Monday, 30 January 2012

Arlington Bridge turning 100 (to the Taxi theme !)

The Arlington Street Overpass
Love her or hate her, the Arlington Bridge is turning 100 in a few days ! It opened for traffic with little fanfare on February 5, 1912.

Last year I did a three part series on the history of the bridge. The fourth part, dealing with the whole Nile legend, kept getting put off as I dug deeper into it. I decided to shelve it and post it for the 100th birthday.

Here's something that I've wanted to do for years: drive over the Arlington Street Bridge while listening to the theme from Taxi ! For those of you too young to remember, the television show Taxi opened with a Checkered Cab driving across the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge in New York to Angela's Theme by Bob James.

For more photos of the bridge.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Another fire on Austin MB's main drag

ca. 2009 (Google Street View)
Austin, Manitoba
January 28, 2012

On Thursday a two-storey apartment block on Austin, Manitoba's main drag burned down. Nobody was injured and the building was torn down before it could damage the neighbouring block.

Austin MBAustin MB
Above ca. 2009
Austin, Manitoba

Austin is just in the process of filling in the final gap left after two buildings, also on 2nd Avenue, burned to the ground in February 2010.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Five times lucky for the Lakeview Hotel project on St. Mary Ave?

Earlier this month one of the city's most announced projects was announced yet again: the Lakeview Hotel on St. Mary Avenue at Edmonton Street.

First proposed in 2004, the plan has undergone a number of changes.
The most recent incarnation calls for two hotels on the site: one facing Edmonton Street and another facing St. Mary Avenue.

It would be great to have that site filled and the last link of the southern loop of the Skywalk system completed. Unfortunately, the connection is to be part of the St. Mary hotel which will be built as a second phase.

To be honest, I am not holding my breath that either hotel will be built any time soon. Here's a look back at the various announcements of this Lakeview Hotel project:

November 6, 2004, Winnipeg Free Press

The proposal was first made public back in November 2004. The Lakeview Group announced the construction of a $12m, six storey, 115 room all-suite hotel connected to the downtown Skywalk system. Construction was to begin in Spring 2005.

June 25, 2005, Winnipeg Free Press

Summer came and Lakeview announced that the project was on hold while they reconfigured the design. It would now be ten storeys with 97 hotel rooms and 25 condominium units. Construction was to begin begin in the Autumn of 2005.

May 23, 2006, Winnipeg Free Press

Autumn passed but no construction. In June 2006 Lakeview told the Free Press that the final design details were being worked out. The project would also contain heated indoor parking, an exercise room, a small coffee shop and connection to the Skywalk. Construction was expected to begin by the end of 2006.

December 19, 2007, Winnipeg Free Press

A 2007 story about Lakeview's Sheraton Four Points development at the airport reported that construction of both hotels would begin in April / May 2008.

September 8, 2008, Winnipeg Free Press

In 2008 a new configuration was announced. The site would consist of two hotels. Facing Edmonton Street an $8m, 80 room, 3.5 star hotel. Facing St. Mary Avenue a four star hotel of seven to sixteen storeys with at least 150 hotel rooms and a connection to the Skywalk. Construction was to begin once the Convention Centre expansion plans were announced.

October 3, 2010, Winnipeg Free Press

One month later the Convention Centre announced their expansion plans. After the press conference Lakeview's Jack Levit told the Free Press that the 80 unit, 3.5 star hotel would go ahead but that the four star, 150 room hotel was on hold until they found out more about the proposed hotel addition to the Convention Centre. “Our plans are to go ahead with the 80 rooms and suites and see what happens” and said he expected that the hotel would be open in a year-and-a-half.

January 4, 2012, Winnipeg Free Press

In January 2012 Lakeview again floated the hotel proposal. In the Free Press story Murray McNeill was generous when he wrote that "Lakeview has been talking for more than a year ..." about the plan.

The latest proposal is similar to the 2010 version. A four-storey, 85-room Lakeview Signature Hotel facing Edmonton Street which ".... will take about a year to complete." The second is a $19-million, 12-storey, 150-room Lakeview Inn connected to the Skywalk, is on hold until the Convention Centre construction is well underway.

