Friday, 1 August 2014

The name game: What about the "Drewry Bridge" ?

Redwood Bridge

So, I'm going to post about something I've moaned about before: renaming things.

Last month the Redwood Bridge was renamed the Harry Lazarenko Bridge. Some questioned the need for the renaming and the lack of any process or input as to who it should be renamed for. The time between the suggestion and final decision took just days, so there wasn't any chance for that discussion to take root.

Though politicians sometimes hum and haw when trying to explain a renaming and the mysterious process, the fact is that it's one of the nifty perqs of political office, especially in recent years. Want a guaranteed photo op with a local celebrity or athlete who just made a splash in the media ? Want to endear yourself to the supporters of your political predecessor ? Want to hope that maybe one day something will be named in your honour ? Pull out a map and fast track a renaming.

Bobby Hull Display

To maintain their integrity, many institutions and Halls of Fame have a formal nomination process that is open to the public and a stipulation that some length of time has to have  passed so that an accomplishment or career can be looked back upon objectively. Check out the Winnipeg Citizens' Hall of Fame nomination process and the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame's.

Even after all that scrutiny, those chosen don't get a multimillion dollar building or bridge named after them and, you know what, that's alright. (Prior to this last minute brain wave, the committee was considering naming one of the gardens at Kildonan Park for Lazarenko, but that was thought too shabby.)

A formal, open and even slightly independent process, of course, is something city politicians would not really want to see. Not only would it hinder their ability to fast track their own renaming ideas, or, more likely in the case of the mayor, pick up the phone and tell the administration you want x renamed, it also saves the possibly being pitted against some historical society, Hall of Fame or family who might have their own ideas as to what x should be named for. Not a comfortable place to be.

This isn't to disparage Izzy Asper, Milt Stegall, Cindy Klassen, Jill Officer, Clara Hughes, Jonathan Toews Harry Lazarenko, Bill Clement, Slaw Rebchuk, Jacob Penner, and their accomplishments. It should be harder, though, to get an asset like these named for someone than it is to get a plaque on a wall at a hall of fame or your head in Assiniboine Park.

The Winnipeg Falcons deserve better

The odd Winnipegger who is not a sports celebrity or former council colleague has managed to slip through council's fingers recently. In 1990 Water Avenue, plus a library, have been renamed for William Stevenson, though he has a pretty intrepid group of supporters on his side. More recently, a St. Vital Park was renamed for dedicated soccer volunteer Riccardo De Thomasis. Still, unless you're a former city councillor or jump from the sports page to the front page in the 2010s, chances are you're out of luck getting something named for you.

There will be a lot of talk about "transparency and openness" at city hall in the months ahead. Though this is a small matter in comparison to corrupt land dealings, I hope that someone has the gumption to correct it before some city politician has a brain wave over breakfast one morning that instead of Kildonan Park and Assiniboine Park, they'd rather see tributes to Drew Willy and John Angus.

Edward and Frederick Drewry

I can't name something after someone, but say I was on council and was told we simply HAD to rename the Redwood Bridge in the next week, what name would I choose ? Probably Drewry Bridge.

The Drewry Brothers, Edward and Frederick, took over the Redwood Brewery and turned it into one of Winnipeg's largest. It sat just metres from the bridge. I wouldn't name it after them for their business prowess or geography, but for their vision that Winnipeggers still owe them a debt of gratitude for.

 - They owned the land that became the Redwood Bridge's right of way and donated it to the city. (I wonder how many businesses donated land for the Disraeli bridge expansion or Bill Clement Parkway ?!)

- Frederick W. Drewery, an avid cyclist, believed in the positive benefits of outdoor activity within a city, regardless of one's walk of life. He wanted to see a city-wide network of separated, lit, treed paths  "...so that the working man could go to his work on them.... In twenty-five trips he could save, by (street) car fares, the price of the tax." As head of the city's Cycle Path Association, starting in 1898 he oversaw the construction of many kilometers of such paths until the city took over the network and began dismantling it in 1906.

