Dominion Exhibition Display Building II

NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE SORELY NEGLECTED

Lack of funding support from the provincial and federal governments—who have both designated this monument to Canada’s agricultural heritage—has left Brandon’s Display Building II hovering on the brink of collapse.

Why it matters 

Many generations of families have celebrated agriculture and manufacturing under the impressive domed roof of Display Building II. This architectural monument is the last surviving building of those constructed for the Dominion Fair held in Brandon in 1913. Designed in Beaux-Arts Classical style by Walter H. Shillinglaw and David Marshall, two prominent Brandon architects, it also served as a display space for the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba’s (PEM) three annual events: the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, the Manitoba Summer Fair and the Manitoba Livestock Expo. Already designated a National Historic Site, the province declared the building a Provincial Heritage Site in 1984, recognizing it as “a rare surviving example of agricultural buildings constructed in Manitoba.”

Why it’s endangered

Display Building Number II was in poor condition and deteriorating rapidly. When nominated to the list in 2009, it was feared that the building may collapse over the next couple of years. There were holes and gaps in the walls, exposing the structure to vandals and risk of fire. It was being used as a storage facility for PEM, which was trying to find funding to restore the landmark and adapt it for office space to house five non-profit organizations, as well as an interactive museum for children. The building is owned by Keystone Agricultural and Recreational Centre Inc. which has been unable to afford the necessary repairs to reverse the display building’s deterioration. Keystone would like to apply to have Display Building Number II de-designated to make way for demolition.

Where Things Stand

There is tremendous community support for the building’s rehabilitation. As well as the non-profits wanting to relocate to the site because of its historical connection to agriculture and Brandon, the Commonwealth Air Training Museum has agreed to build new windows and the Agricultural Museum in Austin to mill wood for replacement siding. All three neighbouring municipalities have agreed to pass motions supporting the project, as has Brandon’s municipal heritage committee. PEM was unsuccessful in its application for funding from the Building Canada Program, and general manager Karen Oliver is feeling less confident about the future of the site. “The building may have seen its last hurrah and that is a very sad thought. Time is running out and saving it is now beyond our means,” she worries. Oliver sees creating a hub of agriculture and education as a great use of the building and a sound solution to the problem. A substantial financial commitment from a provincial or federal body would give the building a fighting chance to recapture its former glory.

 

Update 2014: In 2009, the federal government committed $450,000 in matching funds to the conservation of the Display Building under the National Historic Sites Cost Sharing Program, including roof, windows, walls and the unique corner towers. In 2010, the Province of Manitoba contributed $500,000 to the project. By April 2014, exterior renovations were completed. The $3 million project has cost $1 million less than anticipated, thanks to assistance from local volunteers, but more funds need to be raised to complete needed interior upgrades.

Location: Brandon, MB

Top 10 Endangered Places List: 2009

Status: Saved

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