Residents roll away barrels from Seagram pyramid
August 05, 2009
By Johanna Weidner, Record staff
WATERLOO — Mike Schneider loaded hefty tokens of Waterloo’s history, and his family’s, onto the flatbed of his truck Wednesday.
He was one of many area residents eagerly rolling away barrels as the pyramid on the former Seagram’s distillery site in downtown Waterloo was dismantled.
“My dad worked here. He used to make these things,” Schneider said of his father Ken, who was a cooper.
“He used to pound the hoops down on the barrel.”
Schneider was taking his six barrels to his nearby townhouse on Euclid Street, where they’ll have some sort of decorative use still not certain to Schneider.
“They’ll look pretty cool in the rec room or maybe outside,” he said.
He just knew he had to have them, like many other people who gathered at the site long before the free community pickup began at noon. Some came early in the morning to mark the barrels they wanted. The first batch of barrels was just about all scooped up in less than half an hour, with cars lining up to load up the finds.
“I figured, take a piece of heritage home with us,” said Chris Detzler, who lifted six barrels into his truck with his wife Jessie Robinson-Detzler.
The couple planned to put the barrels in the backyard of their Kitchener home as planters or just as a rustic decoration.
“They’re not perfect, but it’s kind of neat having the antique look,” he said.
The barrels are being cleared out to make room for the Balsillie School of International Affairs, which is part of the Balsillie Centre of Excellence offering resources and facilities for programs run in partnership with the local universities and across Canada and worldwide.
The pyramid was built in 1984 to mark the Seagram Museum, then replaced in 1996. Authentic heritage barrels are on display in the Centre for International Governance at the corner of Erb and Caroline streets, while those in the pyramid have no historic value, other than as a local landmark.
“There’s a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in the barrels,” said Karen VandenBrink, heritage resources manager for the City of Waterloo.
Experts from Canbar, formerly the Waterloo-based Canada Barrels and Kegs, are checking out the close to 800 barrels to pick out those in good shape that will be stored to be used later for a community art project. Damaged barrels and parts are up for grabs.
Dismantling the pyramid is scheduled to finish today. Community pickup will continue today between noon and 5 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, while the barrels last.
Kitchener resident Dennis Day was surprised by the crowd gathered for the barrel giveaway.
“I didn’t expect this many people to be here,” said Day, who was trying to get four barrels into his minivan.
Ryan Mounsey, development planner and urban designer for Waterloo, expected a lot of interest considering all the calls from people anxious to have a piece of the pyramid.
“They all cited sentimental reasons,” Mounsey said. “It’s not so much the quality, it’s just to have the object.”
Glenn and Pat Pascoe of Waterloo just happened to be driving by when the pickup began, and lucky for them.
“We wanted one for a while,” Pat said.
They grabbed two with the intention of cutting the wooden barrels in half to make planters for their cottage.
They already have three windows from old Seagram building, “so it will be neat to have the barrels as well,” Pat said.
“It’s nice to have some heritage from Waterloo. We’ve lived here now for 45 years.”