Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/7/2018 (1295 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, your second power play unit..."
In May, during the Winnipeg Jets’ third round NHL playoff series versus the Vegas Golden Knights, we had an is-that-what-we-think-it-is-moment when, while driving east on Bishop Grandin Boulevard, we spotted a replica of the Statue of Liberty draped in a Jets flag.
"That was actually my girlfriend Leanne’s idea, to dress her up in Jets colours," says Brent Martin, whom we later determined to be the proud owner of Winnipeg’s very own Lady Liberty. "She got the idea after we saw the Statue of Liberty in Las Vegas (situated outside the New York New York Hotel) wearing a Golden Knights jersey and figured hey, two can play at that game."
Twelve years ago, Martin, a RE\MAX sales agent, was trying to find a unique showpiece for his Island Lakes backyard, something more eye-catching than a water fountain or bird bath, he says.
One of his clients at the time was a sculptor who, after hearing about Martin’s search, remarked, "What do you have in mind? Name it and I’ll make it for you."
Back then, Martin was traveling to New York City semi-regularly and one of his favourite things to do there was visit the Statue of Liberty, "because of everything it represents," he says. He asked if it was possible to get a scaled-down version of that made. A couple months later, Winnipeggers listening to the radio during rush hour were treated to traffic reports along the lines of, "You’ll never believe what I just saw in the back of a flatbed truck, heading south down St. Mary’s Road."
Because the seven-metre-tall statue, which is constructed out of a fibreglass compound, was too large to fit through Martin’s front gate, the driver of the truck transporting it pulled over and parked on Bishop Grandin Boulevard. From there, Martin, his brother Blaine and four of their buddies lugged it over a roadside berm into Martin’s yard.
"It’s funny cause after we got her up and standing, Marc Arnaud, one of the guys who helped us carry it, said it was only right when the Statue of Liberty arrived in Winnipeg, a Frenchman was around to make sure it got here safely," Martin says with a chuckle. (In case you’re not up on your American history, the original Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from the people of France.)
Now that vacation season is in full swing, there’s a decent chance you’ll be entertaining friends and family from out of town in the coming weeks, a practice that often involves showing them everything Winnipeg has to offer.
Sure, you can tour them around the usual suspects, such as The Forks, Assiniboine Park and the Exchange District. Or you can take them on a sightseeing excursion — let’s call it the Seven Wonders of Winnipeg — featuring some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, including Martin’s imitation Statue of Liberty.
THE WHITE HOUSE
In 2003, Michel Fillion, founder of Superb Entertainment, bought a 94-year-old building at 234 Portage Ave. originally known as the Oldfield, Kirby and Gardner Building. After spending the next three years gutting and restoring the two-storey terra cotta clad structure, he and his partner changed the name of their new home from Canadian Western Bank to the White House.
Obviously, the official workplace and residence of the U.S. president is the first thing that springs to mind when people spot "The White House" written in large, gold letters on the exterior facade of Fillion’s domicile, but the tag is actually a reference to a different structure altogether, one near and dear to its owner’s heart.
"I went to the School of Music at Brandon University," says Fillion, a mayoral candidate in the 2014 civic election. "At the time, the university had planned to build a new school of music, and had bought different properties around the school for the expansion. These houses became our practicing studios except for one, which happened to be painted white and was used to house students.
"There were parties fairly often at this house, during which you were guaranteed to have fun," he goes on. "So I renamed my building after that house, which gave good times to many people, and of which I have great memories."
In June 2014, Ian Brown lost his position as a landscaper four weeks after the birth of his third son, leaving him with no income and three children under the age of five.
With six years of landscaping experience under his belt, Brown’s friends and family suggested he start his own business, instead of looking for another job. One afternoon, while rocking his youngest to sleep, he started thinking what he might call it.
"Southampton, where I was born and raised, is about an hour’s drive from Stonehenge, and Stonehenge literally popped into my head," says the founder of Stonehenge Designed Landscapes, who chose an image of the legendary, prehistoric monument for his insignia. "I am always told what a great name I picked for my business, although I am also surprised by some customers not realizing the significance and mistakenly calling the company Stonehedge."
