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See Manitoba's vital history live with St. Andrews Rectory restored

Venerable Selkirk Settlers structure will be open to public for summer

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The newly restored historic St. Andrews Rectory on River Road North.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The newly restored historic St. Andrews Rectory on River Road North. Photo Store

RIVER ROAD NORTH -- Of all the amazing features in the St. Andrews Rectory, built in 1854 in the RM of St. Andrews, one of the most curious is the rings that hold the ducts of the wood stove.

The rings, to allow the ducts to pass through walls and provide heat to different rooms without setting them on fire, are carved out of Tyndall stone. Tunnels were chiselled into blocks of Tyndall stone to hold the ducts.

To the man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail perhaps. The entire 3,000-square-foot rectory is made out of Tyndall stone because the Selkirk Settlers found a small, outlier deposit nearby. The gaping hole left by the quarry is still open and partially fills with spring runoff every year.

The historic St. Andrews Rectory is being reopened to the public in July and August.

'This is where the Selkirk Settlers first settled. I think this is one great opportunity to reclaim an asset to promote St. Andrews' -- Russ Garvie, chairman of the St. Andrews Heritage Centre

"This is where the Selkirk Settlers first settled," said Russ Garvie, chairman of the St. Andrews Heritage Centre and St. Andrews councillor. "I think this is one great opportunity to reclaim an asset to promote St. Andrews."

It's easy to miss the St. Andrews Rectory on a Sunday drive down River Road North that tracks the Red River between Highway 9 (Main Street) and Lockport.

It's hidden behind a 275-metre-long fence that Parks Canada built in the 1980s from raw timber and with axes to replicate construction of the original. You can see the axe cuts in the timber. The fence is unpainted, like the original, and its weathered, grey surface is freckled with orange moss, wood's equivalent to rust.

Parks Canada restored the rectory at the same time as the fence. The foundation was collapsing and needed to be rebuilt. So Parks Canada took the building apart, one block of Tyndall stone at a time, and numbered each block. It then rebuilt the foundation and reassembled the blocks.

"Those stones are where they were in the 1850s," said Garvie.

The building was closed in recent years. With Parks Canada's budget having been slashed, it was trying to unload the rectory. A deal was hastily struck with the local heritage committee of the RM of St. Andrews in May 2013.

Parks Canada retains ownership but the St. Andrews Heritage Centre pays the operating costs and minor upkeep. "We have taken over the operating costs in terms of heat and wear and tear," said Garvie. It comes to about $20,000 per year, supplied by the RM. "If the roof needs replacing, Parks Canada does it. If these posts need painting, that's our responsibility." The heritage centre has moved in its museum artefacts that were housed in a former cinder-block fire hall.

The remarkable Anglican Rev. William Cockran, who had great influence on Chief Peguis and his Saulteaux band, built the rectory -- the reverend's residence -- assisted by the congregation and architect and stonemason Duncan McRae.

"It's one of the best examples of Hudson Bay architectural style, with a bit of Scottish traditional style in things like the interior staircase (a winding staircase that Parks Canada rebuilt)," said Garvie. Its front veranda is a sidewalk of wood planks sheltered by the overhanging eaves.

The rectory is liberally lighted with natural light from many muntin windows (wooden dividers separating a window into smaller squares of glass, which was done because glass was more affordable that way). Only two of the original muntin windows could be salvaged. The rest are replicas.

Even the sawhorses have been built to the specs of the time. On special days, kids can try out some crosscut saws, or bake bannock on a stick. See website standrewsmuseum.weebly.com for dates.

The pioneering artifacts from the RM of St. Andrews are newer and don't match up with the period of the building and Parks Canada's information panels. However, the RM has an excellent display of tartans of Scottish families in Manitoba. St. Andrews was not only the base for Selkirk Settlers but also for Scottish Métis.

The amount of history in this area is staggering: the rectory and church, Twin Oaks, the Kennedy House, the St. Peter Dynevor Church, where Chief Peguis is buried, and Lower Fort Garry, to name a few. The RM is starting to wrap its head around the tourism potential. The heritage centre is taking bids for a feasibility study on how to make the rectory and museum a bigger attraction.

The museum is open seven days a week from July 1-Aug. 31, from 9 to 5, and noon to 5 on Sundays. There is no admission.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 30, 2014 A6

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