© 2023, Christian Cassidy
This nondescript, mostly vacant lot at the corner of Higgins Avenue and Fountain Street was once home to one of the city's largest stables. It ran all the way back to Henry Avenue and could hold almost 250 horses.
It was built for the Manitoba Cartage and Storage Company which operated from 1882 to about 1976 and for most of its existence had a strong presence in this neighbourhood.
April 1, 1905, Winnipeg Free Press
In 1904, the city sold a large piece of land along Fountain Street between Higgins and Henry avenues to the Manitoba Cartage and Storage Company on which to build a new
stable. It hired architect James Chisholm to design the structure.
a prolific architect at the time with hundreds of buildings to his
credit. Today, his best-known work is likely the original Olympia Hotel which was later expanded (by another architect) and rechristened the Marlborough Hotel.
The stable measured 100 feet by 293 feet, was two storeys in height, and built with steel beams finished in brick with stone accents. The ground floor was reserved for nearly 200 horses while the upper level was for hay storage.
William Grace and Company was awarded the $50,000 contract to build the stable in April 1905.
A planned extension measuring 154 feet by 40 feet, enough to hold another 50 horses, was added to the side in 1907.
Winning team, 1929 Royal Winter Fair, Toronto, (Source: Int'l Museum of the Horse)
Horses, of course, were the backbone of many companies during this era and several prided themselves on the quality of their stock and showed them at competitions. Different companies had their preferred breed of horse. Eaton's and Crescent Creamery used Hackneys while Manitoba Cartage and Shea's Brewery preferred Clydesdales.
For decades, Shea's and Manitoba Cartage went head-to-head in the heavy draft category at important horse shows throughout Western Canada and beyond.
In December 1924, two of Manitoba Cartage's most prized horses, Chief and King, won first place for heavy draft team at the
International Livestock Show in Chicago. In the singles showing, Chief took first place and King took fourth. In 1929, the company took best in show for its heavy draft team at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, (see above.)
Most of the accolades for Manitoba Cartage's horses belonged to Scottish-born William McFadyen. The reputable horse breeder came to Manitoba around 1911 and began working for Manitoba Cartage as their stable foreman and had his own business.
McFadyen soon became an esteemed member of the Manitoba Horse Breeders Association and the success of his horses at high-profile events earned him an international reputation.
When he died in 1937 at the age of 71, T. P. Devlin, agricultural superintendent of the CNR, said "Mr. McFadyen had done more to aid producers of commercial horses than any other man in Manitoba".
August 25, 1926, Winnipeg Tribune
The risk of fire was a major concern for any company operating a stable. Despite shelling out top dollar for theirs to be constructed of fireproof material, Manitoba Cartage's burned to the ground.
The fire started around 10:30 p.m. on the night of August 24, 1926 at the southwest corner of the building. Fortunately, it was noticed quickly enough by McFadyen that he, the night staff, firemen, and neighbours in what was still a fairly residential neighbourhood, were able to rescue the 200 horses inside, including champions like Chief and King. Some made it loose into the neighbourhood and had to be rounded up through the night.
The cause of the fire was believed to be faulty wiring and there was no stopping the blaze once the tons of hay stored there caught fire. Firefighters from six fire halls were called out and three of them plus a police officer had to go to hospital to be treated for minor injuries.
The following month, Manitoba Cartage took out a building permit for a new stable at 345 Higgins Avenue. The building was constructed in stages over the next couple of years to include a vehicle garage and central warehouse.