Don Baird Sculpture at the Environment Canada Building

Don Baird Sculpture at the Environment Canada BuildingPragmata was engaged by Frontier Group to collaborate in the first phase of the conservation program for a large sculpture at 4905 Dufferin in Toronto, on the grounds of the Environment Canada Building designed by Boigon and Heinonen. The untitled work by Don Baird was installed in 1972. Thirty meters tall, it consists in three cross-connected uprights which carry instruments evocative of meteorological measurement and was fabricated of weathering steel. This alloy is meant to develop a passivating layer of ferrous corrosion products which tenaciously cling to surfaces and eventuates in an oxygen-excluding mantle that inhibits further corrosion. However, design details in this application prolonged the wetting-drying cycle in some areas and limited the formation of the protective coating. After fifty years, loss of section at some points raised fears that severe weather could cause elements to fall. In keeping with the guidelines of the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, the owner consulted with the sculptor and commissioned Ottawa-based consulting engineering QDI to survey the structure and prepare a plan of selective dismantling and stabilization, and a contract to implement the plan was awarded to Frontier Group. Pragmata was brought in to prepare a detailed work procedure to maximize retention of historic form and fabric, and attend on site to alter the procedure as circumstances might require. The work was performed by Frontier Group and Expo Steel and completed in September 2020.

We prepared a report on the reinforcement and disassembly process, and a detailed photographic inventory of all disassembled parts. In addition we made record photographs using 35 mm. black and white film before and after completion of the work. The film negatives were scanned to yield digital files in TIFF format. In a second phase elements will be repaired and replaced as needed, in a manner compatible with the ongoing formal integrity of the sculpture and public safety.

Interpretive Panels at the Latchford Dam

Interpretive Panels at the Latchford Dam

The image is a detail from one of two interpretive panels which Pragmata prepared for installation at the site of the Latchford Dam. We were engaged by the Dams and Water Management Engineering branch of Public Services and Procurement Canada to research, write and design panels to convey the history of the site within the context of the Ottawa River watershed. Built in 1913, the dam was entirely replaced in 2016-17. The log lifter (appareil de levage) which placed and removed stop logs (poutrelles) from the 11 sluiceways (canaux à vannes) was salvaged and set up on a pad on the bank of the Montreal River adjacent to the dam to await further work. It retains its original gear trains. A portion of the boiler was recovered from a nearby storage area and put on display with the log lifter, but the 10 horsepower Dake Motor, a square piston steam engine originally supplied to raise and lower the logs, has been lost. The signage was provided in both French and English as a powder coat graphic on aluminum sheets 1/8 inch thick with welded mounting studs. Anti-vandal nuts and an installation tool were supplied with the sheets.

Sawyer Massey Road Roller at The Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology


Pragmata was engaged by HMST to reassemble a steam powered road roller, circa 1925, which had been partially disassembled sometime before 1988 and the whole placed in storage where it remained until the fall of 2013. This is a dual cylinder, 50 brake horsepower engine with Woods valve gear and a Waters governor. Weight is 25,000 pounds. No serial number nor any boiler registration number was found. The canopy bears the legend "City of Guelph Public Works." The engine had been lifted and the canopy, piping, valves and other parts removed. In addition to lightly cleaning and assembling what was on hand and making all linkages and pipe connections again, we went to the archives at Guelph for detailed information. After identifying missing parts we visited the Ontario Steam Heritage collection at Puslinch and took photos of equivalents on equipment there. These, when combined with catalogue images, will allow HMST to have a complete parts inventory of the equipment. Finally, we fabricated and installed steelwork to replace the absent canopy supports.

In a second phase, Pragmata will provide a Historic Machinery Report on the artifact, to serve as a resource for the interpretive program.

John Bertram and Sons Lathe at the Dundas Museum and Archives

John Bertram and Sons Lathe at the Dundas Museum and Archives

As the Dundas Museum prepared to move back into its expanded premises in the summer of 2013, Pragmata was engaged to refurbish an engine lathe built by John Bertram and Sons around 1890. Bertrams operated in Dundas in various permutations from 1863 until 1986. Manufacture of metal-working tools continued until 1908, when that portion of the business was sold. The lathe was acquired in Halifax and has now been placed in the main entrance of the renewed museum.

