Friday, 26 January 2018

A Part of Manitoba's Controversial History - The Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

William of Orange was a Dutch prince, crowned King William III of Great Britain on April 21, 1689. As a Protestant, he was a hero in the eyes of the English commoners who were unhappy with the Roman Catholic King, James II. William went on to become the King of England, Scotland and Ireland, ruling until his death in March of 1702. Over 90 years after his death, Roman Catholics of Ireland who were tried of discrimination and harassment, demanded Catholic Emancipation, which escalated tensions with the Protestants. This led to a major clash between the two religious groups in 1795; known as the Battle of the Diamond, resulting in the formation of the Orange Order.

The Orange Order was a secret society that took its name from their Protestant champion, William of Orange. The Order was a unifying force, bringing the Protestant community together to defend Protestant ascendancy. They believed in “allegiance to the British monarchy, Protestantism and conservative values such as respect for the laws and traditions of Great Britain” (Historica Canada). The first official meeting was held on July 12, 1796 in Portadown, Ireland, the start of rapidly spreading organization.

William of Orange, also known as William III, the namesake for the Orange Order.
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica
Although records are scarce, it is generally agreed that the Orange Order reached Canada prior to 1812 by way of Irish immigrants. The membership expanded to include English, Scottish, German and Indigenous people, numbering about 14,000 in 1834 and growing to about 60,000 in 1900, spreading to every province. The Order met at lodges, which generally hosted 25 to 40 members, representing every socioeconomic background and found everywhere from small towns to big cities. At the peak of the Orange Order’s popularity in 1920, there were about 100,000 members in Canada, which was more than anywhere else in the world, including Ireland.

The Orange Order in Canada provided its members with financial aid during hard times, social gathering, networking and comradery. Members joined the Order through initiations ceremonies, then learning secret passwords, taking part in rituals, wearing orange sashes and marching parades. They were deeply embedded in the Canadian political system, with Sir John A. Macdonald, three additional prime ministers, ten premiers and numerous mayors all being members of the Order. The members were exceptionally loyal to the colonial government in Canada, strongly anti-Catholic and willing to engage in violence to defend their beliefs.

The Orange Order Parade in Toronto on July 12, 1932.
Source: Historica Canada and City of Toronto Archives
One of these passionate and willing members of the Orange Order was Thomas Scott, who arrived in Canada from Ireland around 1863. Six years after his arrival, Scott moved to the Red River Settlement (Winnipeg) where he quickly found trouble, being convicted of aggravated assault a few months after arriving. Scott then befriended John Christian Schultz, the leader of the Canadian Party, an English speaking group who believed the Red River Settlement should be a part of Canada.

Thomas Scott, an Orangeman and protagonist of Louis Riel.
Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Unfortunately for Scott, the people of the Red River Settlement were more inclined to follow Metis leader Louis Riel, who was the leader of the provisional government for the area. Scott’s resistance to the Riel government led to him being captured on December 7, 1969 and held as a prisoner at Upper Fort Garry. Undeterred, Scott and several others escaped on January 9, 1870, using pocket knives to break though a barred window. Scott fled to Portage la Prairie where he began plotting to free his still jailed compatriots. By mid February, a group including Scott had retuned to the Red River Settlement to put this plan into action, but found no support from the settlers. Disheartened, Scott’s group decided to rebelliously pass though Upper Fort Garry, a final bold act of dissent.

Not surprisingly, Riel and his followers captured Scott and the group on February 18, 1870. Scott was an unruly prisoner, eager to voice his distaste for the Metis and threatening to kill Riel. Not wanting to be seen as weak, the Metis decided to court martial Scott on the charge of insubordination. Scott was convicted and sentenced to death. A firing squad executed Scott the next day, March 4, 1870. This angered the people of Ontario, particularly the members of the Orange Order, and made Scott into a martyr for the anti-French and anti-Catholic resistance.

A depiction of the execution of Thomas Scott
at Upper Fort Garry by the Riel Government on March 4, 1870.
Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography and Library and Archives of Canada
Several months after the death of Scott, the Orange Order officially spread west of Ontario, holding its first meeting in Winnipeg on September 18, 1870. The Winnipeg lodge grew quickly, with a membership of 110 by February of 1871 in a city of only 600 people. Winnipeg’s Orangemen included Members of Parliament, the Manitoba Legislative Council and eventually four of the city’s mayors. By 1899 it was decided to build an Orange Hall in Winnipeg, to be named in memory of Scott.

The Thomas Scott Memorial Hall was built at 216 Princess Street for a cost of $21,00. Construction commenced on July 12, 1900 with the hall officially opening in March of 1903. Successful contractor and self taught architect James McDiarmid drafted the original plans for the building, based on the Neo-Classical style, featuring four stories and a corner tower. McDiarmid’s design for the façade was then altered by Samuel Hooper, an English trained architect who went on to become the first Provincial Architect of Manitoba. Hooper’s revisions included shortening the building to only three stories and removing the tower.

