Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Role of Digital Media in the Preservation of Historical Sites and Buildings

Guest post by Matt J. 
     -writer for Ranger Roofing of Oklahoma, specialized in home improvement and construction
Edited by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

Digital media has taken the world by the storm as countless new platforms pop up every few months. Both conventional media such as television, radio and newspaper and new media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are ultimately shaping our reality, often without us even realizing it. They construct a so-called pseudo reality which results in shaping how people view something; for example, TV and the Hollywood industry “invented“ a typical American high school experience and regularly portrayed it in a certain way. This resulted in the rest of the world having a distorted picture of American high school students and life. 

This example is a proof that digital media, for sure, has an influence.  It became an instrument of socialization, education and informing, so its impact is undoubtedly verifiable.  However, the question that remains is what type of influence media has and how the media industry is using that power?

To show the power of media and its responsibility, we will use historic buildings as an example. So first, let's analyze the importance of historic sites and its preservation. While technology is advancing and developing, somehow, new buildings and cars tend to break down sooner than old ones. Historic buildings have a high intrinsic value due to their infrastructure. They were mostly built from high-quality materials that are no longer available on the modern market. Let's change the perspective; thousands of historic sites and buildings survived the highest speed winds while newer buildings were severely damaged. Therefore, many old historic buildings have a potential to become a safe spot for offices or companies.

All Saints Anglican Church in Winnipeg was impacted by the 1950 flood
yet stands unfazed today at 175 Colony Street, over 90 years after it first opened.
Destroying a historic building can also mean annihilating all the hidden gems inside that we don't know about. Old buildings were once in use; therefore, signs of life we don't know anything about are all around. However, they might be hidden somewhere waiting for us to discover. Ruining the property can mean a destruction of valuable historical artifacts that might offer us a new perspective on some period in history.

Maintaining a historical site should be an obligation since historical sites can provide economic value. The heritage tourism sector exists because of historic sites and buildings that have architectural features such as facades, copper roofs, enchanting ornaments, ancient building methods and social history. Therefore, preserving historic sites and buildings have a wider impact than we think.

How is media involved in the preservation of historical sites and buildings?

Let's go back to our question; what type of influence does media has? There are numerous theories giving answers to this question. Some claim that digital media doesn't have an influence as much as everybody thinks. Some argue that media doesn't have an impact at all since people are not passive, and some believe that media has a particular, but not unlimited affect on people.

The last theory, limited influence is the most appropriate one. It explains that digital media might not determine how we think of something, but it certainly does decide what we think about. Therefore, digital media and journalists cannot make us support something, but they inevitably make us think about something. This is something called agenda-setting; the media industry raises awareness over certain topics and makes people revolve around that subject.

Now how is this related to preservation of historic buildings? Well, if media sets what we think about, then it can help in conservation simply by motivating people to consider historic buildings and their immense value. Therefore, if digital media enhances the importance of historical sites, people will be more interested in that topic and will even do their research. Unfortunately, low representation of historical sites in the media is not helping in preservation at all.  There is an abundance of articles and reports on tallest skyscrapers, new skyscrapers but little about ancient building materials or conservation of character defining elements.

The Union Bank Tower at 504 Main Street in Winnipeg is western Canada's first skyscraper,
built in 1903-04 with steel frame technology, it still stands today, reaching up ten stories into the sky.
Source: Heritage Winnipeg Special Collection Archives,
When it comes to historical sites, visual presentation might be crucial. If a TV program would feature more visually attractive video shots of historical buildings and newspapers would produce high-quality captivating photos, then it would catch one's attention. There should also be more materials that promote and advertise organizations or actions that work on protecting, preserving and sustain historic properties. Also funding projects that are related to historical sites or organizing events and conferences about the conservation of our cultural heritage.

New digital platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) became highly intertwined with conventional media. So, their power is proliferating, and they have an enormous influence on what traditional media will broadcast. Facebook is one of the most prominent platform for promoting organizations or event- it reaches a massive audience and motivates TV, radio, and newspaper to mention the event, article or project that is viral at the moment.

The media industry became one of the most influential industries, constructing our reality article by article. However, focusing more on sensationalism and neglecting the protection of built heritage has an adverse impact on our society and preservation. Media moguls and entrepreneurs should ask themselves what really matters? They need to distinguish profit and societal worth.

