The demise of the Highland Park subdivision
City street names can disappear for many reasons, including new waves of urban development. That was the case with Old Kildonan’s Highland and Foley avenues. One was swallowed up by a neighbouring suburb and the other by the anticipated Chief Peguis Trail extension.
In 1906, the Michael L. Foley Company began marketing the Highland Park subdivision on Main Street, just north of what is now the North End sewage treatment plant, as a future investment opportunity. At the time, there was no development on the land between Main and McPhillips streets, as these were former river lots, likely of Selkirk Settlers, which had been used for farming or as pasture.
Highland Park looked like a great investment on paper. There was a ferry service to North Kildonan at the river that was expected to be replaced by a bridge one day, a Winnipeg to Selkirk street car service opened along Main Street in 1908, and the City of Winnipeg began buying land for Kildonan Park in 1909.
If Foley’s “advertorials” in local papers were to be believed, hundreds of lots were pre-sold and plans for an extension to the subdivision were in the works. For reasons unknown, Foley was unable to turn the investment deal into reality and mentions of Highland Park disappeared from newspapers after 1907.
There was a brief revival of Highland Park advertising in late 1910 by the Lowery Bros. Realty Company but it was also unable to get shovels in the ground. Road cuts for a small portion of the two main avenues were made but no houses were built.
Highland Avenue did not appear in street directories until 1914, and Foley Avenue in the early 1930s. By 1961, they boasted just 12 and three houses, respectively. This lack of development is likely due to the Municipality of Old Kildonan not running sewer and water service to the streets.
The City of Winnipeg purchased and expropriated all the former Highland Park land and its 15 properties after Unicity brought West Kildonan under its control in 1972. This was done to reserve it for the “inner beltway road” proposed by Metro Winnipeg in 1967.
The city rented the properties back to homeowners and explored hooking them up to water and sewer until it found that it would cost in the region of $600,000 to do so. In 2001, it ended the leases after the well water was found to be contaminated.
Foley Avenue was sold to a developer and is now part of a greenspace buffer between a subdivision and the sewage treatment plant. Highland Avenue was barricaded at Main Street and just recently opened as a service road and staging area for expansion of the treatment plant.
When Chief Peguis Trail, Metro’s “inner belt road”, is finally extended from Main Street to McPhillips Street in the years ahead, it will swallow up the remnants of Highland Avenue and the dream of the Highland Park subdivision.