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The Nelson Photo News




After many months of wrangling, of offer and counter-offer, the Nelson City Council at its July meeting decided to sanction the demolition of the 110-year-old Provincial Building. We were not very surprised at the decision, but a little perplexed why it should have been made at last month's meeting of the Council. The Nelson Historical Society had been asked to detail its proposition for restoration, and its proposals came before the Council, along with detailed estimates of renovation costs. Surely these estimates should have been examined closely by the city engineer and even an independent engineer, to assess their value. They were not, and in this we feel the Council acted a little hastily. Is the matter so pressing that it could not have stood over for another four weeks?

The general public, we know, has been largely anti-restoration. This is due mainly to the impression that future upkeep on the old dilapidated building would be the responsibility of the Council and that finance for such upkeep could only come from an increase in rates. They also feel that the general taxpayer's money ($60,000 offered by the Government towards the cost of preservation) could be better spent on other. Government amenities in Nelson.

We disagree that the old building is ugly. It is, at the moment, under its coating of faded orange paint. It has a certain charm that is not found in more modern structures.


To obtain a better understanding of the condition of the building, and in particular the section of it considered for restoration (the council chamber or old court room and the two wings), we had a thorough look at the interior and exterior recently. Without any doubt at all, the rear section of the building is in a very poor condition. Studs, flooring, exterior woodwork and roofing have been badly beaten by weather and time. The main chamber also is in a very run-down condition and would eat up a great piece of the $60,000. In this section, also, rafters and ceiling joists (as much as could be seen) were badly rotted in parts and some parts of the flooring were dangerously unsafe. Other areas appeared to be in much better shape.

When the Minister of Works (Mr Allen) was in Nelson earlier this year he said the estimated cost of repairing the main section of the building was $100,000 and that the estimated annual maintenance costs were $20,000. Sprinkler fire alarm systems would add to these costs, he said.

No doubt the Council had these figures in mind when it made its decision last month.

On this page we print pictures taken in and around the building.


At left, the old flagstone walk through the building.


This small fern (ringed) was growing out of the rotted carpet.


One of the old strongroom doors leading into the wing vaults.


The old fire hydrants (no longer in use) are displayed for us Jby caretaker Mr Bert Brown.


Some sections of the exterior were badly rotted.


In many respects it is to be regretted that the old building is to come down. It has strong historical associations with the whole province. Had successive governments maintained the building as thev should have done while it was in use as Government offices for 90 years, then undoubtedly the situation we now have would not have arisen.


At left is a chain of history. On the 22-yard long block of concrete shown here were measured surveyors' chain measures. It is no longer used but Stewart Harris, a chainman, and Brian Fitzgerald, a surveyor from the Lands and Survey Department, demonstrate the technique for us.


Look-through the old, steel-shuttered windows to the new Government offices.


We discovered this quaint relic almost hidden by shrubbery.


Almost forgotten, right at the rear of the building, is the old warden's court.