N.S. scholar sniffs at replacement of plaster with drywall at Government House

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Some centuries-old plaster walls at Government House in Halifax are being replaced with drywall during a $5.7-million renovation project.
The work has raised the ire of a professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., who recently wrote to the lieutenant-governor's office to complain about the situation.
"The effect, I am afraid, will be more (like a modern hotel) than Colonial George III," wrote Edward Langille, an 18th-century scholar who teaches French language and literature.
Built between 1799 and 1805, the stately stone mansion in Halifax is the oldest official government residence in Canada.
Langille equated the ongoing work with vandalism and said it "would be unthinkable in a country that values its past."
Murray Scott, the provincial minister in charge of infrastructure renewal, confirmed Thursday that some of the plaster in Government House is being replaced with drywall.
"There was asbestos found in those areas, so it had to be removed," Scott said. "We're replacing it with Gyproc."
Project manager Ron Jeppesen estimated less than 20 per cent of the plaster had to be removed because it contained asbestos. Exposure to asbestos over time can lead to lung cancer or a scarring of the lungs called asbestosis.
"We removed a lot of the wall plaster from the main floor area," Jeppesen said. "We had asbestos-containing plaster on over the original plaster."
It would have cost "well more than" twice as much to replace the walls with plaster, Jeppesen said.
The work on the mansion, which began in 2006, is slated to be finished by December 2009.

Organizations: Government House, St. Francis Xavier University

Geographic location: HALIFAX, Antigonish, Canada

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