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Fraser’s Grove once touted as U of M site

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/05/2020 (931 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The University of Manitoba could have been built in Fraser’s Grove, according to newspaper articles discovered by historian Jim Smith.

Smith is one of the leaders of the North East Winnipeg Historical Society, a group dedicated to collecting and preserving the history of East Kildonan, North Kildonan and Elmwood.

While researching his books on the area’s history, Smith unearthed a pair of articles published in early 1910 in the Manitoba Free Press (now the Winnipeg Free Press). Together they tell the beginnings of a plan to move the University of Manitoba north instead of south.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press photo archives Jim Smith of the North East Winnipeg Historical Society, pictured here in a file photo with historic Henderson House, says newspapers reports from 1910 indicate that Fraser's Grove was pitched as a possible home for the University of Manitoba over a century ago.

At the time, the university was in downtown Winnipeg and would grow over the next 20 years before moving to its current location in Fort Garry by 1929.

But in 1910, a group from the Kildonan Community Club lobbied for Fraser’s Grove to be the university’s new home. A January 1910 article said the group offered 50 acres between Kildonan Road and the Red River, directly across from Kildonan Park. When the story was published, they had secured options on four of the five parcels making up the acreage.

“The site will be given on the condition that the university building is erected upon it,” the article stated.

The group’s plans also included a bridge connecting the land to what is now Kildonan Park.

“As the north corner of the property would only be about 10 chains further north than the south boundary of the city park on the opposite side of the river, it is assumed that the proximity of the two would favour the idea of a bridge at that point in the future,” the article stated.

If 50 acres doesn’t sound like much, the group must have thought so, too, because an article from February 1910 suggested larger plans. Kildonan reeve S.R. Henderson led a group to a public meeting to meet with a committee which included Isaac Pitblado and J.A. Machray. Morris Sutherland submitted a plan featuring nearly one-half mile of river frontage.

“The ground was like an English park, with many large trees,” the February article said. “It had long been regarded as the beauty spot of Kildonan. The district was a quiet one, remote from railways and manufacturing districts. A belt line of streetcars could be operated on both sides of the river.”

The group was prepared to offer 50 acres for free and 150 to 200 acres at a price of $600 to $800 per acre, and there was fierce competition to land the campus.

“Everybody wanted it because they knew it would bring development and jobs,” Smith said.
Smith said he has read of proposals which suggested properties further north on Henderson Highway, in West Kildonan and Tuxedo.

Had the Fraser’s Grove proposal won the day, the area would look much different today.

“Obviously all the houses that are there wouldn’t have been,” Smith said. “There would be more development and it would have been built up faster.”

The Fraser’s Grove plan was rejected at the committee level and didn’t proceed any further, Smith said.

An expanded version of this tale, and many others, are part of the first two volumes of the area’s history which have been published by the North East Winnipeg Historical Society. Visit them on Facebook or at newpghs.com.

Tony Zerucha

Tony Zerucha
East Kildonan community correspondent

Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at tzerucha@gmail.com

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