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529 Wellington (formerly J.H. Ashdown House & the Shriners' Khartum Temple)

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

529 Wellington is now one of the most well-known steakhouses in Winnipeg, but that wasn't always the case. On November 28, 2014, I had the privilege of going to this historic home turned restaurant. It is an excellent example of how a heritage property can be reused - it is an iconic property in the neighbourhood and in the city of Winnipeg, from a time when Winnipeg was booming. In many ways this building reminded me of Ralph Connor House - both are mansions built for the city's elite of the day. Owned and run by WOW Hospitality, 529 Wellington still carries the air of a family home. I half expected children to come running down the stairs while we waited to be seated.

Creme brulee - Yum! (Only one food picture, I promise)

Over several years, Heritage Winnipeg played an important advocacy role in working together with the community and the City of Winnipeg, to approve the re-zoning and re-use of this historic home.  The designation still allowed the building to be re-modeled as a restaurant all the while keeping and protecting its heritage integrity.  Ultimately it is a great way to continue occupying this significant heritage property and by opening it up to the public for the first time, it allows them to surround themselves in a historic atmosphere, while taking pleasure in fine dining. 

"Few, indeed, are the enterprises of public moment that he has not been concerned in and in public affairs affecting the business and social progress of Winnipeg, he has been at times almost aggressively prominent since the City's beginning." 
~ City of Winnipeg Historical Report about James H. Ashdown ~

Historical Timeline

June 30, 1868 - At 24 years old, James H. Ashdown arrives in Red River on foot through the United States. Although born in England, he had moved to rural Ontario as a child.

1869 - James H. Ashdown purchases and begins to run a small hardware shop.

1870 - The Riel Insurrection. Along with many other young men in the Red River area, Ashdown became involved with Riel's opposition and was rounded up and imprisoned by the provisional government.

1909 caricature of James H. Ashdown courtesy of MHS website.

1871 -  Ashdown moves his hardware store to the corner of Main and Bannatyne (site of what is now 211 Bannatyne) where it was to stay for many decades.

November 8, 1873 - Winnipeg is officially incorporated as a city.

1874-1879 - James H. Ashdown serves as an alderman for the new city of Winnipeg.

1877 - A house is built on Euclid Avenue for Ashdown, his wife, and their four children. 

1882 - The railway links Winnipeg to eastern Canada, bringing with it a flood of new settlers, who in turn fuelled the construction industry of which Ashdown was a supplier. He imported his merchandise by ox-cart and steamboat from suppliers in Minneapolis.

1887 - Ashdown serves as the president of the Board of Trade, during the fight against CPR monopoly.

1895 - James H. Ashdown opened the first hardware warehouse west of the Great Lakes on Bannatyne and Rorie. It was later added to twice to accommodate demand. The Ashdown Hardware Company building is still a part of the Exchange's streetscape and is mentioned on the tours given by the Exchange District BIZ (blog article here).

1897 - A new home is built for the Ashdown family on Broadway. This home was later used by the Adanac Club, the Music and Arts Building that was forerunner to these facilities at the University of Manitoba, and later St. John's College. It has since been demolished and the site is occupied by the Monarch Life Building.

1900 - Pulling the "greatest publicity stunt the west had ever seen", Ashdown has forty rail cars painted with "Hardware from J.H. Ashdown" and dispatched to prairie towns. Each car contains 800 tons of building materials and hardware to be sold. His hardware business was also expanded to Saskatoon and Calgary.

1904 - The original 1870 building at the corner of Main and Bannatyne burns down and is promptly replaced with what is now the Crocus Building. 

1907 - James H. Ashdown is elected Mayor of Winnipeg and returns for a second year by acclamation in 1908.

1909 - Ashdown's initial grant of $100, 000 founds Wesley College.

1910 - James H. Ashdown is a director of the Bank of Montreal, the Northern Crown Bank and Northern Trust. 

The dining room where we sat for lunch - note the beautiful woodwork!

1913 - The house at 529 Wellington Crescent is built for the Ashdown family. It was designed by J.H.G. Russell, who was also responsible for designing the Ashdown famly home on Broadway, the 1904 Ashdown store on Main Street, the additions to the Ashdown warehouse on Bannatyne, the church where Ashdown was on the board, and the YMCA building of which Ashdown was the Chairman of the board.

1924 - James H. Ashdown passes away at the age of eighty. 

1928 -  Susan Ashdown, James' wife, passes away. Her daughters Louise and Lilian continue to live in the house on Wellington. 

1952 - The house is sold to the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine aka the Shriners, a philanthropic organization founded in New York in 1872. The building was renamed Khartum temple, according to Shriner tradition of naming their temples after Arabic cities.

July 12, 1985 - Article in the Winnipeg Real Estate News: "529 Wellington Crescent: The house Ashdown built" 
Click for full image of article

April 29, 1998 - Article in the Winnipeg Free Press: "From Shriners to steak: heritage home an eatery?"
Click for full image of article
June 3, 1998 - Article in the Winnipeg Sun: "Eatery splits neighbours" and "Councillors tour temple for heritage tax credit" 
Click for full image of article

2002 - 529 Wellington receives a Annual Preservation Award for Commercial Conservation from Heritage Winnipeg.

Sources & Links

529 Wellington Steakhouse Website
Canada's Historic Places - 529 Wellington 
City of Winnipeg Historical Report for 211 Bannatyne - Short
City of Winnipeg Historical Report for 211 Bannatyne - Long
City of Winnipeg Historical Report for 529 Wellington - Short
City of Winnipeg Historical Report for 529 Wellington - Long  
Manitoba Historical Society - article on 529 Wellington
Memorable Manitobans - J.H. Ashdown
Virtual Heritage Winnipeg - 529 Wellington
Virtual Heritage Winnipeg - Ashdown Hardware Store 

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