Restoring treasured but decrepit heritage homes costly, controversial
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/05/2015 (2765 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
ST. NORBERT HERITAGE PROVINCIAL PARK — It’s like debtors prison for heritage homes.
Behind a chain-link fence is the seventh-oldest building still standing in Manitoba. It once belonged to the family for whom Henderson Highway was named.
Right next to it, also locked inside the compound, is the eighth-oldest building in Manitoba, considerably worse for wear. It belonged to Pierre Delorme, an ally of Louis Riel who sat on Riel’s provisional government.
The only way out of this jail is if someone comes forward with lots of money to repair the historic buildings. The province has enclosed the houses because they are deemed unsafe.
The situation frustrates history buffs.
“The province has had the Henderson House for 36 years and it hasn’t done anything with it,” said Jim Smith, president of the North East Winnipeg Historical Society.
The one-and-half-storey Henderson House is one of the last homes still standing from the Selkirk Settler era. It was built in 1854 facing the Red River, which was the main highway back then. It was originally located at what is now 2112 Henderson Hwy., just north of Bunn’s Creek.
Hendersons occupied the house until 1919, and non-descendants lived there until 1976. In 1979, the province rescued it from demolition by moving it to St. Norbert Heritage Provincial Park.
The province intended to restore the building, the way it did two other heritage homes in the park, but ran out of funds. The house has since been allowed to deteriorate.
Smith would like to see the house moved to Bunn’s Creek Centennial Park in North Kildonan, near where it originally stood. But the home, which a building assessment once listed as in better condition than the Turenne house the province restored at St. Norbert’s Park, has become too frail. It would take $100,000 just to stabilize it enough to be moved.
Henderson is a prominent name in East and North Kildonan history. Samuel Robert Henderson (1788-1864) arrived here in 1812-13 with the Selkirk Settlers, and in 1830, became the first settler to take up residence on the east side of the Red River. His wife, Flora Livingstone, was related to the world famous African explorer, David Livingstone. (Information courtesy of the North East Winnipeg Historical Society.)
Henderson lived in Henderson House after its construction for only a short period before his son, John Henderson, took possession. John Henderson, an educator after whom John Henderson Junior High School in East Kildonan is named, lived there until 1919.
Henderson Highway is named after neither, however. It’s namesake is S.R. Henderson’s grandson, also named Samuel Robert Henderson (1863-1928).
This S.R., as he was called, was a reeve and councillor for Kildonan, later called East Kildonan, for 30 years. He was also past president of the Good Roads Association, which later lobbied to have the highway named after him.
He has another street named after him — Essar Avenue — a phonetic spelling for S.R., which runs from Kildonan Drive to Henderson Highway.
At one time there was even a Henderson Avenue, named for a different Henderson family, that ran into Henderson Highway, which created the corner of Henderson and Henderson, and made for obvious confusion. It was renamed Knowles Avenue.
Former Free Press writer Vince Leah, when he used to pen columns on street name origins, said S.R. lost his wife at an early age and never remarried. This has led to romantic speculation that S.R. could never find anyone to replace his one true love. Smith isn’t so sure. He has found no evidence of S.R. ever marrying at all.
There is a plaque in front of John Pritchard School dedicated to S.R., as well as a plaque in John Black Memorial Church, at the corner of Henderson and Roberta Avenue, with S.R.’s name included with other founding members.
There’s just no money in the provincial budget to repair Henderson House, said Sloan Cathcart, head of interpretation at Manitoba Parks. Money would have to come from elsewhere.
Historical consultant Randy Rostecki thinks the Delorme House is beyond saving.
“Even in my mind, as a heritage guy, there are some things that are too far gone. Where do you draw the line?
“For example, the Barber House (built in 1871) on Euclid Avenue. Before restoration, the walls were 80 per cent rotten. They replaced all the rotten stuff and some bugger set fire to it, then it burned again a few years later. What’s left of the original building? Is it the Barber House or a replica?”
Rostecki is less familiar with Henderson House but said the problem may be the provincial parks branch “was dragged kicking and screaming” into responsibility for heritage. The branch, he said, “is not really geared to handle heritage projects.”
Updated on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 6:10 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline