Christian Cassidy

Christian Cassidy

What's in a Street Name?

Christian Cassidy believes that every building has a great story – or 10 – to tell. His quest to find these stories has led to the discovery of hundreds of people, places, and organizations that helped build this province, but are not mentioned in the history books.

For over a decade, Christian has posted his research on his blog, West End Dumplings. He is a Manitoba Historical Society council member and has also been known to conduct the odd walking tour and for nearly three years hosted a local history-themed radio show on UMFM.

Like most bloggers, Christian’s day job has absolutely nothing to do with his blog topic, so he can usually be found hovering over his computer in the wee hours of the morning with a fresh pot of coffee by his side.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Christian is a proud resident of the West End.

Recent articles of Christian Cassidy

Did Winnipeg name any streets after Titanic victims?

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Did Winnipeg name any streets after Titanic victims?

Christian Cassidy 3 minute read Wednesday, Apr. 6, 2022

Later this month, on April 15, is the 110th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland. It has often been said that several Winnipeg streets were named for local victims in the aftermath of the tragedy — but that does not appear to be the case.

Of the nearly 1,500 people who died that night, at least 10 had strong Manitoba connections. Another 16 were immigrants, in some cases entire families, who listed this province as their final destination but never set eyes on their new homeland.

Two streets are, indeed, named for people who went down on the Titanic, but they existed long before the tragedy.

Borebank Street, for instance, is named after John J. Borebank, a Toronto businessman who came to Winnipeg around 1902. He got into the lucrative real estate business and in 1904 began selling residential lots in Fort Rouge through his company, Howey and Borebank. It is around this time that Borebank Street was created.

Wednesday, Apr. 6, 2022

Photographs of the Winnipeggers who died aboard the RMS Titanic were prominently displayed on the front page of the Winnipeg Tribune.

The origin of Winnipeg’s metro route system

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The origin of Winnipeg’s metro route system

Christian Cassidy 3 minute read Monday, Nov. 1, 2021

Some of Winnipeg’s longest streets don’t have names. They are the numbered routes created in the 1960s by Metro Winnipeg.

The Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg, Metro for short, was created by the province in 1960. It was a second tier of municipal government tasked with overseeing regional issues such as transportation, water and waste, and development for Winnipeg and its surrounding municipalities. It lasted until the implementation of Unicity in 1972.

A big challenge for Metro was moving traffic efficiently across numerous municipal boundaries. An American-style freeway system that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and tear neighbourhoods apart was not in the cards. It would have to use the existing street network to which it would add bridges and interchanges. The goal was, where possible, to start and end the routes at a provincial highway.

Municipalities had to give up jurisdiction over these stretches of road to Metro. In return, Metro was responsible for funding their maintenance and the cost of any new road infrastructure. Winnipeg’s chief streets engineer, W. H. Finnbogason, told a reporter in 1965 that it was a bold plan and that “no other city in Canada is doing this.”

Monday, Nov. 1, 2021

Supplied photo
Metro Route signs began going up in January 1967, as shown in these photos from the Jan. 9, 1967, issue of the Winnipeg Tribune.

Kildonan links hit 100

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Kildonan links hit 100

Christian Cassidy 8 minute read Monday, Jun. 14, 2021

Kildonan Park Golf Course, the city’s first municipal links, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. It is the remnant of a failed $2-million plan to turn the park into an entertainment supersite.

Calls for the City of Winnipeg to create a municipal golf course began in the early 1900s. By that time, communities such as Virden, Portage la Prairie and Brandon already operated their own. In the Winnipeg region, golf was strictly a private affair with the opening of the Winnipeg — now Southwood — Golf Club in 1893, the St. Charles Golf Club in 1905, and Pine Ridge Golf Club in 1912. In August 1912, the Winnipeg Free Press ran a story headlined, “Time is now ripe for municipal golf course for the city of Winnipeg.” It included an interview with Tom Bendelow of Spalding and Co. of Chicago who had a hand in designing Pine Ridge.

