Winnipeg saw the end of an era Sunday when wrecking crews razed the Shanghai Restaurant in China Town.

What was once one of the most well-known places to go for Chinese food in Winnipeg is now just a pile of rubble.

City hall granted a permit to the new owners of the building to tear down the walls, and demolition of the historic building began early Sunday morning.

Mary Lee’s family used to own the restaurant, and she came to watch the demolition.

“I grew up upstairs, so when I was a little girl in between meal times, I'd be running underneath the tables – hiding,” said Lee.

Built in 1885, the building once housed Winnipeg’s city hall, before passing through three generations of the Lee family.

“This was my father's, uncle's and grandfather's restaurant,” said Lee.

Winnipeg Chinatown Development Corporation bought the building earlier this year despite opposition to keep the historical building in tact. The not-for-profit agency’s head, Dr. Joseph Du, said unfortunately demolition was more cost effective for its plans.

Du said there are plans in the works that will see a seniors home that caters to the Asian population in Winnipeg be built on the spot. He said there are other options in the neighbhourhood for other groups, but not specifically for Asian seniors.

“Locally, we need an Asian seniors home for the people that can't get use to the climate, food,” said Du.

So far the city has said the area will be used as green space, and it is currently reviewing plans for the seniors home.

Lee said she’s not opposed to something new sprouting up at the location.

“It's a sprawling city,” said Lee. “It's growing, so hopefully it's something that's more positive coming into the city.”

Demolition crews said it would take several days to haul away the debris, and are asking motorists and pedestrians to be careful around the wreckage.