Today, we are spending millions of dollars to recreate Frederick's original vision.

- Edward L Drewry was chair of the city's first parks board from 1893 - 1899. During the first year he pushed the city to think, and spend, big before development swallowed up available land. In a little over a year, they created the city's network of parks we now enjoy, including Fort Rouge Park, Central Park, Victoria Park, St. John’s Park, Selkirk Park, Dufferin Park, Notre Dame (Jacob Penner) Park and St. James (Vimy Memorial) Park. 

In 1894 a greenhouse and nursery was built in Notre Dame Park at which thousands of trees, many of them elms, started out before being planted in the parks and on city boulevards.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Civic Election Rematch in Daniel Mac !

There's going to be a rematch of Winnipeg's tightest 2010 civic election race in the Daniel McIntyre Ward. Incumbent Harvey Smith, despite losing his long-time NDP endorsement, kept his seat with just 28 per cent of the vote. In fact, a mere 352 votes separated the top three contenders and they're all back on the ballot !

2010 Results
Harvey Smith 3,251x
(click on name for 2014 election website)

Expect the same campaign issues to resurface, in particular the area's crime rate and road infrastructure, which have remained pretty much the same since 2010.

Keep up with all the happenings at the 2014 Winnipeg Civic Election site, (no affiliation to the city site.) It's going to be another close one !

Here's a little more about "Daniel Mac":

The ward is named for Daniel McIntyre, OBE, who for 43 years was the Superintendent of Public Schools in Winnipeg, starting from the system's infancy in 1885. (Note that he was a "Mic", not a "Mac", though "Daniel Mac" is how everyone pronounces it !)

In the First World War, 70 Canadians were awarded the Victoria Cross. At least four of them lived in Daniel McIntyre. This includes Robert Shankland, Leo Clarke and Frederick Hall of Pine Street, now Valour Road, and James Tait of Thelmo Manison on Burnell Street.

It's where Bill Norrie, Winnipeg's second-longest serving mayor, grew up, where the national school safety patrol program got its start and where an elm tree made international news.

In 2011, Daniel McInytre was the sixth largest ward in the city by population out of Winnipeg's fifteen.

Like most central neighbourhoods, its population shrank through the 60s and 70s and it kept on going until it bottomed out in the 2000s. According to the city, the 2011 population was 45,542, up more than 1,500 from 2006, (source.)

In the 2006 census 16.2% indicated Aboriginal, Metis or Inuit heritage, versus 10% for the city as a whole. Another 18.1% said Filipino, compared to 5.9% in the rest of the city.

Retail areas include Wolseley's great shops, Sargent Avenue's restaurants and downtown north of Portage Avenue. Yup, that includes Portage Place !

Indoor recreation facilities include Cindy Klassen Rec Centre, Sherbrook Pool and the U of W's Duckworth Centre. Outdoor spaces include Central Park, Vimy Memorial and Jacob Penner Park. 

It's also home to the West End Cultural Centre and University of Winnipeg !

INCOME STATS (from 2006 census)
Home Street

In 2005, Daniel McIntyre was the second poorest ward in the city with an average household income of $43,367and median income of $33,890. This is compared to $63,023 and $49,790 for the city as a whole. 

By comparison, Mynarski had the lowest with $41,980 and $34,77, while Point Douglas fared better with $49,971 and $42,852.

Police Courts monument, Winnipeg
Daniel McIntyre has one of the highest crime rates in the city. In 2010 and 2011, for instance, it was second only to Mynarski for total number of crimes reported. (For a table see this post at mennozacharias.com)

n  particular, arson sprees, (which, inexplicably, CrimeStat does not track), were especially bad in 2011 and 2013. 

This CBC Manitoba homicide map doesn't keep a tally or identify neighbourhoods, but from eyeballing it, I estimate that approximately 31 of the 176 homicides in the city between 2009 to present took place in the ward.

