Saturday, 27 June 2015

Sunday: Elmwood Cemetery "Sitting Tour"

Elmwood Cemetery, Winnipeg

The North East Winnipeg Historical Society will be holding a FREE talk in Elmwood Cemetery on Sunday June 28 at 1:30 pm about some of the important people and families  buried in Section 6A of Elmwood Cemetery. 

This will be a "sitting tour" so please bring your lawn chairs, hats, water and whatever else you might think you'll need.

The meeting place is Section 6A at 1:30 pm, rain or shine. (The cemetery is flat, so you will see the tour folks standing there when you arrive!) 

If you want to find out more about North East Winnipeg history, you can also check out the podcast for the latest edition of West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition. My guest was NEWHS President Jim Smith !

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Radio Edition - June 21, 2015

Nairn Avenue, Elmwood

Join me tonight at 7:00 p.m. on 101.5 UMFM for another edition of West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition.

My guest is Jim Smith, president of the North East Winnipeg Historical Society. We'll find out more about the group, their summer events and talk about the history of Elmwood and the Kildonans. Be sure to check out Jim's extensive collection of newspaper clippings and municipal council minute summaries at the history section of the Miles Mac Alumni Association website.

We'll also remember architect Morley Blankstein, (also), with Susan Algie of the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, and hear Roger Currie's take on Father's Day.

This was a busy date in Winnipeg history. In 1919 it was the Winnipeg General Strike's "Bloody Saturday", here is how the day unfolded. Thirty years ago the ca. 1877 city bell found a new home on Selkirk Avenue. Also, Bill Norrie was first elected Winnipeg mayor on this date in 1979.

Music by Lonnie Donnegan and Danny Schur.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

St. Giles Church to meet the wrecking ball? UPDATED

Former St. Giles / Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship

At today’s meeting of the Historical Buildings and Resources Committee there will be an application to to de-list the former St. Giles Church, now the Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship, at 294 Burrows Avenue. It currently is a “Grade III” historical building under the city’s old heritage inventory, which is currently in transition to a new system. Grade III is the lowest level, indicating that a structure is a “moderately significant heritage example”.

In their application the owner, Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, include an engineer’s report that estimates the cost of repairs, including a new roof and a new foundation for the three storey annex, at nearly $2 million. For the organization and the church’s 35 members, it is too steep a price tag. In order to attract a buyer they pretty much have to de-list it so that they it can be demolished - there's not much of a market for 1000+ seat inner-city churches nowadays.

At this link you can read their application and here is the Historic Building Committee's history of the structure, including images of the original plans.

March 14, 1908 Winnipeg Free Press

Some building histories, including today's Free Press story, refer to St. Giles as being the first Presbyterian Church established in Winnipeg, which is not the case, (a correction has been submitted). Its formation took place in 1884 in an empty store at Main and Burrows, its congregation finding the trek to St. Andrews in Lockport to attend services daunting.

The first Presbyterian church in Winnipeg was, in fact, Knox Presbyterian Church, founded in 1868. To back this up, at the cornerstone ceremony for St. Giles in July 1907, Knox's Rev. F. B. Duval stated “As pastor of the oldest Presbyterian Church congregation in Winnipeg, it is to me a delight to join with others in hearty congratulations to St. Giles’ upon the excellent progress it has made.”

Soon after its formation, a proper church building was built on Selkirk Avenue. The current building was built in 1907 to hold 1,000 people, even though the congregation was not at that size yet.

 Former St. Giles / Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship
Interior, St. Giles Church

At the cornerstone ceremony Reverend W. A. Maclean, St. Giles' long-serving minister, said “We trust and pray that the erection of this building may in years to come prove a blessing to the community in which it is situated and that the work so humbly begun twenty-three years ago may in God’s hands continue to prosper”

In the short term, St. Giles and other inner-city churches did prosper, but their longer term fortunes were bleak. As the city expanded, especially after World War II, their members flocked to new suburbs and built new churches. Since the 1960s church attendance in general began to fall off dramatically, meaning that new congregants were difficult to attract.

Some churches faced the wrecking ball and others were sold off by their original owners. In the case of St. Giles, the United Church sold it in 1973. It has since been a Mennonite and a Bapatist church.

This is an issue that is not going away. For the remaining grand churches of Winnipeg, congregations continue to shrink and repair bills mount. Eventually, the same tough decision will have to be made about each of them, historic designation or not.

St. Matthews Church

Churches are one of the most difficult buildings to re-purpose but there have been success stories.

Most recently, St. Matthews Church on St. Matthews Avenue at Maryland Street recently converted into a 32-unit housing project called West End Commons, retaining a small chapel for church-goers and its basement full of community organizations.