James McDiarmid's original design for the Thomas Scott Memorial Hall,
as published on July 13, 1900.
Source: City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Free Press

The Thomas Scott Memorial Hall shortly after opening in 1903.
Source: Virtual Heritage Winnipeg and the University or Manitoba Archives and Special Collections
The finished façade of the Memorial Hall was a symmetrical design made of rough cut limestone. An arched entrance is located at each end of the façade with a collection of squared off and arched windows on the three floors. The second floor is clearly divided from the first and third with stone cornices and ornamental brackets at each end, embellished with acanthus leaves and semi circular elements. The third floor is embellished with four large Ionic columns, flaking circular element inscribed with “AD” and “1902” and a central arched window flanked by small Corinthian columns, capped with an acanthus leaf keystone. The central portion of the second and third floors projects slightly, with the projection capped by a carved stone panel proclaiming “SCOTT MEMORIAL HALL”, large pediment with a semi circular window and a flagpole.  Raised leaf details on the front corners of the roof complete the façade.

The top story of the Thomas Scott Memorial Hall is the most embellished section of the facade, as seen in 2015.
Source: City of Winnipeg and M. Peterson
The Memorial Hall is 15.3 meters wide and 27.5 meters deep. It sits atop a stone foundation, with a full basement and a mezzanine in addition to the three stories. Although it was originally a free standing building, it later shared a party wall with the McLaughlin Carriage Company that was built south of the Memorial Hall. The north and back facades were plain buff brick, with windows and a fire escape on the back. The basement and ground floor were used as rented out warehouse and showroom space, the Orange Order had meeting rooms one the second floor and the third floor was a dance hall.

In 1943 a major fire destroyed most of the interior elements of the Memorial Hall leaving a few remnants such as the tin ceiling and mural on the second floor. Afterwards, the dance hall was moved to the first floor, meeting rooms remained on the second floor and the third floor was left unfinished. A caretaker suit was eventually added to the third floor in 1957. Although other groups used the building starting in the 1980s, the Orange Order owned the building until it was sold in the 1990s. Since then the building has been used as both commercial and storage space. The building was designated by the City of Winnipeg as a historical resource on July 19, 2017, protecting it from demolition.

A fire devastated the interior the Thomas Scott Memorial Hall in 1943.
Source: City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Free Press

An Orange Order painting still visible in a meeting room on the second floor in 2015.
Source: City of Winnipeg and M. Peterson
The original tin ceiling in the Thomas Scott Memorial Hall.
Source: Virtual Heritage Winnipeg


Canada: A Country by Consent

Canadian Inventory of Historic Building – Historical Building Report
Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall

City of Winnipeg

BBC News

Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Grand Orange Lodge of Canada

Historica Canada

Manitoba Historical Society

The Orange Order

Virtual Heritage Winnipeg

Friday, 12 January 2018

208 Princess Street – Carriages, Cars and Community

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

The Red and Assiniboine Rivers were the first mode of transportation in the burgeoning settlement that would become Winnipeg. Canoes traversed the muddy waters, followed by York boats, barges, flatboats and steamboats. The floods in the spring, rapids in the summer and ice in the winter all made the river a challenging route to take. But travelling by land was no easier.  Meandering foot trails followed the paths of the rivers, laying the foundation for the later Portage Avenue and Main Street. Red River Ox Carts soon took to the trails, a painstakingly slow mode of transport but capable of carrying nearly a half ton load over the unforgiving terrain.  Stagecoaches appeared for a brief seven years, disappearing with the arrival of the first train from St. Paul, Minnesota on December 7th, 1878. 

The Red River Ox Cart was used to transport freight over rough prairie terrain.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society
Prominent citizens of Winnipeg were determined to see the city flourish, lobbying to ensure the Canadian Pacific Railway would bring its groundbreaking transcontinental railway through the city. In 1886 the railway arrived, further spurring the growth of the city. Expansion that originally followed the old trails along the rivers now followed the steel tracks of the railway, further creating a sprawling urban jungle.

The growing city was clearly in need of improved transportation, although the pioneering attempt at public transportation in 1877 was considered a failure in just one day. It was not until 1882 that a successful streetcar company took to the roads, with horse cars on rails in the summer and horse drawn sleighs in winter. Although the streetcar’s popularity did not initially explode as the horses slowly slogged through the muddy streets, demand did increase enough that by 1891 Winnipeg introduced electric streetcars. 

Capitalizing on the growing demand for transportation in Winnipeg was the McLaughlin Carriage Company. The company was started by Robert McLaughlin, a farmer from Ontario, who fell into the carriage business by accident, having sold his first sleigh to a neighbor who just happened to see it. With a growing reputation for the finest quality sleighs and wagons, McLaughlin went on to open a carriage plant in Oshawa and was quickly overwhelmed with more orders than he could possible fill. With two of his sons, George and Robert Samuel, McLaughlin began expanding westward, first to Saint John, New Brunswick and later westward.

