Tuesday, August 23

Wolseley, Saskatchewan - Sense of Place

Wolseley does shine...
A view from Banbury House
It is easy to fall in love with Wolseley.

The old Le Parisien Restaurant
The famous restaurant seemed closed when I stopped by, but the building still has good "bones".

One of the many heritage homes in Wolseley

A view from the commercial district
"Wolseley can still boast having two more elevators than many Saskatchewan communities," to quote a friend.

 A fine example of the use of fieldstones in a Prairie context.

Hard to beat this entrance point of view.

The Wolseley Courthouse
"The Wolseley Court House is the oldest existing court house in Saskatchewan, and the only one built during the period of Territorial Government. Designed under the direction of Thomas Fuller, Chief Dominion Architect, the building was constructed between 1894 and 1895 to serve the judicial district of Eastern Assiniboia.

Following its closure as a court house in 1909, the building was used as a jail and as a boys' detention home until 1921, when it became an annex to the newly constructed home for the infirm. The original metal flagpole still stands south of the building."

A view of the lake

The swinging bridge

A view of the Wolseley Town Hall and Opera House from the swinging bridge

Late summer light in the morning certainly lingers on nicely.

View of the weir
 This area sustained significant flooding this spring.

Wolseley Mayor Dennis Fjestad show us the extent of the flooded area
Wolseley Town Hall and Opera House
"In the early twentieth century, Saskatchewan was fueled by optimism and many small communities planned for a thriving future. Believing that growth was inevitable, many towns and cities built elaborate town hall/opera houses. The Town of Wolseley commissioned Manitoba architect, J. H. G. Russell, to design its Town Hall/Opera House, one of the most elegant buildings of its kind in the province. Some of the brick used in the building's construction was produced locally, while the rest was manufactured elsewhere, giving the building a two-toned effect. This variety of architectural elements contributes to the structure's impressive design. The building was restored between 1990 and 1993."

The dividing line between bricks that were fired locally (darker shade) and those that were brought in from Manitoba (lighter shade) is visible on the left edge of the photograph

Main Street announcement hosts get ready

Plenty of fruit punch

One of the Fire Insurance Plans on display
Wolseley has managed to acquire copies of the 1905 Fire Insurance Plans commissioned by insurance companies to help guide them in assessing risks of fire. These precious historical documents provide accurate depictions of town layouts and the built environment. They are coded and extremely valuable as a research tool for historians and heritage archaeologists. These are photocopies that were coloured to reflect the original system indicating the building materials that were used (wood, structural brick, brick veneer, stone and concrete). They show where liveries, coals sheds and boilers were located among a wealth of additional information. The earliest plans available for the City of Regina date back to 1911. Therefore these are rather significant.

The Honourable Bill Hutchinson, Minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sports announces Wolseley's inclusion among Main Street Saskatchewan demonstration projects

Wolseley has developed historic walking tours of the community

Cenotaph located next to the Town Hall and Opera House

The monument's design is recognized for the solemn character of the soldier's figure depicted

Garth Pugh, Manager, Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation (left) and yours truly
(photo courtesy of Don Telfer)

Wolseley and Indian Head Among Four Main Street Saskatchewan Communities Selected

Following the earlier announcement that Saskatchewan would invest $1.65 million over three years to provide funding assistance to demonstration communities for implementation of the Main Street Saskatchewan approach to downtown revitalization, we learned recently that Wolseley, Indian Head, Maple Creek and Prince Albert were selected from the 18 communities which had submitted proposals.

Main Street has an interesting history. The approach has proven popular in the U.S. and evolved under the stewardship of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 1979, the Heritage Canada Foundation launched a Canadian version of the program, which took root across Canada with varying degrees of success. Quebec developed its own extremely successful program through the Rues Principales Foundation, which organizes a well-attended annual conference where municipalities making commitments to revitalization that enhances a community's sense of place are invited to submit their initiatives for Excellence and Achievements Awards in categories like heritage enhancements, economic development, promotion and sustainability. The annual conference takes place in Quebec City on September 28. I had the privilege of attending the 2008 conference as an keynote speaker on placemaking along with the executive director of Main Street USA at the time.

That conference was held in partnership with the Heritage Canada Foundation. I remember running into delegates from Saskatchewan at the meeting. My understanding is that this is where seeds for Saskatchewan's own initiative were planted and where the Heritage Canada Foundation rekindled its own commitment to Main Street approaches. A Saskatchewan project emerged as a result, and the Province is now firmly moving ahead on Main Street development.


The Banbury House Inn
Wolseley as long been recognized as one of Canada's prettiest towns, with a vast inventory of character homes and valuable heritage properties. Its configuration around a lake and general setting along Highway #1, as well as local community support of initiatives that seek to enhance the local sense of place, would make it an ideal choice for a demonstration project.

Indian Head

Equally compelling is Indian Head for similar and different reasons. The inventory of built heritage, the dynamic nature of a community at a crossroads in its evolution, ready to embrace the Main Street concept make it equally worthy of consideration.

I had an opportunity to attend Friday's Main Street announcements. I will share some observations and photographs snapped that day in Indian Head and Wolseley in coming posts.