Bendelow extolled the virtues of municipal golf courses and noted that many cities in the U.S. had already established them to make the game affordable for the masses. “The municipal golf course is simply an evolution of the municipal playground and the success of the latter scheme is a criterion of the success that awaits the former when the authorities have awakened to a realization of the needs of the community,” Bendelow told the Free Press.

Winnipeg’s parks board was finally ready to wade into the matter at its Oct. 21, 1914 meeting when it requested the board of control, the city’s finance committee, investigate if there was enough land available at the “new exhibition site” at Kildonan Park to include a golf course. Much of the land for Kildonan Park was purchased in 1909 on the recommendation of George Champion, the city’s superintendent of Public Parks. He worried that if the city did not act soon, finding land for a park in the north part of the city would be lost forever due to its rapid urbanization.

Monday, Jun. 14, 2021

Golfers on the 18th green at Kildonan Park Golf Course in 1928. (Manitoba archives)

Time, fire erase last visible ties to community builder

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Time, fire erase last visible ties to community builder

Christian Cassidy 5 minute read Sunday, Jun. 3, 2018

When contractor and lumber magnate John Hanbury died in 1928 the Brandon Sun wrote: “John Hanbury needs no memorial in Brandon to perpetuate his name. He lives in the memory of his old-time friends and all around are concrete evidences of his business career and successful achievements.”

Over time, of course, his old friends died off and the physical traces of Hanbury’s business empire fell victim to the wrecking ball. The last prominent reminder, the Hanbury Hardware building on Pacific Avenue, was razed in the devastating fire that struck Brandon’s downtown last month.

John Hanbury was born in Markdale, Ont., in 1855 and apprenticed in the building trades, eventually becoming a successful contractor in the region. He moved to Brandon in 1882, the year the city was incorporated, to seek greater challenges.

Hanbury oversaw the construction of many of the Wheat City’s earliest landmarks, including the Langham Hotel on 12th Street (1883), the First Merchants Bank building (1890), Brandon’s first combined post office and federal building (1891), and the original Brandon Hospital (1892). All have long since been demolished.

Sunday, Jun. 3, 2018

CHRISTIAN CASSIDY
The Massey Harris building was built in 1913-14 for the Gordon McKay Company of Toronto, then the largest dry goods wholesaler in the country. In recent years it was converted to an affordable housing complex and renamed Massey Manor.

Catastrophic bridge collapse

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Catastrophic bridge collapse

Christian Cassidy 8 minute read Sunday, May. 13, 2018

The Birdtail Creek Train disaster of 1968 killed three men and shook the tightly knit railway community of two provinces. Fifty years later, the memories of those men are kept alive by the families they left behind.

On the evening of April 22, 1968, Canadian National Railways (CN) freight train number 409 departed Winnipeg for points west. It was 97 cars in length and powered by four diesel engines, which was considered an average-sized train at the time.

Around midnight, the train pulled into the CN station at Rivers, Man., for a crew change and was soon back on its way with a five-man crew from Saskatchewan.

In the lead engine was 36-year-old Herbert Degerstedt, the head-end brakeman. He joined CN soon after high school and already had 16 years of service to his name. Back home in Melville, Sask., were his wife Elaine and two young children.

Sunday, May. 13, 2018

UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA, WINNIPEG TRIBUNE PHOTO COLLECTION
Overhead view of the crash site

The Flying Bandit: Ken Leishman became a folk hero following ill-fated 1966 gold heist

Christian Cassidy 12 minute read Preview

The Flying Bandit: Ken Leishman became a folk hero following ill-fated 1966 gold heist

Christian Cassidy 12 minute read Sunday, Apr. 29, 2018

Ken Leishman was the unlikeliest of folk heroes. Despite numerous trips to, and escapes from, prison in the 1950s and ’60s, the “Flying Bandit” wasn’t considered a public enemy. Instead, he became a media celebrity and a respected community leader.

William Kenneth Leishman was born on a farm near Holland, Man., July 20, 1931, the middle child of Norman and Irene Leishman.

Throughout the Depression years, the family jumped from community to community in search of work.

In 1938, Ken’s parents separated, leaving Irene to raise their three children. She found work in a rural community as a live-in domestic for a widowed farmer who did not take kindly to young Ken.

