Historic agricultural fair building refurbished

Dominion Exhibition Display Building No. II on the Provincial Exhibition grounds in Brandon is a rare example of halls built for agricultural fairs in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  |  Robert Arnason photo

Dominion Exhibition Display Building No. II | It is one of the few remaining buildings from the Dominion fair era in Canada

Visitors almost needed welding helmets to look directly at the four silver domes and gleaming white walls of Dominion Exhibition Display Building No. II on a brilliant but chilly day in early April.

The roof, walls and windows look fully refurbished after years of renovations on the building, which was built in Brandon in 1913 for the Dominion Fair.

Local fundraisers are now lobbying the federal and provincial governments for additional cash to complete interior renovations on the only display hall remaining in Canada from the dominion fairs.

“The Dominion Fair was a federally sponsored fair that moved around Canada (and) showcased agriculture,” said Gord Peters, co-chair of the fundraising team with his wife, Diane

“They don’t build buildings like this anymore…. Architecturally, it’s very important.”’

In 2009, the Heritage Canada Foundation listed the domed building as one the most endangered structures in the country.

Parks Canada, on its website, described the building as a “rare surviving example of the late 19th and early 20th century type of exhibition halls” built for agricultural fairs.

The building later served as a display space for the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, the Manitoba Summer Fair and Manitoba Livestock Expo. It deteriorated over time and was eventually used for storage.

Renovations began in 2009, and Daryl Knight, project manager for the restoration, said it’s been an education because contractors and volunteers had to maintain the building’s historical integrity.

“We’ve got to keep things the proper way, and it takes a lot of research and a lot of looking for material.”

Knight and his team have tackled difficult tasks such as placing new footings around the structure, installing a new floor and restoring windows.

The interior of the building looks solid, but timbers are exposed on the roof and walls.

Drywall, electrical, plumbing, heating and other modern renovations are required to finish the job.

Once complete, the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba and other tenants will use part of the building for office space.

“There’s going to be an interpretative museum in the back half of the building … all related to agriculture,” Peters said.

The $3 million project has cost $1 million less than anticipated, thanks to the assistance of local volunteers.

The provincial and federal governments have already contributed $1 million each to the project.

Peters and his team need another $3 million from government and private sources to reach the finish line.

Another $1 million will need to be raised in private donations.

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