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Province House restoration work on schedule

The first phase of work on the massive restoration of Province House is coming to a close. A steel exoskeleton is being constructed to help stabilize the building as the $47-million project continues. JORDAN DOIRON/SPECIAL TO THE GUARDIAN
The first phase of work on the massive restoration of Province House is coming to a close. A steel exoskeleton is being constructed to help stabilize the building as the $47-million project continues. JORDAN DOIRON/SPECIAL TO THE GUARDIAN - Submitted

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - One of the most historic construction projects ever undertaken in P.E.I. is progressing on schedule.

Janette Gallant, partnering, engagement and communications officer with the P.E.I. field unit of Parks Canada, says they’re about to cross a milestone in the $47-million structural facelift of Province House in Charlottetown.

“Parks Canada is pleased to report that phase one of the Province House conservation project is coming to a close,’’ Gallant says.

Since May of 2017, extensive work has been ongoing to protect and stabilize the building.

The work has been led by the contractor for phase one of the project, Quinan Construction Ltd., in preparation for the start of the next phase.

A steel exoskeleton is being constructed to help stabilize the building and to provide a safe and efficient work platform. The perimeter fence is under construction and the foundation of the building is being excavated.

“Phase one has also involved the protection and, in some cases, the removal of the historic features found inside Province House that form part of the character-defining elements,’’ Gallant said.

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These include columns, pilasters, ceiling medallions, arches, windows and the central staircase.

Gallant said each of these elements has been diligently wrapped and tagged for protection. They will be reintroduced into the building during a later phase of the project.

Quinan Construction Ltd. brought key people from Ontario and supplemented staff with local labour. The majority of the subcontractors on this project have been Island firms.

In addition, Gallant said the contractor collaborated with the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. to engage an indigenous employee and graduates from the heritage retrofit carpentry program at Holland College were selected to work on the project.

The contract for construction management for the next phases of the Province House restoration project was awarded on Oct. 6 to PCL Constructors Ltd.

Work will begin later this year.

The building that hosted the original meeting of the Fathers of Confederation that led to the formation of Canada is being dismantled, stone by stone, and then put back together.

It’s a massive undertaking that took two years of pre-design, engineering and conservation planning before anyone put a shovel in the ground.

The building is in need of significant and extensive repairs due to water infiltration that has caused the interior Island sandstone walls to crumble.

Province House has an exterior walls made from light coloured stone from Nova Scotia, and an interior wall made from Island sandstone.

The interior wall is being entirely replaced by construction brick while the exterior stones will be cleaned, removed, repaired and placed back again.

The roof must also be replaced with more modern roofing material, but this will be covered by copper and slate, to retain the heritage defining elements of the building.

The building operates as P.E.I.’s provincial legislature, but also as a museum and tourist attraction.

It is owned by the province but operated by Parks Canada thanks to a 99-year memorandum of understanding, signed in 1974, making the federal government responsible for any “restoration, preservation, interpretation and administration’’ of the building.

Ottawa has dedicated $47 million to the project, including $6 million earmarked for fire code updates and universal accessibility features to enhance safety and public accessibility.

The conservation project is managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), on behalf of Parks Canada.

PSPC is Canada’s centre of expertise for conserving Canada’s public built heritage.

Parks Canada is expected to share more information about the next two phases of the project later this month.

dave.stewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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