Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Oldest House in Winnipeg

Written by Laura Wiens, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Heritage Winnipeg

Take a guess, what do you think the oldest house in Winnipeg is?

Maybe Ralph Connor House? No, too recent. Louis Riel House? Getting closer, but not quite.

The oldest home in Winnipeg, is Seven Oaks House at 50 Mac Street.

Seven Oaks House Museum. Source: Seven Oaks House Museum Facebook page.
The house was home to prominent Winnipeg family, the Inksters. John Inkster laid the foundations for the house in 1851. He chose a location in the Parish of Kildonan, near seven large oak trees. These were not just any oak trees, 35 year earlier in that spot, the Battle of Seven Oaks occurred.
John Inkster was born in the Orkney Islands off the northeastern coast of Scotland in 1799. He came to Canada in 1821 at the age of 22 to work for The Hudson's Bay Company as a Stonemason. 

However, once he arrived, he paid the company a sum of money in return for letting him go from his employment without ever actually doing any stonemasonry work for them. His son Colin said that he believes the foundation John Inkster laid for Seven Oaks House was the only stonemasonry work his father ever did in Canada. 

John Inkster. Source: The Manitoba Archives
After parting ways with the Hudson's Bay Company, Inkster became a farmer. He went on to become a businessman, and imported goods from the United States and Europe. The European goods made it to the Red River Settlement (the Winnipeg area) by York boat, and the American goods came via Red River Cart.

He went on to become the President of the Steam Mill Company in 1856, 35 years after first coming to Canada. He also entered public service, and served as a judge and councillor in Assiniboia. He and his wife Mary Sinclair had 9 children, many of whom went on to become involved with prominent Winnipeggers, and also became prominent Winnipeggers themselves.

Their eldest son, Colin Inkster, became a Manitoba politician in the Legislative Council of Manitoba, the upper level of the provincial government, like the Senate of the federal government. If you’ve never heard of the Legislative Council of Manitoba, you’re probably not alone. Many Canadians were sceptical of the need for an upper level of provincial governments. Manitoba joined confederation in 1870, and the Legislative Council of Manitoba dissolved in 1876. Colin Inkster was the speaker of the council in its final year, and after it voted itself out of existence, he was appointed Sheriff of Manitoba, and later founded The Manitoba Historical Society. 

Seven Oaks House Museum in summer with the garden in full bloom. Source: Seven Oaks House Facebook Page

When Seven Oaks House itself was built, there was already an existing structure on the lot – John Inkster's general store. Out of this store he sold the goods he imported. It also served as the post office for the Kildonan area. This small building is built in the Red River frame style, and is very simple with no decoration. The exact date of the store building's construction is unknown, but it may be the oldest building of any kind in Winnipeg.

The Inkster family bought the land in 1835 where they would build their store and later Seven Oaks House. The Seven Oaks House Museum estimates that the store was likely built between 1835 and 1840, which would make that small, two room log cabin the oldest building in Winnipeg. With Seven Oaks House being the oldest home, it is remarkable that we have two buildings here in Winnipeg that have endured for so long.

John Inkster laid the foundation for Seven Oaks House in 1851, and in 1852, while the house was still under construction; a disastrous flood hit the Red River Settlement. Water from the Red River submerged the Inkster property to a depth of four feet underwater. The flood swept across the prairies for miles. Inkster laid a temporary floor over the second storey, and covered the unfinished house with a hastily made canvas shelter to protect Inkster and his wife from the flood. That's right, as people everywhere fled to high ground, John Inkster and Mary Sinclair chose to stay at their unfinished house, living on a temporary floor under a canvas shelter. They did send their children to Lilyfield, a high ground area between Winnipeg and Stonewall. 

Seven Oaks House museum in winter. The store building is visible from this angle. Source: Seven Oaks House Facebook Page
After the flood passed, construction resumed. The home was finally completed in 1853. The house is two stories, and has nine rooms. The walls are made from oak logs rafted down the Red River. They are hewn about seven inches square, then shaped using a hand-planer. Logs were pinned to each other with wooden pegs as they were laid one on top of the other. The shingles for the roof were made from cedar logs, split by hand, and cut with a drawing knife. Buffalo hair was used to bind the plaster on the interior of the walls. The interior woodworking used primarily spruce logs and some basswood.
The Inkster family owned Seven Oaks House until 1952, when it was given to the City of Winnipeg to be used as a museum.