For whatever reason, I can never get the CrimeStat map to work properly when trying to set dates past 30 days. Check it out yourself here, choose area filters, council wards, then Daniel McIntyre.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Radio Edition - July 27, 2014 *PODCAST

(Image source: Veterans Affairs Canada)

Tonight's West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition is podcast only. You can check it out here. It's only the second podcast I've ever made, so be gentle with any technical hiccups.

In the history department, I'll talk about the Assiniboine Park steam train that turns 50 next week, the St. Charles Hotel, which turns 101, and the Kildonan Park Golf Course, Winnipeg's oldest municipal course. In July 1936 the Canadian Vimy Memorial in France was unveiled by King George VIII and we'll hear his address to the nation on that day.

Music by Gordon Lightfoot, Boats, Kathleen Edwards, Rod Stewart and the Grease soundtrack.

Show Links

A history of the St. Charles Hotel

The Bob Hope - Kildonan Park Golf Course urban myth

A history of the Assiniboine Park miniature steam railway and more about the 50th anniversary celebration.

For more about the history of Virden. Manitoba.

More on the Canadian Vimy Memorial at VAC and CBC Archives.

The death of Manitoba provincial Police Chief Richard Power

Bomber Mascot of the late 1950s Teddy the Chimp.

More about Winnipeg-born Terry Fox

Watch Milt Stegall's 138th touchdown and accompanying ceremony

Heritage Winnipeg's new blog and membership drive with $100s of dollars in prizes !

2nd Annual Carberry Heritage Festival - Aug 8 and 9, 2014

The Winnipeg Trolley Company's Heart of the Nation trolley tours continue until the end of September.

Play List

Canadian Railway Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot

Never Give Up On a Dream by Rod Stewart

Summercamp vs The Fake Moustache Tree by Boats

Summer Nights by Olivia Newton John and John Travolta

Wapusk by Kathleen Edwards 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Winnipeg by self-guided walking tour

I got an email from someone who will have a scheduled 3 hour Via Rail stopover in Winnipeg, (which in Via Rail real-time could be anywhere from 3 minutes to 13 hours.) They asked me if I could suggest self-guided walking tours that they could do on a weekday morning in a 2 hour time frame from the train station.

Below are the suggestions that I provided, in case other people are in the same boat and should stumble across this. (Below that are links to other self-guided walking tours for those with more time or mobility.)

I do want to give a tut-tut to some of the tourist groups out there, including the Exchange District Biz and Tourisme Riel. They tout their walking tours, including self-guided versions using their brochures, but don't put digitized copies of these brochures online. This makes it a difficult for people with limited time, or who want to set their itineraries before they come, or who are visiting outside of business hours, to access them.

Here are my suggestions with links to the guides. Note that I was keeping their 2 hour limit in mind !

Union Station: As you disembark, check out the station that you are in, which is a National Historic Site ! It recently celebrated 100 years and this nifty video was commissioned by Via Rail to commemorate it.

Broadway:  Broadway is the street that runs into the Via Station, very easy to walk in that amount of time. The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation has a self-guided tour called Broadway Modern, which looks at post-modern architecture along the street. You can download a free copy of the booklet here.

If you walk up Broadway about 15 minutes, you will find the Manitoba Legislature Buildings and grounds. Here is a self guided tour booklet. You can also walk into the building and they'll let you check out the main public area which is pretty impressive.

You’ll also find coffee shops, food carts etc. along Broadway if you want a snack under the trees before you get on the train again.

The Exchange District is about a 15 minutes walk away. If you head north from the train station, you get to Portage and Main. Anywhere north of that point is the Exchange District, a National Historic District.

If you cross Portage and Main, which in itself is a bit of a trick - better to stay above ground than use the concourse - go to the east side of Main Street, between Portage and City Hall. Just behind that side of Main is really the heart of the district with many of the old refurbished buildings, Old Market Square Park etc.

