Volume 13, Number 2 September 9, 2005

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College Building doors reopen

Story & photos by Colleen MacPherson

U of S President Peter MacKinnon inspects a bust of the Carthaginian 
              general Hannibal from the Museum of Antiquities collection. The 
              museum has moved into new quarters on the first floor of the College 
              Building.

U of S President Peter MacKinnon inspects a bust of the Carthaginian general Hannibal from the Museum of Antiquities collection. The museum has moved into new quarters on the first floor of the College Building.

Photo by Colleen MacPherson


A crew from FMD installs banners in preparation for the rededication Sept. 6.

A crew from FMD installs banners in preparation for the rededication Sept. 6.

With the simple unveiling of a plaque Sept. 6, U of S President Peter MacKinnon finally saw the College Building returned to its former status as campus centrepiece, an event he has waited for since he took office.

In Nobel Plaza before a crowd of dignitaries and University faculty and staff, MacKinnon and Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert shared the unveiling duties, ending over two years and about $20.6 million worth of work on the building that was designated a provincial heritage property in 1982 and a National Historic Site in 2001. Built between 1910-12, it was partially vacated in 1984 when crumbling support pillars caused significant sagging. The deterioration continued and the building was abandoned completely in 1997.

In an interview prior to the rededication, MacKinnon said he is “enormously relieved” the project is complete. Since becoming president seven years ago, he has found it “unimaginable that we could let the building deteriorate to the point of collapse”.

The original plan for the restoration, which a University official once equated to replacing the bones of a human skeleton from the inside, envisioned the cost divided three ways between the University, the province and the federal government. Saskatchewan committed nearly $7 million from its Centenary Fund and the University secured its contribution but the federal portion has never materialized. Facing the threat of seeing the building collapse, the University opted to proceed by shouldering two-thirds of the cost.

Discussions with federal officials have gone on since 2000 “and we continue to work to secure a federal contribution,” said MacKinnon, “but I would not bet my life on it. There is enough of a connection to the country as a whole to justify a federal interest in the project but, at the same time, the project does not fit neatly and nicely into most existing federal government programs.”

In hindsight, MacKinnon said, the decision to proceed without federal government involvement was the right one. With costs skyrocketing in the construction sector, contractors have told MacKinnon that to undertake the same project now would be cost prohibitive.

Emceed by University Chancellor Tom Molloy, the rededication ceremony included remarks about the historic significance of the building by University Architect Colin Tennent and the comment that the difficult restoration was “the most significant (historical conservation) undertaking in Canada outside the Parliament Buildings”.

In his remarks, Calvert spoke of the significant role the building has played in the history of the province, in both good times and bad, and described its refurbishment as “a gift to our future”.

The official ceremony kicked off a week of activities that included a reception for contractors and tradespeople who worked on the building, public tours, music events and a lecture about heritage conservation.


Quick College Building facts:
• Constructed between 1910-12 and officially opened May 1, 1913, what is now called the College Building was not the first building on campus. That honour goes to the Professor of Field Husbandry residence, built in 1911, and the Dean of Agriculture residence, now the Faculty Club, built in 1912.
• The College Building cost $297,000 to construct. By comparison, the husbandry prof’s house cost $5,500 and the dean’s residence was to have cost $9,500 until the Board of Governors decided to use local greystone. The cost then skyrocketed to $25,000.
• The College Building is a classic Elizabethan E shape in Collegiate Gothic style.
• Back when it was called the Agriculture Building, it was originally envisioned as a general-purpose building. A report to the provincial government in 1910 detailed the intended use including:
– Rooms for milk testing, butter making, and cheese making, ripening and storage
– A grain work room
– A large room for student lockers, showers, baths and wash basins
– Another large room for “gymnasium purposes”
– Animal husbandry museum
– Offices for the Registrar, Dean of Agriculture, Director of Extension Work and the President plus waiting rooms for men and women.
– Physics, chemistry and biology classrooms and labs
– Library
– And, under the east end of the building, quarters for the janitor.
• In 1984, the building was partially vacated. The unreinforced concrete support pillars were breaking down causing floors to sag.
• In 1997, the entire building was abandoned.


Historic Reconstruction Shopping List

1335 cubic meters of concrete
300 tons of structural steel
28,000 concrete blocks
1278 square meters of slate tile roofing
12,000 square meters of drywall
3750 square meters of spray foam insulation
6260 square meters of flooring
5 kilometers of wiring
1500 litres of paint
125 doors
920 light fixtures

The first official event in the building was student registration for Orientation, above, which took place in Convocation Hall Sept. 5.

The first official event in the building was student registration for Orientation, above, which took place in Convocation Hall Sept. 5.


Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert and President Peter MacKinnon, left, unveiled the plaque marking the rededication.

Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert and President Peter MacKinnon, left, unveiled the plaque marking the rededication.


Inside the building, Kent Archer, right, curator of the University's art collection, prepares to hang the first exhibits in the new gallery spaces.

Inside the building, Kent Archer, right, curator of the University's art collection, prepares to hang the first exhibits in the new gallery spaces.


For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca


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