Sunday, Apr. 29, 2018

Born in a remote community in northern Manitoba, Joe Keeper distinguished himself as an athlete and a soldier

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Born in a remote community in northern Manitoba, Joe Keeper distinguished himself as an athlete and a soldier

Christian Cassidy 9 minute read Sunday, Apr. 1, 2018

Joseph Benjamin “Joe” Keeper’s life began in a remote hunting camp in northern Manitoba. Thanks to his talents as a middle-distance runner, he would go on to thrill audiences locally and on the international stage in a decade-long track and field career.

Keeper, a member of the Norway House Cree Nation, was born Jan. 21, 1886 at Walker Lake, about 130 kilometres north-west of Norway House. He was the youngest of ten children of Matilda and Walker Keeper, for whom Walker Lake is named.

At the age of 12, Keeper was sent to the Methodist Church-run Indian Industrial School in Brandon, about 1,000 kilometres away from his home. There, he trained to be a carpenter and played centre forward on the school’s soccer team.

Rev. Joseph Jones, the school’s carpentry teacher and soccer coach, was impressed by the teen’s stamina on the pitch. He suggested Keeper take up distance running and offered to be his coach.

Sunday, Apr. 1, 2018

LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA
Joe Keeper breaks the tape to win the three-mile race at the 1918 Dominion Day Canadian Corps Sports Day in France. He also won the one-mile race at the meet.

Administrative and planning blunders delayed construction of city's oldest functioning traffic bridge

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Administrative and planning blunders delayed construction of city's oldest functioning traffic bridge

Christian Cassidy 7 minute read Sunday, Mar. 11, 2018

The Redwood Bridge, as most still refer to it despite it being renamed the Harry Lazarenko Bridge in 2014, is Winnipeg’s oldest functioning traffic bridge. It was meant to be a wedding gift, of sorts, to celebrate the union of two communities, but the sentiment was spoiled after an embarrassing administrative gaffe by the city saw the ten-month construction period drag on for two years.

On Feb. 16, 1906, the community of Elmwood voted overwhelmingly in favour of breaking away from the Rural Municipality of Kildonan to join the City of Winnipeg. Its residents were seeking the better police, fire and streetcar service the larger municipality could provide. Most Winnipeggers approved of the union as it would open up hundreds of acres of land near the city centre for suburban development.

Before either side got what it wanted, access between the two communities had to be improved.

The only crossing between Winnipeg and Elmwood was the original Louise Bridge in Point Douglas. Built in 1881 as a railway bridge, it was near the end of its functional life, but a new link had to be completed before the old one could be torn down and replaced.

Sunday, Mar. 11, 2018

Archives of Manitoba
The Redwood Bridge’s 250-foot long swing span was last opened to let a ship pass in 1979. It was decommissioned in 1985.

Early Black settler Billy Beal was a ground breaker in many ways

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Early Black settler Billy Beal was a ground breaker in many ways

Christian Cassidy 8 minute read Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018

William Sylvester Alpheus “Billy” Beal was one of rural Manitoba’s first black settlers, arriving in the Swan River region in 1906. After a life dedicated to building his community, Swan River has worked hard in recent years to ensure his legacy is never forgotten.

Beal was born in Chelsea, Mass., in 1874 and graduated from North Community High School in Minneapolis in 1898. He then apprenticed as a steam engineer.

At the time of his graduation, Canada was at the start of an aggressive immigration campaign led by Manitoba MP and federal immigration minister Clifford Sifton. The goal was to attract hundreds of thousands of homesteaders to farm the prairies.

Attracting peasant immigrants from far away lands was an expensive endeavour, so the government made special efforts to target those who had already settled in the United States. The enticement to move north was a generous homesteading arrangement of 160 acres of land for the bargain price of $10.

Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018

William S. A. Beal (courtesy R. Barrow)
In addition to using his photographic expertise to take portraits of people in the Swan River area, Billy Beal took this self portrait circa 1918.

Rhodes’ road to success started in Winnipeg

Christian Cassidy 10 minute read Preview

Rhodes’ road to success started in Winnipeg

Christian Cassidy 10 minute read Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018

Earlier this month, actor Donnelly Rhodes died in Maple Ridge, B.C., at the age of 81.

