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Owner begins rebuilding process after Finnish Labour Temple fire

Owner Brad Mckinnon still plans to rebuild the face of the century-old building.

THUNDER BAY – The demolition and clearing process of the Finnish Labour Temple is underway after a Christmas blaze left the structure unrecoverable.

“It’s obviously a very sad day. You know, the fire was very tragic and that was a very, very sad event. And, the finality of it all for the building today to be finally torn down is upsetting, but, it is necessary,” said Brad McKinnon, owner.

“It’s something that we have to do to move forward and it’s the next step in a long journey to rebuild the Finnish Labour Temple.”

The demolition process went off without a hitch, other than one incident in which an excavator slid and sunk into the rubble. The machine was quickly dug out by another excavator and managed to right itself in roughly 15 minutes, with no injuries to the operator inside.

Once both the Finnish Labour Temple and the Kivela are taken down and cleared, there will be two structures that will take their place. The total square footage will be 80,000 square feet, nearly three times the originally planned footprint of the condos.

McKinnon still plans to have the original facade of the Finnish Labour Temple recreated, as he says he knows how high the historical value is to residents of Thunder Bay.

“Well, the heritage designation essentially died with the building. So there really is no designation on the property at this point in time. But like I said before, it’s a personal mission of mine to rebuild the front face of the building in the same fashion, the same architectural design that it was built in,” said Mckinnon.

“So the face of the building, the tower, the cupola, the grand entranceway that people have become accustomed to will be rebuilt in that same manner. Same colours, same proportions.”

The new construction is expected to last two to three years, and McKinnon says that the Hoito will not be returned to the basement. The restaurant will instead be located on the first floor with the possibility of adding a patio. The first-floor location will allow for accessibility improvements as well as better lighting.

McKinnon and his crew are also searching for the time capsule buried somewhere in the foundation. They are working with the Thunder Bay Historical Society and a few individuals from the Finnish community who are combing through records trying to find exactly where the time capsule could be located.

“We know it’s somewhere in the foundation, possibly near the footings and possibly in the corner facing Bay and Algoma. So we’re going to be very careful once we get to that point and taking the foundation walls down and then we’ll be looking for it,” he said.

“I hope it hasn’t been destroyed by the fire and I hope that we can carefully pluck it from the concrete walls or the footings and deliver it to the Historical Society. It’d be really fantastic to see what's inside and make that available for people in the community to see.”