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Salvation Army's Cumberland Street shelter razed to the ground (2 Photos)

The Salvation Army started operating out of the building in 1971.

THUNDER BAY — After serving as an emergency shelter for nearly half a century, the former Salvation Army men's shelter on North Cumberland Street has been torn down.

A demolition crew with an excavator made short work Monday of knocking down the walls of the two-storey red brick building which was originally built as a hotel in the 1960s.

Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Salvation Army in Thunder Bay, says seeing its destruction brought out some mixed emotions for staff and clients.

"It's been a building that's provided for the needs of the community for many years, It's been a focal point since 1971. So to see it come down, there's mixed feelings," Ferguson said.

He noted that some staff members have worked in it for over 30 years, and some of its thousands of clients have used its services for 24 years.

But Ferguson quickly added that its replacement, the $15.5 million Journey to Life Centre next door, is a "beautiful" facility which will serve everyone better.

The staff, he said, deserves credit for being able to provide the services they did out of an obsolete building for so long.

"It was retrofitted. It wasn't designed for what it did but it served its purpose. The new building is phenomenal. It has the space. It has all the resources the clients need...we're moving ahead to a new journey."

Once the debris from the old structure is removed, the site will be used for parking and for the Salvation Army's Field of Greens.