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Winnipeg's Original Christmas Headquarters: The Imperial Dry Goods Store

Before Winnipeg had Eaton’s, it had the Imperial Dry Goods Store. Built in 1899 by wholesale merchant Robert Jones Whitla, the Imperial Dry Goods Block was one of many buildings under Whitla’s control. Whitla, Irish-born, arrived in Manitoba in 1878 where he began selling dry goods out of a store on Main Street. Four years later, in 1882, Whitla partnered with Dawson Kerr Elliot to create R.J. Whitla & Company. Together, Kerr and Whitla supplied wholesale clothing, fabrics, and furs to the rapidly developing Canadian west. By all accounts, the company was a success and between 1884-1899 R.J. Whitla & Co constructed three new warehouses throughout the Exchange District to store their goods.

However, until 1899, Whitla & Co didn’t cater directly to the Winnipeg market.
This all changed when ground broke on Whitla’s newest project: The Imperial Dry Goods Department Store; a brand-new retail wholesaler that was located right in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. The store’s grand …
Recent posts

A Regal Writer's Residence: The Ralph Connor House

Ralph Connor House is located at 54 West Gate in Armstrong's Point. The home of prominent, internationally successful Canadian author Revered Charles Gordon (pen name Ralph Connor), Ralph Connor House has received heritage designations from the federal (2009), provincial (2004) and municipal (1983) levels of government.


In the late 19th century, Canada was still just another British colony, notable perhaps for its vast resources, but not particularly important on the world scale. Then in 1898 and 1899, two novels were published that quickly became popular around the world for their adventuresome and moralistic narratives about the Canadian West. The author was Ralph Connor, and the books sold millions of copies worldwide. Ralph Connor soon became a household name in many parts of the world, with a total of 22 novels were published, making him the most successful early 20th century Canadian author. However, in his own household, "Ralph Connor" was known by a much differen…

The Union Bank Tower - Canada's First Skyscraper?

The former Union Bank Tower at 504 Main Street, and its associated Annex at 500 Main Street, now the home of Red River College's culinary institute, was built in 1903-04 as the Union Bank headquarters. It is Western Canada's first, and oldest surviving skyscraper, and is a federally (1997) and municipally (1995) designated heritage building. 


The turn of the 20th century was undoubtedly a time of innovation and discovery. Arguably, nowhere in Canada embodied this positive energy and outlook more than Winnipeg. In a massive economic boom thanks to innovations in wheat hybridization and agricultural machinery, Winnipeg was a frenzy of activity in the period from 1896 - 1914, otherwise known as the Wheat Boom. Many of the city's iconic buildings were constructed in this early period: the Fort Garry Hotel in 1913, the Pantages Playhouse in 1914, the Walker Theatre in 1907, the flatiron style Ambassador Apartments in 1907. But none of these buildings deserves the label "ic…

Tremendous Tudor - The Robert R. Scott House

When Robert Ross Scott passed away on August 17, 1924, his departure from this world made front page news in Winnipeg. He was remembered as an exemplar citizen, philanthropist and businessman. Upon arriving in Winnipeg in 1881, a 24 year old Scott quickly graduated from odd jobs to fruit salesman to head of a fruit empire. His company had grown to serve all of the prairie provinces and Minneapolis, delivering both rare and domestic fruits that always kept customers satisfied. While building his company, Scott had also married, fathered four children, was involved in his church, a member of the Free Masons, Oddfellows and Carlton Club, and was president of the Sovereign Life Assurance Company. Two of Scott's most notable contributions to Winnipeg still stand today, the Scott Fruit Company Warehouse at 319 Elgin Avenue and his magnificent family home at 29 Ruskin Row.


Scott was born in Pickering, Ontario on July 27th, 1857. He moved to Winnipeg during the boom period of the early 188…

First Scandinavian Mission Church - The Heart of Winnipeg's Scandinavian Community

First Scandinavian Mission Church was built in the late 19th century as one of the first churches for the non-British immigrant community in Winnipeg, and stands at 268 Ellen Street. It is a municipally (October 26, 1987) and provincially (March 1, 1993) designated heritage building. 



Canada, as a largely immigrant nation, has a very diverse population. The earliest immigrants to Canada were Norwegian (at L'Anse aux Meadows), French, and British. Later, Ireland and Scotland were common origins for immigrants. In the late 19th century, after the purchase of Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company, the still-new Canadian government was trying to encourage immigrants, especially farmers, to move to the Prairies and settle there. People arrived in Manitoba from all parts of Europe, including from far north in the Scandinavian countries: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.

Although the majority of Scandinavian immigrants were from Iceland, Winnipeg was also home …

Blair's Labyrinth - The Roslyn Court Apartments

The Roslyn Court Apartments at 40 Osborne Street are a premier example of the Queen Anne Revival style, which was rarely used for apartment building. It is a neighbourhood landmark, with an eccentric facade dominating the corner of Osborne Street and Roslyn Road. Frozen in time with a nearly original 1909 interior, the luxury suites were once home to Winnipeg's elite. Today the building's bizarre, maze like design perplexes visitors and adds to a feeling of unease, further heighten by tales of shadowy figures that roam the halls. It is a beautiful and mysterious place, which brave Winnipegger's still call home today.


In 1882 land speculators built the Osborne Street Bridge across the Assiniboine River, connecting the downtown with the less developed area then known as St. Boniface West (now the River-Osborne neighbourhood). The quaint, rural setting of St. Boniface West was conveniently located near the city, making it attractive to Winnipeg's elite, who started buildi…