MHS Short Features: A Photo Gallery of Deconstruction

by Gordon Goldsborough, Tim Worth, and Gerry Humphreys

In March 2004, the Manitoba Historical Society began to build a Visitors’ Centre attached to its Dalnavert Museum at 61 Carlton Street in Winnipeg. The new structure, designed by architect Wins Bridgman, was intended to showcase the 1895 house by wrapping around the rear of it, on the north and south sides. A neighbouring two-storey brick building on the south side, at 57 Carlton Street, had to be removed. Rather than demolish the 70-year-old building, the Society decided to deconstruct it slowly and carefully so its materials could be used in the new construction project or sold or traded to other contractors. The following photographs were among those taken during the process of deconstructing the building, as a more environmentally-sustainable alternative to demolition.

Below is a view of 57 Carlton before the start of the deconstruction project.

This is the appearance of 57 Carlton as the deconstruction project began.

In this view of the rear of 57 Carlton, deconstruction of the two-garage has begun.

This is the view of the rear of 57 Carlton after the two-car garage had been removed to make way for equipment needed during the deconstruction.

This is a rear view of the building before deconstruction began.

One of the first steps in the deconstruction was the removal of interior drywall to expose the stud walls and remove bats of fibreglass insulation.

Bats of fibreglass insulation removed intact from the walls were stored in the remaining garage to be reused in poorly insulated areas of Dalnavert Museum.

After the roof shingles and underlying tar paper were removed, the boards nailed to the roof trusses were removed carefully.

A closeup view of the removal of roof boards from the trusses.

Salvaged fir timbers were sorted and stacked on site. Useable ones were earmarked to be used as wall studs in the new Visitors Centre.

With the roof trusses removed, along with the interior stud walls of the second floor, disassembly of the bricks walls could begin.

In this view, the exterior brick walls of the second floor are mostly gone.

Bricks salvaged from the second floor were carried by wheelbarrow to the staircase and dumped down. At the bottom, they were stacked on palettes so they could be sold or traded to other contractors.

Fir floor joists of the second floor were removed.

After the second floor was removed, the former stairway that had been used during deconstruction to bring recovered bricks to the ground was removed.

Around the entranceway of the first floor, we can see the inner course of yellow construction-grade bricks and the outer course of more expensive red bricks.

At this point, most of the brick exterior walls had been disassembled.

By this point, all that was left of the building was the concrete basement.

Mortar sticking to the salvaged bricks was carefully removed by hand.

Palettes of bricks were stored nearby until they were either reused in the construction project or sold or traded to another contractor.

Nearing the end of the deconstruction project, piles of salvaged wood lay around the site.

The fir joists and oak floorboards were salvaged carefully.

When all of the reuseable materials from 57 Carlton had been recovered, the concrete walls of the basement were demolished. In theory, the concrete could be crushed for use as aggregate but the reinforcing steel embedded in it would make that a difficult operation.

Some of the fir wall studs recovered from 57 Carlton were used to build walls in the new Visitors Centre next door. They are darker in colour than new studs with which they were used.

In addition to using re-used fir studs in walls, they were also used for headers in doorways as seen in the view below.

Red bricks recovered from 57 Carlton were used to build a short decorative wall around the new Visitors Centre.

From start to finish, the deconstruction of 57 Carlton Street took about one month. What is cost-effective? Maybe not. Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely!

Page revised: 6 February 2021