The residents of Wolseley and surrounding neighbourhoods once splashed and swam at the Cornish Public Baths.
The facility was Winnipeg’s second public indoor pool and the Cornish Library’s fraternal twin.
Between 1915 and 1931, these sibling structures chummed alongside the Assiniboine River, just 40 feet apart. Both were constructed in 1914-15 under the direction of City Council’s Library and Public Baths Committee.
They weren’t designed by the same architects or built by the same contractors, but they shared a common steam plant (in the pool building) and a similar appearance — red-brown brick skin, triangular pediments, horizontal wings and tall flat chimneys.
Maybe there’s a centenarian or nonagenarian among us who, as a teenager or young child, frolicked in the Cornish Baths and later watched its demolition. They may recall the structure was never physically healthy and was laid to rest because of foundational frailties.
Historian Randy R. Rostecki comments on the pool in his 2009 book, Armstrong’s Point, A History:
"In July 1915, a building inspector found that there were no proper provisions for exiting the basement locker room. Nor were there any fire alarms or exit lights to be found. No final inspection was asked for or granted, probably for those reasons."
The pool (and library) suffered structural damage in the 1916 flood. Repairs to the pool’s foundations in 1922 and 1923 were unsuccessful.
Venerable Winnipeggers from that earlier time might remember the pool was suddenly closed in the fall of 1929 because of the structural concerns. They waited 16 months for the city to build a new indoor pool, not too far away so it would serve the same general neighbourhoods.
The successor was another dignified brown brick structure, streamlined in the style of the 1930s with generic signage, "Public Baths. We now call it Sherbrook Pool.
Today, the Cornish Baths site is occupied by the north span of the Maryland Bridge and a fringe of grass.
Its spirit — really, the city’s commitment to the area’s recreational wellbeing — still breathes in the Cornish Library and in the Sherbrook Pool, until its sudden closure this past fall for structural reasons.
After seven months, Sherbrook’s future remains murky.
On the surface, history may look to be repeating itself. But today’s situation is different from 1931.
The Cornish Baths facility was never quite right. The 82-year old Sherbrook Pool has a proven record of structural integrity, successful repair and citizen advocates.
Gail Perry is a community correspondent for Wolseley.