Heritage Winnipeg recognizes the importance of digital media as a tool to both preserve and promote heritage. In addition to a making use of a website ( and social media (,,, Heritage Winnipeg has a blog. Started in 2014, the blog is an effective means of bringing timely attention to heritage issues in a timely manner. It gives heritage a context, stressing the importance of conserving the cultural history of Winnipeg.

Heritage Winnipeg's Blog was started in 2004 to
provide timely information on heritage issues in Winnipeg.

Heritage Winnipeg has also worked on several digital heritage projects. The first endeavor, the Virtual Heritage Winnipeg site in 2004, ( is a repository of over 3000 digital photographs that document the history of Winnipeg from its inception at the end of the fur trading era. Visitors can use the virtual tour feature to wander through buildings in the Exchange District, a national historic site, learning about the historic buildings and experiencing a 360 degree view of some of the interiors that have remained largely unchanged for over a century. The gallery feature allows visitors to search through thousands of photos, finding countless fascinating images of Winnipeg’s past. There are also 170 vignettes that illuminate Winnipeg’s built heritage through photographs and stories.

The Virtual Heritage Winnipeg website uses digital media to
preserve and promote Winnipeg's built heritage.
Building on the success of the Virtual Heritage Winnipeg site, Heritage Winnipeg is now working to exhibit Winnipeg’s outstanding heritage on a national scale. Recently, Heritage Winnipeg’s application to the Virtual Museum of Canada was approved, making way for the creation of a virtual exhibit to be promoted on a national scale. Educators, students, professionals, community leaders and enthusiasts alike will be able to use the tools in the exhibit to identify architectural traditions and styles and understand the role they played in shaping the country. It will also include an interactive feature, allowing visitors to upload images of their favourite architecture. Once complete, the digital exhibit will be accessible through the Virtual Museum of Canada's website ( and Heritage Winnipeg's website (

Built heritage and digital media have a lot in common, both constantly morphing as they race into the future, striving to meet the demands of today's society. Digital media allows for built heritage to remain at the forefront of peoples’ minds, shinning a spotlight on structures that are all to often forgotten until it is too late. It peaks peoples’ interest and reminds them that heritage is all around us, and full of stories that shaped the world we live in today. Additionally, digital media is constantly finding new and inventive ways to preserve a record of the past, ensuring generations to come will be able to enjoy the built heritage that serves as the foundation for our modern and progressive cities.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Historic Roof Preservation Around the Globe

Guest post "Historic Roofs around the Globe" and "Historic Roof Preservation" by Matt
     -content manager for Fortified Roofing of New Jersey, specializing in home improvement, architecture and construction
     -writer for Georgia Roof Pro of Georgia, specializing in home improvement, construction and home design
Edited by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

One of the most important components of the construction is the roof. It determines the overall aesthetics of the building and slowly emerges to a trademark of particular architectural design. Historic roofs represent a time in history and, in a way, reproduce a story of people during that period. It reflects nation's knowledge at one point in history, their preferences and general atmosphere.

Architecture is one of many factors that show how noble, successful or wealthy a nation was, therefore, roofs detain a social element. Not every building was able to have a copper or zinc roof with attractive patina, so from today's perspective, we can find out a lot about a nation by analyzing different elements of constructions including roofs.

Listed below, you will find some of the most compelling historical buildings with notable roofing systems.

The Slate Roof House

The Slate Roof House was built around 1687 and became famous as the short-term residence of William Penn. Penn was the founder of Pennsylvania and an influential English businessman who spent about two years in the Slate Roof House. The house was easily distinguished from others by its enchanting slate roof and overwhelming size. Slate roofs were not typical during that period in Philadelphia, so slate roof house became an object of admiration. It is also famous for being a site where Penn wrote the Charter of Privileges that became and, to this day, remained a bedrock for free authorities system around the globe.

The Slate Roof House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Source: Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography,
Lovamahapaya Temple

Sri Lanka's Lovamahapaya was one of the most sumptuous and massive constructions in that area. Allegedly, Lovamahapaya Buddhist temple had nine floors, it was 150 ft high and had a total of 1600 pillars. Therefore, it represented an architectural masterpiece and the tallest building in the Sri Lanka area for over a millennium. Ornamentation with corals, jewels and other precious stones also made this construction stand out. Lovamahapaya's trademark was its copper roof with bronzed paneling. It was destroyed and rebuilt many times in fires or king's war escorts.

