East Kildonan was once a city of its own
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/08/2020 (841 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
East Kildonan was only a separate city between 1957 and 1972 but that was a period of tremendous growth in and around the City of Winnipeg, according to Jim Smith of the North East Winnipeg Historical Society.
In 1914 when the Municipality of Kildonan split into the rural municipalities of West and East Kildonan. Old Kildonan split off from West Kildonan in 1921 and North Kildonan split from East Kildonan in 1925.
East Kildonan’s council was the driving force behind becoming a city in 1957, Smith said. It became the fourth city in the area, following Winnipeg, St. Boniface and St. James.
“Because the population was close to 20,000, they (pursued) city status, they weren’t really a rural municipality any more,” Smith said.
There was some trouble before the change, Smith said. The original idea was to name East Kildonan the City of Kildonan, but Old Kildonan, North Kildonan and West Kildonan all objected, with West Kildonan being the most vociferous.
A compromise was worked out with East Kildonan accepted by all parties. The next step was to make it legal, which at the time required the introduction of a private member’s bill. Russ Paulley, the MLA for Kildonan-Transcona and future leader of the Manitoba NDP, had the honours.
Then it was time for a party, which was scheduled for Dominion Day — July 1 — 1957. Organizers went all-out, Smith said. There was a beauty contest, a gym display at the East Kildonan Recreation Centre (now Melrose Community Club), a track meet, a horse meet and street dancing. A grand parade started at Melrose Avenue (now Kimberly Avenue) and Watt Street, headed south to Montrose Avenue (now Larsen Avenue) and then turned west to Henderson Highway, culminating at 951 Henderson Hwy. in front of what was then the A&P, which now houses an auto body shop, butcher shop and ice cream store.
“It was a big event,” Smith said. “The papers estimated there were 8,750 people in the crowd. At the time the entire population of East Kildonan was 20,000.”
East Kildonan carried some momentum at the time, Smith said. The mid-’50s saw a housing boom during which saw the 400, 500 and 600 blocks of many avenues weredeveloped, along with the area north of Munroe Avenue to Oakland Avenue and much of Morse Place. That meant roads, sewers and schools.
A few key facilities were built during the time East Kildonan was its own city, Smith said. The East Kildonan Incinerator and Centennial Park are two lasting examples.
So, too,is the Kimberly Avenue firehall, which is a scaled-down version of what could have been, Smith said.
“Originally they wanted to build a combined police and fire station but in those days they had to go to a vote of the people and the people turned it down,” Smith said.
There was another opportunity to build a signature facility that was lost in 1968.
“In 1968 there was a referendum to build a cultural centre, hockey arena and museum on the area where the Terry Sawchuk Arena is,” Smith said. “Again the people turned it down.”
East Kildonan community correspondent
Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at email@example.com