Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

History repeats itself for landmark city hotel

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A local building known for its character inspired locals to get into character Wednesday.

Officials from the Fort Garry Hotel and Heritage Winnipeg went deep into the closet and donned their finest period suits and dresses to help mark the 100-year anniversary of the famous downtown hotel. Scripting a historical interpretation of the Fort Garry's opening, complete with the arrival of dignitaries from Regina at Union Station Wednesday, the celebration surrounding one of Winnipeg's most recognizable heritage buildings is well worth the time, Greg Delorme said.

"It is one of the most spectacular heritage buildings in this city," said Delorme, vice-president of the board at Heritage Winnipeg, moments before the Prairie Dog Central screeched alongside the platform at the station. "We felt that we could try to bring a little more attention to it by making a bigger deal out of this milestone."

Delorme played the role of Dr. F. W. Bergman, general manager of the hotels operated by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, which commissioned Montreal architects George A. Ross and David H. MacFarlane to build the $2-million Chateau-style hotel in 1911. The Fort Garry officially opened two years later.

Next to him stood Laura Wiebe, the hotel's marketing director. She played the role of Bergman's wife, known as Mrs. Bergman for the purposes of the re-enactment. Wearing a long, pink and white frock (complete with matching gloves and wool hat), Wiebe boasted her character helped furnish the luxury hotel back in the day.

"That must have been difficult," she said. "There was so much detail."

Wednesday's production at Union Station was a scene out of a history book. Guests, including Manitoba Free Press reporter John Wilson, arrived at a small ceremony hosted by a Scotsman named Morley Donaldson, who was vice-president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.

Ladies and gentlemen, all decked out in fashionable period hats, cheered as Donaldson, played by Paul Haverstock, read his prepared notes recognizing the momentous occasion. From there, the group headed down the block to the hotel for a different function near the Union Station junction.

"I was a shoo-in for the part," laughed the Scottish-born Haverstock, who serves as the Fort Garry's catering director when he's not moonlighting as a railway executive. "How did I do? I didn't want to oversell the part, pretending to do a Scottish accent. I already have it, I told myself, just be yourself."

A local television crew was on hand to document the centennial celebration. The finished video will be unveiled at the inaugural heritage ball -- billed as a "nod to the grand opening gala in 1913" -- at the hotel Friday evening.

"(The Fort Garry) has been such a huge part of the city for so long... we'd like to give a little back," Delorme added. This is our way of saying thank you. The hotel is an important part of our landscape. It deserves the attention."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2013 B1


Updated on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 6:44 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds video

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