Lovamahapaya Temple in Sri Lanka.
Source: tatsuhu,
Taj Mahal

Crown of the Palace also known as Taj Mahal is a breathtaking mausoleum located in the city of Agra in India. Taj Mahal developed as an idea of the emperor Shah Jahan who wanted to build a unique tomb for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Jahan ruled from about 1628 to 1658, and the Mumtaz's tomb became a focus location of the entire Taj Mahal mosque. The building uses special white marble that combines elegance and firmness. The marble roof lets in the light on a central dome and is a focal point of the building. Taj Mahal is on the UNESCO'S World Heritage Site list and is one of the most magnificent architectural designs. The construction of Taj Mahal cost around 827 million dollars (adjusted to represent cost in 2015); precious ornaments, Persian elements, and expensive marble increased the price of India's jewel.

The Taj Mahal in India.
Source: Yann Forget,,_Agra,_India_edit2.jpg
The Chateau de Chateaudun

Placed in the City of Chateaudun, this castle is a typical representation of the transitional architectural style. The chateau faces the Loir river, and its construction and positioning remind of a typical fortress from the medieval period. Jean de Dunois, a son of Louis I, transformed the castle into a residence. Castle is famous for the Reinassaince staircase as well as gothic elements. Roof, for example, is one of the gothic notes in this construction.

Chateau de Chateaudun in France.
Source: Patrick GIRAUD,
Grand Palais

Grand Palais is museum located in Paris, France which features exhibition all hall and represents a significant historical site. Grand Palais followed the demolition of the Palace of Industry and construction work began in 1897. The palace has the main room 787 feet long which was a result of the London's Crystal palace architectural influence. The roof is one of the most enchanting parts of this construction; it is made of steel, glass, and iron. Therefore, it is one of the largest see-through buildings in Paris and also one of the last.

The roof of the Grand Palais in Paris, France.
History is hard to detain as stories change and new information comes out; this is why historic sites are crucial, and we should do everything in our power to protect them. They are the treasury of stories, artifacts, and written material that still has to be discovered. All elements of historic buildings provide insight into the socioeconomics of the time. They are a tangible reminder of our past for future generations to discover.

Certain periods in the history of architecture were given a trademark depending on the style of the roof. Historic roofs determined the overall style of the building and contributed to its classification. For instance, the Mansard roofs, Victorian's wide low roofs, Queen Anne turrets style are examples of major roof significance and proof of it being a crucial factor in design.

However, roofs should not be taken lightly as they are a sensitive element in the protection of housing that will, over time, inevitably experience problems. A wrongly installed roof or roof of low quality, will contribute to faster material deterioration and the building's structural decay. Issues that appear on a historic roof require an individual approach with measures of precaution. Before any job is done on the roof, contractors have to understand historical materials and engineering of the roofing system.

Roofs play an important role in maintaining heritage buildings
such as Government House in Winnipeg, which has stood for over 130 years.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society and Gordon Goldsborough, 
Before doing anything on the historic roof 

Historic roofs demand a unique approach that combines knowledge of historical materials, familiarization with historical methods and proper maintenance. Contractors should thoroughly examine the roof and find out if there were any previous repairs. They should also be informed and familiar with old methods of roofing and craftsmanship in order to understand the structure of the roof and building. Knowledge related to historical materials can significantly contribute to successful roof replacement or proper maintenance. This will allow contractors to pick the best tools equipment, coatings, and material for the particular historic structure. Having a supervisor on the job site can be helpful and turn roofers' attention to details so that the structure would preserve its aesthetics.

Proper maintenance; a key role in roof preservation

A brand new roof is mainly an object of function and beauty, but it is not likely it will obtain its beauty and remain protective without correct and thorough maintenance. Historic roofing systems should be inspected at least twice a year. Contractors should keep track of changes, problematic areas or any suspicious appearances on the roof. There should be strict guidelines related to foot traffic on historical roofs as it could significantly influence the firmness of the surface. Some roofing materials should be completely free of foot traffic, for instance, slate and clay roofs should use a ladder. The crucial compounds of the roofing systems such as gutters and downspout should also be given special attention. Gutters tend to block due to branches, leaves and debris accumulation in the spring or fall. Contractors should use latest technology and equipment to inspect and clean the inside of the gutter and downspouts. Each big storm should be followed by the inside inspection of the attic for early signs of leaking.

However, these are general guidelines to the maintenance of historical roofs. Each material requires a different approach in practice.

