FOR Jason Halter, the sprawling, historic mansion at 1021 Wellington Cres. is so much more than just a 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."
Halter, now a Toronto-based architect and designer, contacted the Free Press 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."
Halter lived there with his family from 1966 to 1991, long before the Dornetshubers 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 a "pretty amazing" place to hang out.
His arts-loving parents, Aubrey and Nola, often hosted talented classical musicians who'd fill the house with their gifts, 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 the 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 fire.
"So sorry for the family who have lost their treasure," Halter said.
The house was once owned by Graeme Sifton, the great-grandson of Clifford Sifton, one of the original owners of the Free Press. He owned the house from 1989 until 2004.
An email sent Monday by Melanie Sifton-Borger, Graeme's former wife, stated: "In the early '90s (the Siftons) had an opportunity to have Leo Mol himself set the bronze statue of Fawn & Deer that graced the front of the home," she recalled.
The arts community was welcomed at many fundraising events hosted there, said Sifton-Borger in the email.
"There were many milestones and fond memories shared in this gracious home," she said. "I have spent the last day-and-a-half through tears poring over the pictures in the news of the fire devastation... My heart goes out to the Dornetshuber family."