Section of demolished Hay River Hotel will live on after relocation to museum

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The Hay River Heritage Centre now has another historic building on its grounds.

It’s a section of the recently demolished Hay River Hotel complex, commonly referred to as The Zoo.

“We’re very happy to be able to preserve a piece of it, which was the main goal,” said Kirk Vander Ploeg, the manager of the museum.

Kirk Vander Ploeg, the manager of the Hay River Heritage Centre, stands in front of a building relocated to the museum grounds during the recent demolition of the old Hay River Hotel complex, commonly referred to as The Zoo.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Vander Ploeg said the building, which had been attached to the old hotel, was at times a drugstore, a post office and a restaurant.

“We can’t find any literature on when it was actually constructed, but I think it’s got to be the early ’50s,” he said.

The building was moved to the museum grounds in early September.

“The government actually moved the building to the property,” said Vander Ploeg. “It was a win, win, win. Now the task of the museum is to refurbish it.”

The Zoo complex was owned by the GNWT, which acquired it after buying the northern assets of the defunct Northern Transportation Co. Ltd. in late 2016.

Vander Ploeg noted the Department of Infrastructure had originally offered to give the museum the whole Zoo/Hay River Hotel complex, but it would probably have cost millions of dollars to refurbish.

After looking at the complex, the museum determined the old pharmacy/post office/restaurant building was in the best shape.

“It was workable for us,” said Vander Ploeg.

Among other things, some windows and doors will need to be replaced, and a ramp and proper stairs will have to be built.

The idea is that the one-storey building – which measures about 33 feet by 43 feet – will become more space for the museum, not just for artefacts from the old Zoo and Hay River Hotel, but other artefacts, as well.

Vander Ploeg said the museum does not have enough artefacts from The Zoo and the old hotel to fill the building.

“So now we have an opportunity to maybe move some other artefacts and use that as just an arm of the museum,” he said, noting the heritage centre’s main building is running out of space.

Vander Ploeg said the refurbishment of the relocated building will likely begin in the spring.

“It will probably take most of the summer by the time everything kind of gets done,” he said, noting that depends on the number of people willing to volunteer to help with the project and the availability of funding.

One of the artefacts that will be added in front of the building is the well-known Zoo sign.

Vander Ploeg explained that The Zoo, which closed in 2005, was not the whole of the now-demolished complex.

“Everybody refers to it as The Zoo, but it isn’t The Zoo,” he said. “The Zoo was the bar. It’s the Hay River Hotel.”

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