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Seaforths hope for sturdy new home

Property will house brigade headquarters, serve as disaster resource
Seaforth Highlanders’ armoury
The Seaforth Highlanders’ armoury is undergoing a major upgrade that will include the addition of a new four-storey building. photo Rebecca Blissett

The Burrard Street armoury belonging to the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada is undergoing a massive construction project, which once completed will not only result in improvements to the iconic grey structure but also the addition of new four-storey building.

Rod Hoffmeister, Seaforth honorary lieutenant colonel, said the new building will play headquarters to 39 Canadian Brigade Group. Hoffmeister said it makes sense for the armoury and headquarters building to share the same property.

“When it comes to earthquake and emergency preparedness, the headquarters and armoury together will make an excellent command centre for resources and recovery,” said Hoffmeister.

The new $31.2 million Canadian Armed Forces building will also house numerous support organizations, classrooms, locker rooms, a fitness centre, storage bays, medical and dental clinics, and a resource centre for military families. The complex will include a three-level parking garage for military vehicles.

The Seaforth’s headquarters was moved in 2012 to the Jericho Garrison in West Point Grey.

Hoffmeister said when the armoury was built in the 1930s, seismic concerns were not a priority.

“In 1936, the armoury was built to the standard of the day,” said Hoffmeister. “So now we’re spending $9.3 million to bring it up to the correct seismic code.”

The construction of the headquarters building, as well as seismic upgrades and a retrofit, is estimated to cost more than $40 million and take almost three years.

Hoffmeister said the officers and sergeants messes will not only be renovated but recreated to maintain their same look. In the case of the officers mess, that means the return of the dark wood panelling and antique fireplace.

The armoury was completed in 1936 to mimic a “Scottish baronial castle,” complete with a turret that houses a curved bookcase and stained-glass window adorned with the regiment’s stag’s head logo and a list of many of the regiment’s battles from the First and Second World Wars.

According to Seaforth history, the regiment was established Nov. 24, 1910 by a group of Vancouverites of Scottish descent. Before moving into the armoury, the regiment, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010, was housed at various locations across the city, including the Vancouver Opera House on Granville Street, the Hoffmeister Brothers auto dealership on Pender, and the Beatty Street armoury.

After the regiment had shown great heroics, including aggressive trench warfare in the First World War battles of Ypres, Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge, the Canadian government rewarded it with its own armoury.

In 1936, the regiment left the Beatty Street Armoury and marched along Georgia Street and across the Burrard Street Bridge with its regimental colours to its new parade square. In September 2012, the Seaforth marched out of the armoury for the first time since the Second World War in preparation for the renovation project.

As previously reported in the Courier, the renovation project was under discussion for more than a decade before the minister of defence finally gave the go ahead in 2012.