This is a link to an older pamphlet of a self-guided walking tour. There is a newer version which the Travel Manitoba Centre at the Forks will have in their pamphlet rack. I can’t seem to find an online version but will keep looking ! 

The Forks National Historic Site: "The Forks"is the top tourist destination in the city and right behind the train station. Here's a site plan.

This is a walk through the Parks Canada portion of the site, but does not seem to be in booklet format. Again, the biggest Travel Manitoba bureau is right there so you'd be able to get a ton of publications and maps of the site there. Unlike other parts of the city, the Forks is signed well to help wayfind historic sites and points of interest.

The building with the tall spire under construction is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which will open in the fall. Next to that is the also spired Esplanade Riel bridge.

St. Boniface: Across the Esplanade Riel is St. Boniface, the location of the city's original French settlement. 

Facing the river is the facade of old St.Boniface Cathedral, the modern church is build behind it. Out front of the cathedral is a cemetery where many prominent Franco-Manitoban leaders are buried, it includes the final resting place of Louis Riel. I can't find any online versions of the tourism brochures for that part of town, but here's a video about the cathedral and its grounds.

That should give you a pretty good range of activities in that two hour slot !

More Self-Guided Tour Links (I know there's lots more out there. If you know of any, leave them in the comments section below and I will add them !)

Fort Rouge Walking Tour

Louis Riel Walking Tour

Museums of Manitoba Road Trips

North Main Walking Tour: From William to Higgins Avenues

Routes on the Red: Numerous self-guided tours by foot, bike, boat and ski ! They include maps, pdf pdf printouts and time estimates.

St. John's Cemetery

Winnipeg Architecture Foundation offers a number of tour booklets. They are available for purchase in a nice pocket-size version. Some, like the Terra Cotta Tour, can also be downloaded free of charge.

GPS Tours

Here's a link to a number of GPS tours of the city. The "light version" of the app is free.

QR Tour

The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation has outfitted a number of buildings with QR codes that you can scan with your smart phone.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Bay Downtown's "Great Beacon"

January 14, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

There seems to be no end of interesting historical tidbits about the Bay Downtown. I recently stumbled across something called the "Great Beacon", the strongest light in the British Empire, which shone from atop the store in the early 1930s. It was equal parts advertizing gimmick and practical safety device.

 March 3, 1930, Winnipeg Free Press

The first airmail flights to and from Western Canada were set to take place at Stevenson Field on March 8, 1930. It was a big deal for not only the budding airline industry, but the the city of Winnipeg, which would be a hub for western mail going east and to points international, and for anyone who mailed letters or packages to or from the west.

The British Government, readying itself in 1929 for its first regularly scheduled commercial flights to and from Europe, experimented with giant beacons or "aerial lighthouses" near the coast that would point pilots in the direction of the nearest airport, especially useful in case of fog. The trials were a success and the largest permanent installation was established at Croydon, London in November 1929, throwing off more than  one-million candle-watts of light.

January 16, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

Crossing the sparsely populated Canadian prairie at night would be similar to crossing the ocean. Dark and featureless and at times foggy or snowy. It appears that the Hudson's Bay Company took the initiative to create a similar beacon atop their Portage Avenue store in Winnipeg in time for the first airmail flight.

They approached C. Gibson Ford, manager of the Western Division of French multinational Claude Neon Lightning Ltd. “Though perseverance and efficient work due primarily to civic pride...” he assembled the necessary components to create the beacon.

The light fixture and six 11,500-volt transformers were built by Canadian General Electric. Claude Neon supplied the spotlight bulb and 24 neon bulbs, each 32 mm in diameter, which formed a hexagon shape around the central spire. The 60-foot steel spire required to hold it all was designed by  Carter, Halls and Aldinger, engineers and built by Manitoba Bridge and Iron Works Ltd.