Today, the Seven Oaks House Museum seeks to depict daily life of the Red River Settlement era, roughly 1812-1912. The museum is open annually from the May long-weekend through to September. The museum has just closed for another season – and it was an important one. 

An interior shot of one room in the museum. Source: Seven Oaks House Facebook Page
2016 marked the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Seven Oaks. The museum commemorated the battle with a stage re-enactment featuring members of the Manitoba Living History Society and the Forces of Lord Selkirk. The monument of the battle is located near Seven Oaks House, on what used to be a part of the Inkster family property.

Seven Oaks House Museum was also the location of a sold-out paranormal investigation event. The Winnipeg Paranormal Group took visitors along on an investigation through the house, looking for evidence that the house is haunted. If any house in Winnipeg is haunted, the oldest one seems to be a likely candidate.

The museum is full of amazing artifacts from the Red River settlement, furniture, all kinds of household items, photographs, and even one of the earliest models of cameras. 

One of the earliest cameras, on display at the museum. Source: Seven Oaks House Facebook Page
Congratulations to Seven Oaks House Museum on an immensely successful 2016 season, and we hope even more people will get out to see the oldest home in Winnipeg and learn about its history while celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Education Centre

Long before 184 Alexander Avenue was home to the Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Education Centre, the building was home to the British and Foreign Bible Society. The Bible Society was formed in England in 1804, with the intent to bring the word of the Bible to "heathen" people across the world. This Bible society came to Canada in 1808, and they quickly began translating the Bible into numerous languages and distributing copies of it.

The Bible Society hoped they would be able to use the word of God to help the new immigrants and the other poor and disenfranchised people in the North End to better their lives.

The Bible Society purchased the property 184 Alexander Avenue in 1911 at a cost of $14,000 and construction of their building began in the summer of 1912. They chose their location because the North End of Winnipeg was home to a large population of recent immigrants, and many of them were very poor, with few opportunities to make a strong start for their new lives. There was a concerted effort by government and different stakeholders to keep the poor immigrant population grouped in the North End, away from the rest of the city. The Bible Society hoped they would be able to use the word of God to help the new immigrants and the other poor and disenfranchised people in the North End make better lives.
Source: Winnipeg Downtown Places 
The building itself was five storeys tall, and had 45 rooms. It was 66 feet across and 48 feet in depth. It was more expensive to build than the society anticipated. The final cost was $75,000, in addition to the $14,000 they spent to buy the property. Construction of the building was quite rushed, and it was occupied by 1913.

The Architect was a man named William Bruce, who was born in Scotland and came to Winnipeg in 1906. By all accounts, he was a rather eccentric fellow. He laid out plans for a city of half a million people to be located where the town of Churchill is now, and he worked extensively to find "the ultimate fire-proof material."

184 Alexander Avenue in 1969
Photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee

The building soon proved to be an overly ambitious project. Not only was it over budget, but also the need for it soon diminished. When The First World War broke out, the large flow of immigrants into the North End was greatly reduced. The building was originally going to be occupied by three branches of the Bible Society from Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Although the Alberta and Saskatchewan branches soon become more independent, and they no longer wanted or needed to share the office with the Manitoba branch. Soon the Manitoba branch of the Bible Society was left with a very expensive, very large building with far more space than they could afford, or even needed.

They began to search for tenants from other Societies to rent out space in the building to with similar missions to promote charity and social well-being. The Church of England Missionary Society, The Dorcas Society, The Children's Bureau, and the Rupert's Land Women's Auxiliary were early tenants, and the major tenant was the Children's Aid Society. The Children's Aid Society stayed in the building until 1957, by which time they had grown too large and needed to seek larger office space elsewhere.

