Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Vaughan Street Jail at 444 York Avenue (Part 2 of 2)

Guest Post by Kristen Verin-Treusch
Edited by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Verin-Treusch

Continued from previous article. To read Part 1, click here!
The former Vaughan Street Detention Centre was originally called the Eastern Provincial District Gaol and opened its foreboding doors in 1881. Over the next 50 years it would serve as a prison for inmates serving 2 years or less that arrived from Western Ontario, the territories of Alberta and Saskatchewan and all of what later became Manitoba. 

Men were incarcerated for various crimes such as theft, cattle stealing, opening letters, drunkenness, arson, rape and murder. Of the more infamous characters were two men convicted of a mass murder, killing a family with a shotgun and axe. These two men were the first to hang at the eastern Gaol. Others include Bloody Jack Krafchencko and Earl Nelson, Winnipeg's first serial killer (click here for more information).


Bloody Jack Krafchencko - Learn more about this famous criminal by clicking on the photo, courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society Website.

Women often were arrested for similar crimes but in addition, infanticide and prostitution. The youngest of inmates consisted of children as young as 5 years of age who were arrested for such crimes as theft, truancy, harassing horses, and kicking old ladies in the shins. 

Indeed, the building as also utilized as a makeshift insane asylum for several years. People suffering from depression, severe mental illness or Alzheimer's could be dropped off by family members if they became too much of a burden. The belief was that a night's stay would cure them of their ailments. Regretfully, not only other inmates treated these people the worst, but also by staff. Physical and emotional abuse occurred regularly. Once the Selkirk Insane Asylum opened in 1886, many were transferred there where the method of treatment was in some cases better. 



This jail has been mentioned in several books and state that 13 executions were completed here. It is speculated that there may actually have been closer to 15-16. Unfortunately hanging criminals was not something Canadians were especially good at - 70% went wrong. As in other jails, our site experienced some of these disasters too. A criminal on death row could anticipate his/her hanging could be botched by either the rope being too slack, resulting in strangulation, or too short, resulting in decapitation. In addition, these were often but not always, a public event.

The jail served as a Provincial jail until 1930 when Headingly opened. After 1930 and over the decades, it served as a youth detention centre and remand centre, until 1984 when it closed as a facility. Since then, it has been idly sitting, watching the city evolve around it. 

Actors in costume for Doors Open Winnipeg tours. Photo courtesy of Nicole Verin Treusch.

The building is three quarters empty, with the upper floors gutted and only a handful of cells remain in the basement of the west wing. The first floor is all that is being used by Government Services for maintenance of the surrounding government buildings in the area. The future of this building is questionable. Discussions with Provincial delegates have proven to be optimistic but without a time line as to when action will begin. There has been work done on the building over the past few years, which is always a good sign of things to come. 



In the meantime, Doors Open Winnipeg is the only opportunity the public has to get inside this building. The Friends of the Vaughan Street Jail Inc. hosts the site, which offers a glimpse into it's sordid history through vignettes and stories. The two day event at the jail draws an average of 3000 people each year. The hope is to get the building opened to the public on a regular basis offering tours and other unique experiences. 

Line for tours at Vaughan Street Jail during Doors Open Winnipeg
Kristen Verin-Treusch, the researcher of the jail for the past 15 years, designed the Doors Open event at the jail using her research and experience in operating Muddy Water Tours. As a result, people flock to the site and voted the venue the Best Tour Experience for Door Open Winnipeg in both 2013 and 2014. We would like to hope that the jail be opened year round as there is definitely an interest in this type of history. 

This article is in part taken from the article:
Louts, Lunatics, and Loose Women at the Vaughan Street Jail
by Kristen Verin-Treusch
Winnipeg
Manitoba History, Number 53, October 2006

Links:

Take a Virtual Tour of the Jail Here with Heritage Winnipeg 
Doors Open Winnipeg - Vaughan Street Jail 
Muddy Water Tours - Vaughan Street Jail Tours


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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Vaughan Street Jail at 444 York Avenue (Part 1 of 2)

Guest post by Kristen Verin-Treusch
Edited by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Verin-Treusch
The former Vaughan Street Detention Centre was originally called the Eastern Provincial District Gaol and opened its foreboding doors in 1881. Over the next 50 years it would serve as a prison for inmates serving 2 years or less that arrived from Western Ontario, the territories of Alberta and Saskatchewan and all of what later became Manitoba. 

