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Heritage Winnipeg: Forty Years on the Front Lines of Conservation

Heritage Winnipeg is a not-for-profit charitable organization that promotes the restoration, rehabilitation, and preservation of Winnipeg's built heritage. The Heritage Winnipeg office is currently located at 509-63 Albert Street in the heart of the west Exchange District, a national historic site. Since its formation in 1978, Heritage Winnipeg has been instrumental in saving historic buildings and encouraging new development that respects heritage character-defining elements. This July 24th, 2018, our organization celebrates its 40th anniversary since incorporation.  




In the mid-20th century, a 'perfect storm' of different factors was brewing. Economic uptick and optimism after the end of the Second World War prompted expansion on all fronts. Downtown areas, which had been trooping on faithfully and functionally during the war, started to get the calculating eye from city planners and developers. More efficient - more beautiful - more modern downtown spaces and buildings …
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The International Harvester Building - Cultivating Community

The International Harvester Building is located at 782 Main Street on North Main, which was created after the arrival of the railroad in 1882. Built in 1904, the building is currently being recommended for heritage designation. 



One of John A. Macdonald's visions for the new nation of Canada was to have a railroad stretching across the vast country from the east to the west. The railroad would decrease transportation costs, usher in economic growth, and allow the export of Canada's many natural resources. To build the railroad, Macdonald had applied to private companies and British officials alike to fund its construction, as a condition of British Columbia joining the newly-formed nation of Canada in 1871. The construction of the railroad was rife with controversy, including the seizure of Indigenous land through the Numbered Treaties, the terms of which are still unfulfilled, and the employment of, but later discrimination against, Chinese men.

Despite the geographical diffi…

Upper Fort Garry - A Mosaic of Manitoba

Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park (southwest corner of Broadway and Main) is built on the site of the original Upper Fort Garry and is the birthplace of Manitoba. It is recognized as a federal, provincial, and municipal heritage site based on the importance of the fort itself to Canadian history, as well as the numerous historical events that happened there. The story of Upper Fort Garry is very much a story of the fur trade, of early Canadian immigration, of Indigenous peoples, of the formation of our country and of the beginning of our province and city.

The year is 1806. France is ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte, and George III is King of England. Noah Webster has just published the very first dictionary of American English, composer Joseph Haydn died, and Canada didn't really exist - at least, not like we know it. there is an Anglophone British Upper Canada, and a Francophone Lower Canada. The land that would eventually become Manitoba was still part of the vast Rupert's Land, …

City Hall - The Heart of Winnipeg's Decision Making

The current City Hall is the third of Winnipeg's municipal government centres. It was built in 1962-1963 and officially opened in 1964. A classic and defining example of the Modernist style of architecture, City Hall consists of two separate buildings, one for administrative works and the other for council. City Hall, including both buildings and the associated outdoor spaces, was given municipal heritage designation on January 5th, 2015. 

Those familiar with Winnipeg's history would be able to tell you that the current iteration is in fact the third City Hall building in Winnipeg over the years. The very first City Hall was built in Winnipeg just three years after Winnipeg was incorporated (although the settlement had been called Winnipeg for a few years prior). So in 1876, around $40,000 was spent to construct the first City Hall building - right on top of a poorly-filled-in Brown's Creek. Brown's Creek, also called Ross' Creek or Sinclair's Creek depending o…

Pantages Playhouse Theatre - "Unequalled Vaudeville"

The Pantages Playhouse Theatre is one of of 75 theatres (today only six remain) built by Alexander Pantages in the early 20th century, and is the last-standing vaudeville theatre in Winnipeg. It is located at 180 Market Avenue east in the heart of the East Exchange District. It is a municipally (1981), provincially (2004), and federally (1985) designated heritage building. 

Picture this - Winnipeg, in the early years of the 20th century, buoyed by the prosperous grain farmers on the surrounding prairies, the city is in its prime. After the bustling workday is through, Winnipeggers had their choice of evening entertainment at the many different theatres the city had to offer. Elegant productions were shown at places like the Walker Theatre (now the Burton Cummings) or those inclined could choose more lively variety shows - Vaudeville. There were a number of dedicated vaudeville theatres in Winnipeg: the Dominion Theatre, the Bijou Theatre, and the Orpheum Theatre, but only one remains t…

Ross House - Historic House, Community Pride

Ross House Museum, owned by the city of Winnipeg, is located at 140 Meade St. N in North Point Douglas, and has been opened annually in the summertime since 1953, except in 1984 when it was moved from Higgins Ave to Joe Zuken Heritage Park. The oldest post office in Western Canada was built on land gifted to Alexander Ross in the 1820s, and was occupied by the Ross', a prominent Metis family, for many years. 

When Alexander Ross brought his Okanogan/Syilx wife Sarah, and his four children, to the new Red River settlement, they quickly made it their home. It was Alexander and Sarah Ross' son, William Ross, who would build Ross House in 1854 for himself and his wife Jemima. 
"The Rocky Mountains, or Back Lone of America, is truly a great sight. We had to pass them in the customary manner on snow shoes. My destination is Red River, a colony settled in Hudson Bay by the late lord Selkirk. This colony is said to be thriving. In my next letter I shall give you a full account of i…

Heritage at Risk: The former Carnegie Library - City of Winnipeg Archives

The former Carnegie Library is located at 380 William Avenue, aptly named for the $75,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie, was built in 1905 as the city's very first public library, and is currently owned by the City of Winnipeg. It was designed in the Classical Revival style by notable Winnipeg Architect Samuel Hooper (appointed provincial architect in 1904), and features the Manitoba crest on its pediment. This year, the National Trust of Canada included Winnipeg's former Carnegie Library on their 2018 Top Ten Endangered Buildings. Unless action is taken soon to repair this historic building and re-occupy it, damage will continue to occur until the building's repairs become too cost-prohibitive to be feasible.

The former Carnegie Library is one of the most at-risk buildings in Winnipeg, from the National Trust for Canada:
...the former Carnegie Library remains empty and in limbo with no funds allocated by the City for restoration, and an active search is underway for a new long…