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Showing posts from September, 2015

Signs of the Times: Ghost Signs in Winnipeg’s Exchange District

Ghost signs are pieces of hand-painted, outdoor promotional art preserved on the sides of buildings. They were prevalent from the 1890s through to the 1960s, but as outdoor advertising mediums evolved, painted signs became a less popular way of promoting products and services. Over the years, they’ve been replaced by billboards, vinyl banners and store-front signage.
Generation after generation though, the original signs remain. This is due to the paint and the substrate. Much like sponges, bricks are extremely porous. When they come into contact with a liquid, they quickly absorb it. That liquid, in this case, was lead- and oil-based paint. This meant the signs would remain for decades without having to reapply more coats.
When the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute opened in the former Royal Bank Building, Red River College tried to remove a small section of paint in the top right-hand corner without much success.
But let’s get started at the beginning. Why are they here?
When Manitoba jo…

The Former Dominion Hotel (The Blue Note Café) at 218-224 Main Street

The Dominion Hotel, later known as the Blue Note Café, at 218-224 Main Street was demolished in 2011. The place where it stood remains empty, the silhouette still visible on the adjacent Winnipeg Hotel. Before it was an iconic hangout for Winnipeg musicians, the home of the Blue Note Café was everything from a hotel to a barbershop.

In 1872, the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered all but 450 acres of land to the Dominion of Canada. The remaining land was surveyed and sold off to form the town of "Selkirk" (not to be confused with the current city of Selkirk). Lot 18, where the Dominion Hotel was later built, was purchased in July of 1872 by Charles Garratt, of the Garratt House Hotel for $1250. Lots purchased along Main Street were also required to have a structure built on them worth at least $2000 within 18 months of purchase in the hope of building up the appearance of Main Street.

Garratt resold the land shortly after purchase to Elias Swayze (Swaze), who immediately b…

Two Winnipeg Carnegie Libraries: Cornish and St. John's

Libraries are pillars in their communities, places where to spend hours browsing for a books, learning something new in the resources section, doing homework on the public computers, or participating in exciting programs. There are three libraries in Winnipeg that have been part of their communities for over a hundred years. One of these is the Carnegie Library at 380 William Avenue, touched on in the previous blog post: Free and Open to All: A History of Winnipeg's Libraries.

Built in 1905, the library was enough at the time but the city was rapidly expanding, predicted to be the Chicago of the North and with a city population that big, the demand on public services would be far greater.

Only two years after the Carnegie Library opened, the question of branch libraries was raised. James H. McCarthy, the City's first librarian, championed the creation of small depositories in drug stores, schools, and other centres with collections of approximately 500 books rotated every two…

The Fortune and Macdonald Blocks

The Fortune and Macdonald Blocks at 226-234 Main Street are two separate buildings but have a history as connected as the buildings themselves. The Fortune Block is the one on the corner of Main Street and St. Mary's Avenue, whereas the Macdonald Block is the addition a bit further down on Main Street.

In 1869, the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered all but 450 acres of Rupert's Land to the Dominion of Canada. The land that remained was laid out as a town they called "Selkirk" in 1872 and the first lots began to be auctioned off later that same year. It was through this auctioning off that Molyneux St. John purchased lots 19 and 20 for $1325 and $1750 respectively. With this purchase came the HBC's condition that a structure with a minimum $2000 value be built within 18 months of the sale.

This condition was not met with either of the two properties, with both sitting undeveloped for a decade. A large number of lots in the area stayed vacant or had insubstanti…