Woodland Cultural Centre Restoration
“The Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School operated in Brantford, Ontario from 1828 to 1970. It served as a boarding school for First Nations children from Six Nations, as well as other communities throughout Ontario and Quebec. It served as a key tool in the effort to assimilate First Nations children into European Christian society, and sever the continuity of culture from parent to child.
After closing in 1970, it reopened in 1972 as the Woodland Cultural Centre, a non-profit organization that serves to preserve and promote First Nations culture and heritage.” 1
“The Save the Evidence campaign is an initiative launched by the Woodland Cultural Centre to raise awareness and support for the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School building. The vision is to turn the building into an Interpretive Historic Site and Educational Resource. The Mohawk Institute building itself is only one of a handful of Residential School buildings left standing in Canada, and the only one in Ontario that offered guided tours until its closure for repairs.” 2
In 2016, our team at Quartek was engaged by the Woodland Cultural Centre to undertake the architectural and structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering services for the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute. Over the past six years our team has had the privilege of working closely with the community at the Cultural Centre to execute their vision for the over 100-year-old building; referencing historical photos and architectural drawings. Personal accounts from survivors of the residential school provide unique insight into what took place in each room of the building, and how each space should be treated, whether it should be restored to its original condition, renovated to serve a new function, or left in its current state. The roof structure, including the ornamental cupola and dormers for example, were restored to their original condition based on archival photographs. Whereas sections of brick at the rear of the building, where survivors have returned in the past several decades to carve their names, have been carefully preserved.
As of the Summer of 2022, a significant amount of the restoration has been completed, allowing it to be reoccupied by Cultural Centre staff and volunteers. The work that remains includes the installation of an elevator and accessibility ramps, replacement of 120+ windows, and the restoration of the masonry. In the final phase of the project, we will work closely with an Interactive Museum Display consultant to complete the interior finishes.
We are grateful to the Six Nations community and the Woodland Cultural Centre for trusting us to do our part to Save the Evidence. It has been a great privilege for our team at Quartek to be a part of this important historical restoration. We have been especially fortunate to be able to work closely with members of the Six Nations community and to learn more about the history of the Mohawk Institute. We look forward to the continuation of this relationship as we bring the restoration through to completion in the coming years.
A piece on the restoration project ongoing at the Woodland Cultural Centre was recently featured in the Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/toronto/article-heritage-of-shame-saving-a-former-residential-school/
1 For more information on the Woodland Cultural Centre and a more in-depth history on the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School, visit: https://woodlandculturalcentre.ca/
2 For more information on Quartek’s involvement in the restoration, visit: https://quartekgroup.com/2022/07/05/woodland-cultural-centre-restoration/
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