Slate roofing

Slate is one of the most elegant and quality roofing systems. This comes with a price, so slate roofing is a high-end roofing material and requires a significant financial investment. It is significantly resistant to leaking and fire; however, it is not entirely resistant to aging just like every other material.

When it comes to slate, attic and sheathing require inspection because of rotting and water staining. Contractors should pay special attention to critical spots like the intersection of planes, valleys, flashing and hips of the roof.  Gutters are a vital part of the slate roofing system, so they have to be regularly cleaned of any debris and blockages. Slate is high-end roofing material, so it requires an inspection every four to six years led by slate experts. It is a unique material, not artificially made so professionals should understand its ingredients and composition. Keeping a record of repairs and conditions can help contractors understand a history of repairs and allow them to make a better decision for maintenance methods.

The Dalry Cemetery Lodge in Edinburgh, Scotland, has a slate roof.
Source: Hamish Irvine,
Wood roofing

Wood is one of the oldest roofing material that is still in use today. However, wood shingles installation hundreds of years ago is completely different from today due to the development of technology. Modern-time contractors upgrade wood to be insect resistant and fireproof, which was then unimaginable.

Important wood maintenance guidelines include ensuring the roof is clear of debris. Contractors have to trim branches that could leave scratches behind, remove pine needles and leaves buildup on the roof. More demanding procedures include removing moss and lichen which can cause deterioration of the roof. Roofers often utilize a method of power washing in which an intense water pressure removes dead wood cells as well as debris. However, this process should be done by a professional since high water pressure can penetrate below the shingles or crack them. It is recommended that fungicide, pesticides or oils are applied to keep wood fresh and the roof looking well and in good condition. Application of various helpful coatings should be done every four to five years for efficient effect.

The wood roof of the Church of Saint Martin in Dolni Mesto, Czech Republic.
Source: Matej Bat'ha,
Metal roofing

Metal is another often used roofing material on historical roofs. It combines tensile strength and water resistance; however, there are several problems it could encounter. Most often problems are an erosion of the metal, penetration of the surface and loose seams and flashings.  It is important to realize that metal roofs are not easy to handle, therefore, contacting a professional is inevitable. There are various types of metal such as aluminum, steel, zinc, and copper which all have different properties. Copper roofs, for examples, were widely used in ancient times due to their stability, durability and beautiful patina it develops over time. Contractors stabilize historic metal roofs with an elastomeric coating, however, once the coating is applied it can't be removed. It is crucial to understand a particular type of metal and choose the right coating for a long lasting effect.

Thunderbird House in Winnipeg has a copper roof.
Source: Winnipeg Architecture Foundation,
Roofs are a valuable feature of historic architecture and contribute to the determination of architectural style. They represent a particular time in history, people's needs and preferences of that period. Therefore, roofs are not solely compounds of historical shelters but tell a story of the particular moment in time. Preservation of those roofing systems shouldn't be neglected or put on hold, on the contrary, it should be a part of historic site conservation and maintenance as buildings would not be the same without it.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

St. Boniface Fire Hall No. 1 – Reigniting a Heritage Treasure?

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

In the romantic age of fire fighting, when brave men slid down fire poles and jumped into their horse drawn fire engines, racing do battle with flames while brandishing minimal technology and equipment, St. Boniface fittingly built a fortress for a fire station. St. Boniface Fire Hall No. 1 broke the mold at a time when nearly all newly built fire stations were essentially identical. Built during a period of growth for the French community, it continually served the community for over 60 years. Today the heritage building is seeking reincarnation, looking for the opportunity to rise from the ashes, injecting life into the community it has so dutifully protected over the decades.

The City of Winnipeg was a not even a year old in September of 1874 when the first Volunteer Fire Brigade was established. Insurance companies at the time were either charging exorbitant rates for fire insurance or refusing to provide any fire coverage at all, causing great distress amongst property owners. Their solution was to form a fire brigade, Winnipeg’s first foray into fire fighting. Composed of some of the city’s most prominent citizens, the brigade received $25,000 of equipment in November of 1974 and officially opened its first fire hall in February of 1875. Although the first fire hall, located on Lombard Avenue, burned down less than a year after opening, in December of 1875, it marked the beginning of the presence of fire halls in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg's Volunteer Fire Brigade in front of the first fire hall, located on Lombard Avenue.
Source: The Fire Fighters Museum 
After the ironic loss of the first fire hall, Winnipeg built a second hall at Old Market Square, which opened in January of 1878. By 1882 Winnipeg was a fast growing and prosperous city, ready for a professional fire department. The volunteer brigade was disbanded and replaced with 36 full time employees. The new Central Station was opened on William Avenue in January of 1883, followed by the South Hall at Smith Street and York Avenue in June of the same year. By 1906 Winnipeg had nine fire stations, the last six featuring signature towers to accommodate drying hoses, in accordance with the widely used “Melville design”.