If the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, his face should, as he was a fixture on television screens on both sides of the border for nearly sixty years. His acting roots, however, were firmly embedded in Manitoba’s theatre scene.

Donnelly Rhodes Henry was born in Winnipeg in 1936 to Ann Henry. Later in life, his mother would become a celebrated journalist and playwright, but after her husband left her with three small children to raise, she struggled to keep a roof over their heads.

Henry recounted years later to local entertainment columnist Frank Morriss that “I’ve slept in bus depots, railway stations and other places with my children. We lived in Immigration Hall for six weeks.”

Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018

UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA ARCHIVES, TRIBUNE COLLECTION
Rhodes, seated, with actors Sue Helen Petrie and brother Tim Henry in the 1970 drama Famous Jury Trials.

Reign of the Ice Queen

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Reign of the Ice Queen

Christian Cassidy 8 minute read Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018

In the 1930s and ’40s, Mary Rose Thacker was Winnipeg’s “Ice Queen”, a figure skating phenomenon who stood atop national and North American podiums. As with many athletes of her generation, international glory was dashed due to the Second World War.

Mary Rose was born in April 1922, the youngest of three children of Lillian and George Thacker of Grosvenor Avenue. Her father was a grain company president.

The Thackers were a sporting family, active in summer and winter activities. When Mary Rose was three-years-old she was enrolled in one of her mother’s favourite sports, figure skating, at the Winnipeg Skating Club and soon began turning heads due to her natural abilities.

In 1929, the Winnipeg Winter Club was formed and created a skating club of its own. Mary Rose was a charter member and instantly became its star. Through the 1930s her solo performances were a main attraction at the club’s carnival, a gala event held at the Amphitheatre each March to celebrate the end of the skating season.

Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018

University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections
Mary Rose Thacker shows fine form during an outdoor performance in the late 1930s.

In the '50s, an indecency charge ended the political career of a closeted councillor

Christian Cassidy 13 minute read Preview

In the '50s, an indecency charge ended the political career of a closeted councillor

Christian Cassidy 13 minute read Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017

Charles Harold Spence was a rising public figure in Winnipeg in the 1950s and early 1960s with a high-profile job and a seat on city council. Spence also had a secret: he was gay. When this became public knowledge following an all all-night police surveillance operation, his public life came to an abrupt end.

Born in 1925 and raised in Poplar Point, Man., Spence settled in Winnipeg after serving with the Navy during the Second World War. He then worked a series of sales jobs, hawking everything from office stationery to life insurance.

During this time, Spence became politically active.

In 1952, he served two years as president of the Young Conservative Association of Greater Winnipeg and in the 1953 provincial election was the Progressive Conservative candidate for Lakehead, running against Premier Douglas Campbell. He lost, as expected, but the campaign gained him notoriety and political points within the party.

Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017

First female bus operator broke new ground in 1975

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First female bus operator broke new ground in 1975

Christian Cassidy 7 minute read Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017

On the afternoon of Jan. 2, 1975, Winnipeg Transit bus number 647 rolled out of the North Main Street garage to begin service on the Main ­— Corydon route. It was a scene that had played out thousands of times before, but what made this trip front-page news was Mary Staub, Winnipeg Transit’s first female bus operator, was heading out on her debut run.

Staub, who was in her early forties at the time, already had a lifetime of hard work behind her.

Born during the Depression in East Kildonan, Staub was raised on a farm 25 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. She returned to the city to attend United College and received her teaching certificate in 1949.

Staub chose to teach at a school in the primarily Aboriginal community of Barrows, Man., about one hour north of Swan River. That is where she married Fred Staub and they returned to Winnipeg to raise their family.

Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017

JON THORDARSON / WINNIPEG TRIBUNE ARCHIVES
After completing a five-week training course, Mary Staub got behind the wheel as a Winnipeg Transit operator for the first time on Jan. 2, 1975.