Men, women, and children served sentences here, sharing cells with each other and also people suffering from mental illness were housed here. This building, unlike any other in Winnipeg, serves as a marker for many different aspects of Winnipeg's history, not just criminal history but also history of corrections in Manitoba, working class and women's history, medical and psychiatric history, and children's history too. 



Above all, this old and under-used structure offers a unique aspect to our province's history, shedding light on events and people that not only altered local history but also the nation's. This intriguing building is the oldest provincially owned building still standing in Western Canada, has important Canadian historical figures from both sides of the law connected to it, and surprisingly still has no historic designation.

Built in 1880 to replace the earlier jail locate on Main Street, this once attractive building was designed to be different than the standard jail of the era. Chesterton wanted to create an attractive building that avoided the standard bleak heavy designs of prison architecture that had traditionally been used. The objective was to design a building that would deliver an ominous message to other potential criminals that prison life was not to be desired without using a somber appearance. He did this by formatting his building after churches of the Italian Renaissance. With its mansard roof, yellow bricks and limestone trim, this building also reflected the wealth of this budding metropolis. 

Photo courtesy of Nicole Verin-Treusch

The interior of the jail was originally divided into four sections, the east and west wings and two smaller dwarf-like wings known as the south and north wings. The east wing was partially used to hold 'criminals of the lighter stripe' or 'less serious offenders'. On the ground floor there were seven cells with a turnkey's room, bathrooms and a mess ward. 

The second floor housed a workroom; seven women's wards each 5' by 10' in size, a matron's room, nurse's room, bathrooms and a storage room. It has been suggested that the attic space may have been used as a dormitory for guards, but due to the lack of windows, this may not be true.

The west wing was the heart of the jail as it had the strongest cells and arrangements. This section of the prison housed only male offenders convicted of serious crimes such as those serving time for robbery, rape and murder. In the basement there were solitary confinement cells for the very worst offenders who didn't want to abide by the jail rules. These cells were constructed of stout oak planking that was bound together with steel rods, making the walls incredibly dense. There were no windows or other means of natural light, no cot to sleep on or light fixtures.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Verin-Treusch

 In the smaller solitary confinement rooms where disobedient convicts spent a shorter period of time, approximately 1-2 days, the criminal would have been confined to the wall. Their wrists and ankles would have been chained together with about one to two feet of slack chain between. This chain would then have been fed through an iron ring that was sunken into the floor and wall. There the inmate would 'hang' in the dark until their time was completed. The room at the end of the corridor was large enough to walk around in and it had its own toilet, an amenity the other solitary confinement cells lacked. As a result, these cells gained the reputation of being the closest thing to a living grave.

Patrick Lawler, First Jailor at Vaughan Street Jail - Photo courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society Website
The south and north wings were similar in size to each other but were not nearly the length of the other two, as they served very different purposes. The entire building was designed to have these four winfs attached to a round central rotunda with a large "square skylight on the roof" allowing ample light in. The south wing had laundry facilities in the basement; a kitchen, pantry and lift on the ground level; the second floor housed the hospital ward with washbasins and the attic served as a dormitory. The north wing or front section of the jail was for the jailor and his family. The first and only jailor to reside here was Patrick Lawler and his wife and children. 
  
This article is in part taken from the article:
Louts, Lunatics, and Loose Women at the Vaughan Street Jail
by Kristen Verin-Treusch
Winnipeg
Manitoba History, Number 53, October 2006

Links:


Article to be continued December 31, 2014!

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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

529 Wellington (formerly J.H. Ashdown House & the Shriners' Khartum Temple)

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.



529 Wellington is now one of the most well-known steakhouses in Winnipeg, but that wasn't always the case. On November 28, 2014, I had the privilege of going to this historic home turned restaurant. It is an excellent example of how a heritage property can be reused - it is an iconic property in the neighbourhood and in the city of Winnipeg, from a time when Winnipeg was booming. In many ways this building reminded me of Ralph Connor House - both are mansions built for the city's elite of the day. Owned and run by WOW Hospitality, 529 Wellington still carries the air of a family home. I half expected children to come running down the stairs while we waited to be seated.

