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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The fire halls of A & W Melville

Fire Hall no. 11, Sinclair Street, (source: City of Winnipeg)

On Thursday, the Standing Policy Committee on Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Management will vote to add three fire halls to the Historical Buildings Commemorative List. This is more a nod to their history, it does not give the protection of heritage building status. 

The three are former Fire Hall No. 15 at 524 Osborne Street, former Fire Hall No. 9 at 1466 William Avenue  and the still active Fire Hall No. 5 at 845 Sargent Avenue. The latter, built in 1910, is the oldest serving fire hall in the city.

If you appreciate the architecture of Winnipeg's old fire halls, give thanks to Alexander and William Melville. The Scottish brothers teamed up to design about a dozen of them, variations on the same master plan, between 1903 and 1911.

October 1912

William Melville was the first to come to Winnipeg around 1901 and urged his brother to Alexander Melville join him. In 1903 he arrived with wife Helen Ann and three children.

The two set up shop together at room 803 of the Union Bank Tower on Main Street. In 1910 they had to relocate to larger premises on the fourth floor of the Builders' Exchange Building on Portage Avenue.

By 1913 Alexander was on his own, (I can't find any information as to what happened to William). He went on to design two more fire halls in the city, and at least one in Regina, as well as a number of other prominent buildings. Alexander Melville died at Winnipeg in 1949 at the age of 76.

Fire Hall No.5
Fire Hall No. 5, Sargent at Burnell

Some of their halls, like Fire Hall No. 3 on Maple Street, now the Winnipeg Fire Museum, and Fire Hall No. 14 on St. Mary's Road, now the St. Vital Museum, are designated heritage sites.

Here is a list of Melville Fire Halls in Winnipeg, from the Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada.  "Also" indicates a more detailed city report on the building. All are "former" except 825 Sargent Avenue.

As A and W Melville
No. 3, Maple St., 1904 (now Fire Museum) (also)
No. 4, 470 Gertrude Ave, 1904 (demolished)
No. 5, 354 Sherbrook St, 1904 (demolished)
No. 6, McDermot Ave at Pearl St, 1904 (demolished)
No. 7, 349 Burrows Avenue, 1904 (demolished)
No. 8, 325 Talbot Ave, 1906 (also)
No. 9, 1470 William Ave, 1909 (decommissioned)
No. 10, 825 Sargent Ave, 1910 (active as No. 5)
No. 11, 180 Sinclair St, 1910 (decommissioned) (also)
No. 12, 1055 Dorchester Ave, 1910 (decommissioned)
No. 13, 410 Cathedral Ave, 1911 (decommissioned)

Just Alexander Melville
No. 14 , 596 St. Mary's Rd, 1914 (now St. Vital Museum)
No. 15, 524 Osborne St, 1914 (now ambulance station)


RESQ426 said...

The old Winnipeg Fire Hall #14 is still standing at the corner of Lipton Street at Westminster Avenue. The former Fire Hall at St. Mary's Road and St. Anne's Road was the former St. Vital #1. That one was closed in 1974 when the City of Winnipeg Amalgamation of all area fire departments occurred. St. Vital Fire Hall #1 was St. Mary's at St. Anne's and Fire Hall #2 (built in the 1950') is the current Winnipeg Fire Hall #14.

Christian Cassidy said...

Thanks ! It gets a bit confusing over the decades as halls got renumbered. This is great additional info !