The city has shut down the street and sidewalk in front of the historic Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall building in Winnipeg’s downtown Exchange District due to an unspecified structural problem caused by renovations.
Late Friday afternoon the city announced it was completely closing the southbound side of Princess Street between Pacific Avenue and Ross Avenue due to "the unsafe condition of an area building," but didn’t specify the building.
On Monday, a city spokesperson confirmed to the Free Press that the closure is the result of "an unexpected structural event during renovations" at 216 Princess Street.
"As a precaution of public safety, the stretch of road and sidewalk adjacent to the building has been closed until further notice," wrote the spokesperson.
"The City is now working with the building owner and developer on options for remediation. There’s no timeline available as of yet for remediation of the building."
Gordon Goldsborough, president of the Manitoba Historical Society, said he toured the building about a month ago and felt it shift while he was inside.
"I was walking and the apartment is shifting and I thought, is it safe to be in here? I’m just a little worried that if the building suddenly decides to go while I’m here, I’m gone," he said during a phone interview Monday.
Goldsborough said the building previously had scaffolding set up around its perimeter while crews worked inside. Now, he pointed out large cracks are blooming on the exterior, large enough to fit his hand inside.
The hall was built in 1903 and has municipal heritage status, having been the original headquarters of the Orange Order of Manitoba, a fraternal group that Goldsborough described as being pro-Protestant and anti-Catholic.
"There was a very large mural inside, because their patron sort of saint is William of Orange, who was a prince in the Netherlands back in the 1700s," Goldsborough said.
"He’s well known for... basically a battle between the Protestant army and the Catholic army. The Protestants won and ever since, they’ve sort of lorded it over the Catholics, like ‘We won the battle.’ So every one of these Orange lodges has a big mural showing William of Orange riding a big stallion and charging into battle," he said.
"So there was a beautiful mural inside this hall and one of the parts of the deal is they were supposed to preserve that mural for its historical value."
Thomas Scott was an Irish Protestant immigrant who was killed by firing squad in 1870 during the Red River Resistance for, among other crimes, slandering Louis Riel.
Goldsborough suspects the whole building may have to be torn down, as repairs could cost millions.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Solomon Israel is a full-time reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and for two years, the lead writer for Free Press cannabis news site, The Leaf News. He continues to provide coverage of the cannabis beat while covering business in the city and province.
Updated on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 6:44 AM CST: Corrects reference to Red River Resistance