Skip to main content


The Old Kildonan Church and Cemetery - "Where the Selkirk Settlers Sleep"

Have you been to Old Kildonan;
Seen the Red, with gentle sweep,
Guard the little, rude God's acre
Where the Selkirk settlers sleep? From "Old Kildonan", by John Mackay, D. D.

The Selkirk settlers, the very first wave of immigrants coming to settle purposely on the banks of the Red River, came from Ireland and Scotland, seeking stability, prosperity, and safety, escaping the  Highland Clearances of the early 19th century. Of course, the legendary volatility of the Red River made that a little harder than what was originally advertised by Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk. First the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816 caused the Selkirk Settlers to flee upriver, then the flood of 1826 turned the eventual site of Winnipeg into a small lake, the echo of great Agassiz - stability wasn't exactly the right word to describe the experience.
Nevertheless, they persisted. More settlers had arrived in 1814, from Sutherlandshire in the Highlands - specifically, from the parish of Kildonan…
Recent posts

The Mysterious Independent Order Of Odd Fellows Hall

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall is located at 72 Princess Street in the West Exchange District. This historic building was built in the late 19th century for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal order founded in 1819. The Odd Fellows Hall was given municipal heritage designation on September 8th, 1986. 

Winnipeg, as a growing city in the 1880's, had just received the distinction - and boost - of being the through-point for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the province of Manitoba. More and more people came to settle in Winnipeg, following jobs, family, or adventure, and began to form groups, as people tend to do. Groups ranged from religious, ethnic to fraternal. One such groups was the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, with an admittedly interesting name, they had been established in the United States in 1819 as an import from Great Britain. The Odd Fellows had a reputation for being quite different that posh country clubs, considering that many if not most …

The Massey Building: Prairie Prosperity

The Massey Building at 294 William Avenue in the West Exchange District is part of a cadre of buildings in Winnipeg's early commercial sector. The Massey building was given municipal heritage designation on September 12, 1983, and is currently owned by Red River College. 

The Massey building, built for father-son duo Daniel and Hart Massey, was constructed in 1885 on a design by architect George Creeland Browne. Daniel Massey was a farmer who had gotten into farm equipment sales in the 1830s, and his son Hart, an inspired salesman who saw the company grow into the largest exporter and producer of agricultural equipment in Canada. Although another plan had been drawn up a few years earlier by Barber and Barber, the boom of 1881/82 gave way to a depression in spring 1882, and plans were put off. By 1885, economic recovery was well underway. Browne created a stately building in the Market district in Italianate style. The resulting block was done primarily in brick, with the ever-pre…

Barber House: Over 150 Years in North Point Douglas

Barber House is located at 99 Euclid Avenue in North Point Douglas, and was built in 1862. Notable for its connections to Winnipeg's earliest families, it is a municipally (1990) and provincially (1987) designated heritage building. 

A small, brightly-painted house sits on Euclid Avenue in Point Douglas, with a little diamond window on the second floor attic. Although newly restored, the house is over 150 years old, and has seen more of Winnipeg's history than almost any other building still standing. Barber House is named for Winnipeg's own Edmund Lorenzo Barber, a humorously unsuccessful merchant that immigrated to what was then the Red River Settlement in 1860. Barber, an American, moved to Canada to head up a store that his cousin had brought from dry-goods wholesaler W.G. Fonseca.

Soon after moving to the Red River Settlement, Barber made one of the most, if not the most, business-savvy moves of his career and married Barbara Logan, the Countryborn (Anglo-Metis) daugh…

The Streetcar and the Strike: A Reflection on the 100th Anniversary

The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 has been forever immortalized by L.B. Foote's photo of strikers tipping a streetcar in front of City Hall. As a result, the streetcar has become a symbol of the strike itself, workers uniting to fight for a better life. Streetcars have a history of being involved in labour reform, and were both operated by and used by the many of the people who went on strike in 1919. The streetcar would even became the center of a violent conflict between strikers and officials in 1919 that ultimately brought the Strike to an end.

The first electric streetcar took to the tracks of the Park Line in Winnipeg on January 27, 1891, with free rides for all on opening day. Owned by the Winnipeg Street Railway, the introduction of the electric streetcar in Winnipeg was result of young Albert W. Austin's dogged efforts. Winnipeg became the fifth city in Canada with electric streetcars, ahead of Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and even New York. Doubtful city councillors h…

Historic Houses in Winnipeg - From Settlement to Spectacular

Winnipeg as we know it is the "smallest big city around" - home to over 700,000 people and yet most everyone knows someone you know. With new developments expanding the city limits (looking at you, Bridgewater Forest), it's difficult to imagine what Winnipeg was like over 150 years ago, before it was even officially a city. Let's rewind a few dozen years and look at what kinds of houses people were living in when they came to Winnipeg.

1851 - Seven Oaks House Originally home to John Inkster, previously site of the Battle of Seven Oaks, and currently home to the Seven Oaks Museum at 50 Mac Street, this house was built from 1851 - 1853 and is one of the earliest surviving examples of its kind. Inkster seems to have spared no expense and splashed out on imported glass windows for his new home. Coming from the barren Orkney Islands in Scotland, Inkster represents one of the earliest waves of immigrants to Manitoba. The house itself is a simplified Georgian style, with larg…