“It’s Huge”: Parks Canada Reinstalls First Restored Window in Province House

Parks Canada marks a milestone in the renovation work at the Province House: the first of 101 windows was reinstalled in the historic building.

The windows were removed in 2018 as part of the $ 91.8 million renovation project, and all but two were sent to a workshop in Ontario for restoration.

Reinstalling the first window took more than nine hours in two sessions. Due to COVID-19, the work has been led by experts both remotely and on-site.

“We had all of our specialists, engineers and architects on Videolink,” said Nicolle Gallant, project manager at Parks Canada.

Reinstalling the first window took more than nine hours and was remotely guided by experts due to COVID-19. (Parks Canada)

“The people installing the window had it with them to ask questions while the process was going on, so it was really interesting to watch.”

Gallant said the team now has a feel for the potential challenges of installing the remaining historic windows, which are more sophisticated than modern windows.

“No window will ever be the same, nothing was square, nothing was flat because it’s an older building,” said Gallant.

“It took a lot of maneuvers, a lot of different tools, to figure out how much clearance was required between the frame itself and the masonry.”

Gallant said the crew learned valuable lessons from reinstalling the first of the restored windows. (Parks Canada)

Gallant said it was “huge” to see the window reinstalled.

“To be honest, it’s a bit cheesy to say, but it gives me the creeps because it’s just one step in the right direction,” said Gallant.

“It was such a long process of improving the design and how we wanted to approach the entire renovation ourselves.

“Finally getting up to something and seeing it fully, it’s just really exciting and being in the building and seeing the difference, it’s just fantastic.”

Gallant says the goal is to have the restored windows installed by summer 2021 and complete the entire project in 2022. (Kirk Pennell / CBC)

Restoration stalled

Two of the original windows remained on Prince Edward Island to be restored by students of Holland College’s retrofit joinery program.

But the COVID-19 pandemic stalled restoration efforts in March when the students were sent home.

Now a second group of students will get a first look at the historic windows and will eventually be able to take part in their restoration.

According to Silver, the “silver lining” due to the delays in COVID-19 is a second cohort of Holland College students working on the historic windows. (Nancy Russell / CBC)

“They are stripped down, all of the original coatings have been removed and we have reduced them to bare wood, which is ideal for our students,” said learning manager Josh Silver.

“Now we can investigate what problems are appearing in the windows, what to fix, how to fix them and get them into perfect shape.”

Silver said it was an unexpected opportunity for his new students.

“I hesitate to say that COVID is a good thing, but maybe the silver lining to my program from COVID is that our students had to attend that program last year,” said Silver.

Silver says that work on the provincial house windows will likely be on his students’ résumés for his entire career. (Nancy Russell / CBC)

“This type of project is so important and so rare that it will likely be included on these students’ résumés for the rest of their lives. I am personally delighted to have two cohorts of graduates working on them.”

Silver said it will take about 80 hours to restore the windows, which he estimates will take about two months, mixed with other classwork.

“Most of our students are inexperienced and we take them from scratch and build their skills to the point where they make mistakes. Now they are learning,” said Silver.

“When we’ve ironed everything out, we can work on something as important as the windows.”

COVID-19 delays

Gallant said COVID-19 reset the project and Parks Canada is still adding up the numbers to find out how much.

Josh Silver and Nicolle Gallant look at the weights used to lift the original window in the Province House. They will be restored as part of the project. (Kirk Pennell / CBC)

“A lot of our bricklayers and workers on site are not from here, so they wanted their families to be at home as they should be, so we definitely lost a lot of our workforce as a result,” Gallant said.

“But we could still keep the site open, we still had some here. But obviously we lost some time because we just didn’t have the workforce we were used to.”

Gallant said the goal is to have the restored windows installed by summer 2021 and complete the entire project in 2022.

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