the thing-a-ma-jig over the front entrance.”

    I think the name is portico for the thing-a-ma-jig. All the orginal windows have been replaced and some were bricked over, the REALLY big issue was removing the skirt from 3 sides of the building which expoused the weaker brick behind it and caused some of the foundation issues. You are correct about the floor and ceiling issues inside. Also I think some of the doors have been replaced.

    It was all in that one report as an appendix. http://www.rbe.sk.ca/sites/default/files/ConnaughtStage1FacilityStudyJune2012.pdf

    Overall I agree it sucks it has come to this, but I really do think a bigger issue should be trying to make the new building have some of the features you loved in the old one. Ask for a red brick finish, ask for mosic tiles and perhaps salvage some materials from the old school like the hand rails. Why is new ‘bad’ when you really need it?

    Anyway, thanks for the discuss everyone. I’ve enjoy reading all the comments.

  13. Wow, there are sure a lot of completely uniformed statements and speculation in these comments. You should all go to the Information Night on the Nov. 14th to get some information from a conservation specialist about what is actually known and unknown about structure, condition and heritage value. Until, then you should stop posting stuff up in the internet like you know facts. (For example, foundation repair was actually one of the less expensive items on the consultant’s shopping list of renovations, it’s not the deal breaker you all assume it is. For all we know, the foundation might not even need much work, they never did the structural investigation study that was recommended.)

  14. I’ve read all the comments and understand most of them but can’t help but feel bad about lossing a school that I attended from the time I turned 6 till I was 14 years old. I just turned 65 and remember every single part of that school. The beautiful floors, railings, huge windows and outside the brick that is absent in today’s architecture. Nothing can bring that back once it’s gone.

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