Sears’ lasting impact

Christian Cassidy   7 minute read Preview

Sears’ lasting impact

Christian Cassidy   7 minute read Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017

After years of lagging sales and financial uncertainty, Sears Canada finally pulled the plug on its retail operations on Oct. 10, 2017. Though the store’s history is not as deeply entwined with Winnipeg’s as Eaton’s or The Bay, the once upstart retailer has certainly had an impact on the city’s development.

Sears’ bricks-and-mortar presence in Winnipeg can be traced back to 1948, when Toronto-based department store chain The Robert Simpson Company, or “Simpson’s”, opened a catalogue mail-order office on Portage Avenue at Vaughan Street kitty-corner from the Hudson’s Bay Company’s flagship store.

Simpson’s had been in the catalogue sales business since the 1890s and the following decade began promoting the publication in western cities. In 1929, it built a large warehouse in Regina to exclusively serve the western Canadian market.

The 3,000 square-foot Winnipeg mail-order office was the 169th in the retailer’s network. It allowed customers to browse through catalogues, place orders, pay bills and make returns. For those who couldn’t go in person, there were operators present to take telephone orders.

Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017

University of Manitoba Winnipeg Building Index
Modern art graced the courtyard to the east of the Polo Park Sears location.

For more than a century, Gillis family instrumental in construction of iconic Manitoba buildings

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For more than a century, Gillis family instrumental in construction of iconic Manitoba buildings

Christian Cassidy 5 minute read Sunday, Sep. 24, 2017

It is a building material unique to Manitoba and so prevalent in the province’s architectural landscape we often don’t give it a second thought.

Tyndall stone is a type of limestone that formed 450 million years ago along the sea floor of a prehistoric inland lake that once covered Manitoba.

Buff or grey coloured, depending how far down you quarry, it is instantly recognizable by its distinctive dark, mottled pattern caused by prehistoric creatures burrowing their way through the forming rock. If you look closely, your patience will be rewarded with the fossilized remnants of sea life.

Long before there were commercial quarries for the stone, settlers were already familiar with the material. Its earliest known application is at Lower Fort Garry in 1832, used in the construction of some of its buildings and its massive stone walls.

Sunday, Sep. 24, 2017

GILLIS QUARRIES LIMITED ARCHIVES
August Gillis, founder of Gillis Quarries, second from right.

West End boxer fought in 1928 Olympics and was among world's top welterweight boxers in 1930s

Christian Cassidy 8 minute read Preview

West End boxer fought in 1928 Olympics and was among world's top welterweight boxers in 1930s

Christian Cassidy 8 minute read Sunday, Sep. 3, 2017

West End boxer Frankie Battaglia may not have won any professional championships during his stellar career, but for thousands of Depression weary Winnipeggers that didn’t matter. He thrilled them with his aggressive boxing style that took him from local theatre bouts to a title fight at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The Battaglia story begins in Manitoba after Frankie’s parents, Nunzio and Angela, came to Canada from their native Italy in 1903. Four years later, they owned a two-storey building on Ellice Avenue at Victor Street. The main floor was home to Battaglia’s Fruit and Confectionery store while upstairs was the living quarters where the couple raised their eleven children.

Francisco, or “Frankie”, was born in 1910 and his career path was set early in life thanks to a brief encounter with heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey.

Dempsey spent a week in Winnipeg in November 1921 as part of a touring sports show that performed at Pantages Theatre.

Sunday, Sep. 3, 2017

MANITOBA SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Battaglia (left) and Paul Schiffer ham it up for the camera nearly two decades after they first met in the ring in March 1927. Battaglia beat Schiffer to win the provincial bantamweight title.

Small communities rising to the challenge of saving significant buildings

Christian Cassidy 10 minute read Preview

Small communities rising to the challenge of saving significant buildings

Christian Cassidy 10 minute read Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017

Summertime is when many Manitobans take to the highways on vacation or to visit loved ones. If you go off the beaten track into some of our smaller communities, you can still find a rich, though dwindling, collection of buildings that make up our province’s built history.

Maintaining and renovating these structures would be difficult in any setting, but in a community with small — in some cases, shrinking — tax base and limited pool of volunteers, the challenge is all the greater. Thankfully, small, but dedicated, groups of people in many communities have taken on the often decades-long commitment to preserve and restore some of these structures for future generations.

