The designer that gave Revelstoke its historical identity was recently recognized with a provincial lifetime achievement award.
“This came out of the blue. I’m surprised and pleased,” said Robert Inwood after receiving the honour from Heritage BC.
Inwood was the building designer behind Revelstoke’s $2.8 million revitalization program in the 1980s that restored the city’s Victorian architecture by fixing and painting storefronts, adding the bear statues, decorative lampposts, Rotary clock and covered bandstand.
“He created a huge legacy in this town. Many city councils owe this guy a debt of thanks,” said former mayor Mark Mckee, who was also one of the driving forces behind the program.
“Our town is growing and becoming more successful. And it’s because of people like Robert.”
Inwood has a long list of achievements. He restored Baker Street in Nelson, revamped downtown Langely, redesign work in Whistler, a signage project in Summerland and rehabilitated Kaslo’s city hall.
However, out of all his projects, he said Revelstoke is his favourite
“Revelstoke was different. We went beyond restoration by including art, like the bear statues,” he said.
In the 1980s, our city’s population began to crash after the completion of the Revelstoke Dam.
“Many businesses had wallpapered up their windows and left,” said Geoff Battersby, mayor of Revelstoke in the 1980s.
He said the revitalization of the downtown core helped save the town from economic ruin by attracting tourism.
To fix the buildings downtown, Inwood stripped away stucco and plywood that hid the Victorian architecture underneath.
“History grows more valuable as time goes forward,” said Inwood.
Part of the revitalization project was matching signage — in red and yellow — across the community, which Inwood said was the first of its kind in the province.
“It was pretty groundbreaking.”
Revelstoke is currently in the middle of being rebranded with a new $3.2 million wayfinding signage project. Grizzly Plaza is also slotted to be revamped. The city said earlier this year that the work downtown will roll out over the next two years with extensive public consultation.
While Inwood said, change is inevitable, he hopes this new project in Revelstoke will enhance the downtown and not just change for the sake of change.
“It took great pains to get Revelstoke to where it is today,” he said.
While retired, Inwood is working on a project in New Denver to save a building that housed interned Japanese people during the Second World War. At one time, there were more than 10,000 such buildings in North America. Now there are less than a dozen left said Inwood.
“History is an integral part of our past. We learn from it. It’s where we came from,” said Inwood.
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