Tuesday, May 10

The Red and the Assiniboine Rivers deliver an impressive performance in Winnipeg at The Fork

With memories of the 1997 flood etched forever in my mind, I was rather anxious to see for myself where water levels were at last month on a family weekend trip to Winnipeg.

Well.. so much has changed in Winnipeg since the Great Flood.

Much preventive work has ensured a repeat of 1997 would not occur again. The City opened the floodway that very same weekend, to put suspicions of yet another Winnipeg flood to rest.

Knowing that all that water - at least that which flows into the Assiniboine - originates in part from the Qu'Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan - did not ease the weighy witewaterish notions back home that inspired colourful references to Regina's Mighty Wascana.


It was somewhat reasuring in the end to see disaster averted in Winnipeg. 

We are all hoping here in Saskatchewan that Brandon and Manitoba will make it through current challenges relatively unscathe.

Virtual visit of Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site

All photos courtesy of Donald Telfer

Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation (SHF) board members and staff recently visited the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site/Lieu historique national du Canada de la briqueterie de Claybank, to meet with representatives of the Claybank Brick Plant Historical Society and monitor progress on on-going conservation efforts.

The SHF oversees conservation efforts in partnership with the Goverment of Saskatchewan, Parks Canada and the friends of Claybank at this best preserved historic brick plant in North America. Bricks fired here have made their way around the world. They were used to build the famous Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon, the rocket launching pad at Cape Canaveral. They lined the fireboxes of steam locomotives and sailing vessels. They were a prized Saskatchewan product valued for their esthetic quality but, more specifically perhaps, as fine refractory bricks.

Every last Sunday in June (June 26 this year) the friends and volunteers organize a special Heritage Day of activities for the public featuring Saskatoon pie and a yearly brick pressing demonstration that earns rave reviews. For more information on the Claybank Brick plant, visit www.claybankbrick.ca.

The kilns at Claybank are simply amazing. A domed sructure, supported only by the weight of gravity and lateral forces holding and binding these tens of thousands of bricks together as an oven. It took a week to load green bricks such as the ones seen on the cart into the kiln. It took a week for the kiln to cool down sufficiently for the workers to take them out. It took five weeks in all to produce a brick from raw clay to finished product ready to be shipped out.

SHF Board Member Toos Giesen-Stefiuk of Gravelbourg takes stock of a recent artist's project.

Like many other families around Claybank, Hilda Maier is one of those key people who have made a difference through their involvement in the Claybank Brick Plant Historical Society. When I ran Great Excursions and took visitors to Claybank, she always made sure their experience was the best it could be. Hilda invests just as much passion and authentic character in the experience and activities offered today. Claybank is worth it!

Hilda Maier demonstrates how the brick press works. It'll be fired up on Heritage Day (June 26, 2011)

Hard to resist isn't it?

The brick plant maquette provides a good introduction to its context on the north slope of the Missouri Coteau.

With a heritage site, comes an impressive collection of historic wheelbarrows.... probably some of the oldest one left in Saskatchewan. One could stack up to 300 pounds of bricks onto one like this.

I like this view of the Claybank Brick Plant yard. There is no other place like this in North America.

You will notice in the background that the kilns are braced with steel that could could be tightened and loosened in response to temperature changes and resulting compressions/expansions of structural bricks through the firing process.

A happy bunch!