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Champions to the rescue: Display Building No. II

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Display Building No. II, 2014


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Display Building No. II before renovation.

The tale of Brandon’s two national historic sites has, until recently, been quite different.

The Commonwealth Air Training Plan museum has always had plenty of TLC.

The Dominion Exhibition Display Building Number II, not so much.

In 2009, it made Heritage Canada’s Top Ten Endangered Places list.

The Display Building’s owner planned to demolish it.

A sad end for this unique structure, constructed for the 1913 Dominion Exhibition.

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Brandon had secured this prestigious event, after lobbying for several years. The organizers planned to put on ‘the best Exhibition ever.’

The Display Building (aka the Dome Building) played a key role in showcasing the latest innovations in agriculture and manufacturing.

As the dilapitated structure approached its 100th anniversary, two champions were determined to bring back its former glory.

Stan Cochrane served as the president of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba, from 2008 to 2010.

Karen Oliver Karen Oliver

Karen Oliver was general manager of the organization from 2003-2013.

The pair began to solicit support for the building’s restoration to its former glory.

It wasn’t easy at first.

The pro-demolition crowd just couldn’t see the value in restoring this distinctive building after decades of neglect.

But Stan and Karen knew that this unique landmark held significance for the city and the region.

“The Dominion Fair was a key piece of development for Brandon,” Karen said.

“Our economy and history are anchored around agriculture and the Display Building is an iconic representation of that.”

In 2009, the Provincial Exhibition launched their ‘Restoring the Glory’ fundrasing campaign.

Stan Gord Diane Peters

Gord and Diane Peters, also strong believers in the value of rescuing this unique National Historic Site, stepped up to co-chair campaign.

The federal government contributed $425,000 to the project.

This was followed by $500,000 from the province a year later.

With this funding in place, along with its own contribution of $300,000, the Provincial Exhibition Board began Phase One of the restoration project.

Phase Two began in 2011, thanks to $450,000 from the province.

The initial actions of Karen and Stan led to ongoing support for the project from businesses, individuals, corporations, such as CN Rail, along with the city, provincial and federal governments.

“There is so much support from the community for this project,” said Karen. “It’s gratifying to see people pulling together.”

These contributions led to the completion of exterior restoration in the spring of 2015.

Offices are being constructed for the Provincial Ex and the other agricultural non profit agencies that will rent space in the building.

The fundraising campaign is ongoing, with the project scheduled for completion in 2017.

photos: top Display Building No. II, middle  Karen Oliver, bottom  L-R: Stan Cochrane, Diane Peters, Gord Peters

 – reprinted from Brandon Now magazine

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Today’s Throwback

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Display Building No. II 1913. photo: Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba

From 1879-1913 the Federal Department of Agriculture annually selected one of Canada’s Summer Fairs as the Dominion Exhibition.

A $50,000 grant was provided for buildings and prizes.

As detailed in Pride of the Land, a history of Brandon’s agricultural exhibitions, Brandon lobbied for several years for this honour:

“Finally, news arrived in September 1912 that Brandon would be the site of the 1913 Dominion Exhibition.

Organizers immediately made plans to produce ‘the biggest show ever’.

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Eighty more acres of land were purchased, bringing the fair grounds to a full 200 acres.

The old grandstand was torn down and replaced with a 5,000-seat venue. New display buildings were erected.

The race track was replaced and the grounds and facilities were expanded or improved.

The national Dominion Exhibition annually showcased the latest innovations in agriculture and manufacturing.

The 11,463-square-foot Display Building, constructed to house the trade show, was arguably “among the most in-demand venues of the event.”

The local architectural firm of Shillinglaw and Marshall designed the venue to be as impressive on the outside as the products showcased inside.

Heritage Canada refers to the Display Building (also known as the Dome Building) as typical in scale and composition of the Beaux-Arts Classicism style of architecture’.

It boasts imposing entrance facades, domed corner pavilions, exuberant decorative elements, a large volume of space and interrelated exterior features.

The wood building’s arched windows, columns and flat roof are also characteristic of Beaux-Arts architecture.

The style was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Brandon’s Chamber of Commerce building, formerly the Merchants Bank, is an example of Beaux-Arts architecture as is Manitoba’s Legislative Building.

– reprinted from Brandon Now magazine

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