For a history of the site see my Winnipeg Downtown Places post.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Seriously, Gail ?

Canadian Musem for Human Rights
A good post over at The Purple Rod about Gail Asper's irreverent "quip to the editor" in yesterday's Free Press about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

I'm sure my father, Israel Asper, would have found the continuing discussions for and against the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to be fascinating. For my part, all I can say is, hey, at least it's given the detractors something to complain about beside our weather.
GAIL ASPER, Winnipeg

Anything I have ever read or heard about Izzy Asper leads me to believe that he would have grabbed the problem by the nuts long ago, banged a lot of heads and table tops and got things back on track before they got to the sad state the project finds itself in now.

I consider myself a supporter of the project but seeing things like this goes a long way to point out why the project has stumbled so badly and, perhaps, if it will ever be realized.

When museum fundraisers have to go back to some of the people that Asper herself talked out of millions in donations, (don't mind the various levels of government), to ask for more to get the project finished in her lifetime, I wonder if they'll have the same "aw shucks" attitude.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Royal Artillery Museum at Shilo turns 50 !

RCA Museum
On Thursday, January 26 the Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA) Museum at CFB Shilo turns 50 !

Admission is free for the remainder of January and they have some special hours. On the 26th they will be open from 10 am - 10 pm and on Saturday, January 27 and Sunday, January 28 from 10 am - 5 pm. (It's also the weekend of Shilo's winter fair !)

Thursday will feature fireworks at 7:45 pm and at 7 pm the opening of a new exhibit from the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa called Profit and Ambition: The Canadian Fur Trade 1779 - 1821."

Strangely, their website doesn't actually mention anything that's happening at or located in the museum so check out this write up for an overview. Here are a few other things that might be of interest:

RCA Museum
The most complete collection of Canadian-made military vehicles in the world and the largest artillery collection in Canada.

In Flanders Fields
An original December 1915 Punch Magazine featuring Dr. John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields and a printing plate of his hand-written submission.

There are two Victoria Crosses on display, those of Sargent Robers Spall (left) of Montréal and Winnipegger Captain Christopher O'Kelly*. Only 1351 V.C.'s have ever been awarded, 96 of them to Canadians, so to see two together is rare.

Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum

If you want to make it a military remembrance sort of day, just 15 minutes up the road is the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, a national historic site. In Brandon is the The XII Manitoba Dragoons and 26 Field Regiment Museum. (Contact them to see if their hours mesh with RCA's.)


For more about Canadian Artillery history

*More on Christopher O'Kelly, V.C.

April 15, 1918, Winnipeg Free Press

When he enlisted, O'Kelly was a student at St. John's College and worked at his father's Main Street real estate firm Harrison and O'Kelly.

The V.C. was O'Kelly's second major award. He had been in the trenches for just a month when he was awarded the Military Cross for his action at Vimy Ridge.

ca. 1922 ad

In 1922 the firm's name changed to C. O'Kelly and Son. In November of that year he was presumed drowned after a boating accident near Kenora. His body was never found.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

West End History: Minto Armouries Fire (1956)

Source: Winnipeg Fire Museum

At 5:25 a.m. on Sunday, January 22, 1956, Bert Polson, the Minto Armouries' night furnaceman, was eating lunch when he noticed smoke entering the boiler room and called the fire department. 

When firefighters arrived at the St. Matthews Avenue building, they found the main entrance to the massive structure was located directly underneath the second floor area that was burning. Add to that temperatures in the minus 20s and they knew they had their work cut out for them.

At the other end of the building, a different drama was unfolding. The Armouries' live-in caretaker couple, Robert and Lily Mainer, had fled to the roof to escape the smoke. Due to the darkness and the noise of the fire, they spent half an hour crying out in vain.

Lily, who was partially paralyzed due to lateral sclerosis, recounted: "Does anybody hear us? Like heck they do. They're (neighbours) all asleep. Half an hour we stand there screaming and shivering and shivering and screaming." (January 23, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press.)