Three buildings that are in different stages of renovation are the Rivers Train Station, Rapid City Consolidated School and the Ninette Sanatorium. If you find yourself near one of these communities, be sure to stop in and check them out.

 

Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017

University of Manitoba, College of Medicine Archives
The Ninette Sanatorium once consisted of more than a dozen buildings on 160 acres of land overlooking Pelican Lake. Today, there are just six buildings left.

The fastest man on Earth

Christian Cassidy 9 minute read Preview

The fastest man on Earth

Christian Cassidy 9 minute read Sunday, Jul. 23, 2017

From an Aug. 23, 1944 Winnipeg Free Press editorial entitled Jesse Owens’ Legs:

These legs have carried Mr. Owens down cinder paths at a faster clip than any other pair of legs has travelled in athletic history… As we watched him Monday night trying to give a trio of local boys a head start and catch them in a hundred yards, our thoughts went back eight years to another setting.

This week, 4,000 athletes will begin competing at the 2017 Canada Summer Games and spectators will crowd venues to catch performances by future Olympians. More than 70 years ago, Winnipeggers also came out in droves to see an athletic performance, but by just one man: American Olympian Jesse Owens.

Owens began to make a name for himself in the world of track and field as a high school student in Cleveland after capturing a number of national records in his age category. He then moved on to Ohio State University where his star continued to rise.

Sunday, Jul. 23, 2017

U.S. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Jesse Owens

Unique building screened films for decades before becoming bowling alley

Christian Cassidy 8 minute read Preview

Unique building screened films for decades before becoming bowling alley

Christian Cassidy 8 minute read Sunday, Jul. 2, 2017

Last month, Todd Britton, president of Academy Lanes, announced his bowling alley was unable to reach a new lease agreement with the building’s owner. It means the end of a 35-year-old institution at 394 Academy Rd. and puts the future of one of the city’s more unique buildings in doubt.

Though it has been home to a bowling alley for the last 57 years, the building spent its first three decades as a movie theatre.

The Uptown Theatre was financed by Jack Miles’ Allied Amusements Ltd., which amassed a chain of neighbourhood theatres starting with the Palace on Selkirk Avenue in 1912, then the Rose on Sargent Avenue, the Plaza on Marion Street and the Roxy on Henderson Highway.

Initially, the Academy Road theatre was to be similar in size — about 800 seats — and appearance to the others in the chain. Late in the planning stages, Allied was able to purchase an additional lot on Ash Street.

Sunday, Jul. 2, 2017

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The building's owner, Globe Property Management, has not said what its plans are for the structure, which officially opened on Christmas Eve 1931.

The history of Winnipeg's multi-level parkades

Christian Cassidy 7 minute read Preview

The history of Winnipeg's multi-level parkades

Christian Cassidy 7 minute read Sunday, Jun. 11, 2017

Like most North American cities, Winnipeg faced a downtown parking crisis in the decade following the Second World War. It caused architects and developers to look upward for solutions.

The root of the problem was while most people still worked and shopped downtown, tens of thousands had been moving to the sparsely populated suburbs where the car was king and the use of public transportation often impractical.

Wilbur Smith, a traffic engineer from New Haven, Conn., was hired by the Metropolitan Planning Commission of Greater Winnipeg in 1956 to study the parking problem.

Smith pointed out that between 1946 and 1956 the number of cars registered in the greater Winnipeg area had almost tripled. At the same time, public transportation rates plummeted.

Sunday, Jun. 11, 2017

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The Bay Parkade, as seen from Memorial Boulevard, has been hosting vehicles since it opened with two levels in 1954. By 1964, the demand for downtown parking had seen it expanded to four levels.

Bank’s buildings were Prairie pioneers

Christian Cassidy 7 minute read Preview

Bank’s buildings were Prairie pioneers

Christian Cassidy 7 minute read Sunday, May. 21, 2017

If asked to imagine an iconic Prairie building, most would immediately think of the grain elevator and likely struggle to come up with others.

There is, however, another uniquely Prairie building that sprung up at a rate of dozens per year in the early 1900s: the Canadian Bank of Commerce’s “Prairie-type” bank branch.

