September 2, 2015


Local

'Millions of awesome memories' at Wellington Crescent mansion destroyed by fire

A fire fighter surveys the aftermath in the back yard of 1021 Wellington Crescent Monday. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Investigators at the scene of the fire Monday. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
The aftermath of the fire at 1021 Wellington Crescent is seen on Monday. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
A back-hoe was removing debris from the back of the building Monday to make it safe for investigators to enter. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Monday morning the fire commissioner was on scene. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
The aftermath of 1021 Wellington Crescent after a fire destroyed the million dollar home on Sunday. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Smoke is seen from the other side of the Assiniboine River at a fire at 1021 Wellington Crescent Sunday afternoon. - Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press
Fire officials estimate damage to the home at $5 million. - Daren Jorgenson
"We're very much shaken right now," the home's owner, Karl Dornetshuber, said in a brief telephone interview from Edmonton, where he, his wife and children were this weekend for a trip. - Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press
The home was completely renovated in 2009 and "thoroughly modernized" on the inside, according to an online design profile from Winnipeg-based Syverson Monteyne Architecture. - Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press
The mansion, given its stately history, has made the news several times over the last decade. In September 2004, it was featured in the Free Press when it landed on the market for $1.9 million -- $200,000 more than any other home had previously sold for in the province. - Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press
Fire officials have not yet released a cause for the blaze, which started around 6 a.m. Sunday. - Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press
The home has through the years been owned by some of the most wealthy of Winnipeg's citizens, families with the names of Sures, Smith, Peterson, Halter, Sifton and Asper - Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press
Firefighters work on extinguishing hotspots Sunday. - Winnipeg Free Press
1021 Wellington Cres. as it appeared before renovations in 2009. -
Firefighters work on extinguishing hotspots in a fire at 1021 Wellington Crescent in Winnipeg Sunday, February 16, 2014. - John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press

For Jason Halter, the sprawling historic mansion at 1021 Wellington Crescent is so much more than just place he called home for a quarter-century.

It was also the real estate for his childhood years and what he says were "millions of awesome memories."

1021 Wellington Cres. as it appeared when it was the Halter family's residence.

1021 Wellington Cres. as it appeared when it was the Halter family's residence.

Halter, now a Toronto-based architect and designer, contacted the Free Press Sunday after learning a major fire had torn through the place he once fondly called home.

"Our house was always filled with laughter and music as long as I remember it," he said. "And those memories persist despite the super sad devastation that this fire has brought to the old home."

Our house was always filled with laughter and music as long as I remember it.

-Former resident Jason Halter

The home had been owned by the Dornetshuber family since 2009.

"We're very much shaken right now," businessman Karl Dornetshuber said in a brief telephone interview Sunday from Edmonton, where he, his wife and children were this weekend for a trip.

"There might be nothing left," Dornetshuber said.

The family moved into the home in 2009 — it was a "dream house" for them, he agreed. Dornetshuber added he'd been in contact with Winnipeg police Sunday morning and was attempting to return to Winnipeg immediately.

Dornetshuber said he was "very relieved" no one appeared to be hurt. The family immigrated to Canada from Austria in 2009, according to neighbours.

Officials haven't released what they think was the cause of the stubborn blaze.

"Lost their treasure"

Halter lived there with his family between 1966 to 1991 — long before its current owners plucked it off the market.

"Tons of friends who I grew up with played in the yard, partied in the basement and swam in the pool," said Halter. The basement, he remembered, was "pretty amazing" as a place to hang out.

His arts-loving parents, Aubrey and Nola, often hosted talented classical musicians who'd fill the house with their gift, he said.

"I recall hearing Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Horowitz, David Oistrakh and Vladamir Ashkenazy," Halter said.  "As a young kid I knew something quite special was going on, often hearing the music from my bedroom door."

The musical attachments 1021 Wellington held for him didn't break after his family moved out.

He wound up back inside its walls in 2005, when the Asper family hosted what Halter called "an epic party" during the Juno Awards in Winnipeg. Halter's design studio designed  T-shirts given to performers and participants at the awards.

Arriving at the party, he looked around his old home to see none other than Randy Bachman of Guess Who fame sporting one of his company's T-shirts. That coincidence led to a funny introduction and "brief but fun" design collaboration, Halter said.

"'Randy, it's a huge honour to meet you, and especially wonderful because you're in my dining room and you're wearing one of my shirts,'" Halter recalled saying.

He said his heart goes out to the family who now has to deal with the aftermath of the destructive fire.

"So sorry for the family who have lost their treasure," Halter said.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 4:32 PM CST: typos corrected

4:55 PM: Photo changed

February 17, 2014 at 11:05 AM: Adds slideshow, tidies text.

11:44 AM: Adds more pictures to slideshow; video.

2:43 PM: Corrects name of musician.

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