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Pillars of history Historical committee deems street pillars more than roadworthy

When is a street sign more than just a street sign? When it has history on its side.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/02/2019 (1439 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When is a street sign more than just a street sign? When it has history on its side.

In a rare move Wednesday, members of the City of Winnipeg’s historical buildings and resources committee voted to add a number of street pillars and a city gate to the list of historical resources.

Of the eight locations where street pillars were up for nomination, the committee voted unanimously to add three to the list.

They were the concrete and stone pillars located at the intersections of Portage Avenue and Overdale Street, St. Mary’s Road and Fernwood Avenue, and St. Mary’s Road and West Fernwood Avenue.

Ruth Bonneville A street pillar at Overdale and Portage Avenue had its historical designation approved. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

In addition, the committee also voted unanimously in favour of adding a brick-and-stone gate at the corner of Portage Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard (pictured above) to the list.

Committee chairman John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said he’s never seen street pillars or a gate up for nomination before; the committee is more used to dealing with large buildings or single-family homes.

“A lot of these pillars are kind of cool and we want to keep them for generations moving forward. They’re on city land, so really what they’re telling the city is, ‘These are kind of cool, don’t rip them down,’” Orlikow said.

“That’s what they’re saying. So even though they’re just pillars, I do think it is something the committee should be looking at.”

The items that got added to the list of historical resources Wednesday will now move onto a second vote at the standing policy committee on property and development.

The committee voted against adding pillars at five locations, after written reports suggested there was no need to. These were two sets of street pillars along Henderson Highway and three sets along Portage Avenue.

However, Orlikow said there is still the possibility these pillars could be added to the city’s commemorative list, which doesn’t offer the same protections as the historical resources list.

“With the commemorative list, we can put resources on there to say, ‘Hey, this thing is cool and here are some things we like about it,’ but there’s no real protection,” Orlikow said.

The committee also voted on two unrelated matters Wednesday.

There was unanimous support to push back a vote on the nomination of the Monte Cassino Court building at 639 Portage Ave. until April, granting the city time to do further analysis on the possible historical significance of the property.

The committee also gave the green light to adding the entire Armstrong’s Point neighbourhood to the city’s list of historical resources, which will now pass onto the standing policy committee on property and development for a second vote.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

About the street pillars

Three city gates or pillars already have historic designation:

City of Winnipeg The Armstrong’s Point Gates already have historical designation. Located where Cornish Avenue meets East Gate, Middle Gate and West Gate, the stone and iron gates were built in 1911 to mark the entrances to Armstrong’s Point, one of the City’s most exclusive residential districts of the pre-1915 era.

City of Winnipeg The Silver Heights Gates, at Mount Royal Road and Traill Avenue, have already been designated historic by the city. They were designed by William D. Lount in the early 1950s to mark the southern entrance to his father's new residential subdivision.

City of Wihnipeg The Nanton Estate Gates at 229 Roslyn Road already have historic designation. Made of stone and wrought iron, they were built in 1900 to mark the entrance to the two-hectare estate and mansion of businessman Sir Augustus M. Nanton,

These are the pillars and gates the committee considered Wednesday:

City of Winnipeg Approved: The Overdale Street pillars are two of five paired units -- one large and one small -- on both sides of the street at Overdale, Winchester, and Linwood. Only the large pillars at Overdale remain.
It's not known who built the Overdale pillars -- the tender call for them went out in the early 1910s as part of a large residential development in the area.
City of Winnipeg Approved: Electrically lit stone pillars -- designed to include gates -- were constructed here in 1920 and lasted until the early 1960s, when the province plowed them into the creek to accommodate the widening of Portage Avenue. Residents lobbied for a replacement and the provincial government acquiesced, resulting in this "understated gate with little architectural detailing" and a planter, constructed in 1961.
City of Winnipeg The gate features "a low planter section on the north and a taller pillar-like section on the south, with the east and west faces bearing stylized metal 'Woodhaven' lettering."
Approved: These two pillars act as gate posts in the middle of the modest subdivision along West Fernwood. They were designed by subdivision developer Frank B. Groff in 1928.
City of Winnipeg Approved: The modest pillars at St. Mary's Road and West Fernwood -- like the matching West Fernwood pair -- are built in "a traditional and understated style based on Classical architecture."
City of Winnipeg Rejected: It's not known when a pair of street pillars at Country Club Boulevard and Portage Avenue were built; they originally included chains to close off road access to the St. Charles Country Club, which opened in 1904. They were originally topped with wrought-iron electric lights, which were removed in the 1970s. Only one of the pair remains; the other was demolished sometime after 1971, when the country club sold 22 hectares of land to a land developer for a residential neighbourhood, and the Portage Avenue entrance to the club was no longer relevant. The club built a second entrance south of Meadowside Drive using the iron lights from these pillars.
City of Winnipeg The St. Charles Country Club took the ornamental lights off the pillars at Country Club and Portage in the 1970s and reused them on new entrance pillars near Meadowside Drive.
City of Winnipeg Rejected: Helmsdale and Henderson: No report on their construction has been found, but it's assumed these "modest, understated" pillars were built in 1928, when the area was developed.
City of Winnipeg Rejected: The Hazel Dell pillar is similar to the Helmsdale Avenue pillars three blocks to the south, although the latter are larger and slightly more ornate. Only one of the Hazel Dell pillars remains.
City of Winnipeg Rejected: The original pillar sets at Duffield and Portage "were designed in an understated manner and would be considered typical for the period," says a city report. The pillars, completed in early 1912, feature "alternating rusticated and smooth blocks topped by low-pointed caps with no wording." Originally similar pillars were built at Moorgate, Conway and Sharp.
City of Winnipeg Rejected: As originally built, the Moorgate Street pillars (and the similar ones on Duffield) had larger pillars at the street as well as smaller sidewalk ones. All that remains of the original four are the larger street pair.
City of Winnipeg In the late 1930s, the matching pillars at Conway and Sharp Boulevard were in poor condition and leaning. The city moved the Conway and Sharp pillars to Bruce Park, but the Moorgate and Duffield ones remained in place.
Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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