Carrying out recommendations for treatment prepared by George Prytulak of GP Heritage consulting, we dismantled the lathe entirely and cleaned all parts. Flaking and failed paint was removed from the legs and corroded surfaces of the legs only stabilized with a tannic acid based rust converter removable with acetone and sealed with an acrylic varnish removable with varsol. High polished surfaces were irrecoverable and so were re-made with high speed abrasive belts, honed with green chrome rouge and coated with non-micro-crystaline wax, to obtain a hard surface.

Union Station Revitalization Project – Documentation


After providing reports for inclusion in Heritage Impact Assessment statements and specifications for the dismantling of elevator enclosures and machinery, Pragmata recorded the as-found condition of the elevators with still and video photography.

Archival standards remain a difficulty in digital imaging. Owing to the comparatively unstable nature of digital media and the rapid cycle of obsolescence of digital devices, we provided the record in redundant media.

High Definition video raw footage was delivered on a hard drive and a rough cut was provided as a Quick Time (.mov) file on a flash memory drive and on a DVD marketed as “archival”.

Still photographs were delivered as high resolution digital images in DNG format and also in JPEG format, on DVD-R discs and on a flash memory drive. In addition, colour prints selected from among the digital negatives were made. At present, the durability of none of these matches that of the silver gelatin film negative, properly prepared and stored.

Union Station Revitalization Project

Union Station Revitalization ProjectPragmata has been engaged by Norr Limited to  prepare a plan of decommissioning and reinstatement for freight elevator T17 as part of the Union Station Revitalization Project currently underway at Toronto Union Station.

The elevator is a traction drive installed around 1930 and still operates with its original equipment, which includes the main hoist drive shown here.

Evergreen Brickworks - Cleaning

Evergreen Brickworks - Cleaning

After delivering a Historic Machinery Report on the Martin A Machine aka the John Price Brick Press for Evergreen at the Brickworks, Pragmata was invited to proceed to a further phase in the conservation of the press and its auxiliaries. Working with Steeplejack Services of Oakville, Powervac Hamilton and Sodablast of Simcoe, we will remove encrusted clay and grease from the equipment and prepare a detailed conservation plan for its many parts.

Evergreen Brickworks

Evergreen Brickworks

In August 2009 we were assessing the condition of a Martin A brick machine for Toronto's Evergreen Brickworks. Evergreen is adapting the site of the former Toronto Brick Works in the Don Valley to its purposes as an environmental educator. For more information on the Evergreen and the Brickworks project, visit the Evergreen website. This Martin A Machine is commonly called the John Price Brick Press, after the yard in which it was first employed. In 1969 it was moved to the works in the Don Valley and eventually erected in what will become the Welcome Centre when Evergreen begins actively interpreting the industrial and natural historical features of this site to visitors in the spring of 2010.

The Museum of Steam and Technology

Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology

In June of 2009 we were below decks at the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology, evaluating the drainage system of the pump well basin.

Stormwater run off from the slate roofed buildings above is directed into the building, where it is collected in two channels within the stone walls and then passed to a sump which drains to the exterior. The drainage gradient is very shallow, making it difficult to fully dewater the lowest level of the pumphouse, even with the assistance of pumps. We investigated the situation and made recommendations for improvements.

PHOTO: Blimp Pic

Goldie McCulloch Corliss

Goldie McCulloch

In February and March of 2006 we conducted a condition assessment of a Goldie McCulloch Corliss horizontal steam engine for the Region of Waterloo, Ontario, and prepared a statement of work, a budget  and detailed specifications.This engine was supplied in 1908 to the Kaufman Footwear plant, where the above photo was taken, and put in storage in Kitchener in 2003. The engine is currently being restored for exhibit at the new Waterloo Region History Museum under construction at Doon Crossroads.

Photo: Kaufman Footwear, courtesy Owen Bosma






Goldie McCulloch