A question I often get asked is why are there no boulevard trees on Valour Road when those around it are your typical West End streets lined with century-old elms?
I've never found a definitive reason in a newspaper story or history book, but I am fairly certain that the answer has to do with a streetcar line that never materialized.
Here's a deep dive into Valour Road's early development....
Both Pine Street and Ashburn Street were marketed as the "Argyle Park" suburb by the Argyle Land Company between 1905 and 1907.
This was not an unusual practice for a land company to buy a sliver of land, market it under a cool name, then begin selling off lots before city surveyors came in to formally lay out the street and add services such as water, sewer, sidewalks and boulevards. Some lots would have been built on right away but most would have sat empty until these services were run and the lots or the houses on them would fetch a lot more money.
The city got around to installing boulevards and sidewalks on Pine Street from Portage to Ellice in 1907 and from Ellice to Sargent in 1912. The addition of water and sewer mains were announced in 1908 and likely built the following year. The timing of this infrastructure work on Pine is similar to the streets around it.
It would have after water and sewer were run that the city would have moved in to plant boulevard trees. I could find no mention in local papers as to why streets such as Spruce, Clifton, Ashburn and Strathcona got them and Pine did not.
The early development of the street can be traced in editions of the Henderson street directory.
1907: There were 6 homes, all between Portage and Ellice.
1908: There were 34 houses, all but 5 between Portage and Ellice.
1911: There were 56 homes, all but 5 of them between Portage and Ellice
1914: There were 98 homes, all but 7 of them between Portage and Ellice
1916: There were 130 homes, all but 15 of them between Portage and Ellice.
There was a also spike in home construction immediately after World War I into the early 1920s.
The West End's Public Transportation Woes
As the West End grew, so did the need for public transportation. There were long-established east-west street car lines running along Portage, Sargent, and Notre Dame, but not many options to bring people north or south onto those lines.
Sherbrook Street had streetcar service since 1897 and in 1908 a single car line was added on Arlington Street from Notre Dame to Portage. This was to have been part of a central beltway stretching from the city limits at West Kildonan into Fort Rouge but never materialized, (you can read more about that here.)
By the time Arlington Street was added to the streetcar system, there were already calls to add another cross street further west with Pine Street being one of the top contenders.
The expansion of public transportation in the area had to wait until the early 1920s because of the economics of running the streetcar service.
Winnipeg's streetcar system was operated by a private entity called the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company. Because of the enormous cost involved to build each kilometre of new streetcar line, it was not interested in running them down residential streets where it would take decades to recoup their costs. Even for the city, which was constantly demanding expanded service on major routes, service along residential streets was a low priority.
In 1923, the streetcar company agreed to extend Sargent Avenue's streetcar line from Dominion Street west to Pine Street. Instead of turning onto Pine, a wye or turnaround would be built so that the car could travel back down Sargent, (that wye is where the Valour Road Memorial Plaza is now.)
To appease the city and residents who were hoping for more, it proposed a bus service along Pine Street from Portage to Sargent. The streetcar company was given permission to use buses as feeders for streetcar lines in Wolseley in 1918 and by the mid-1920s had about a dozen short routes in operation.
The provision of bus service would take care of another long-standing bugbear of Pine Street residents - the fact that their street was never paved. It was a muddy, rutted mess for much of the spring and the streetcar company said its condition was so poor that it would not run a bus unless it was graded and asphalted. The city agreed and in late July 1924 began work on the section from Sargent to Portage.
Buses began running on Pine Street on the morning of October 20, 1924, with service every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Pine Street never got its streetcar service and the Sargent line was never extended any further west.
In 1938, Sargent Avenue's streetcar line was converted into Winnipeg's first trolley bus line with vehicles that used the overhead electrical wires of the streetcar system but ran on rubber tires.
Streetcar service was discontinued city-wide on September 19th, 1955.
Unlike neighbouring streets, Pine Street was left without boulevard trees and unpaved after water and sewer mains were run in 1909. This, coincidentally, was the year after the West End's first north-south streetcar line was added on Arlington Street with Pine often mentioned as the next cross street in the loop.
If this was a proposed streetcar route it would not have made sense to pave it as they would only have to tear it back up to install tracks.
As for boulevard trees, they would have been a problem given how narrow Pine Street was. To add streetcar service, the city may have wanted to widen the street slightly to add a narrow lane down the middle, similar to Arlington Street. If kept at its original width, trees would surely have interfered with the poles and overhead wires needed for such a service.