Archive for the ‘neighbourhoods’ Category

Fort Garry’s Park-Like Wildewood Subdivision

April 21, 2009

Fort Garry’s

Park-Like Wildewood Subdivision

by George Siamandas

The Fort Garry area which was incorporated as a municipality on April 16, 1912 and the Wildewood area is one of its distinctive residential areas. Fort Garry was initially part of St. Vital and was settled by Metis and Quebecois farmers. These early settlers were Metis boatmen who build their homes close to the river’s edge as it was their best choice in transportation. One of the most famous landowners in the area that later became Wildewood was Ambroise Lepine. But after the Riel incident, many French people left the area and were replaced by Anglophones. Over the years it has completely lost its French origins. Only in the south end at St. Norbert will you see what the early Fort Garry was like.


But by 1900 virtually all traces of the Metis heritage of the area was gone. One developer after another tried to develop the land starting with Colonel RM Thompson who in 1908 first introduced the name Wildewood. Thompson’s plan was for a very exclusive area just like was developing then on Wellington Cres. They built roads and Col Thompson had a huge Victorian mansion built at the point of the Red River. Col Thompson went to fight in WW1 and never returned. His house was not fully completed and was not occupied for 17 years and was to be demolished in 1933 after suffering years of vandalism. Finally in 1934, it was bought by Ravenscourt School and renovated to become a boy’s school. But the land continued to bounce back and forth between the City of Winnipeg and the Fort Garry municipality. At one time during the 1930s the city was contemplating making it into a park just like Assiniboine Park. But lack of money saw the city give it back to Fort Garry.


Enter Hubert Bird. Bird was the owner of Bird construction. Bird had built aerodromes during WW1 and after the war he started the Bird construction company and built Union Station in Regina, and the Swifts plant in Winnipeg during the 1930s. During WW2 he built half the airfields and barracks in western Canada. During WW2 while flying over Radburn New Jersey, Bird saw an example of a new garden suburb with cul de sacs all built around a central shared park. Bird had seen his model for Wildewood and purchased the land comprising Wildewood.

WW2 had given Bird experience in mass production techniques and he had seen the potential of applying these techniques to reduce housing costs in Wildewood. It had never been done before with housing.

The returning WW2 vets needed affordable housing and Bird gave them 5 house plans to choose from. Bird hired the firm GBR (Still active and building the Jewish Community campus) to design the project. They did market research to find preferences for house features like the preferred number of bedrooms. Almost half wanted storey and a half and most wanted forced air heating. Great West Life agreed to finance the project and scale model for the area was placed at Eatons, the hub of the city at the time.


Then construction began using assembly line techniques after materials had been procured en masse and brought to the site. Lumber had even been salvaged from grain bins. Panel forms were used for pouring basements, and the exterior walls were prefabed. Specialty crews worked on flooring, shingling, and insulation. A US newspaper featured a bungalow and a storey and a half built in just 58 minutes. The realty firm SS Stevensen handled the sales, and it took only 2 years to sell out. Mature trees were spared preserving the area’s main amenity: its heavily wooded quality. The neighbourhood had to do their own snow removal buy hiring a man and buying a horse drawn plough. Cost per resident was $.50 annually. They also bought their own mosquito fogger.

The area had one of the highest birth rates in the country and some dubbed it Childwood and Fertile Valley. Doug Henning the magician is one.


TUXEDO The Suburb Beautiful

April 21, 2009


The Suburb Beautiful

by George Siamandas


In 1905 Heubach set up the Tuxedo Park Land Co. He found a collection of Minneapolis based investors who had built great wealth in the grain industry. Over the next year the Tuxedo Park Company bought 3,000 acres from Mary and Archibald Wright and other owners for $450,000. The first home in the area an old farmhouse still stands at the south-east corner of Academy and Wellington Cresc.

On January 24 1913 the town of Tuxedo was incorporated with FW Heubach its original developer becoming its first Mayor. But his plan did not immediately succeed due to competition from the Crescentwood development which was much closer to the city. The Minneapolis investors of the Tuxedo Park Co lost their money. Heubach died before any houses were built. Tuxedo was named after the famous New York suburb called Tuxedo. It had previously been the hunting grounds of the Algonquin Indians and was called Taugh Seeder or Duck Seeder which meant “Place of the Bear.”