Creme brulee - Yum! (Only one food picture, I promise)

Over several years, Heritage Winnipeg played an important advocacy role in working together with the community and the City of Winnipeg, to approve the re-zoning and re-use of this historic home.  The designation still allowed the building to be re-modeled as a restaurant all the while keeping and protecting its heritage integrity.  Ultimately it is a great way to continue occupying this significant heritage property and by opening it up to the public for the first time, it allows them to surround themselves in a historic atmosphere, while taking pleasure in fine dining. 

"Few, indeed, are the enterprises of public moment that he has not been concerned in and in public affairs affecting the business and social progress of Winnipeg, he has been at times almost aggressively prominent since the City's beginning." 
~ City of Winnipeg Historical Report about James H. Ashdown ~

Historical Timeline

June 30, 1868 - At 24 years old, James H. Ashdown arrives in Red River on foot through the United States. Although born in England, he had moved to rural Ontario as a child.

1869 - James H. Ashdown purchases and begins to run a small hardware shop.

1870 - The Riel Insurrection. Along with many other young men in the Red River area, Ashdown became involved with Riel's opposition and was rounded up and imprisoned by the provisional government.

1909 caricature of James H. Ashdown courtesy of MHS website.




1871 -  Ashdown moves his hardware store to the corner of Main and Bannatyne (site of what is now 211 Bannatyne) where it was to stay for many decades.


November 8, 1873 - Winnipeg is officially incorporated as a city.

1874-1879 - James H. Ashdown serves as an alderman for the new city of Winnipeg.

1877 - A house is built on Euclid Avenue for Ashdown, his wife, and their four children. 

1882 - The railway links Winnipeg to eastern Canada, bringing with it a flood of new settlers, who in turn fuelled the construction industry of which Ashdown was a supplier. He imported his merchandise by ox-cart and steamboat from suppliers in Minneapolis.

1887 - Ashdown serves as the president of the Board of Trade, during the fight against CPR monopoly.

1895 - James H. Ashdown opened the first hardware warehouse west of the Great Lakes on Bannatyne and Rorie. It was later added to twice to accommodate demand. The Ashdown Hardware Company building is still a part of the Exchange's streetscape and is mentioned on the tours given by the Exchange District BIZ (blog article here).



1897 - A new home is built for the Ashdown family on Broadway. This home was later used by the Adanac Club, the Music and Arts Building that was forerunner to these facilities at the University of Manitoba, and later St. John's College. It has since been demolished and the site is occupied by the Monarch Life Building.

1900 - Pulling the "greatest publicity stunt the west had ever seen", Ashdown has forty rail cars painted with "Hardware from J.H. Ashdown" and dispatched to prairie towns. Each car contains 800 tons of building materials and hardware to be sold. His hardware business was also expanded to Saskatoon and Calgary.

1904 - The original 1870 building at the corner of Main and Bannatyne burns down and is promptly replaced with what is now the Crocus Building. 

1907 - James H. Ashdown is elected Mayor of Winnipeg and returns for a second year by acclamation in 1908.

1909 - Ashdown's initial grant of $100, 000 founds Wesley College.

1910 - James H. Ashdown is a director of the Bank of Montreal, the Northern Crown Bank and Northern Trust. 

The dining room where we sat for lunch - note the beautiful woodwork!

1913 - The house at 529 Wellington Crescent is built for the Ashdown family. It was designed by J.H.G. Russell, who was also responsible for designing the Ashdown famly home on Broadway, the 1904 Ashdown store on Main Street, the additions to the Ashdown warehouse on Bannatyne, the church where Ashdown was on the board, and the YMCA building of which Ashdown was the Chairman of the board.

1924 - James H. Ashdown passes away at the age of eighty. 

1928 -  Susan Ashdown, James' wife, passes away. Her daughters Louise and Lilian continue to live in the house on Wellington. 


1952 - The house is sold to the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine aka the Shriners, a philanthropic organization founded in New York in 1872. The building was renamed Khartum temple, according to Shriner tradition of naming their temples after Arabic cities.