They were finally spotted by a passing police car and firefighters were alerted. The couple, and their pets, were saved.

As news of the fire spread, soldiers came to the Armoury.

The first to arrive was a Lt. Smith, who drove ten vehicles out of the basement. Others removed the remaining vehicles as well as regimental trophies and records, musical instruments, kilts, rifles and "refreshments", (the newspapers didn't elaborate on the latter.) Sadly, though, not all of the records and photos were saved.

January 23, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press

The twelve-hour blaze took its toll on firefighters, injuring two and costing Battalion Chief Andrew Hebenton his life.

Hebenton, 65, was a 42-year veteran of the force and entered the building numerous times over the course of the morning. On one trip he had chest pains and had to be helped outside by his men. He refused to leave the scene and directed the fight from his car. When his chest pains continued he was brought, against his will, to hospital.

Hospital staff thought that the feisty Hebenton might be delirious from heat exhaustion and began asking him questions, to which he shot back: “I know what day it is. There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s Sunday. And there’s a fire at Minto Armouries and I’ve got to get back there fast." He died shortly after from a heart attack. (January 23, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press.) 

It had been a devastating few weeks for the fire department. Chief David Clawson was unable to attend fires due to a heart problem, the deputy chief was injured when he fell at a fire in December and in November Battalion Chief Robert Beatson was killed at a blaze.

Morale had been low at the department for a number of years due to administrative matters. It was further lowered when a couple of firemen told the media that that the second alarm, called in from the site at 10:30 a.m., came hours too late, allowing the blaze to become an inferno.

March 3, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press

The fire caused $600,000 in damage and spawned a number of investigations.

The first was by the provincial fire commissioner on the cause of the fire. He ruled it was accidental, believed to have been caused by a smouldering cigarette butt on a chesterfield in the second floor Sergeants' Mess.

The the Public Safety Committee of city council ordered the fire department to do a special investigation because of the public comments made by firefighters at the scene about a delay in calling in a second alarm. 

The two firemen who went public about the delay refused to sign official statements to that effect. One said that he spoke out of emotion and couldn't remember all of the facts. the other denied ever speaking to a reporter.

Though some on council and in the media wanted a further, independent investigation, others felt that there was no point if there was no 'official' complaint by men on the scene. The report was "received as information."

The department's 68-page report came in early March and concluded that: "Fire department records indicate that proper fire fighting techniques were employed in the fighting of the fire" and that having additional firefighters on-hand earlier than 10:30 would not have made a difference. (March 3, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press.)

Minto Armouries

The Defense Department also explored whether or not the Armouries could be rebuilt. 

Initially, it was thought that the building might be a write-off, cheaper to rebuild than to repair. They hired consultants, including Green, Blankstein, Russell and Associates, to examine the structure and provide a cost estimate for reconstruction.

February 25, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press

While this was going on, a lobby began to have the Armouries moved elsewhere in the city.

Built in what was the outskirts of the city in 1913, the West End, west of Arlington Street, had grown into a mature, residential neighbourhood. The noise and traffic of an armoury was a sore point for some.

Some on council examined whether a zoning technicality could prevent the reconstruction, (it couldn't.) Then, the city looked into purchasing land immediately north of the Armouries to save any future expansion. They were too late, though, as DND had already purchased it along with a section of land to the south, across St. Matthews Avenue.

On March 16, 1956 it was announced in the House of Commons that the cost to restore the Armouries was $470,000, within what the department considered reasonable.

In July, plans for a $900,000 redevelopment, including new buildings to the north and south of the main building, were announced. Work began soon after.

One noticeable difference between the old and rebuilt structure is the height of the roof over the central drill hall.

Minto Armouries

Minto Armouries is still in use today. It is home to the
Royal Winnipeg Rifles and their regimental museum as well as the The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders Cadet Corps.

Armouries in Winnipeg Swept by $600,000 fire Ottawa Citizen (1956)
Visiting Winnipeg's Historic Minto Armouries The Bomb Garden
Photos of Minto Armouries

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Do you have a Thelmo Mansions (Burnell St.) connection ?