The typical front elevation of the "Melville design" fire station in Winnipeg, named after the architects who designed it, brothers Alexander and William Melville.
Source: City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Telegram
Across the Red River in the Town of St. Boniface, the traditionally agricultural French community of over 5,000 was on the rise. Light and heavy industries were both swarming into the area, the St. Boniface Basilica and City Hall were newly built, and St. Boniface Hospital and College were recently expanded, all creating the need for an expanded fire department. The first fire station in St. Boniface was located at 212 Dumoulin Street, but by 1904 was in need of replacing. A second fire station, which also served as a police station, opened at 328 Tache Avenue in 1906. This building was known as St. Boniface Fire Hall no. 2.

Quickly following the construction of Fire Hall No. 2, a headquarters, located at 212 Dumoulin Street, was built to replace the first fire station that had been in the same location. Construction of the new headquarters started in January of 1907 and was completed by the end of the year, just as St. Boniface was officially becoming a city. At a time when nearly all of Winnipeg’s fire stations where based on the practical and convent “Melville design”, the headquarters in St. Boniface, known as St. Boniface Fire Hall No. 1, was a distinct departure.

St. Boniface Fire Hall No. 2 at 328 Tache Avenue in St. Boniface, seen here in 1910, was the second fire station in the area.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society and the Archives of Maniotba
 Victor William Horwood, an English immigrant who arrived in Winnipeg as an architect in 1904, designed the fire station. Horwood was seen as an outsider by the French community and had already earned their contempt for his earlier project, St. Boniface City Hall. On the City Hall project Horwood had overcharged and under delivered, with his cutting corners being especially noticeable on the tower feature. The citizens of St. Boniface were so outraged with the results that it was demanded that Horwood rebuild the tower to better match the original plans. Horwood’s second incarnation of the tower has been described as “vindictive” in design, but was more pleasing to the residence than his first attempt.

The first tower on the St. Boniface City Hall (left in 1907) was so loathed by the citizens that it was insisted that the architect, Victor William Horwood rebuild it to be closer to the original plans (new tower, right, in 1911).
Source: City of Winnipeg and the Archives of Maniotba
Being that the new fire station was located directly behind the city hall, and having the same architect design the two buildings had the potential for creating a pleasing sense of cohesion. Built in the Romanesque style, the fire station features a distinctive second tower, unseen in the popular “Melville design”. The large tower was typical of the period, used for drying hoses, while the second smaller tower was a bell tower. Crenellations along the top of the two towers give the building the look of a medieval castle, ready to wage war on the approaching enemy.

St. Boniface Fire Hall No 1. was designed by Victor William Horwood, seen here circa 1910.
Source: City of Winnipeg and the Archives of Manitoba
The fire station was two and a half stories with a full basement and a two story stable extending out the north end of the building. The hipped gable roof was made of metal, as was the flat roof over the stables area. Plain beige brick was used on all of the façades, featuring minor banding details and ruff cut limestone at the base of the larger tower. Minimal windows dot the building, with some of the second floor windows sporting arched tops and keystone details. The name of the station was featured in a band above three large arched double doors, with some ruff cut limestone framing, used to move fire fighting equipment in and out of the building. Smaller doors were situated at the bases of the towers and featured the same ruff cut limestone as lintels.

Inside the fire station, the main floor was concrete, with tin cladding on the walls and a pressed tin ceiling. It was used for fire fighting equipment, a workshop, a stable and storing hay. A metal spiral staircase led down to the basement and up to the top two floors. The second floor had fir floors, plaster walls and ceiling and fir trim. The St. Boniface municipal council used it for office space. The third floor was open dormitory style living space for the fire fighters. Eleven closets stored each of the fire fighters belongings, while everyone shared one washroom. A fire pole reaching down from the third floor to the first floor allowed for quick movement of the fire fighters in the case of an alarm. The building was also outfitted with steam heat, electricity and sewer.

