Resident looking for more info about historic building
Swift Current business owner Lawrence Carr is hoping to learn more about a historic building in the city and he wants to hear from anyone who might know something about it.
“It's one of the oldest buildings in Swift Current,” he said. “It was built in 1883 and so there are different tales of it, but we're not sure they all are true or aren't true.”
He purchased the property at 435 North Railway Street East, at the corner of 5th Avenue NE, in May 2017 and he wants to preserve the building.
He has an interest in old buildings and he prefers them to be as original as possible. He believes it is important to preserve built heritage and he also owns the historic Royal Bank of Canada building in the city's downtown area, which was built in 1913.
“I love heritage,” he said. “To get rid of your heritage is like taking an eraser and erasing it, but you never get it back. You knock that down and you'll never get it back. It's part of who we are. I'm very passionate about these buildings.”
The structure on North Railway Street East is considered to be a good example of a fieldstone building from that time period. A previous owner obtained a demolition permit in 2012, but he did not go ahead with his plan to destroy it.
“I think it was so expensive to rip it down, because it's all fieldstone, that it just got left for a while and then I got interested in it,” Carr said.
His goal is to restore the building and then to lease out the space. The downstairs can be used as an office space and the upstairs might be a living space.
“I want to make it look original when I'm done,” he said. “I've already ripped all the inside out. I've taken eight and a half tons of lathe and plaster and junk out of there. So I got it all ripped apart on the inside and we started to level the floor a little bit.”
He feels the building's condition is still pretty good, but the fieldstone will require a lot of repointing and various other details will need attention.
“All the sand is coming apart in all the joints and they've done it with some other stuff and it's not right,” he said. “So every stone will have to be repointed again. ... The old chimney still remains and pretty much all of it is intact for the most part. The most important part is the outside anyway. There's a bunch of stones missing that have come out from around the windows that they didn't do right or they knocked a new window in and then didn't do it right. So all that stuff has to be fixed up properly.”
It will take a while to get all the work done, and he has no specific schedule for completing this restoration project.
“I'm just chipping away at it, doing what I can, because it's going to take money over a period of time,” he said. “It's going to cost a lot, so I'll just have to chip away at it.”
In the meantime he has been researching the building's history and he has already gathered a file of information. One of the challenges has been to distinguish between folklore and fact.
According to local folklore the building might have been used by both CP Rail and the North West Mounted Police, but so far no records have been found to confirm this. By 1911 a local merchant and business owner Dean Sawtelle owned the property, but it was sold after his death in 1918.
Carr has been able to confirm that the building was used by the RCMP after 1928, but the exact time period is not clear yet. An archival photo of the building clearly shows the letters RCMP above the back door.
He also knows it became a rooming house at some time, but the exact dates are not clear. He received information from a local resident that five families stayed in the house at the same time during the 1940s and 1950s, when there was one bathroom on the main floor with a toilet in the basement.
He installed a large sign on the building's exterior that asks anyone with information to give him a call. There were a few responses, but only one follow-up e-mail with information from a person who lived in the building.
“It was pretty neat to get that,” he said.
He is hoping to receive more information about the building from anyone who lived there or who knows someone who was a resident. Photographs of the building's exterior or interior are also welcome.
“Anything or any pictures, it doesn't matter from when,” he said. “All the way back and any information.”
Anyone with information about the property at 435 North Railway Street East can call Lawrence Carr at 306-7414494 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Above: A copy of an archival photo shows the letters RCMP above the back door.At lft: Lawrence Carr found this W.W. Cooper Store pamphlet from the Second World War inside the old building.
Lawrence Carr looks at an old newspaper that he found at the chimney inside the old building.