The Children's Aid Society actually stayed in the building longer than the Bible Society itself that had moved out almost a decade earlier in 1949. Alexander Street wasn't as bustling as it once was, and they wanted to move to a busier street hoping to be noticed by more people. When they left in 1949, they sold the building to the Ukrainian National Publishing Company. They printed the paper the New Pathway in the building and this publication still exists today.

184 Alexander in present day.
Courtesy of the Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre

During the 1950s groups like the Ukrainian National Youth Federation, the Ukrainian War Veterans' Association and the Ukrainian Women's Organization occupied the building, and the Children's Aid Society stayed there until 1957. A year later in 1958, all of the Ukrainian groups that were in the building moved out, and the building was mostly vacant.

In the 1970s, the Ukrainian Cultural Centre rented the fourth floor of the building and converted it into a library. When New Pathway moved out in 1977, the building was transformed into a heritage site for Ukrainian culture. Half a million dollars were spent in renovations to include a library, museum, art gallery, and office.

184 Alexander today.
Courtesy of the Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre.
Today, the building is known as Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre. It is a multi-faceted heritage institution connecting Canadians with Ukrainian culture. It is recognized for the breadth and scope of its ethnology, art, archives and library collections that lie at the heart of its public programs, which include exhibitions, workshops, and public lectures. It provides information and research services pertaining to Ukrainian Canadian heritage.

They hold many events throughout the year, and participate in Doors Open Winnipeg each year. They are open to the public daily on Monday to Saturday from 10 am – 4 pm, and 1 pm to 4 pm on Sundays. It is a place worth visiting, and showcases how our built and cultural heritage can compliment each other and live in perfect harmony.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Fort Street & Notre Dame

The Vendome Hotel

This week, the Vendome Hotel, located at 308 Fort Street, made it onto the agenda at City Hall to the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development, Heritage and Development.   The recommendation was from the Historical Buildings and Resources Committee for this 118-year-old hotel to be added to the List of Historical Resources under the Historical Resources By-law 55/2014 with the following Character Defining Elements:

A.  Exterior:

1.  Four-storey brick building with a flat roof located on the west side of Fort Street, its main facade east onto Fort Street, its south facade partially hidden by neighbouring building, and its west and north facades facing the back lane; and

2.  The front (east) facade with ground floor openings with arched transoms with leaded glass, the upper floors with ornamental brickwork and windows in arches openings and flag pole.

B.  Interior:

1.  Wood finishes of the main (south) staircase including the handrail on the north side.

A 1898 advertisement for the Vendome Hotel
Courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report
Construction of this centenarian began in 1898, and the Vendome Hotel was completed at a cost of $14,000. The Vendome Hotel opened on December 17th.  It was expanded in 1902, using designs from Architect Henry Sandham Griffin, who also designed several other important Winnipeg buildings, including Fire Hall Number 1 in the Exchange District, which was demolished in the 1960s.

Portage Avenue had overtaken Main Street as the commercial hub of Winnipeg at the time the Vendome was built, making its location right of Portage Avenue very desirable. The Vendome had a very decorative exterior to catch the eye of people passing by. It had broad canopy marquees, towering vertical signs, and the kind of outdoor electric lighting that had been developed by theatres in the nineteenth century. The 1902 expansion altered the roofline, but did not make any significant changes to the exterior, although it has changed significantly over the century.

Colour post card, date unknown. View looking down on Portage Avenue
The black arrow points out the Vendome Hotel on Fort Street
Courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report
The Vendome Hotel offered a restaurant and bar on the main floor, along with its rooms on the upper floors. In the early 1910s it underwent interior remodelling, which brought running water to all rooms, and some rooms were even given private washrooms. There is evidence that there was once a wide main staircase that wound up the centre of the building, but the walls have now closed in that space.

The current main staircase in the Vendome Hotel
Although not the original, the railing is lovely and ornate
Courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report

The Vendome marketed itself as "one of the most homelike and quiet hotels in the downtown." The original owner of the hotel was David Murray. He came to Winnipeg with his wife and children from Ontario. It is unclear if opening the hotel is what drew the family to Winnipeg, or if he came for a different business first, and joined the hotel industry once he was settled in Winnipeg. When his sons grew up they joined their father working to manage the hotel.

