A West Victoria Street building with plenty of history has received a facelift.
The Old Federal Building at 207 West Victoria St., which dates back to the early 1900s and is now occupied by Kamloops Makerspace, has a new front staircase, a gate, a roof and landscaping — all the result of a collaboration launched around the city’s West Victoria Street rehabilitation project.
Kamloops artist and Makerspace member Vaughn Warren said the area in front of the building was previously a “mess.”
“Now we have this beautiful gate, with some art metal,” he said, explaining the renovation.
“The city put in the flower beds, we have a new metro gold Maple tree, which is beautiful for the Federal Building, banners, new lighting.”
Warren gave time to co-ordinate the renovation project, which began about two years ago, and said a number of community partners — the city, Extreme Excavating, Urban Appeal Landscaping, GH Innovations, Michael Lynn of MC Squared Developments, which owns the property, and others — contributed about $90,000 to revamp the property.
Although the building is not designated a heritage structure, Warren said it is important to maintain the city’s history.
The building is more than a century old and was once at the centre of the city’s main street in Chinatown. Warren said the building was constructed in 1900 and, at that time, it was the federal government’s headquarters in Kamloops.
“A building like this is priceless,” Warren said. “Once it’s gone, you’ll never see anything like it. It also anchors this historic section of Kamloops. This is this oldest section of Kamloops.”
Warren said older buildings were made to last, which is what has led to the structure still standing on West Victoria Street today.
At first the federal government’s headquarters locally, the building was later home to the post office and Indian Affairs.
John Freemont Smith, a Kamloops pioneer and one of the first black alderman elected in Canada, at one time had an office in the building, working for Indian Affairs.
His office is now home to a design lab with a flashy new vinyl cover, gifted by Extreme Excavating in February.
The building later became a men’s hostel and has since been the home of Kamloops Makerspace, a non-profit that offers a place for people, at a monthly membership rate, to build, create, tinker and design.
Additional efforts to restore the venerable building are ongoing.
Warren said every time a room is renovated, efforts are made to preserve and showcase historic tin pan ceiling patterns, found in old government buildings.
“Gorgeous, original, Canadian federal government [tin pan],” he said.
A moment in time
As the area’s past is discussed in the present, people in the future will be looking back at this time.
Included in the Kamloops Makerspace/Federal Building renovation project is a time capsule created from those in the area today.
Warren said a tomb in the staircase contains a number of items, including newspaper articles, information about the area, an essay about the building from the Kamloops Museum and Archives, seeds and even DNA samples.
Warren said a number of people placed hair in envelopes, with a message to those in the future:
“If you can clone people, regenerate us!” he said with a laugh.
The time capsule is held by a skeleton wearing the coveralls of Francis Ramunno, who has operated Riversyde Auto Repair in the West Victoria Street corridor for four decades.
Warren said Kamloops Makerspace is excited to be part of the West Victoria Street revitalization.
“It’s come a long way,” he said of the $13-million reconstruction project that was just completed last month.
“It’s hard to even remember what it looked like two years ago down here, but I have photos. It was really, really bad. It was really, really sad,” Warren said.
“Now it looks awesome. You see all of the companies that have stuck it out. More business, better access. Less unfortunate transient activity in the area. It’s really upped the bar, in terms of pride in the area.”