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Historical Tours in Manitoba: Walking Tour of Gimli, Manitoba

In October 1875, the first permanent Icelandic settlement in Canada was established in this district. The original destination of about 250 was the Whitemud (Icelandic) River but due to the threat of winter they landed further south at Willow Point. Near here the first buildings were erected and a townsite was laid out and called Gimli, after the home of the gods in Norse mythology.

The following year, upwards of 1,200 settlers located themselves along the west shore of Lake Winnipeg. This was the foundation of the largest Icelandic settlement outside of Iceland.

This walking tour of downtown Gimli, which starts at the Docks on Lake Winnipeg,
is about 4 kilometers in length, and should take roughly 1 hour to complete.

Stop 1. Ted Arnason’s Promenade - 1991

Elected mayor of Gimli in 1977 and served with devotion until 1989. The cairn is dedicated to the town of Gimli and its citizens with thanks from his family. The cairn is located on the boardwalk.

Stop 2. Evergreen Regional Library - 63½ First Avenue - 1967

Land was donated by Sigurbjorg Stefansson, a former school teacher in Gimli. The library houses one of the largest Icelandic literary collections outside the University of Manitoba. Ask the library for a tour of the collection.

Stop 3. Gimli Public School - 74-2nd Avenue - 1915

A rare example of a busy period of school constructioni. There are limited numbers of these schools existing in Manitoba. It was state of the art in its time.

Stop 4. Pavilion at Gimli Park - 4th Street North - 1937

Used to be an open air pavilion, built during the dance craze period. One of two dance pavilions left in the province. Due to severe thunderstorms and wind in 1988, the pavilion lost in excess of 100 mature spruce trees. It was originally owned by the province. Be sure to read the commemorative markers.

Stop 5. Tergeson House - 38-4th Avenue - 1908

This house is a good example of early Gimli architecture, built for storeowner H. P. Tergesen. The ceiling of the living room and the walls of the den were decoratively hand-painted by an artist friend, Snaebjorn Palsson, whose work in the den remains clear and beautiful after many years.

Stop 6. Barlow House - 44-4th Avenue - 1933

Mayor Bill Barlow and his family live here. The house was built by former mayor R. Paulson. It is also a good example of early Gimli architecture.

Stop 7. Ted Kristjanson Museum - 127-5th Avenue

This museum has an interesting personal collection from Gimli’s early days, consisting of over 10,000 artifacts. Drop by for a tour of the museum.

Stop 8. McGinnis House - 129-3rd Avenue

Moved from its original site, this house was formerly owned by the prominent Canadian writer, W. D. Valgardson.

Stop 9. Viking Statue - 2nd Avenue

Erected by the Gimli Chamber of Commerce in 1967, our centennial year. The statue was designed by Gissur Eliasson of the University of Manitoba and made of fiberglass by George Barone. It is 5 meters (15 feet) in height.

Stop 10. A-Spire Theatre - 76-2nd Avenue - 1905

Originally a Unitarian Church, its original steeple and Gothic revival style show the architecture of its time.

Stop 11. H. P. Tergeson & Sons Store - 82-1st Avenue - 1899

A real old fashioned general store - the best country store in the province! Its architecture is significant of that time - pressed tin ceiling and original flooring still exist. Check out the cash register. The Tergesen store is an MHS Centennial Business award recipient.

Stop 12. Gimli Historical Museum

Located in the harbour area, it is an Icelandic ethnic museum which also contains Ukrainian artifacts and a history of fishing on Lake Winnipeg.

Additional noteworthy sites - not on route

Shepard House - 49-7th Avenue

Kristjanson House - 32 Lake Avenue

Halldorson House - Lot 12-7th Street North, Loni Beach

Gimli New Horizons Club - Gimli Road, Loni Beach. Formerly the Gimli Training Centre. Was OBU (One Big Union) camp.

Page revised: 6 June 2014

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