A new name for Edison Park?
It was late one night in the dead of winter when I noticed, as I drove by Edison Park on Henderson Highway, that a distinctive, silvery globe of light was glowing out from the snow drifts there. Visiting the park, I discovered it was coming from the park’s central sculpture – a 1966 coupling of two millstones that were somehow miraculously salvaged from the long-gone Matheson water mill once nearby (circa 1850-60). The rare, water-powered mill was one of the earliest in the west.
Originally, the millstone sculpture had little adornment; the grindstones rested upon two concrete pillars. Its minimalist style seemed part of the dramatic Modernist movement sweeping the country at the time. Winnipeg’s 1964 city hall is an exquisite example.
In 2019, artist Ursula Neufeld applied mosaic tile and landscaping to the sculpture, depicting history and local imagery with colourful prairie florals, historical structures, and reflective, watery hues. Three lines of water stones encircle and connect each pillar in a stylized figure eight.
I found it amazing the sculpture’s glowing orb was visible to the furthermost lanes of Henderson Highway. It is set in one mosaic panel that reminds me of a rare photo of the Matheson home, shining out as reflective sun during the day, then a silvery moon at night. It appears to draw upon light sources around it, reflecting moonglow, sunshine or the park’s solar lighting.
The park has an additional monument commemorating Mennonite settlers.
Someone has requested that the park be renamed Matheson Millstones Park, and the City of Winnipeg is now asking for community feedback through various ways including an online survey, which can be accessed here: https://legacy.winnipeg.ca/indigenous/welcomingwinnipeg/historical-markers-place-names.stm
I think the potential new name would bring attention to the millstones and will help to present local history.
Sadly, it’s no secret that aspects of our history are often overlooked. A fundamental part of the millstones’ story is the events and diplomatic relations of the era, when settlers and Indigenous peoples tried to create a workable social contract.
What allowed the Selkirk settlement to grow – as evidenced so symbolically by its first mill — was the Selkirk Treaty and its intentions. Its monumentality cannot be overstated. All parts of the millstone story create meaning and the story’s integrity would be lost if parts were missing.
I recommend Adam Gaudry’s blog on the above-mentioned site that demystifies the quickly changing developments of the era: https://thediscoverblog.com/tag/treaties/
The visually arresting and beautiful 2019 artwork has expanded the millstones’ historical depiction. Naming the park to highlight the millstones will increase their profile and hopefully create public interest, for who knows they are there?
The question remains, how can we best interpret their meaning and tell their story?
East Kildonan community correspondent
Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan, where she still resides. She can be reached at email@example.com