St. Boniface Fire Hall No. 1 as it stands today, with modern modifications.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society and Gordon Goldsborough 
Over time fire fighting equipment and techniques changed, with the fire station being modified to accommodate them. Two dormers were added to the roof to let in more light, while the three large arched doors on the ground floor were replaced with two even larger square doors. An addition was added to the east side of the stables in the 1960s. Around 1970 the building was converted from a fire station to office space and a museum, with displays on the first floor. Some interior modifications have taken place, with new staircases and washrooms, but the basement and third floor remain relatively unchanged.

By 2010 the fire station was only being used as a storage facility and considered non-essential by the city. A call for expression of interest was put forth, answered by Entreprises Riel, an economic development agency for Winnipeg’s French districts. A feasibility study looked at converting the fire station into a youth hostel, where students studying at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights could stay. The study supported replacing the 1960s addition to the building while maintaining the original 1907 structure. This approach would repurpose the heritage building, making it relevant once again, while bringing people and economic gains to the community. Prairie Architects were commissioned to design the concept for the site projected to cost $5 million. Unfortunately, this plan has since fallen to the wayside with the building now potentially being sold to the highest bidder with little regard for its significance to the community.

St Boniface Fire Hall No. 1 reimagined as a youth hostel.
Source: Prairie Architechts
Although the St. Boniface Fire Hall No. 1 is listed and designated on the City of Winnipeg List of Historical Resources, which protects it from demolition, it is not protected from waste or neglect. Good redevelopment of heritage buildings takes careful planning, community consultation and funding. Auctioning off the past is no way to respect built heritage. Heritage Winnipeg is hopeful that rehabilitation will happen and this historic building will again serve the Francophone community.


Canada’s Historic Places

Canstar Community News

City of Winnipeg

Entreprises Riel

The Fire Fighters Museum

Historica Canada

Manitoba Historical Society

Prairie Architects Inc.

The Winnipeg Time Machine

West End Dumplings

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Upper Fort Garry Heritage Wall - Illuminating Manitoba's History

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

Where the Red River and Assiniboine River meet in Winnipeg, there are thousands of years of history buried within the ground. From the Indigenous people to the European fur traders to the current multicultural community, it has always been a gathering place of great importance. This is what drew the Hudson’s Bay Company to build Upper Fort Garry, the gateway to the west and the birthplace of Manitoba. Over time the fort was being lost, first to demolition and later to neglect. When it seemed as though part of the site was going to be lost to development, the citizens of Winnipeg made it clear that their history is a priority, donating over $10 million so that Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park, featuring the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Heritage Wall, would forever preserve the history of the keystone province.

6000 years ago Indigenous people built a fire at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The hearth that remained became a part of the archeological record, showing thousands of years of prosperous occupation of the site by various Indigenous groups, meeting, fishing, trading and living there. Recognizing the significance (traditional meeting place) and resources (food and transportation) of the site, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye, part of the first Europeans to arrive, choose a nearby location to build Fort Rouge in 1738.

The junction of the Red River and Assiniboine River in 1821, possibly depicting Fort Rouge.
Source: Canada'a Historic Places and the Library and Archives of Canada
Thought to have been located on the south side of the Assiniboine River where it meets the Red River, the fort was a French fur trading post. In 1807 the North West Company built Fort Gibralter close by, on the north side of the Assiniboine River, which became the main fort and caused Fort Rouge to fade into history. But Fort Gibralter’s existence was also short lived, destroyed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1816. The merging of the two rival companies resulted in the construction of Fort Garry in 1821, on or around the Fort Gibralter site. Located close to the river’s edge, Fort Garry suffered devastating flooding in 1826, which caused the Hudson’s Bay Company to move 32 kilometers down the Red River to build Lower Fort Garry. But the new location did not suffice, causing the Hudson’s Bay Company to move back to the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in 1836 to build one final fort, Upper Fort Garry, in a similar location but somewhat further back from the water’s edge than their previous efforts.

Upper Fort Garry was anchored by four large bastions linked by stone walls the towered 15 feet into the air. In 1846 the British sent the military at the fort due to fears of American expansion, causing overcrowding. To rectify this, the fort was expanded northwards, built with double wooden walls one meter apart sandwiching compacted dirt between, finished in 1853. In 1882 the Hudson’s Bay Company abandoned the fort, which was partially demolished the next year. Eventually, the northern limestone gate of the expanded section of Upper Fort Garry was all that remained, with some of the wooden walls being restored in the 1980s.

