Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Radio Edition: Jane's Walk 2015

This Sunday's West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition is all about Jane's Walk 2015. I will be joined in-studio by Winnipeg organizer Matt Carreau and a number of walk leaders who will tell you what they have in store.

Tune in Sunday night at 7 pm on 101.5 UMFM. Come back after the show for a link to the podcast.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Behind the Photo: East Kildonan Fire Wagon (1920)

Often I will see an old photo or ad and spend some time digging into its back story. Sometimes I find a great story, sometimes not. Either way, I learn a few things about the city's history. Here's my latest attempt:

Western Canadian Pictorial Index No. 22560, link to image

This 1920 photo: "Horse-drawn stake body wagon with small ladder was equipment at East Kildonan Fire Department," is from the Walter William Collection of the Western Canadian Pictorial Index, University of Winnipeg Archives. It was taken during a year of great change for the department.

Section of Chataway's 1917 map of Winnipeg
From Manitoba Historical Maps on Flickr (see full size)

The Rural Municipality of East Kildonan was created when it broke away from the R.M. of Kildonan in 1914, thus creating the municipalities of East Kildonan and West Kildonan. At the time, East Kildonan's boundaries included rural North Kildonan, which did not become its own municipality until 1924.

May 29, 1920, Winnipeg Free Press

The Winnipeg region was recovering from years of economic recession and wartime construction restrictions. Demand for land had now rebounded and East Kildonan, under the leadership of Reeve S. R. Henderson, (for whom Henderson Highway is named), were happy to make way for new commercial and residential development.

Preparing for this growth meant an expansion of the municipal services it offered, including firefighting. Construction wrapped up on East Kildonan’s first permanent fire hall at 454 Watt Street at Munroe Avenue in December 1919. The building, which also housed police and public works equipment, replaced a temporary structure that had been used since its incorporation.

There is not a lot written about East Kildonan’s fire department in the newspapers of the day, so it is unclear how large or active it was. The 1920 and 1921 Henderson Directory roster of municipal officials lists no fire chief, but there was at least one staff member dedicated to the fire hall. A Tribune article from late 1920 notes that there was one staff member on-hand at the fire station each day, (likely called a fire officer). They were awake and ready to respond during the daytime and slept over at the building at night.

March 4, 1920, Winnipeg Free Press

From its inception in 1914 to 1919 East Kildonan’s fire department's fleet consisted of a  single, horse-drawn chemical wagon but that was about to change.

In May 1920 a scathing review of Winnipeg’s fire department was released. It made sweeping recommendations, including retiring some senior staff, upgrading of fire halls and, claiming that the hose wagon protection system in central Winnipeg was “in serious danger of collapse”, an immediate upgrade of its fire apparatus fleet. It also noted that the city had two unused, obsolete fire wagons in its inventory that should be sold off at once.

That same month, the East Kildonan Fire Department purchased those wagons from Winnipeg for a total of $1,100. One was a 100-gallon horse drawn chemical wagon, the other was this horse-drawn hose wagon seen above.

Top: November 20, 1920, Winnipeg Tribune

Despite the increased firefighting capacity, East Kildonan ended the year with a tragedy. A November 20 house fire on Montrose Avenue killed four members of the Fincham family. A second family living in the upper floor saved themselves by jumping from the roof. Because the fire happened at night, the Winnipeg Fire Department was called in to deal with it.

The matter came up for discussion at the December 6, 1920 East Kildonan municipal council meeting. It was decided that more staff would be hired so that an on-duty fire officer was be available during the day and another overnight.

Bottom: December 7, 1920, Winnipeg Tribune

One of those two fire officers was Walter Henry Piper. Born and raised in England, he came to Winnipeg in 1913 but was soon back in Europe serving for with the Royal Canadian Navy for five years. In 1920 he got a job as a "police and fire officer", the term used in his July 1969 obituary, for the R.M. of East Kildonan. He held that position until his retirement in 1960. It is possible that one of the two men in the photo above is Piper. 

In 1927 East Kildonan purchased a Model-T Ford. The wagon body from the unit above was mounted to the bed of the truck creating East Kildonan's first piece of motorized firefighting equipment.

Additional Sources:
1914 - 1940 Winnipeg Firefighters Museum
East Kildonan History MMCAA (various items, including here)
Pathway: More Than the Sum of its Parts City of Winnipeg Archives

Saturday, 18 April 2015

The Radio Edition - The Birth of Winnipeg's Heritage Preservation Movement

Join me Sunday night at 7:00 pm on 101.5 UMFM for another edition of West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition ! This week's guest will be educator and historian David McDowell.

Source: U of M Libraries, Winnipeg Tribune Collection (click image)

It is hard to imagine Main Street without Banker's Row but in 1978 the Hamilton Bank and Bank of Commerce (Millennium Centre) buildings were slated for demolition in order to create a parking lot.

To that point, Winnipeg had allowed many entire square blocks of the downtown to be demolished for parking, but the reaction to these buildings created a backlash that had not been seen before. It was he "Big Bang" moment for Winnipeg's building conservation movement.

Top: November 18, 1978 Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom: U of M Libraries, Winnipeg Tribune Collection (click image)

As president of the Manitoba Historical Society at the time, McDowell was instrumental in focusing that dissension into meaningful protest that not only saved Banker's Row, but ensured that there was a system in place to prevent such demolitions in future.

