Sask. home builder designs new homes with traditional feel

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One Saskatoon neighbourhood has become known for its historically picturesque homes but, over the years, it’s also made some modern additions.


Being in the business of building homes in the historical Nutana area of Saskatoon is a delicate balancing act for Andrew Wagner as he tries to match homeowners with this storied community.


“Most of our clients are people who have lived in Saskatoon. They have known the areas. They know where they want to live. They know what they want and what they don’t want,” Wagner, co-owner of Maison Design Build, told CTV News.


University Drive and Sask Crescent East run parallel to each other with the latter overlooking the river.


It’s where Wagner and his wife, who started the 10-year-old home design business, favour working. They pride themselves on incorporating classic or character elements into the designs, which complement other buildings in the area.


“This house here has a lot of the same elements that you’d see on the U of S campus, and along this area here has the turn of the century vibe,” Wagner says.


The homes include the use of limestone, similar to the university campus buildings. It’s a material that can withstand the harsh elements season after season in Saskatchewan.


Using those hearty materials is key to making their homes last like those you’d find in other parts of the world, Wagner said.


“The majority of houses that were built didn’t use the same quality of building materials that are used in Europe or places where houses stand for 400 or 500 years. The second thing is a lot of the houses here haven’t been maintained,” he said.


If owners neglect the necessary upgrades, it adds up over the years, resulting in irreparable damages. Wagner buys houses in this area that are beyond repair. Some with crumbling basements or mould or asbestos issues.


While the area is popular with home buyers, many aren’t prepared for costly upgrades that won’t result in a home they want.


“People are looking for larger and wide-open spaces now. Higher basements are a big element. People actually want to use the basements, and what you find in these old neighbourhoods, is that most of the basements were built as root cellars and not livable space,” he says.


Historical home expert Dianne Wilson with the Saskatoon Heritage Society says, this area is a jackpot for her with some of the original houses around 100 years old, many built by those who worked at The University of Saskatchewan; professors, doctors, and lawyers.


“Sask Crescent and University Drive have probably the most elaborate of the historic houses in Saskatoon,” Wilson says.


She would ideally like to see more older houses restored in the area saying they hold the key to our history.


“Saskatoon in 1912 was the fastest growing city in the British Empire. That’s what it used to be advertised as,” she says.


That’s around the time some of the grand homes were built in this area, but when the war broke out a few years later, the men left to fight in the war. Those left behind had to figure out how they were going to afford to live in the lavish homes.


“All the women and children were left behind without a safety net. That’s when we had a big house and they wondered, ‘Can we take in boarders?’ That was the start of these houses being subdivided,” she said.


All those years of wear and tear sometimes provide challenges in restoration and are the reason that some turn to newer builds.


Whether you like the original or newer concepts – the unique stretch between the Broadway and University bridges is worth a visit. 

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