THE PAVILION AT ASSINIBOINE PARK


THE PAVILION

AT ASSINIBOINE PARK

By George Siamandas

NOT THE FIRST PAVILION

The current pavilion is the second Pavilion. The first pavilion was built in 1908 at a cost of $19,000 and was designed by one of Winnipeg’s most important architects, John Atchison. Atchison is responsible for many of the Exchange District’s finest buildings.

The proportions of the building were a little flatter and boxier than the current one but it also had a tall water tower that served as a landmark for the park. The first pavilion was very well used and became the centre of activity at Assiniboine Park. It included a banquet and dance hall. When people came to Assiniboine Park they stayed the whole day and the pavilion was an important part of their experience. Unfortunately it was neither well built nor was it well maintained. The first pavilion burned down on May 27, 1929. All that remained were the pergolas and fish pond to the north complete with the goldfish still unscathed. The fire insurance paid $13,00.

THE SECOND PAVILION

The Winnipeg Parks Board held an emergency meeting the next day and committed to rebuild the Pavilion the same day. A year later, and at a cost of $96,000, the new Pavilion opened on the same fateful Victoria Day, May 25, 1930. Designed by architects Northwood and Chivers, it was fashioned in a kind of Tudor style with half timbering and a prominent tower with a roof-line reminiscent of English thatched cottages. The original pergola and lily pond were incorporated into the new design.

Northwood and Chivers had also designed the Canadian Wheat Board Building (now with new skin), the Winnipeg Auditorium now the Provincial Archives and the Federal Building. The new Pavilion expressed Winnipeg’s optimism and was built to last, with piles driven to bedrock. Its frame was planned to be fire-proof and is of combined steel and wood construction. The Board genuinely expected it to last a century.

Once a grand place for dinner and dances for 500, the Pavilion became under-utilized. The city never had enough money to do the things that were needed at the Pavilion but it did spend money in the mid sixties on the Zoo and the Conservatory. It was a symbol of the Parks department appearing as an icon of Winnipeg’s parks system. Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1959 saw 15,000 people drawn to an event in which the Pavilion served primarily as a backdrop.

In the 1960’s after some refurbishment had been made to the pavilion for the Pan Am Games, architect Cyril Chivers lamented that it was never properly rehabilitated and it lacked the vitality of year round use. It was no longer the social centre it had once been.

After 68 years it is now realizing its potential with a $5M rehabilitation. What made it possible is the private interest in seeing that things get done. It now houses a year round a 150 seat restaurant and art gallery. The gallery features the work of Walter J. Phillips, Ivan Eyre, and Clarence Tillenius.

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