We will talk not only about the past, but the present and future of Winnipeg's built heritage.

Also, music by Singing Cowboy Bob Nolan and commentary from Roger Currie.

After the show, check back here for the podcast link ! 

Friday, 17 April 2015

Where to hang the Queen's portrait - my top 5 suggestions

Source: U of M Libraries - Digital Collections 

With the Jets in the playoffs, local media is trying to find any unique angle they can for their coverage. The CBC decided to check in with Gilbert Burch's ca. 1979 portrait of the Queen.

Over the years I've spent my fair share of time wiring and researching this portrait in blog posts (and here), newspaper columns and on my radio show, so I thought I would weigh in on the CBC's Facebook question "where should the portrait go ?" Here are my top five places, in no particular order:

1. Union Station, Main Street at Broadway. Last year marked the end of a multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation that included a revamp of its public spaces to make them more pedestrian friendly. What better way to welcome people back to thespace than to show off Her Majesty? The rotunda area certainly has the required clearance.

2. Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. With its newly  bestowed "Royal" designation, maybe its time for some payback? The museum is currently fundraising for a new museum building at the site of the old Winnipeg International Airport. Certainly there would be enough wall space in an airplane hangar to host her. Better yet, instead of wedging the portrait into an existing space, she could be designed into a new space.

3.  The Bay Downtown, Main Floor. The Bay certainly has a long history with the Crown. On its main floor is where they display and sell their HBC Heritage Collection items. Adding the Queen to the mix would not only emphasize their heritage, but also attract customers to the downtown store.  

4. The Legislature. It seems an obvious choice as it is home to many royal portraits and sculptures. It was a trio of Lieutenant Governors that commissioned her, perhaps the new LG needs to get on the case and get this portrait of her boss installed in her government's legislature.  

5. The CBC Building. Since the CBC brought it up, I propose at the intersection of Portage and Spence, but facing the building. That way, when the news is being broadcast, two giant eyes will be staring in at the viewer !

Thursday, 16 April 2015

North End History Presentation Links !

Thanks to everyone who came out to this tonight. I hope you found it educational and at least mildly entertaining !

As promised, here is a hyperlinked version of my guide to researching the history of Winnipeg buildings. I originally put it together in 2014 so the links should all still work. You can find an online version here or, if you would prefer to download a PDF version, go here and click the "download" box. 

If there's one site that you visit, make it Peel's Peel's Prairie Provinces !

Links to some of the places I mentioned tonight include: 

The Salter Street Bridge and Main Street Subway was new research so it will take me a bit of time to post them. For a list of other places that I have researched, check out my index at Winnipeg Downtown Places.

Thanks again and if you have any questions, feel free to email me at cassidy-at-mts.net.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Fun with Winnipeg Street numbers !

My column in today's Winnipeg Free Press is about the city's 1891 - 1893 experiment with a numbered street system. The names disappeared in May, with the exception of Portage, Main and Notre Dame, the latter renamed Central Avenue. 

Publishers had to scramble to produce new maps and street guides. Here is how Henderson's Directory explained the new street system. They also included a three page conversion chart of names to numbers and numbers to names.

Below is a handy "pocket guide" printed by the Manitoba Free Press on May 22, 1891. It included the preamble: "In order to retard a little of the premature aging of our citizens, the Free Press extends them the following parallel list of old and new names."

You'll notice one leftover from the numbered system is that Notre Dame is still the dividing line between streets. Examples are Princess and Donald, Ellen and Carlton etc.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Behind the Photo: Streetcar 716 and the Valour Theatre (1955)

Often I will see an old photo or ad and spend some time digging into its back story. Sometimes I find a great story, sometimes not. Either way, I learn a few things about the city's history. Here's my latest attempt:


This is "Streetcar on Portage Avenue and Valour Road traveling west. Valour Theatre on right," September 1955, from the Western Canadian Pictoral Index, Delza Longman Collection, No. 39157, (used with permission.) It shows Winnipeg streetcar number 716 passing the Valour Theatre located on Portage Avenue at Stiles Street. The theatre is now home to Advance Electronics.

Initially, the year associated with the photo was vague. I was able to track it down by searching for the same combination of films as on the theatre's marquee. This being a neighbourhood theatre meant that it would not have been showing Calamity Jane during its initial Winnipeg release. I found what I was looking for in the September 15, 1955 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press. They played for about a week.

What makes this date significant is that the last day of service for Winnipeg's streetcars was September 19, 1955. Madam Longman took this photo on one of the last, perhaps THE last, day of streetcar service.


According to David Wyatt's Winnipeg Transit All-Time Fleet Roster this was one of twenty streetcars purchased by the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company from the Ottawa Car Company in 1919. Above is a photo from the All-Time Fleet Roster of one of 716's sisters back in the day. (Later photos of sister cars can be found here in colour, and here, here, here, here, here in black and white.)

All twenty cars remained in service until Winnipeg Transit scrapped them in 1955. The car bodies were sold off, many used as cabins, chicken coops or storage sheds.

The Valour opened on November 25, 1937 as part of the Western Theatre chain. In 1949 it was cut loose and purchased by Albert D. Cohen. It remained a theatre until May 1960, after which it had a short stint as a funeral parlour, then billiards hall, before Advance Television and Car Radio relocated there in October 1967.

For a more detailed history of the Valour Theatre and Advance Electronics, see my Winnipeg Downtown Places post next week !

For more "Behind the Photos".