Thelmo Mansions
Do you have a connection to the Thelmo Mansions at 519 Burnell Street ? Perhaps you or a family member once lived there ?

There is an oral history project underway about the Thelmo, which is now in the process of being renovated. If you have any stories or information that you would like to share please contact: winnipegking@me.com

519 Burnell Street, Winnipeg
Fore more about the history of Thelmo Mansions.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Support for the victims of the Sherbrook St. fire

Walhalla Block fire

From the Salvation Army: News about community members supporting fire victims.

Below is reprinted from the DMSMCA newsletter. For more information about donating. For more information about 577 Sherbrook and the fire.

Support for the Victims of the Sherbrook Street Fire

On the morning of Saturday, January 14, 2012, a fire consumed the former apartment block at 577 Sherbrook St. Many of the former tenants were without fire insurance, and some have struggled to find temporary housing. Material and financial donations would be greatly appreciated. See below for what would be useful.

To donate with Credit Card to the Spence Neighbourhood Association (specify that you want it to go to the 577 Sherbrook St. Fire issue)

If you would like to Donate Material Items please Contact Cortney Sinclair and the Spence Neighbourhood Assoc - 783-4141

Items Needed:

  • *Clean* Clothing of all Sizes (shoes, jackets, shirt, etc.)
  • Children's Clothing Items are especially needed
  • Containers for Clothes
  • Household Items (appliances, kitchen items, TVs, food etc.)
  • Toys
  • Bedding

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Disraeli Death

Disraeli Bridge Construction

I was saddened to hear about the death of the young woman who crashed over the Disraeli Bridge yesterday. As a weekly user of the bridge, I know how difficult it can be to maneuver through it with all those construction barricades. That, along with icy roads, make it downright treacherous.

Skyline from the Disraeli
Disraeli Bridge

Sadly, the Disraeli is one of at least two major city bridges that don't have some sort of parapet protecting vehicles from directly hitting the outer fencing. The Osborne Street Bridge is the other. Both are in the process of being replaced.

Donald Street Bridge
Midtown Bridge
The Arlington Street Overpass
Arlington Street Bridge
Louise Bridge
Louise Bridge

For most, the parapet is a metal bumper. This includes the Midtown, Osborne and Louise bridges.

Roadside Memorial
Kildonan Settlers Bridge
Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Provencher Bridge

Proposed Disraeli Bridge (source)

Proposed Osborne Street Bridge (source)

The new standard for city bridges appears to be the now familiar combination concrete and metal barrier.
This can be found on the Midtown, Slaw Rebchuk, Kildonan Settlers and Provencher bridges and appear in the artist's drawings of the new Osborne and Disraeli designs. The Clement Parkway uses just a concrete parapet. (For more on the city's use of roadside barriers.)

Under the Disraeli
Under the Disraeli

Back in 2008 I took these photos of the top and bottom side of what I thought was a rather scary looking (to my untrained eye) state of decay of the Disraeli's outer barrier.
Thank goodness it is in the process of being replaced, (after spending who knows how many years looking like this.)

There's been a lot of talk about our crumbling infrastructure and the desperate need to replace it. Still, when push comes to shove, politicians, (with the support of many voters), are still enamored with shiny baubles such as $130m suburban street widenings and $110m inner ring roads while more urgent concerns are shunted off to some future date when a big pot of money will, apparently, land at Portage and Main and make the infrastructure deficit disappear.

Maybe we need to give our heads a shake and get serious about repairing and replacing substandard infrastructure sooner rather than later.

Related media:
Outdated bridge rail not unsafe Winnipeg Free Press
Crash Victim: Kaitlyn Fraser Winnipeg Free Press
Disraeli condition questioned CBC Manitoba

A history of the Disraeli Bridge West End Dumplings
Bridges Homepage City of Winnipeg
Disraeli bridges Project City of Winnipeg
City Unveils ($700m) Transportation Plan CTV