The Canadian Bank of Commerce, now known as CIBC, is as old as Canada itself. Its first branch opened in Toronto on May 15, 1867, six weeks before Confederation. By the end of the century, its western footprint was sparse, with branches only in Winnipeg, Yukon and British Columbia.

The growing economic might of the Prairies and its impact on the Canadian economy could not be ignored by bank headquarters. In September 1902, a fact-finding delegation was sent to explore the region and its prospects. It returned with predictions for a bright future.

Sunday, May. 21, 2017

ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY OF MANITOBA, 1967, ARCHIVES OF MANITOBA
The Canadian Bank of Commerce’s Elkhorn branch branch circa 1967. Though constructed from wood, the bank’s ‘Prairie-type’ buildings reflected the same neoclassical design one would find on its stone-and-brick urban branches.

Brandon's streetcars were rolled out, then scrapped, within 20 years

Christian Cassidy 11 minute read Preview

Brandon's streetcars were rolled out, then scrapped, within 20 years

Christian Cassidy 11 minute read Sunday, Apr. 30, 2017

Eighty-five years ago today, the City of Brandon shut down its short-lived street railway system.

At the time of its creation, many believed it was a sign of progress and the key to future prosperity, but it collapsed under mounting debt and helped push the city into third-party administration during the Great Depression.

The City of Brandon was incorporated on May 30, 1882 with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Its initial population was 700, but the city grew rapidly. By 1891, Brandon boasted nearly 4,000 citizens, and by 1906 it had surpassed 10,000.

The city entered the 1910s on a high. It was in the midst of an unprecedented private and public sector building boom, and its population growth, then at 13,000, showed no signs of slowing.

Sunday, Apr. 30, 2017

BRANDON UNIVERSITY, MCKEE ARCHIVES, STUCKEY COLLECTION
A streetcar on Rosser Avenue — looking east from 10th Street — circa 1913. The street railway service was finally shut down in April 1932.

Violent streetcar strike stunned Winnipeg

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Violent streetcar strike stunned Winnipeg

Christian Cassidy 13 minute read Sunday, Apr. 9, 2017

This city’s early labour history is dominated by the much-studied, much-written-about Winnipeg General Strike. Thirteen years earlier, the less-known, 10-day Winnipeg Street Railway Strike shocked the city with its violence, vandalism and the sight of troops in the street.

The city’s formal public transportation system dates back to 1882, when the privately owned Winnipeg Street Railway Company was given a charter to operate a streetcar service. A decade later, it was sold to another private entity called the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company.

The relationship between the city and streetcar company was often tense. City officials had to deal with constant complaints from the public about the frequency of cars or demands for routes to serve new streets and neighbourhoods.

The company, very conscious of its bottom line, often had to be ordered by the city to make necessary service improvements. (The strained relationship lasted until the 1953, when the company was bought by the provincial government, eventually becoming Winnipeg Transit.)

Sunday, Apr. 9, 2017

Replacement workers under police guard prepare to remove two abandoned cars from Main Street and return them to the garage on the first day of the strike. (Western Canada Pictoral Index, Robert Goodall Collection, No. 9842)

Converting Exchange District building into space for creativity was bold move

Christian Cassidy 7 minute read Preview

Converting Exchange District building into space for creativity was bold move

Christian Cassidy 7 minute read Sunday, Mar. 26, 2017

During the past decade, redevelopment in the Exchange District has become a common sight. Not a year has gone by without at least a few large projects on the go. Thirty years ago, though, when the Gault Brothers’ Warehouse was converted into what is now Artspace, it was a bold and risky venture.

The building, located at 100 Arthur St., was constructed from 1899 to 1900 for dry goods wholesaler Gault Brothers of Montreal.

Architect George Creeford Browne designed the Richardsonian Romanesque four-storey warehouse.

Its two prominent entrances, one on each corner of Bannatyne Avenue, were created because the building was initially subdivided, with Clarke Brothers and Company, a stationery wholesaler, taking up almost half the block.

Sunday, Mar. 26, 2017

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Artspace executive director Eric Plamondon