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Book a labour of love for local author

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The neighbourhood of Wolseley has a unique place within the culture of Winnipeg, according to local writer Laina Hughes.


"The neighbourhood has a reputation as kind of a hippie hot bed," Hughes said with a laugh.


For many outside the community, the culture of Wolseley is defined by its opposition to all things unnatural, from mosquito spraying to SUVs.


"I think it’s funny that we have this reputation that we’re all angry vegans, but that’s not the case, entirely," she said.


Hughes is writing a book about Wolseley as part of her Creative Communications program at Red River College. Hughes hopes to present a wider view of the neighbourhood’s culture while embracing those quirky elements that give the community its character.


At 25, Hughes has lived most of her life beneath the tall canopy of elm trees that line these streets. Her assignment provided the perfect excuse for Hughes to delve into the history or her neighbourhood.


Since starting the project, Hughes has learned Garfield Street, where she grew up, used to be part of an amusement park called Happy Land Park. It was built at the turn of the 20th century between Aubrey and Dominion streets.


"There’s pictures of it and it’s just crazy to see," Hughes said. "That’s my house right there, but in these pictures there’s a ferris wheel and a baseball diamond."


Hughes is hoping to tell more than just the history of Wolseley, however. She is looking for the smaller, personal stories of the people who live here.


One source of the hidden history of Wolseley is local real estate agent Todd Sykes.


"He just knows everything about Wolseley, all the houses, all the stories," Hughes said.


Sykes told Hughes that when he moved into his home, it was full of clothes hangers.


"He found out the people who first lived there ran a dry cleaning business, and when it was bought out by another dry cleaning business, they agreed to do the family’s laundry for the rest of their lives."


Hughes is surprised with the attention her project has received since she started. After originally planning on printing only 10 copies, she now plans to print 150.


"I was thinking it was only going to be my mom buying it," she said.


Hughes plans on self-publishing the book and hopes to sell copies in some area book shops.


Hughes encourages other people to come forward with their own stories about Wolseley. She’s created a Twitter account, @WolseleyStories, and an email account, wolesleystories@gmail.com, to collect them.


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The committee in charge of redeveloping the former Grace Hospital at the corner of Evanson Street and Preston Avenue is seeking community input on what to do with the site. The Old Grace Hospital Steering Committee wants two volunteers to help them develop criteria for further development, which will be incorporated into a formal request for proposals.


Anyone interested can contact steering committee chair Bruce McManus at bruceoldgrace@gmail.com or Andrea Furness at andrea.furness@gov.mb.ca. The original Grace Hospital was built in 1906 and operated until 1967 when the current hospital opened in St. James.


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Housing prices in Wolseley are on a roller coaster ride, according to David Thompson, RE/MAX Performance Realty’s Wolseley "expert."


Two homes were sold in the area recently. One home on Palmerston Avenue sold for $17,000 less than the listed price, while the other home on Craig Street sold for $22,000 over the selling price.


Condo prices appear to be similarly unpredictable. According to Thompson, a condo on Preston sold for $10,000 less than the asking price. Wolseley residents looking to sell their home can compare housing prices at www.WolseleyHomeValues.com.


Cameron MacLean is a community correspondent for Wolseley. You can contact him at cameronkdmaclean@gmail.com.

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