character: (n) 1. the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. 2. moral or ethical quality.
Just like people have character, so too do communities and neighbourhoods.
From events that took place at the city’s birth, or in more recent times with the influx of people from diverse regions of the world, it’s our shared sense of history and culture that make up the soul of this community.
And part of that soul is reflected in the architecture of the buildings that line our streets and boulevards and create our city skyline.
A review of Manitoba’s interesting architectural history found on gimliheritage.ca suggests the first generation of significant Manitoba public buildings rose between the “chaos of the 1880s real estate boom and 1885,” as government buildings were constructed in Winnipeg, Brandon and other Manitoba communities such as Neepawa and Emerson.
“With elaborate and exuberant Victorian styles, teeming with details inside and out, these new buildings were palpable symbols to citizens and newcomers alike of the ‘arrival’ of the province,” the report reads. “Impressive churches and schools in Winnipeg, Brandon and Portage la Prairie added to the vivid expression of the wealth and growing sophistication of the new cities.”
As Brandon grew, more neighbourhoods were constructed, with many homes and other structures in the downtown region built upon interesting architectural styles, including neo-classical, Italianate, Gothic revival and Romanesque.
They don’t call them character buildings for nothing.
Though we’ve said it before, it’s worth repeating: They don’t make buildings in these styles anymore, and the Brandon of the past will never come again.
When possible, it’s important to preserve as much of that architecture as we can, not just for posterity’s sake, or even out of sheer sentimentality, but for all the reasons that make Brandon a unique and interesting place to live.
For example, take Display Building No. 2 on the Keystone Centre grounds — the Dome building. The building will become the eventual home of the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame, the Manitoba 4-H Council and the headquarters for the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba.
The ongoing efforts to preserve, restore and repurpose this important agricultural structure and national heritage site should make every Brandonite proud.
In the same way, the repurposing of the former Brandon Mental Health Centre on the North Hill into a new campus for Assiniboine Community College is a worthy project that will give new life to a historic part of the city.
Unfortunately, as the Sun reported on the weekend, the massive potential that is the North Hill site will require millions of provincial dollars and years of work before it’s ever completed. And though Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell insists plans are moving forward on schedule, it’s impossible not to notice that there seems to be a definite lag time in effect between the completion of the Len Evans Centre for Trades and Technology and the next phase of construction.
We urge the province to move forward more quickly on ACC’s move from Victoria Avenue to the North Hill campus. Time is not on the city’s side, as buildings continue to deteriorate without use and construction costs rise. Part of the character of our city is in your hands.
It’s time our politicians show the strength of their own character and get this project back on track.