Because the beacon wasn't actually at the airport, which itself was outfitted with a new but smaller beacon for the occasion, the Bay's beacon included a powerful spotlight that shone in the direction of Stevenson Field for pilots to follow.

When it was lit, the beacon created 2,000,000 candle-watts of light that could be seen for 100 miles on a clear day. It was 20 per cent stronger than Croydon's light, making it the brightest light in the British Empire.

March 2, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

With the beacon in place, it was now a matter of planning the weekend-long celebration to go with it.

The postmaster general had planned an inaugural ceremony of his own, but was persuaded to collapse his in with the Bay's. On Saturday, March 1st, Leigh Britnell, a pilot and operations manager of Western Canadian Airways, dropped circulars from his plane over the city, each containing a lottery number. These could be brought to the store on the Tuesday following the lighting to be eligible for prizes. Most had an aviation theme, such as goggles, helmets and scarves.

Also on Saturday, the store drew back the curtains on its store windows to show displays documenting the history of transportation in Manitoba, from the Red River cart to the modern airplane.

On Monday, the night of the lighting, there was a VIP dinner held at the Bay which was also broadcast live on CKY radio, (at the time owned by MTS.) There were speeches by aviation pioneer James Richardson, C. Gibson Ford of Claude Neon, and W. Martin, head of the young men’s section of the Board of Trade. Postmaster Veniet made the formal announcement that inaugurated the service.

Top: Leech at the beacon. March 4, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune
Below: Postcard of beacon in action (source unknown - eBay?)

At 8:30 p.m. acting mayor Leech lit the beacon. Fifteen minutes later, the first flight from Regina arrived and at 9:00 p.m. the first flight left Winnipeg to Calgary with a load of mail.

The HBC relished the attention. They positioned themselves as a company not just of the past but of the future by supporting the airline industry. Later that year they erected similar beacons on their Calgary and Vancouver stores. Annual "Beacon Day" sales were held to remind people of the structure.

September 8, 1930, Winnipeg Free Press

What of the Bay's chief rival, the Timothy Eaton Company ? They, too, did their part for airline navigation. 

In September 1930 they allowed a concrete arrow to be installed on the roof of their store. Little fuss was made, I could find only one small article about its installation with no mention if this was a store initiative or that of an aviation group or authority. (The concrete arrow as a wayfinding device seems to be more of an American thing than a Canadian one.)

What is believed to have been the strongest beacon in the world was installed atop the Palmolive Building in Chicago in August 1930, said to have been 2,000,000,000 candle-watts in strength. It is still there to this day. Recent attempts to relight it as a landmark have failed.

February 25, 1932, Winnipeg Tribune

What became of the Bay's beacon ? For all of the fuss and expense, it was only in operation, nighttime only,  until the end of March 1932. Airmail service was cut as a Depression-era cost-saving measure and the need for the lights eliminated.

Airmail began moving again after 1937 when Trans Canada Airlines began operations. They used larger, more sophisticated planes that did not need such wayfinding devices.

I could find no mention in subsequent years of the beacon ever being used again, or when it was dismantled.


This article from a 1939 edition of Popular Aviation talks about early Western Canadian airmail service, including the beacons. Also see this story from the Winnipeg Real Estate News.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Radio Edition - July 20, 2014 *Podcast*

Ellice Avenue Icelandic Mural

On tonight's West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition, join me and Katie Seymour at 7 p.m. on 101.5 UMFM or go here for the podcast !


My guest is Sasha Ostowski, the West End Biz's mural tour guide. We'll talk about the tours and what's new on West End walls this year. 

Show Links

For more information about some of the items I mention during the show:

- West End Biz mural tours and upcoming restaurant tours

- The William Stephenson / James Bond connection

- A bio of Piercy Haynes

- The murder of Sgt. John Verne of the St. Boniface Police

- The "Gimli Glider", which is still for sale. (Also see this episode of Mayday !) 