The hotel was a frequent meeting place for the 90th Winnipeg Battalion, an Infantry Battalion from the First World War. The hotel also served as home for different lengths of time for some high profile guests, including Joe Hall, a major league hockey player, and Reginald Buller, a scientist who founded the Botany Department at the University of Manitoba.

Reginald Buller is considered one of the most eccentric men from the University of Manitoba's history
Courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report

Occasionally more unusual guests made their way into the hotel. A man who worked as a night clerk at the Vendome once found a bear cub wandering down the streets of downtown Winnipeg and brought the cub back to the hotel. Once safely at the hotel, the man fed the cub a bear's traditional diet of cheese, apples, milk, and beer. (We kid, of course as we do not recommend giving bears beer.)

In the 1950s, a company called Shea's Brewery purchased the hotel. Shea's was quickly taken over by a Canadian beer company, Labatt Breweries. It was common around this time period for breweries to own hotels.

The Vendome Hotel in the 1970s
Courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report

The St. Charles Hotel

Just across Portage Avenue, Fort Street turns into Notre Dame. At 235 Notre Dame, right at the corner of Albert Street, is another one of Winnipeg's historic hotels – The St. Charles Hotel. Unfortunately, the St. Charles Hotel is no longer open, and is sitting vacant.

The St. Charles Hotel
Courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report

The St. Charles Hotel was constructed in 1913, just over a decade after the Vendome Hotel was built. By 1913 Winnipeg had firmly established itself as the economic hub of the prairies, and the hotel was business was booming as people flocked to the city for business. 

1913 saw the economy in Winnipeg take a slight down turn. With many people looking for work, it was easy to find people to fill labour jobs. Because of this, the St. Charles hotel was built in just three months, at a cost of $122,000. 

The view down Notre Dame in 1914, one year after the completion of the St. Charles Hotel
Photo from the Heritage Winnipeg Archives

One year after its completion, in 1914, George Skinner bought the St. Charles Hotel. Skinner had already been involved with the Manitoba hotel business for a number of years. He worked for the Manitoba Hotel until it burned down, and later became a partner in the Mariaggi Hotel located at McDermot and Albert Street. Skinner managed the St. Charles Hotel for over 15 years, then sold it in 1933. 

The building has a stone basement and reinforced concrete, with a dark tapestry brick facing, set against white limestone trim. The trim is used extensively in vertical bands between alternate window sets on the upper two storeys; pedimented window heads on the second floor; horizontal belts and a bracketed cornice; and on the parapet. The façade is rounded at the Albert Street/Notre Dame Avenue corner and topped by a carved stone panel that once carried the hotel’s name. 

The Argyle Building

The Argyle Building, located at 224 Notre Dame was also on the agenda of the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development, Heritage and Development.   They also concurred with the recommendation from the Historical Buildings and Resources Committee to add the Argyle Block to the List of Historical Resources under the Historical Resources By-law 55/2014 with the following Character-Defining Elements:

A.  Exterior:

1.  Four-storey brick and stone building with flat roof located mid-block on the south side of Notre Dame Avenue, its main facades north onto Notre  Dame Avenue and south onto Garry Street and its east and west facades hidden by neighbouring buildings;
2.  The Notre Dame facade with its upper floors divided into two bays by single and paired brick pilasters with carved stone heads and bases, rectilinear window openings with stone sills and heads on the second and third floors and arched openings on the fourth floor topped by arched brickwork and large metal bracket-like keystones, a complete metal entablature engraved with the word "ARGYLE" and a heavy overhanging cornice;
3.  The Garry Street facade with its upper storeys divided into three bays, the east bay holding doors for the open metal fire escape, the other bays with paired windows, rectilinear on the second and third floors and arched on the fourth floor, oversized keystones, a complete metal entablature engraved with the word 'ARGYLE' and a heavy overhanging cornice; and
4.  Light wells in the west wall.

B.  Interior:

1.  The third and fourth floors with side hallways with doors and transoms, glass/wood fire escapes vestibules, suites, common bathrooms, murphy beds and decorative wood finishes. 

