Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Closing the Door on the 14th Annual Doors Open Winnipeg Event

It was a time to celebrate at the 2017 Doors Open Winnipeg Volunteer Reception and People's Choice Awards at the King's Head Pub in the Exchange. Heritage Winnipeg hosted the event, thanking the dedicated volunteers in attendance who generously contributed endless hours to make Doors Open Winnipeg an incredibly successful event. Over 500 volunteers helped make this year's event the biggest, most successful event to date. It was also the seventh year in which the People's Choice Awards were held.

The People's Choice Awards represent five categories, Best Restoration, Best Guided Tour or Programming, Best Architecture, Best Experience and the Hidden Gem. Online voting was open to the public, showcasing 91 amazing buildings and walking tours. Hundreds of votes poured in the week following Doors Open Winnipeg, making for a close race in several of the categories. In the end, the votes were tallied and the winners were rewarded for their efforts with framed original drawings of their buildings by local artist Robert Sweeney.

Dalnavert Museum and Visitors' Centre at 61 Carlton Street

The Dalnavert Museum and Visitor' Centre has undergone an incredible transformation through detailed restoration that is immediately visible to guests as they enter the 1895 home of Sir Hugh John MacDonald, son of Prime Minister John A MacDonald. The grand old house was nearly lost in the 1970s, and was slated for demolition. Thanks to dedicated volunteers and philanthropists, restoration to the house began almost immediately after the purchase.

Then again in 2014 Dalnavert Museum was closed and in risk of being lost forever. The Friends of Dalnavert Museum was formed and took over ownership with a new business model. In 2015 the museum officially reopened stronger than ever, guaranteeing it will be part of our social and architectural fabric for generations to come.

Accepting the award on behalf of the Dalnavert Museum and Visitor Centre was the manager of Dalnavert, Thomas McLeod and Susan Moffatt.
Vaughan Street Jail at 444 York Avenue

An unassuming building located at the corner of Vaughan Street and York Avenue, the Vaughan Street Jail represents our province's judicial history. The brave souls who dared to enter for Doors Open Winnipeg were treated to an theatrical tour and introduced to some of the prison's most infamous inmates. The performances were brought to life by Friends of the Vaughan Street Jail volunteers.

Originally the Eastern Judicial Gaol, the Vaughan Street Jail, designed by architect Charles Osborne Wickensen, was built in 1881 by the Province of Manitoba on land purchased from the Hudson’s Bay Company. Children, women and men were all imprisoned in the building during its history, with the mentally ill receiving the most treacherous treatment. Significant hangings at the jail include those of notorious serial killers John "Bloody Jack" Krafchenko and Earle Leonard Nelson, the "Gorilla Killer". Today it no longer functions as a jail but instead has become the oldest provincially owned building still standing within city limits. 

Heritage Winnipeg would like to congratulate the Vaughan Street Jail for their unprecedented third win in the category of Best Guided Tour or Programming. Accepting the award on behalf of the Vaughan Street Jail was Kristen J. Treusch.
Now available for purchase
Forgotten History: The Untold Stories of Manitoba's First Provincal Jail 1881-1930  
by Kristen J. Treusch

Canadian Museum for Human Rights at 85 Israel Asper Way - new this year

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was a delight to the eyes of guests who came to marvel at the winning design envisioned by architect Antoine Predock. The soaring glass museum is the fruition of 14 years of planning, fundraising and construction, offically opening its doors on September 20, 2014.
"The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is rooted in humanity, making visible in the architecture the fundamental commonality of humankind-a symbolic apparition of ice, clouds and stone set in a field of sweet grass. Carved into the earth and dissolving into the sky on the Winnipeg horizon, the abstract ephemeral wings of a white dove embrace a mythic stone mountain of 450 million year old Tyndall limestone in the creation of a unifying and timeless landmark for all nations and cultures of the world."
-Antoine Predock, architect
Representatives of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights accepted the award on behalf of the museum.
The White House at 234 Portage Avenue

In 1904, Oldfield, Kirby and Gardener, then one of Winnipeg's most recognized and respected accounting firms, commissioned Winnipeg architect J.D. Atchinson to design a building that would command the attention of every passer by. The result of Atchinson's commission was The White House, a classical structure that retains its sense of impact to this day. The architectural equivalent of an exclamation point, The White House's impeccable design has continued to attract tenants long after its original owners went out of business in the late forties.

Michael Fillion and Richard Irving purchased The White House in 2006 with the intention of converting the 103 year old heritage structure into a personal residence and home office. The restoration took two and a half years with the final product being well worth the time and effort. Five original character elements were preserved, the main staircase was beautifully restored and marble colonnades and Romanesque busts added contributed to the neo-classical aesthetic. We applaud the owners for their dedication and commitment to the conservation of our city's built heritage.

Accepting the award on behalf of The White House was owner Michael Fillion.
McBeth House at 31 McBeth Avenue

On the west side of the Red River, a sprawling piece of land granted to the McBeth family in 1815 went on to become the family home for the next 134 years. Originally just used for farming, the first home on the property was built by Robert McBeth Sr. around 1850. It was a log building with a small store attached, of which only the foundation remains today.