Brown, who met his Winnipeg-born wife while traveling through Australia in 2003, has fond memories of visiting Stonehenge as a child.
"At that point you could actually touch the stones, he says. "Sadly vandalism and graffiti put a halt to that many years ago"
Vive la plantes!
Francis and Ida Appelmans founded Arbo Flora Garden Centre, 650 St. Anne’s Rd., in 1972, on a suburban plot of land they bought in 1954, six years after Francis immigrated to Canada from Belgium.
Beginning in 1988, Francis, who by then had been joined in the business by his sons Robert, Roger and Raymond, rented a Portage Avenue billboard for a few months every winter, in an effort to promote his family’s operation. In February 1992, father and sons began wondering if they were getting enough bang for their buck; more precisely, would commuters remember their name come springtime when Arbo Flora opened for the gardening season, Robert Applemans says.
The next winter, they wound dozens of sets of Christmas lights around a scale-model version of the Eiffel Tower, built by friends of theirs at St. Vital Welding. Within minutes of turning the array on, the Appelmanses noticed motorists slowing down to take a gander. They haven’t looked back since, adding scores of decorations to their arsenal including a six-metre-tall windmill and a life-size Spider-Man.
Sacré bleu: besides the Appelmans’s Eiffel Tower, there’s also La Tour Eiffel Apartments at 261 and 291 Goulet St., and the Eiffel Tower Pastry Shop at 1193 Pembina Hwy.
LEANING TOWER OF PISA
"I go...to Pizza Place to get the flavour...of Italy...and so do we..."
For 58 years, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has served as the official logo for Pizza Place, Winnipeg’s longest-running pizza chain. As a second nod to the off-kilter, Italian edifice, the restaurant’s pizza menu is peppered with selections such as Pepperoni Tower, Hawaiian Tower and Gladiator Tower (that’s pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, beef, mushrooms, onions and green peppers).
Funny thing: if Pizza Place’s original owners chose Pisa’s most identifiable icon as a play on the word pizza, Pisa-ians, er, Pisa-ites, OK, people who live in Pisa might not get the pun. According to the website howdoyousaythatword.com, Pisa is pronounced pē′zä while the correct pronunciation for the foodstuff is peet-suh.
The mural on the east-facing wall of Le Market, 316 Des Meurons Rd., was the brainchild of the business’s owner, says Michel Saint Hilaire, the artist who painted the striking work in 2003.
In conversation with the folks behind the website themuralsofwinnipeg.com, Saint Hilaire is quoted as saying, "We wanted London and France to meet Winnipeg! Big Ben is there representative of English culture, and then on the other side, well-known symbols of the Parisian culture, such as...l’Arc de Triomphe."
Originally Saint Hilaire intended to bridge the two cultures by painting Esplanade Riel between them. In the end he incorporated the Norwood Bridge, with its distinctive arch and twin plumes of prairie wheat, into his work instead, "since the Norwood Grove BIZ were also involved with this mural and since it is also visually quite distinctive."
Rock like an Egyptian!
In 1995, the Spectrum Cabaret, a live music venue at 176 Fort St., called it quits after eight years, only to reopen a short time later as the Pyramid Cabaret — a site that has since played host to rock and roll legends such as the Goo Goo Dolls, Sloan, the Tragically Hip and Jonathan Richman.
Nine years after taking over the premises, owner Dave McKeighan, who chose Pyramid as his moniker because he liked "the look of Giza Pyramids and the fact they have stood the test of time," commissioned a pair of Winnipeg artists to fashion a mural on the south side of his building. He requested they combine images of a sphinx and the Great Pyramids with a few Canadian icons, including singer/songwriter Stompin’ Tom Connors and hockey great Paul Henderson.
In a published interview, Lloyd Olafson, who painted the mural in tandem with Michele Farber-Olafson, said McKeighan also requested "a break at the top, but didn’t know precisely what. So we suggested the idea of mixing hieroglyphs with Canadian symbols," including a moose, a buffalo, a curling rock and a portrait of Sergeant Tommy Prince. (Wait, what? No box of Timbits?)
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.