Heubach died the following year and was succeeded by FL Finkelstein as mayor. from 1911 Finkelstein with an accounting background became a partner with Heubach and Heubach’s son Claude. Finkelstein would serve as mayor and would go on to run the company successfully into the 1950s. The plan for the town had been designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmstead firm, and it became the city plan in 1911. It had combined residential areas, areas of work in the south including the Canada Cement Plant.


The first house was built in 1915 by Raymond Carey on the north corner of Nanton and Park. The area was connected by a mud road that became Nanton Blvd. Carey was fairly isolated and had to get the plows out before he could traverse the mud road through the as yet undeveloped aspen wooded area east of his home. Carey married Heubach’s daughter Claire, Carey, a british architect, had come to Winnipeg in 1909 from Detroit and was well known for his Georgian style homes.

In 1923, Frederick Heubach’s son Claude, built a home at the south corner. Designed and built buy Northwood and Carey. Later Claude Heubach moved to Hosmer to one of the first homes south of Corydon Ave. In the 1920s a series of homes sprung up along the east side of Park Boulevard facing Assiniboine Park.

Many homes were owned by grain industry businessmen. In 1925 the first house was built on Lamont. The site originally reserved for the University became Tuxedo Golf Course. The four room Tuxedo Schoolhouse was built in 1926. Many area street names have changed since the original plan. Tuxedo Blvd was originally called Van Horne.

The plan reserved a strip of land just south of the Agricultural College. It eventually became the Youth centre, commercial and public housing and military land. By 1911 the new plan for Tuxedo was complete. It was anticipated that in time the University of Manitoba would be located at Tuxedo but after 1926 when it located in Fort Garry. There are many famous builders like Frank Lount and the Sparrow Brothers that built the area’s homes.

TRANSCONA Winnipeg’s Railway Town

April 12, 2009


Winnipeg’s Railway Town

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

Transcaona was built because of the railway shops. And on April 6, 1912 Transcona received its charter. It had been a heady period for businessmen that had enjoyed visions of a second Chicago. Transcona is named for the Transcontinental Railway (TRANS) and (CONA) for Lord Strathcona. It was one of the few places in Manitoba that does not owe its origins to agriculture but to the railway. In 1907 800 acres were acquired for the railway shops. It was soon discovered to be a swamp, part of a natural watercourse running from the Tache municipality to the Red River. As the shops were being built, 4 feet of fill were used to elevate the entire facility. The original town located south of the shops was largely abandoned and a new town was built north for the shops.


There was a wish to create a second national railway at a time when small railways were seeing very difficult days. When the amalgamation finally took place, 3 private, 4 govt and 149 other railways came together to form the Canadian National Railway, complete by 1923. At one time 2,000 found jobs there and the facility was planned to employ 5,000. There was work for trainmen, machinists, blacksmiths, boilermakers, electricians, pipe fitters and upholsterers. Over the years Transcona has had its ups and downs reflecting levels of employment at the shops. Now it employs only 700. It has the second largest Ukrainian community in Winnipeg after the north end. The shop also built locomotives, and No 2747, was the first. Taken out of service in 1960 it has been preserved in a park. Over the years, 37 locomotives were built at the Transcona Shops


The boom was on. Land that had been selling for 100 per lot was now selling for $100 per front foot. The boom did not last. But hard time in the when rail business was low due to the end of the immigration of settlers to the west and low grain prices. In 1920 Transcona had to face hard facts. Dreams of their future had been unrealistic. When it came time for city council to pay for services it found it had $285,00 in expenditures but only $4,485 in revenues. The town’s affairs were taken over by the province till 1927 when it began to run its own affairs. Till Regent Ave was paved in July 1931, under a depression works program, most Transcona residents would go to the city, Winnipeg, by train.


On Sept 1, 1947, the country’s worst train wreck happened as a train of vacationers returned form Minaki ran into a transcontinental train at the Dugald station a few minutes east of Transcona. It killed 35.