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Ralph Connor House: Best-Selling Author in Canadian History

Article by Laura McKay & Roshanie Balkaran (The Minions), on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.
Armstrong's Point
 Heritage Winnipeg staff with host & APA Chair, Thomas McLeod

On Friday, July 4th, Heritage Winnipeg accepted an invitation to the Stampede Breakfast held annually in Armstrong's Point. Hosted by Armstrong's Point Association chairperson Thomas McLeod and family, the breakfast presents a great opportunity to bring the community together. It also gave Heritage Winnipeg the opportunity to speak with mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis and tour the historic Ralph Connor House at 54 West Gate.

Armstrong's Point Association Heritage House Tour
The Armstrong's Point Association 
will be hosting their bi-annual Heritage House Tour! 
September 7, 2014 from 11:30am - 4:30pm
Tickets $25 from McNally Robinson

Ralph Connor House (54 West Gate)

1913-1914 - Construction of Ralph Connor House at an approximate cost of $50 000.

1976 - Rev. Gordon (Ralph Connor) was recognized as a Person of National Historic Significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

1983 - Designation of Ralph Connor House as an Historic Site by the City of Winnipeg.

2004 - The University Women's Club is recognized with a Heritage Winnipeg Distinguished Service Preservation Award for its ongoing commitment to conserving, protecting, and promoting Ralph Connor House.

2005 - Ralph Connor House is designated as a Provincial Historic Site.

2009 - Designation of Ralph Connor House as a National Historic Site.

Laura: I am ashamed to admit that until we went on this tour, I had never heard of Ralph Connor before, nor are the titles of his books familiar to me. As an English Major and someone who has taken Canadian Literature classes, this astonishes me. The beautiful house he left behind astounds me even more. Stepping through those doors is like stepping back in time; great care has been taken to preserve the house as it was, staying true to the small details. Our guide, Pam, even showed us shelves in one of the closet that still had the names of the Gordon children written on them. It may seem an insignificant detail, but in my opinion, that is what makes the history personal and gives the visitor something to connect with. We were so engrossed in our tour that we forgot to take many pictures, so my apologies for the lack thereof. However, I highly recommend taking a tour of this place - a picture doesn't quite do it justice anyway!

Reverand Charles W. Gordon, aka Ralph Connor
Pictured above is Reverand Charles W. Gordon, who wrote extensively under the pseudonym Ralph Connor. His published work includes fiction, non-fiction, and numerous pamphlets and short stories, as well as articles on the unemployment crisis of the day. He is considered the best-selling author in Canadian history, having sold millions of copies of his books. For a complete bibliography, click here. Besides being an accomplished author, Rev. Gordon was a minister, WW I chaplain, diplomat, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, one of the founders of the United Church of Canada, labour conciliator, philanthropist, negotiator, public speaker, social activist as well as father of seven children.
Helen Gordon, one of the first female graduates of the University of Manitoba
Helen Gordon and six of her children (photo from the Ralph Connor House website).
His wife, Helen Gordon, was also one of the first women to graduate with a degree from the University of Manitoba and ensured that all of her children were university educated as well. Helen Gordon was also very active and well-respected in her community and the United Church of Canada, of which her husband was one of the founders.

Ralph Connor House Exterior

Ralph Connor House was built in 1914 for Rev. Gordon and his family, who lived there until shortly after his death in 1937. Since 1939 it has been the home of the University Women's Club of Winnipeg. It is also currently used as a meeting and event centre, dedicated to fostering work in education, social justice, human rights, music, and literature. The Friends of Ralph Connor House own and maintain the building, much of which is completely original to the house. Many of the rooms look much the same as they did when they were used by the family, particularly Rev. Gordon's study, which is filled with books either owned or written by the esteemed author.

Ralph Connor House Exterior (Archival Photo)

University Women's Club of Winnipeg

The University Women's Club of Winnipeg was founded in 1909 and have called Ralph Connor House home for over 70 years. When it was founded, the Club was a means for recent female university graduates to stay in contact. Both the Club and its founder, Margaret McWilliams, were instrumental to the social and education reform in Winnipeg and Canada. Over the years, the Club has hosted guests such as J.S. Woodsworth, first leader of the CCF Party, predecessor to the New Democratic Party; Nellie McClung, a suffragist who was instrumental to Canadian women being declared persons in 1929; Dr. Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist; and more recently, Canada’s Governor General, Michaelle Jean.

For more information, check out the UWC Website.
University Women's Club of Winnipeg

For more information about what the future holds for the UWC and Ralph Connor House, check out this brochure for the "Ralph Connor House: Renewal for the 21st Century" project.

Sources & Links

Armstrong's Point: A History by Randy Rostecki
Canada's Historic Places - Ralph Connor House 
City of Winnipeg Historical Reports - Ralph Connor House/54 West Gate
Friends of Ralph Connor House 
Historica Canada - Article on Ralph Connor
Manitoba Historical Society Memorable Manitobans - Rev. Charles William Gordon
Manitoba Historical Society Article - Helen Gordon  
The Official Ralph Connor House Website 
Ralph Connor House National Historic Site of Canada 
University Women's Club Website
Stay tuned for another article about Armstrong's Point
their Heritage House tour that took place last weekend!

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