Explore history during Doors Open Winnipeg
Visiting historic sites is one of my favourite things to do when travelling. I find it fascinating to get glimpses of the people and places that helped lay the foundations wherever I happen to be.
It’s also interesting and eye-opening to go back in time in your hometown, in order to gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the place you call home.
Here in Winnipeg, we have a trove of heritage treasures that are architecturally, historically and culturally significant. Doors Open Winnipeg, organized by Heritage Winnipeg, is a designated weekend that allows visitors to take free tours of unique locales all over the city.
This year’s 20th anniversary event happens May 27 and 28, with 50 buildings and a dozen outdoor spaces open to visitors. All you have to do is review the doorsopenwinnipeg.ca website, decide where you want to go, note the opening times and policies, and then show up. Tickets are not required, but some locations do request pre-registration (with instructions listed on their page). Several options are designated as being wheelchair accessible.
The oldest residence in Winnipeg once belonged to the prominent Inkster family, and can be found at Seven Oaks House Museum. The foundations of the house were laid in the Parish of Kildonan in 1851, in the same spot where the Battle of Seven Oaks occurred 35 years earlier. The first log farmhouse the Inkster family lived in (circa 1831) stands nearby, and it is one of the oldest buildings in Manitoba. Both dwellings feature Old World woodwork, original-era furnishings, and period artifacts, on display in recreated rooms.
The St. James Heritage Anglican Church is the oldest log church still used for regular worship in western Canada. Situated across from present-day Polo Park Shopping Centre in St. James Cemetery, it first opened its doors in 1855. The little church was the centre of parish life in the region until 1922, when a new church was built. The original log building was restored as a Canadian centennial project in 1967, and today, reveals the original hand-hewn fitted timbers, wooden pews over 130 years old, and remnants of the original tower.
Did you know the Costume Museum of Canada is right here in Winnipeg? (I did not!) The museum’s roots go back to rural Manitoba, when the Dugald Costume Museum opened in 1983. The museum relocated to Winnipeg in 2007, and is now in the Exchange District. It’s the first museum in Canada dedicated to the collection, preservation, and presentation of clothing and textiles. Their collection of 35,000 artifacts uniquely reflects cultural identity and social history, with one of the oldest pieces being a silk taffeta dress from 1765 that depicts the elegance of the era.
Winnipeg’s very own Victorian gaol is steeped in the darkness of the crimes and punishments that occurred between 1881 and 1930. Many of the original confinement spaces still exist, including the basement that houses solitary cells that once held the worst of the lot who refused to abide by prison rules. Vaughan Street Jail is open to the public only once each year, during Doors Open Winnipeg. This tour is not intended for children, though, and the premises can be unsettling even for adults. Because even though the gallows are long gone, the disturbing stories remain to this day.
RoseAnna Schick is an avid traveller and music lover who seeks inspiration wherever she goes. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org