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NNSL Photo/graphic

This Franklin Avenue building housing the post office has been part of the community since the 1950s and at one time hosted the Yellowknife Courthouse on its second floor. City council is now in the process of making it a historic site. - Peter Crnogorac/NNSL photo

Council delivers heritage pitch

Peter Crnogorac
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 03/06) - Unless city council members radically change their minds, it appears the post office building on Franklin Avenue will soon become a designated Yellowknife heritage site.

"It's certainly an important part of the history of Yellowknife," said coun. Mark Heyck. "It's very representative of buildings in Yellowknife from the 1950s."

The building, cornering Franklin Avenue and 49th Street, has always housed the post office and first opened its doors on April 30, 1956.

Back then, the postal outlet was on the first floor and the city's courthouse was on the second. The courthouse eventually moved to its present location on 49th Street in the 1970s.

Outgoing councillor, Kevin O'Reilly - who is a self-described stamp enthusiast - was one of the principle backers in bringing the issue to council. "The building and the post office is the heartbeat of Yellowknife," O'Reilly said. "It was one of the first buildings to function in the new town beginning in the 1950s."

The building is owned by the federal government.

Earlier this year, the feds were thinking of getting rid of the building as the Canada Post lease was due to end in March.

But with a new agreement signed, it literally gave the building a new lease on life.

As a heritage site, changes to the building must first be approved by a city committee.

While designating it a Yellowknife historic site would be a good first step, Mayor Gord Van Tighem hopes to take the idea to the next level.

"We've sent several letters to the federal government on our interest to make this a National Heritage Site."

Van Tighem said because Yellowknife is only 72 years old, it is a challenge convincing the National Heritage Committee that the request is a valid one.

"This location is important to the history of Yellowknife," he said.

"Not only has it housed the post office, and at one time the courthouse, it also had a wireless telegraph machine on the second floor.

"This is how people use to register their mining claims in the days before long distance phone calls."

A public hearing on the heritage bylaw will take place on Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. at city hall.