There are a couple of significant differences between St. Matthews and St. Giles, however. 

St. Matthews' original congregation is still there and were motivated to do something with the church before they found themselves in the same situation as St. Giles. Also, St. Matthews had made a conscious decision in the 1970s to stay put and serve its geographic community. As a result, its expansive basement houses a number of community organizations, including a daycare and new immigrant services, plus smaller "niche" congregations that share the chapel space.

For cast-off churches the West End Cultural Centre probably stands out as the best example of a space that has survived and thrived.

Sadly for St. Giles, it looks like its time quietly ran out.

UPDATE: The committee denied the application for de-listing.

St. Giles / Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship

Manitoba Historical Society various entries
294 Burrows Winnipeg Historic Buildings Committee report (Nov. 1999)
Cornerstone of St. Giles' is laid Winnipeg Free Press, July 26, 1907
New St. Giles' is a beautiful edifice Winnipeg Free Press, March 14, 1908

Also see:
My Flickr album of St. Giles Church
My Flickr album of St. Matthews Church
St Giles' United Church diamond jubilee program Peels
107-year-old church in the North End faces demolition Winnipeg Free Press, June 18, 2015

Monday, 15 June 2015

Dr. Margaret Ellen Douglass

My column in last Sunday's Free Press is about Dr. Margaret Ellen Douglass, who became a household name in Winnipeg during the First World War for her efforts to organize a group of local women who almost found themselves fighting on the front lines !

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Behind the Photo: Soldier in Farewell, 1914 by L. B. Foote

Source: Archives of Manitoba, Foote Collection, 2280 – N2954

I was at the Manitoba Archives today tracking down a photo for use in my column in Sunday's Free Press. It was part of the Foote Collection, which means that you have to sort through a stack of photos in a file folder to get to the image number you're looking for.

While searching, I came across this unrelated gem entitled Soldier in Farewell, 1914 showing a young soldier in uniform kissing his mother (?) goodbye. 

The image quality isn't great. It's a little blurry and the lighting is too hot, perhaps it was something Foote caught quickly, without time to properly set up. Those issues aside, the photo is touching. It's hard not to try to imagine what must have been running through their minds at that moment. 

Unlike my other "Behind the Photo" entries, there is no back story to tell about the subjects. The image contains no information as to who they were or where the photo was taken. No way to know if the two ever met again. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Private Arthur Austin of Wawanesa

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at 100 Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

Wawanesa, Manitoba

Arthur Austin was born May 20, 1884 is Sompting, Sussex, England to John and Jane E. Austin. That is one of the few definites that can be found about his life and death.

As a young man, Austin came to Manitoba and settled in Wawanesa. In 1913 he left to attend the Omar School of Trades and Arts,  a short-lived institution on Main Street, Winnipeg across from city hall. In December he graduated with his certificate as a gasoline engineer.

Wawanesa in 19-teens (Source)

Austin enlisted at Brandon on March 22, 1916 with the 79th Battalion (Manitoba) and was soon transferred to the 5th Battalion (Saskatchewan Regiment).

Not a great deal is known about his death. The Circumstances of Death Registration simply notes that on September 27, 1916: "Previously reported missing, now for official purposes presumed to have died."

Austin was 32 and single. His next of kin were his parents at 55 Southfield Road, Broadwater, Worthing, Sussex, England.

It appears that his remains were never identified. He is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France and on Wawanesa's cenotaph.

Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry
Attestation Papers
Canadian Great War Project entry

Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Radio Edition - Upper Fort Garry replay

Upper Fort Garry Gate

Friends of Upper Fort Garry are the owners of downtown Winnipeg's newest surface parking lot. Last August, Katie and I were joined in-studio by Jerry Gray, chairman of the Friends, to talk about the history of the site and their development plans. I thought it would be a good time to replay the episode. If you want to cheat and not wait until 7 pm Sunday night on 101.5 UMFM, you can check out the podcast here !

Here are links to more information about a few other people and events that I briefly mention:

- Winnipeg's Monty Hall, (see below for the interview link.)
- "Cartoon" Charlie Thorson's fonds are at the U of M
- "Your Pet, Juliette", also see CBC Digital Archives
- A history of Harlequin Romance
- The ManPop music festival of 1970 
- Harry Colebourn and Winnie the Bear (also)

The Play List

- Lucky Trapper Reel by Sierra Noble
- Winnie the Pooh by The Sherman Brothers
- Unscripted Monty Hall Interview (excerpt)
- Helter Skelter by Dianne Heatherington