The building can also be entered from the other side, where its address is 333 Garry Street. It is named for the company that built it, the Argyle Land Company and they developed and sold land in Winnipeg. One of their first developments was called Argyle Gardens, it existed in the west end area. The company was based out of a couple other buildings before building the Argyle Building, which they built in 1908. 

The Argyle building in present day. This is its Notre Dame Street Entrance
Courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report
Like the St. Charles Hotel, the Argyle Building was completed within a handful on months, and it went up years before the St. Charles Hotel. Its record breaking construction speed made headlines, and crowds of people gathered on the streets to watch the construction. The Winnipeg Tribune published an article that said: "(The building's) smart red appearance will be a distinct addition to Garry Street."

The building was occupied not just by the Argyle Land Company, but some floors were rented to other commercial tenants, and the upper floors were built as residential units. 

Present day Argyle Building, the Garry Street Entrance
Courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Building Report

Argyle sold their one-year-old building to Frank Lindsay in 1909, but continued to occupy it and continued to sell land, until 1911 when their company became plagued by scandal. They eventually relocated to an office in the McIntyre Block located on Main Street in 1916.

On July 29, 1920, the Argyle Building caught on fire. Three firemen were injured, and one person died. It was thought that the man who died may have started the fire by accident after falling asleep with a cigarette, but no cause was officially ruled. The building caught on fire again a second time in 1926, but thankfully there was no casualties. 

The view down Notre Dame in 1928
Photo from the Heritage Winnipeg Archives
Other historic buildings nearby include the Christie Block, a retail block located at 245 Notre Dame, and the Oxford Hotel at 216 Notre Dame, right next to the Argyle block. We are pleased at the recommendation for the Vendome Hotel and the Argyle Building to be added to the List of Historical Resources, so it can join its fellow buildings from the pre-WW1 era and be protected from demolition. 

Friday, 16 September 2016

Visit The Winnipeg Railway Museum

This Saturday, September 17 & Sunday, September 18, 2016 is Rail Days, a free public event. Rail Days celebrates railway history and culture as it evolved in Winnipeg. Rail Days takes place at the Winnipeg Railway Museum, which is located on the second floor of the Via Rail Station at 123 Main Street in Winnipeg. Come down between 11 am and 5 pm.

The Railway Museum was started by The Midwest Rail Association, a group of railway enthusiasts who wanted to see pieces of our railroad heritage preserved. When the group opened the Winnipeg Museum, it wasn't their first rodeo. 

The Midwestern Rail Association purchased their first museum in Miami. No, not Miami Florida, Miami Manitoba. Miami is a small town southwest of Winnipeg. Miami's railway station was built in 1889, operated by both the Northern Pacific Railway Company, and the Manitoba Railway Company. In 1973, the station closed permanently and in 1974, the station went up for sale, and The Midwestern Rail Association purchased it, and opened their first museum. The Association sought to restore the station to as close to its original appearance as possible, and to show people what a rural railway station was like in 1889.  In 1994, the Midwestern Railway Association transferred control of the Miami Railway Station Museum to a another local non-profit organization.  

The Miami Railway Station Museum
Source: Government of Manitoba
Back in 1977, the Midwestern Railway Association had begun acquiring rolling stock in Winnipeg. Rolling stock refers to any locomotives, carriage, wagon, or any other vehicle that travels on a railroad. The Association was looking for a home for their collection to preserve, restore, and protect the equipment. 

Before the Winnipeg Railway Museum got to where it is today, they considered a variety of other homes. They looked at the building which houses The Children's Museum at the Forks as the building was once a repair shop for trains. It closed in 1909, but was used for various purposes until 1960, then it closed for over 30 years before becoming the Children's Museum. The Midwestern Rail Association also looked at locations in the Canadian Pacific Railway Station, located at 901 Logan Avenue in Winnipeg. They also considered Hurst Way, even going as far as to break ground, before that project fell through. The Winnipeg Humane Society would later open their new facilities at that site in 2007.

After all those attempts to find a location, finally, the Winnipeg Railway Museum found its home when Via Rail declared that tracks 1 and 2 at their Winnipeg Main Street Station were being declared surplus, and would no longer be used. It was the perfect fit for the Winnipeg Railway Museum.