Robert McBeth Jr. inherited the property from his father and after expanding his land holdings, commissioned the construction of a new house in 1912. William W. Cross designed the new house, built of red pressed brick in the Edwardian-style. The two and a half story home was located on the newly acquired land, adjacent to the older property. Far more spacious than the log building and elegantly appointed, it was indicative of upper class families of the period. McBeth Jr. died in 1915 but the house remained in the family, continuously lived in by members until 1984. At that time, the last living daughter of McBeth Jr., Isabel, passed away, willing the house to the City of Winnipeg. Today the house is a hidden oasis is a lush park like setting, providing a wonderful meeting place where all walks of life can enjoy with the dedication and commitment of volunteers.

Accepting the award on behalf of MeBeth House was Edna Krosney, senior's centre chair (tenants of the house) and board member.
And so concludes yet another successful Doors Open Winnipeg! Heritage Winnipeg would once again like to thank everyone who came out to visit some of our city's architecturally, socially and culturally significant heritage buildings. It is apparent by the incredible turnout of over 30 000 site visits that this event truly resonates with Winnipegger's and visitors. We feel it is imperative that we continue to showcase our city's incredible built heritage and have it contribute to the future of our community. Please remember to follow Heritage Winnipeg on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest news on upcoming events. We hope to see you next year during the last weekend of May, the 26th and 27th of 2018!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Cultural heritage rehabilitation on Main Street

Since 1994, Neechi Commons has been a unique Indigenous co-operative supermarket and business complex.  Originally located on Dufferin Avenue, the facility has been an indispensable part of the "North End" community, providing area residents with locally sourced food and employment opportunities.  In 2010, co-operative members decided to move the supermarket to the larger, more centrally located building on the corner of Main Street and Euclid Avenue. The Euclid Block is located at 865 Main Street, and bridges the North Point Douglas and Lord Selkirk Park neighbourhoods of Winnipeg.
Neechi Commons at 865 Main Street

The new location was purposely chosen with the intention of fostering neighbourhood revitalization, and setting an example that would encourage others to invest north on Main Street.

The Euclid Block in the 1990's (Photo courtesy of Bridgman Collaborative Architecture)

The buildings are located on Main Street, north of the railway underpass and represent a thriving turn-of-the-century district, filled with an array of stores, hotels and markets. Many of these businesses were owned and operated by immigrants of Eastern European descent, catering to the needs of Winnipeg's close-knit immigrant communities. Over time many of the buildings in this area, especially those closest to the railway underpass, have begun to deteriorate, with little capital being allocated and invested towards the preservation of these valuable heritage buildings. Today, Neechi Commons represents a reverse in this trend.

 Farmers Market's were a common sight along North Main Street in the 1900's.  (Photo courtesy of Greg Agnew)
Originally known as the Euclid block and built in 1904 as mixed use at a cost of $18 000. The first floor was commercial space divided into six narrow storefronts, with residential units on the second floor. The first tenants of the block were Dominick Zilli and S. Cossavella, two Italian immigrants who opened a grocery store in 1906. A restaurant, hardware store, tobacconist, shoemaker, furniture shop and butcher soon followed.  In the 1940's, a new structure was erected next to the Euclid block, followed by a second building in the late 1950's. These three buildings form the basis for what is now the Neechi Commons Complex.

A farmers market facing North Main Street (Photo courtesy of Greg Agnew)
Renovations to the Euclid Block and two adjoining buildings began in 2010. The project was undertaken by Bridgman Collaborative Architecture, who are known for sensitive restorations of heritage buildings. Some of their heritage projects include Doors Open Winnipeg participants in the VIA Rail Union Station, Dalnavert Museum and Visitors Centre, the Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Centre and Barber House.

The project was initially budgeted at 5 million dollars, but that number quickly increased to 6 million after a slate of unforeseen issues complicated the project. Extensive mould growth between the walls in the building's main annex caused delays, while older, water damaged bricks from the building's main facade needed to be replaced.

Despite the often unexpected and costly problems that arise when renovating heritage buildings like the Euclid Block, such an endeavour also provides its share of pleasant surprises. Peeling back years of modifications can reveal surprising architectural features that have been forgotten for decades. After removing the ceiling from the Euclid Block, three steel support beams were uncovered, likely salvaged from an earlier bridge project. Neechi Commons President, Louise Champagne found the beams so striking, she decided they should remain exposed as an architectural feature.

Three Sisters Fruit and Vegetable Courtyard (Photo courtesy of Bridgman Collaborative Architecture)

Further renovations to the Euclid Block included enlarging window openings to create bright spaces for workers and visitors. A closed loop geothermal heating and cooling system was installed below the parking lot, helping meet sustainability goals of the project. The building was divided and outfitted to accommodate the Come N' Eat Restaurant, Kookums Bakery, Three Sisters Fruit and Vegetable Courtyard, a full service supermarket, office space and the Neechi Niche Aboriginal Art and Craft Centre. When completed, over 90% of the existing building was reused, preserving much of the building's embodied energy and creating minimal environmental impact.

