Demolition is best option for Farnam Block
After sitting vacant for a year and a half, it appears Saskatoon’s historic Farnam Block will soon either be demolished or restored. Farnam Block’s time has passed however, making demolition the most realistic course of action.
While the block, commonly known as the “Lydia’s Building”, no doubt holds sentimental value for many of its former patrons — including many University of Saskatchewan students — it is apparent that the costs necessary for restoration may exceed the benefits. For this reason, owners Roger Kiva and Dean Potapinski have recently applied to the City of Saskatoon for a demolition permit.
In January, Kiva and Potapinski met with Saskatoon’s municipal heritage advisory committee to discuss potential alternatives for the building. While the city’s heritage conservation fund would cover up to $150,000 of the restoration costs, the owners could potentially be left footing the remainder of a $700,000 bill according to some appraisals.
One thing is for certain: the 103 year old Farnam Block can no longer sit vacant, collecting graffiti and costing its owners $40,000 a year in property taxes.
Even if the demolition permit application were to be denied and the Farnam Block restored, it is highly unlikely that Saskatoon would see a reincarnation of Lydia’s itself. Prior to the opening of the Capitol Music Club in May, owners Mitch Lupichuk and Leot Hanson purchased Lydia’s proper — but not the Farnham Block itself. Furniture, stage wood and the kitchen from Lydia’s were all used in the construction and furnishing of the Capitol. If one walks into the Capitol today, they are sure to see many reminders of Lydia’s, including the sign.
Although Lydia’s has moved on, there remains the question of what to do with the lot on which the Farnam Block stands. Luckily, Kiva and Potapinski are committed not only to maintaining, but also to developing the cultural and historic character of the Broadway area. They have confirmed that they plan to develop the space for retail, with the possibility of office-space as well.
Although former Lydia’s patrons will not get their favourite pub back as they knew it or even the building that housed it, they can be thankful that it won’t be turned into something as utilitarian as a parking lot.
As Saskatoon grows from a prairie town into a larger centre, it is imperative that the arts scene keeps pace with our population growth. If Saskatoon wishes to keep its reputation as a city with a surprising amount of cultural offerings for its size, then its citizens — and particularly its students — will need to keep up the demand.
As a new generation of students finds new outlets for events and letting off some of that university steam, so too should old buildings be redefined and made new. With Lydia’s reincarnated as the Capitol, fans of the former pub can still get their fix. This leaves room for the space that the Farnham Block occupies to be turned into something that will better suit the needs of future generations.
With burgeoning artistic and cultural activity in Riversdale, Broadway and the city centre, Saskatoon has no shortage of potential successors to Lydia’s Pub. New establishments such as the Underground Café, Village Guitar and Amp Co. and the Capitol Music Club of course, in addition to older venues such as the Yard and Flagon are having no trouble picking up the slack in the absence of Lydia’s. While many of us may still be lamenting the loss of one of Saskatoon’s favourite cultural institutions, it is time to turn our attention to the future.
Farnam Block an important part of city’s heritage
In light of the proposed demolition of the Farnam Block on Broadway Avenue, Saskatoon residents need to realize the importance of protecting and preserving its historic buildings.
Farnam Block — the building that formerly housed Lydia’s Pub — has sat empty since the summer of 2013. In the days since, the building has fallen into disrepair. The new owners are considering complete demolition as a way of developing the property. In the process, however, one of Saskatoon’s most iconic buildings would be lost.
While the building is in need of serious restoration, tearing it down completely is not the answer. It is possible to make the Farnam Block viable again without sacrificing its status as a part of Saskatoon’s history.
For over a century, the Farnam Block has sat at 640 Broadway Avenue. In that time, it’s been both a catholic church and a hotspot for nightlife, in the form of Lydia’s Pub. The City of Saskatoon has grown and changed around it and all along, the building has remained. It’s been a part of the local landscape longer than most people can remember and it would be almost impossible to imagine the Broadway area without it.
As there are more new developments, it gets harder and harder to preserve our city’s heritage. If Farnam Block is torn down, who’s to say that other historical buildings aren’t also at risk? Eventually, there could be very little left of Saskatoon from days gone by.
It’s not just the historical aesthetic that makes saving Farnam Block so important. There’s also the social and cultural significance of the place.
Lydia’s found a home there for many years. Countless musical performances have taken place — the Sheepdogs even played their very first show there! Other creative ventures such as Tonight It’s Poetry also began at Lydia’s. Farnam Block was a place that fostered the social fabric of the Broadway neighborhood. Imagine the friends made, the loves won and lost and the memories created within that space.
Looking back on their lives, especially their time in university, what a lot of people remember the most is the spaces they inhabited and the places where they grew up. Maybe the Farnam Block could be that place for you — if it’s around long enough for that to happen.
If the emotional connection isn’t enough to sway your opinion, consider the fact that a potential demolition isn’t only affecting the building of Lydia’s. Turning the Tide is the only alternative bookstore in Saskatoon, is also housed on the property and is slated to be part of the demolition plan; Turning the Tide received an eviction notice for Jan. 31.
There was nothing wrong with the building Turning the Tide was in. The store has been forced to find a new location, which isn’t always easy. It doesn’t seem fair to kick out a perfectly viable business, all for the sake of “progress.” The implications of tearing down the Farnam Block are wider than they seem at first.
Why should we, as university students who may only be living in Saskatoon for a short time, care whether or not Farnam Block is torn down? While it’s easy to focus all of our attention on ourselves, we must remember that there’s a wider community that exists beyond the university campus — a wider community that we should want to be a part of.
If anyone is going to care about the history of a city, shouldn’t it be the young people that have a stake in the future? By saving part of the Farnam Block, we connect to the wider community around us and we get to know our heritage. Most of all, we would give Saskatoon the opportunity to rally around the Farnam Block for another century to come.
Progress is important. Nothing good comes from having the Lydia’s building sit empty collecting dust. However, progress does not have to come at the expense of heritage and community. The Saskatoon community should move towards the future, while appreciating the significance of our past.