The Via Rail Winnipeg Station on Main Street
with a Streetcar driving in front of it down Broadway
These days, the Winnipeg Railway Museum is filled with many pieces of equipment in various stages of restoration. The centrepiece of the museum is The Countess of Dufferin. 

Drawing of The Baldwin 4-4-0, the model of locomotive the Countess of Dufferin
Source: The Milepost, Winnipeg Railway Museum's bi-monthly newsletter
The Countess was purchased from the bankrupt railway in North Dakota. The Countess is a Baldwin 4-4-0 model, described as "the workhorse," of railway construction across North America. It was the one of the most common types of locomotive ever built, which gained it the nickname of the "American Standard." The Countess was one of 26 thousand Baldwin 4-4-0s when it was built, but now very few are left.

The Countess of Dufferin on display in the Museum
Source: The Milepost, Winnipeg Railway Museum's bi-monthly newsletter
The museum also has a refrigerated railway car.  Refrigerated cars were a huge milestone when it came to food transportation.  Food could be transported farther than ever before and refrigerated cars completely changed the game of food.  Regional foods could now be transported from coast to coast, allowing for things that never would have been possible before, like eating a lobster dinner in Chicago. That's right, the first lobster ever prepared and eaten in Chicago arrived there via a refrigerated railway car in 1842. It also meant that Georgia peaches became available to Winnipeggers.

The refrigerated cars that are on display in the Winnipeg Railway Museum were built in 1929 by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company to ship perishable food items. Workers would load ice through trap doors into a steel cage. The vents at the top allowed cool air to move into the main compartment where the food was stored. The cars could travel 250-400 miles on one load of ice.

A wooden, refrigerated reefer, made to transport food
Source: The Milepost, Winnipeg Railway Museum's bi-monthly newsletter
The Railway Museum is also home to Heritage Winnipeg's Streetcar 356, Winnipeg's last wooden streetcar. Car 356 is just starting its rehabilitation, and not normally available to the public for viewing.  If you want to see the streetcar, this is your chance!

Streetcar 356
Source: Heritage Winnipeg Archives
We hope you will join us at The Winnipeg Railway Museum this weekend for Rail Days with family or friends to learn more about our rich railway history that helped shape our city. This is a free public event, but donations are encouraged, as this wonderful Museum that is truly a gem for our city, is run completely by volunteers.  If you're interested in learning more about Museum, please visit their website, and sign up for their fantastic bi-monthly newsletter, The Milepost.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Winnipeg Police Service & The Winnipeg Police Museum

Guest Post by Randy James, former Winnipeg Police Officer, and Winnipeg Police Museum volunteer. Edited by Laura Wiens, Marketing & Communications Officer for Heritage Winnipeg.

Early Winnipeg & The Police

In its beginning, Winnipeg grew rapidly. According to the Dominion Census, Winnipeg had a population of just 241 people in 1871. When it officially became a city in 1874, it was close to 5,000. Such a huge jump in population meant more crime, and the Winnipeg Police Force had to respond. When the CPR arrived in Winnipeg in 1881 there was another large influx, and the population rose to 7,985. People came from other parts of Canada, and many immigrants came from overseas. In 1911 the population reached 136,035. The city expanded to new suburbs, and was comprised of about 25 square miles.  
Point Douglas under construction in 1875.
Point Douglas would go on to house a high volume of Winnipeg brothels.
Winnipeg was the last urban city point before the “wild" North-West, and Winnipeg always had some of that “wild” in it. There was a lot of liquor and prostitution, both of which were major issues for the police force.
An early arrest ledger on display at the Winnipeg Police Museum.
The first crime listed is: "Drunk on Street: 5:30 pm."
The first Chief of Police, John Ingram, had a reputation as a scrapper. The mayor at the time did not think well of him at all. Ingram also had a well-known weakness for wine – and women. He was reportedly found in a house of ill repute, in a state of undress, by his two constables.  After being caught in a compromising position, he was permitted to resign. He was replaced by one of his constables, D.B. Murray. Murray left his position years later amid speculation that he was taking protection money from the Madams. Although a Sergeant was charged with taking money from a Madam, it was never officially linked to Murray himself.
In 1881, John C. McRae joined the ranks of the Winnipeg Police Force.  He rose through the ranks to become Chief Constable in 1887. He was known as being one of the most progressive of all Chiefs, causing many improvements to the Force. He changed the rank structure within the force, adding a Sergeant Major to supervise the Sergeants, a Patrol Sergeant to supervise the beat Constables, and even had a Police Surgeon on staff. The first women were hired by the force in 1899 to be matrons, caring for the females arrested. McRae obtained the first mode of transportation for the force, a bicycle, which was used by Patrol Sergeants and Detectives only. He would go on to get the first motor vehicle in 1906, and later in 1910 obtained motorcycles for the Motor Patrol.
John. C. McRae. As Chief, he brought huge progress to the Winnipeg Police Force. 
McRae understood the challenges the police force faced in Winnipeg at that time. He saw the city increasing in size, and as a transportation hub, saw an increase in the criminal element. Railway lines connected with Chicago for the movement of grain, and many people with criminal intentions made their way north.