July 12, 1985 - Article in the Winnipeg Real Estate News: "529 Wellington Crescent: The house Ashdown built" 
Click for full image of article

April 29, 1998 - Article in the Winnipeg Free Press: "From Shriners to steak: heritage home an eatery?"
Click for full image of article
June 3, 1998 - Article in the Winnipeg Sun: "Eatery splits neighbours" and "Councillors tour temple for heritage tax credit" 
Click for full image of article

2002 - 529 Wellington receives a Annual Preservation Award for Commercial Conservation from Heritage Winnipeg.

Sources & Links

529 Wellington Steakhouse Website
Canada's Historic Places - 529 Wellington 
City of Winnipeg Historical Report for 211 Bannatyne - Short
City of Winnipeg Historical Report for 211 Bannatyne - Long
City of Winnipeg Historical Report for 529 Wellington - Short
City of Winnipeg Historical Report for 529 Wellington - Long  
Manitoba Historical Society - article on 529 Wellington
Memorable Manitobans - J.H. Ashdown
Virtual Heritage Winnipeg - 529 Wellington
Virtual Heritage Winnipeg - Ashdown Hardware Store 

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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Happy Holidays from Heritage Winnipeg

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! 

Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Holidays! 

Enjoy your winter break!

(and any other holiday greetings you can think of!)

Christmas decorations at 529 Wellington - stay tuned for a future post about this historic building turned restaurant!
Christmas decorations at 529 Wellington - stay tuned for a future post about this historic building turned restaurant!

Running out of ideas? Here are some suggestions for that heritage-lover on your shopping list:

Memberships

Show them you care by purchasing an annual membership from Heritage Winnipeg! We have options for every age group starting as low as $15 - you can even purchase more than one year in advance if you want. Heritage Winnipeg members are our front-line supporters and receive newsletters about current happenings and invitations to upcoming heritage events. 
And, for the holidays only, gifted memberships will also receive a Heritage Winnipeg agenda for 2015, to remind them of your gift year-round. 

Click here to purchase a membership with Heritage Winnipeg 
(don't forget to fill out the membership form and mail or email it to us so we have all of the information we need!) 

P.S. We also offer memberships for every need! Seniors, students, family/organization, and three levels of corporate support are all available! 

One-Time Donation

As a non-profit organization, Heritage Winnipeg relies heavily on funding from outside sources, including donations from the community. A one-time donation in the name of a loved one shows your support for the work we do - such as Doors Open Winnipeg, the Annual Preservation Awards, and our advocacy work - without having to worry about renewing a membership again next year. In addition, all donations will be issued a tax-deductible receipt.

Wrap-able Gifts

All of the following suggested items can be purchased in our online store here. All purchases must be picked up from the Heritage Winnipeg office at #509-63 Albert Street, or can be shipped at the purchaser's expense. If an item is to be shipped before Christmas, it must be ordered no later than December 15, 2014.

Books




As part of our mission to educate the community, Heritage Winnipeg has been a part of numerous publishing projects. The latest, Armstrong's Point: A History was published as a joint effort with author Randy Rostecki, and provides unique insight into this historic community.

Save $10 when you buy through the Heritage Winnipeg online store - only $29.95! 


Artwork



Heritage Winnipeg has collaborated on numerous projects with artists from the community, most recently with Robert Sweeney, who is the creative mind behind our collection of prints for sale. The selection can be found here on our Flickr or by clicking through the album above - just be sure to include the order number (found in the image description in this format: "HW0046") when you purchase!

All coloured sketches are printed on card stock or coated paper and include an original monogram.  Price varies by size - the options are listed in the drop-down menu on the website but include cards as well as 8 1/2" by 11" or 11" by 17" prints. Custom frames will be needed for the 11" x 17" size prints. Postage is included in the price, which is subject to applicable sales taxes (13%).

Map

 
Showing Winnipeg as it looked in 1884, this map can be purchased as a coloured print. Cartographer W. Fonseca - framing available prior to purchase, at the purchaser's expense.

Clothing 

 
Something a little different, these t-shirts are part of a fundraising effort to support the rehabilitation of Streetcar 356 (read the blog post about this project here). Unfortunately, only XL and XXL sizes are currently available in stock.

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