Upper Fort Garry in 1860, after it was expanded northwards.
Source: Historica Canada and the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections
The northern gate from the expanded section of Upper Fort Garry was all that remained of the dominating stone fort by the 1890s.
Source: Virtual Heritage Winnipeg and the Archives of Manitoba
In 1897, the Hudson’s Bay Company was pressured into donating the northern gate to the City of Winnipeg to be a public park. The gate represented more than just a bygone era; it was the center of trade and administration for Rupert’s Land, and the site of Louis Riel’s provisional government, which resulted in Manitoba entering confederation. But despite its significance, over 100 years passed with very little happening at the park. By the turn of the 21st century, the gate was in disrepair, hardly even visible to passersby due to the huge trees that surrounded it. Recognizing the potential of the forgotten park, Heritage Winnipeg applied for a grant from the Thomas Sill Foundation which was used to fund a feasibility study of Upper Fort Garry. The study led to the creation of the Friends of Upper Fort Garry, who after raising $10 million took possession of the land, planning to create an historic park and interpretive center. The site also eventually became a provincial park, securing its future as a public space. Nine years of effort went into creating the park, which officially opened at 130 Main Street on August 14, 2015.

A rendering of Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park.
Source: HTFC Planning & Design
The new park is not a recreation of the fort, but a creative interpretation of the history that took place on the site making use of landscaping and technology. A major feature of the park is the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Heritage Wall. The 134 meter wall, made of three layers of weathered steel, is in the location of the original west wall of the fort, built to the same height (4.2 meters) and depth. It also contains a symbolic bastion made of steel, representing the northwest bastion of the original fort that stood in that place. At a cost of $3.5 million, the wall depicts the chronological history of the area, beginning with the Indigenous people that have lived there for thousands of years and ending with Northwest Passage, alluding to Manitoba’s potential to forge new connections to the world in the future. It will eventually become the east wall of the interpretive center.

The Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Heritage Wall at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park.
Source: Friends of Upper Fort Garry
The Heritage Wall was the second phase of the park and provided numerous challenges to bring to life. Using steel presented limitations on how detailed the images cut into it could be. The images also had to take into account the three layers of steel, which add dimension but complicated execution. The wall is illuminated by 7000 LED lights, which had never been used to create a “screen” of this resolution, posing questions as to whether or not the quality would be high enough. To help overcome these hurdles, an eight foot long scale prototype was made, complete with electronics, providing a great assistance for those working on the complex project.

Fabricating the steel for the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Heritage Wall at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park.
Source: Friends of Upper Fort Garry
A section of steel with holes to accommodate LED lights for the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Heritage Wall at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park.
Source: Friends of Upper Fort Garry
A Red Rive Cart (depicted to scale) and the bison hunt section of the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Heritage Wall at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park.
Source: Friends of Upper Fort Garry
It was important to implement the lights correctly, as they are an imperative part of the wall, visible during the day and night, intended to draw visitors in. From the distance, visitors can see the light show and being intrigued, approach the wall. As they move towards the wall, they can then hear the sound that accompanies the lights. Depending on where visitors are standing along the wall, different effects are emitted from 18 distinct channels. The variation in sound is designed to lead visitors along the wall, eager to discover what sound is playing in the distance. Once closer to the wall, the images cut into the steel become clear, displaying the history of Manitoba.

The light show on the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Heritage Wall at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park draws in visitors when they see it from a distance.
Source: Friends of Upper Fort Garry
To further create an interactive experience for visitors and bring history to life, a free app was developed to accompany the park. The app directs users to points of interest in the park, immersing the user in history. Additionally, the app helps interpret the images cut into the Heritage Wall, enriching the historical experience. By making use of technology with lights, sound and the app, the Heritage Wall is an ever evolving history presentation that can be endlessly updated and reinterpreted. On November 15, 2016, the Heritage Wall was officially opened, featuring sound and light shows every 15 minutes from 10:00 am (11:00 am on weekends) to 8:00 pm. It is a testament to the people that shaped Manitoba, from the Indigenous people thousands of years ago to the current day inhabitants of the city, determined to illuminate our heritage of years to come.

The free app guides visitors to point of interest and helps to interpret the images on the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Heritage Wall at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park.
Source: Google Play 
The future looks bright for Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park and the preservation of Manitoba's history.
Source: Friends of Upper Fort Garry.




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