In 1909 John McRae opened the Rupert Street Police Station, at the corner of Rupert & Louise.  He also saw a need for substations, and in 1909 the city purchased parcels of land designated for these substations. 
With A Division being the Rupert Street Station,
B Division (Fort Rouge) Nassau St. & Jessie Ave.
C Division (West End) Arlington St, near Westminster Ave.
D Division (Notre Dame) was located on Notre Dame Ave. & Pearl St.
E Division (North End) Magnus St. & Charles Ave.
F Division (Elmwood) Levis St. & Regent Ave.

The Rupert Street Police Station.
The first substations constructed were B & E Divisions, which opened May 23rd ,1911.  They were mirror images of each other, with the stables at opposite ends of the building. The stables for the horses made up half of the main floor. Station Duty was at the front of the main floor. The second floor had a recreation room with a pool table, and a suite for the caretaker. Often the caretaker’s wife would also be a matron to look after the female prisoners. 
Subdivision B
Winnipeg entered in an economic downturn in 1913. The next year, the Great War broke out, which drained the city of many men who went to fight, and cut off any excess spending. As a result, the remaining substations substations were never built. In 1966 the Rupert Street Station closed when the Public Safety Building opened and the two existing substations closed on June 30, 1967.
Blue prints the subdivision.
B Division was torn down but the E Division station remained intact, though closed until 1990.  Then a developer purchased the building and land, and converted it to an apartment building. It still stands at 200 Charles Street and Magnus Ave.
Former subdivision E, now an apartment building.

In 1990, the Winnipeg Police Museum was approached with the idea of recovering artifacts from within. Numerous parts were recovered including one of the 11 jail cells. 
A jail cell from E Division, now on display at the Winnipeg Police Museum.
The glamorous interior.

Visit the Museum

An exhibit on the "Special Police" from the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.
Any officers who went on strike were fired, and replaced with "special" constables. 
The museum is home to a huge variety of amazing artifacts that were saved over the decades by the Winnipeg Police Service, from the earliest days until the present. The museum even has early memorabilia from individual police organizations prior to Winnipeg's incorporation of a city. 

Police officers themselves aren’t the only ones remembered in the museum. Some of Winnipeg’s most infamous criminals have earned spots in the museum, including serial killer Earle Nelson who killed dozens of women across North America before being apprehended in Winnipeg. The gory, yet fascinating details are all available in the museum.

Infamous serial killer, Earle Nelson. Photograph displayed in the museum.
Another story of an infamous criminal displayed at the museum.
Kerfanko conspired with law enforcement to escape from jail.

The Winnipeg Police Museum is now located inside the police headquarters at 245 Smith Street. It had its grand opening in its new location in June of 2016. Many dignitaries and community leaders attended to see the impressive space and artifacts. 

Shotgun shells fired by the Winnipeg Police.

You can visit the Police Museum Wednesday - Saturday, from 10 am - 3pm. 

Admission is free!