Few examples of the faux-tile, sheet metal roof covering 13 Leopold were found.
Of great interest in a heritage assessment is the builder or architect of the structure in question. And this is where the previous work of one of the researchers was invaluable. Ross Herrington, who died suddenly in October, 2015, had already researched the Waterman-Waterbury Manufacturing Company, its vice-president Watchler and its unregistered architect Milton Campbell. Despite Herrington`s exhaustive lists, however, the connection between the W-W architect Campbell and the Watchler home could not be verified so the researchers could only suggest that Campbell was most likely the architect.
Because the interior details of a house may be of greater value than the exterior details, they must be assessed as well. While a personal inspection of 13 Leopold Crescent’s interior was not possible at the time, photographs of it were featured in a 1988 Leader Post article about the home and its owners, the Bennetts. They revealed an interior with art-plastered walls, Spanish Revival arched alcoves and doorways, and gumwood door and window frames, the latter uncommon in Regina.
The 1988 article also quoted Beverley Bennett’s assertion that the half-basement contained a “bomb shelter,” a rarity indeed. The son-in-law of the second owner of 13 Leopold Crescent scoffed at the idea, but a later inspection of the area appeared to confirm it.
A heritage assessment requires discussion of the site’s history as it relates to the history of the region as well. And of immediate interest was the erstwhile north neighbour: 11 Leopold, which was entered into the City’s Building Permit Book in 1944, the same year 13 Leopold Crescent, was listed. By 1973, 11 Leopold had disappeared but 1959 aerial photographs indicate design elements similar to 13 Leopold, such as corner windows and a central projection terminated by a curved wall, probably the entrance and foyer, at the front. The house was built by Fred Solomon, uncle of Saskatchewan’s current Lieutenant Governor, Honourable Vaughn Solomon-Schofield.
Yet another aspect of the site’s history particularly intrigued construction historian Frank Korvemaker, one of the researchers. His investigation, for example, outlined the reason why the Watchler and Solomon homes were built in the mid-1940s, while the first homes in the Crescents area were built in 1910, followed by most of the others in the 1920s.
As Korvemaker explained, the layout of the Crescents originally appeared in 1882 as part of Regina’s first town survey. This plan was subsequently incorporated into the 1914 Mawson Plan for Wascana Park and its immediate surroundings. Thomas Henry Mawson, incidentally, was internationally well known for his urban landscape designs.
The properties serving as the major gateway to the Crescents, 11 and 13 Leopold Crescent, however, were not developed until 1945 because of the proposed location of a Grand Trunk Pacific Railway station at the northwest corner of College Avenue and Albert Street. A small temporary station was erected at this site in 1911, and its large, stone replacement, designed in the Chateau style to complement the GTP’s Chateau Qu’Appelle Hotel under construction on the southeast corner, was planned for the eastern terminus of the GTP’s line, which was to be built along College Avenue west of Albert Street.
The GTP station was to straddle the northwest and southwest corners of Albert and College but, in 1923, the GTP company was taken over by the federal government and merged with Canadian Northern Railway to form the Canadian National Railway. As a result, the plans for the GTP station were cancelled.
“Consequently, the encumbered southwest and northwest corner lots were apparently unavailable for new construction until sometime in the early- or mid-1940s and, by the time they finally went on the market, local architects and builders were incorporating elements of the latest international trends into their home designs. This accounts for the radical style difference between the Solomon and Watchler houses at 11 and 13 Leopold Crescent, and the other houses in The Crescents,” wrote Korvemaker in the research report.
Despite this fascinating history and unique design, and despite the best HR efforts to offer alternatives to demolition of 13 Leopold Crescent, however, the property owners have returned to their original plans to destroy the house and rebuild to their own design. City Planning Committee will officially review their request at their meeting on April 25th, 2016.
Margaret Hryniuk (co-researcher)