Robert McLaughlin was the founder of the McLaughlin Carriage Company.
Source: Harvey Historical Society
By 1902, the McLaughlin Carriage Company arrived in Winnipeg and began construction on their own warehouse and showroom at 208 Princess Avenue. Located on the northwest corner of the block, the building was designed by Ontario architect James H. Cadham in the Romanesque Revival style. Cadham was a self trained architect, prolific in Winnipeg during the early 1900s, designing many of the buildings in the area that later became known as the Exchange District. For $20,000, a three story buff brick building was erected, with a heavy stone foundation, the rhythmic placement of windows in bays topped with graceful arches, all capped with a detailed dental cornice. The east façade facing Princess Street featured two large plate glass windows on the ground floor flanking the central main entrance. The south façade facing Ross Avenue was also finely dressed, featuring a single plate glass window on the corner and advertising painted on the wall above.

The McLaughlin Carriage Company in Winnipeg at 208 Princess in 1903.
Source: City of Winnipeg
The McLaughlin Company quickly found success in Winnipeg. By 1906 construction started on an expansion on the north side of their building, doubling their space. The same architect designed the expansion, at a cost of $20,700. Built with the same materials and in the same style as the original, the main distinguishing feature from the original building is the slightly wider window bays. Interestingly, the addition was never tied into the original building, resulting in some separation of the old and new facades over time.

The Princess Street facade shows the original building on the left and
the new additional on the right, seen here in 2015.
Source: City of Winnipeg
Inside, the building was supported by square timber posts and beams, with wood flooring.  Metal fire doors separated the old and new parts of the building and an ornamental tin ceiling was featured on the first and second floor of the original section of the building. There was also a freight elevator and walk in safe. The ground floor was used as a showroom while the upper two floors were used as storage, supposedly capable of holding “65 carloads of carriages” (City of Winnipeg).

An ad for the McLaughlin Carriage Company.
Source: City of Winnipeg
The start of the 20th century was a time of great change in Winnipeg, with innovation creating rapid change. On June 14, 1901, the first private automobile arrived in Winnipeg, ushering in a new era. The introduction of private automobiles did not spell the end of the horse era in Winnipeg, which was good for the McLaughlin Company, for McLaughlin had dismissed automobiles as a passing fad. Roads were being paved and progressed moved forward, with more and more automobiles taking to the new asphalt.

By 1907 McLaughlin’s sons were finally able to convince their father that they should produce automobiles. They set about creating the McLaughlin Motor Car Company and were just starting production when their engineer fell ill. The McLaughlin’s turned to an old friend, Bill Durant, who was working for the Buick Motor Company. An agreement was struck - Buick would provide the engines for the automobiles and McLaughlin would provide the rest of the parts. By 1908, the McLaughlin Company produced 154 automobiles, soon advertising its new products in Winnipeg.

A 1909 McLaughlin Buick, a brand favoured by Canadians.
Source: Generations of GM History
Although the new automobile company struggled, the McLaughlin brand was a favourite of Canadians, dominating the streets of Winnipeg in 1912. During the same year there were still over 6,000 horses plodding through the streets of the city, hauling freight and delivering essential services. By 1915 the McLaughlin’s conceded that carriages were becoming a relic of the past, selling their carriage company after producing 270,000 carriages. The same year the McLaughlin Company began producing Chevrolets, further investing in the automobile business.

A picture from the February 12, 1916 Manitoba Free Press,
showing the inside of the showroom at 208 Princess Street in Winnipeg.
Source: City of Winnipeg
In 1918 the McLaughlin Motor Company was sold to General Motors of Canada. George was appointed vice president and Robert Samuel was appointed president of the new company. They remained at the Princess Street building until 1924, when they moved to a different Winnipeg location. The building stood empty for nearly a decade after the McLaughlin Company left, eventually reopening as the Princess Street Dining Hall, as a soup kitchen that fed citizens during the 1930s depression. In 1942 the building was purchased the Beatty Brothers Limited, manufactures of farm implements. The building subsequently changed hands again in the 1970s, with various businesses occupying the space throughout the decades, until its final use as a storage facility. Despite changing owners, much of the building has remained unchanged, with minor alterations taking place on the ground floor.

Heritage Winnipeg would like to support the proper redevelopment and reuse of this important heritage building. Mixed used with retail on the ground floor and commercial/residential on the top floors would be ideal.  Allowing this historic building to once again make a significant contribution to the urban landscape of Winnipeg's downtown and the Exchange District, a national historic site.


City of Winnipeg

Generations of GM History

Harvey Historical Society

Manitoba Historical Society

The Manchester of Canada

Winnipeg’s Great War: A City Comes of Age by Jim Blanchard