- Marshall McLuhan's time at the U of M

- The Trial of Louis Riel

The Play List

The Rockford Files by Mike Post

Champ de Bataille by Oh My Darling (lyrics by Louis Riel)

The Metis by Ray St. Germain

Marshall McLuhan Remix  by DJ Spooky

The Ballad of Marshall McLuhan by Radio Free Vestibule

Painting Pictures by Adele

McLuhan interviewed by Edwin Newman (excerpt)

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Scott Furniture Block's last hurrah ? UPDATE

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, the Historical Buildings and Resources Committee of council will hear an application to de-list the Scott Furniture Company Building with an eye to demolishing it. It's a huge twist in the history of a building that just received a multi-million dollar restoration.

The ca. 1904 building has had a heck of a history. It survived two huge fires and over 30 years with one of the fugliest metal coverings ever put on a heritage building. (For more about its history, see my Winnipeg Downtown Places post.)

In 2010 a company called Space2Work, owned by Mark and Shelley Buleziuk, purchased it and began a multi-million dollar restoration, bringing the building and its façade back to its former glory. After it reopened in 2012, it was listed as a Heritage Property by the city and won a Heritage Winnipeg Preservation Award.

Since that time, however, it has sat empty. In May 2014 the 272Main.com leasing website was taken down and it has disappeared from Space2Work's site as well. 

At the June 19, 2014 Historical Buildings and Resources Committee meeting, the owners applied to have the building de-listed, which is the first step in demolishing a heritage property. The matter was held over to the July 17, 2014 meeting, (this Thursday at 3 pm).

Former Scott Block

So, what went wrong ? I contacted Space2Work to confirm stories that I'd heard, but they did not repsond. Presumably they will all come up at Thursday's hearing.

What I have heard from a couple of different people is that the major issue is an error made during renovations. Too much concrete was poured on each floor making them too heavy. (Whether this is a fatal flaw or just one that will cost a lot of money to repair and the owners would prefer to demolish than fix is what I was hoping to ask them.)

The time would be right for someone with vacant property on that stretch of Main to act. In early July CentreVenture announced that they want to perform a makeover to the area.

UPDATE - JULY 17 2014

Late this afternoon, the Historical Buildings and Resources Committee met to discuss the owner's request to remove 272 Main Street from the city's Historical Resources List.

The item was introduced by a city staffer who said that during the renovations the reinforcement strategy for the building's floors failed due to "faulty workmanship" that made the building "currently unsafe to occupy." The owners are unable to sell the building with the current heritage listing, so are requesting that it be removed. (Note that the "d" word - demolish - was not used, though once de-listed the owners would be free to do what they wanted.)

The owners, who were not in attendance, provided the committee with two engineering reports to support their claims about the condition of the building and what needed to be done to make it safe again. Reports that members of the public could not hear about.


Despite this being the newly revamped heritage committee that now meets in public in order to be more "open and transparent", as chairman Jenny Gerbasi noted in her welcoming remarks, the gallery was cleared so that the reports could be discussed in-camera. When pressed, Gerbasi said that this was at the request of the owner, as the content of the reports are part of a legal action. She also noted the clause in the in-camera bylaw that allows for this when legal action is underway. 

The gallery was pretty thin. A reporter, me and two representatives from Heritage Winnipeg, who were against the de-listing. To paraphrase HW's Executive Director Cindy Tugwell, there is nothing that has happened in the two years since the building was listed to lessen its heritage or architectural significance. Items such as an owner's cash flow, botched repairs etc. should not have any impact on a building's status.

After readmission, the committee discussed the application. They were in agreement that regardless of the renovation problems, the architectural significance or character defining elements that led to the building being added to the list in 2012 have not changed, nor would they be changed if the necessary repairs are made.

In the end, they voted unanimously to keep the building on the list of historical resources.

This does not mean the end for this application. The Historical Buildings and Resources Committee is a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Management, to which the owners can appeal.