Come N' Eat Restaurant (Photo courtesy of Bridgman Collaborative Architecture)

The double-height court with and metal spiral staircase (Photo courtesy of Bridgman Collaborative Architecture)
The new Neechi Commons complex officially opened on March 31, 2013, and has been thriving ever since.  In 2015, Neechi Commons was a recipient of the Heritage Winnipeg Special President's award which is given to heritage building owners that play a key historic and leadership role in their community.

It is an outstanding example of how heritage buildings can be successfully rehabilitated, addressing the needs of the community and environment, while maintaining their heritage value. Neechi Commons is a positive step in breathing new life into the community. They truly are an example that others can aspire to, building a brighter future for all Winnipeggers!

Neechi Commons Website

Peel's Prairie Provinces - Henderson Directory (1895 - 1965)

Bridgman Collaborative Architecture

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Celebrating the Stories Behind 91 Doors: Doors Open Winnipeg 2017!

Doors Open Winnipeg poster designed by Creative Communications student Alanna Yuen
Winnipeggers came out by the thousands this past weekend for Doors Open Winnipeg 2017, discovering the captivating stories behind the beautiful facades of many of our local buildings. Despite some dreary weather, smiling faces abounded as participants, volunteers and guests alike indulged in the fascinating history that shaped the Winnipeg we know and love today. With 91 buildings, events and tours taking place there was something to please everyone, from trolley tours to ghost stories to modernist architecture. Early attendance numbers indicate that this year's Doors Open Winnipeg is on track to be the most successful ever!

Heritage Winnipeg would like to thank everyone who participated in Doors Open Winnipeg this year, particularly the volunteers and sponsors. Over 500 selfless volunteers put in countless hours to ensure that every guest had an amazing experience while our generous sponsors ensure Doors Open continues to grow and flourish while remaining completely free. Thank you!

The Haunted History Walking Tour had countless people clamouring for the opportunity to learn about the ghosts that haunt Winnipeg. Inspired by the book written by tour guide Matthew Komus, old and young alike where "dying" to see the buildings behind the stories.

Tour guide Matthew Komus and the Haunted History Tour (Courtesy of Dalnavert Museum)

The Vaughan Street Jail is a perennial favourite of Doors Open Winnipeg crowds, drawing in more visitors than any other building, tour or event. The volunteers are the star of the show, going above and beyond to portray the colourful characters that once inhabited the jail. Even a little rain could not keep the crowds away, with many people waiting in line for their chance for an encounter with a ghost.

Friends of the Vaughan Street Jail in character (Courtesy of the Friends of the Vaughan Street Jail)

A new participant in Doors Open Winnipeg this year was the Hudson's Bay Company downtown store. Visitors were invited to explore the sixth floor of the store, home to the Paddlewheel Restaurant, which closed in 2013. Just over 1500 people came by on Sunday, many of whom were eager to share fond memories of the department store.

Heritage Winnipeg was at the Bay collecting names from Doors Open visitors interested in forming a "Friends of the Bay Downtown" group. The response to the initiative was very positive, with many people passionate about ensuring a future for the building. We hope to have a web presence sometime in the near future! Check out Christian Cassidy's blog for more photos and stories from last weekends event. 

The Paddlewheel Restaurant (Courtesy of Susan Belmonte)
So how did you spend your Doors Open weekend? Did you check out a new location or get reacquainted with an old favourite? Let us know in the comments! Your feedback will help us fine tune next years Doors Open Winnipeg event.

The Exchange District Biz Walking Tour

If you did not get a chance to take in this year's Doors Open Winnipeg, don't worry, there is still a chance to take in some of the action from the weekend! Like Heritage Winnipeg on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to check out the awesome photos from this years event!

Do not forget to vote for your favourites in the Doors Open Winnipeg People's Choice Awards at Voting closes Friday, June 2nd 2017 at 5:30pm.

Once again, thank you to everyone who took part in Doors Open Winnipeg 2017. Make sure to mark your calendars for the last weekend of May in 2018. We can't wait to have you back!

Here are some photos courtesy of our amazing participants who took part in Doors Open Winnipeg 2017! 
The Fire Fighters Museum (511 Visitors)

The Cornish Library (164 Visits)

McGregor Street Armoury (521 Visitors)

Dalnavert Museum (1668 Visitors)

Trolley 356 (Winnipeg Trolley Company)

Winnipeg Police Museum (729 Visitors)

St. Michael's and All Angels Anglican Church (61 Visitors)

Government House (682 Visitors)

The Costume Museum of Canada (1279 Visitors)

St. Michael's Ukrainian Orthodox Church (70 Visitors)


Hazelwood Mosque (247 Hazelwood Avenue)


Charleswood Historical Museum (31 Visitors)

The White House (230 Visitors)

Ross House Museum (360 Visitors)

Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral - Sts Vladimir and Olga, Winnipeg (193 Visitors)

Masonic Memorial Temple (420 Corydon) 

Minto Armoury (340 Visitors)