Progress is often considered a good thing. Progression is good for personal growth, for relationships and for society. Even the smallest bit of progress – another two minutes at the gym or a few hundred words on an essay – is better than no progress at all.
(Editor's Note: WOW! I didn't expect to get so much feedback for this article. I was featured in both the Regina Leader-Post and on CJTR's Queen City Improvement Bureau! Thank you for all the support, everybody!)
(Editor's Note #2: Looks like the city is going to reevaluate the cost and find a more reasonable alternative. What awesome news!)
Progress goes wrong when we forget where we came from. I write a lot about history for that reason. It's impossible to understand the world if you don't understand how it came to be. Without our heritage, our society has no identity, and without our identity, we lose who we once were. Simply put, without our heritage we are nothing.
Recently, Regina lost one of our prized heritage structures, the Travellers Bulding. While this beautiful brick building burnt down last week, it was actually lost many years ago when it was abandoned and handed over to the pigeons. Heritage Regina's Jackie Schmidt said it best when she said it wasn't demolished by fire, but instead was demolished by neglect.
The former Canadian Liquid Air Company building on the corner of Winnipeg Street and 4th Ave appears to have a similar fate. This beautiful brick building is boarded up, closed down and abandoned. During the summer it's common to see pigeons squirming through the broken windows, or hear their haunting coos from within its walls. As buildings are constructed around it at an alarming rate, this one will soon too be lost in the name of progress. With its loss, our city will lose the location where Constable George Anthony Lenhard was murdered in 1933, the first of two Regina police officers ever killed on the line of duty. With no plaque and no building to remember his sacrifice, not only the building, but also the memory of Constable Lenhard, will be lost to time.
While there have been success stories of saving our beautiful heritage properties from decay, there have been scores of others that never received such happy endings. One of the most recent is the Sears Outlet store on 1908 7th Ave. Built in 1918, this towering building quickly became one of Regina's Warehouse District's most iconic structures. For nearly a century it served the people of Regina, but today is sits empty, waiting to be reused or, most likely, destroyed.
A statue of Louis Riel – a man some regard as one of Canada's Founding Fathers, while others consider him a heretic – was removed from Wascana Park decades ago and put into storage, hidden from the public. Besides a small plaque in Victoria Park, this was the only physical piece of history that connects Louis Riel to this city. There isn't even a marker on the spot where he was executed in 1885.
Another victim to progress is the fountain in Confederation Park, near the New Mosaic Stadium. Over the years this beautiful structure has crumbled and fallen into disrepair. A stark contrast of priorities can be seen when comparing this decayed fountain to the towering majestic stadium mere feet away. While there's talk about repairing it, the ability to repair such an old fountain is seemingly fading with each season.
The Davin Fountain, another beautiful fountain that once sat in Victoria Park (then Victoria Square), ended up in storage decades ago and has slowly rotted away. What once was the pride of the city has fallen into disrepair, and it is estimated to cost $100,000 to revive it.
The list could go on about places and things that have been lost in the name of progress. These would include places such as the former City Hall, Kiddieland, the Regina Civic Museum, the Capitol Theatre, the 92-year-old Novia Cafe, the clock that once hung in Union Station and many more. These locations had a definite beginning, memorable middle and solemn end. They were loved, and they were lost. If a piece of our heritage must be lost, it should be lost fondly by the people they represent.
Transparency is necessary for this kind of thing, and public knowledge about the fate of these relics is paramount. Yet, for some reason, the Regina Glockenspiel is different. This 30 foot high, 23 bell glockenspiel was added to Victoria Park in 1985 to celebrate Regina's German heritage. This proud symbol, while still fully functional, was removed in 2010 during the construction of the City Square Plaza. It was placed in storage until construction was complete, and it would be reinstalled.
But that never happened.
For seven years the public has waited for the glockenspiel to return, and for seven years the requests have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, nobody from the Regina German Club or the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan has seen it since 2010. Instead, the city told them it was safe in storage and properly maintained.
The glockenspiel was found in a
junk yard "outdoor storage facility" on the corner of Toronto Street and 7th Ave, exposed to the elements and rusting away like forgotten trash. This piece of Regina heritage was not put in storage proper storage, it was not maintained and there was obviously no desire to reinstall it. This was a deliberate action to remove a part of our culture. Unlike the Travellers Bulding, this was not demolished by neglect, but by contempt.
I try to keep personal opinions out of my blog, but I couldn't in this case. I have memories eating hotdogs with my mom in the park and listening to the bells of the glockenspiel ring. Seeing this beautiful bell tower tossed aside is like somebody taking my memories and saying they weren't good enough. Seeing the glockenspiel like this makes me mad. Our city is young, our heritage is still in its infancy and this was a symbol of communal pride. Not only was it destroyed, but it was covered up and lied about to the public. There is no excuse for this.
On March 16th, 2017, the City of Regina passed a bill to reinstall the glockenspiel by 2018. However, the re-installation comes with a heafy price tag of a half million dollars – five times that of the Davin Fountain's repairs, and the Davin Fountain was deemed too expensive to fix. The city then justified the cost of it by saying that it needed to be cleaned and restored, things that wouldn't have to happen had it not been rusting in a junk yard for three quarters of a decade.
The final decision on this piece of Regina's heritage will be on March 27th, but many believe restoration will not come to be. Some say it's a question of money, but others think different. It is possible that the tense relationship and clashes between the city and the German community during the past century motivated its removal. I want to clarify that I do not believe the desecration of the glockenspiel was a deliberate act to keep German heritage out of the city center, but I do believe the city had no intentions of ever putting the glockenspiel back.
Our heritage is our heritage, and losing the glockenspiel would be losing a piece of ourselves. Please share this article and remind people that the cost of losing our heritage is not worth that of progress.
Editor's Note: The pictures of the glockenspiel do not belong to me. The one of it standing upright was taken by Guy D., while the one of it laying down was provided by an anonymous source.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.