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Last chance to see Peace Tower before demolition

Crumbling monument was built in 1982

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BRANDON — With a demolition date looming, visitors to the International Peace Garden will get one last chance to pay homage to the Peace Tower this summer.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/05/2016 (2339 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

BRANDON — With a demolition date looming, visitors to the International Peace Garden will get one last chance to pay homage to the Peace Tower this summer.

The crumbling monument was scheduled to come down last fall, but the garden’s board of directors decided to hold off for one more season. It will be demolished in the fall.

“We thought the longer the tower is up, the longer it remains in the minds of the people,” board president Charlie Thomsen said.

Bruce Bumstead / Brandon Sun FILES Peace Towers concrete is deteriorating at the International Peace Gardens.

The Peace Tower’s four concrete columns straddle the Canada-U.S. border and the structure has become an iconic feature of the grounds.

Built in 1982 to commemorate the garden’s 50th anniversary, the 120-foot-tall tower started falling apart in 2011.

“It was supposed to last 100 years,” Thomsen said. “We’ve been told that the deterioration will continue, it’s a problem of the concrete literally dissolving.”

Not only is the tower being penetrated by moisture, Thomsen said, but the failing foundation is causing the monument to lean.

A security fence runs around the perimeter of the tower to protect visitors from falling chunks of concrete.

Initially, the board thought it would be able to use pieces of the tower to build a different memorial in the Peace Garden, but recent engineering studies prove that would be impossible.

“The intentions are to crush the material so we can use it as surfacing material for pathways… We do not just want to throw the material away,” Thomsen said. “It’s tragic that we have to lose it, but there’s a story to it and we want to make sure that story stays on the site.”

The tower’s four columns represent people arriving from the four corners of the world to form two distinct-but-similar nations with a common base in democracy.

The board plans to replace the symbolic structure and has invited 20 architecture firms from across Canada and the United States to submit design proposals for a new monument. The winning design will be announced in July.

Thomsen said the demolition and rebuild will cost approximately $8-$10 million — a price tag that means a new structure likely won’t be in place for several years.

“We’re looking at a large chunk of money,” he said. “We’re going to have to go beyond just government funding, we’re going to have to do some fundraising.”

The government of North Dakota has dedicated $1.5 million to the project, but it is contingent on matching funds from another source.

“There’s a new government here in Manitoba and our process is to try to make contact with them and access some of the infrastructure funding to help build it,” Thomsen said.

Aside from the Peace Tower, the park is home to sprawling gardens, a cacti collection, and interpretive centre, a peace chapel and a 9/11 memorial.

This summer, the Peace Garden is adding a new sculpture to the grounds titled ‘Promise of Peace’. It is in the shape of two hands releasing a dove and will be unveiled June 24.

The International Peace Garden is on the Manitoba-U.S. border, south of Brandon.

— Brandon Sun

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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