Manitoba History: The Granite Curling Club, 22 Mostyn Place, Winnipeg
by Sheila Grover
Of all the organized sports played on the prairies, the “roaring game” is certainly one of the oldest. Curling and Scotsmen went hand in hand, so it wasn’t long after Winnipeg came into being as a city that the Scottish community organized the earliest curling games. You had to love the sport to play in the 1870s and 80s; it was played sometimes by gaslight, with bell-shaped irons or iron-wrapped woods serving as curling stones. Rules were negotiable, teams were colourful and games were exciting but erratic.
Out of this cheerful chaos, the Granite Curling Club was established in 1881. As its name implies, only granite rocks were used and rules were standardized to old country specifications. After contending with compromised facilities, the Granite built its first club with an indoor rink on Hargrave at Ellice in 1892. By then there was a provincial association to organize bonspiels. By the turn of the century curling was played with great enthusiasm across the province.
The Granite grew apace, and was generally acknowledged as the “mother club” in stature. By 1911, the time seemed right for expansion. Land was purchased on the banks of the Assiniboine, and plans for a large new rink and clubhouse drawn up. The club was fortunate in having both a prominent architect and a skilled contractor in two of its members. James Chisholm is known to Winnipeggers for the design of several fine churches and public buildings. Thomas Kelly, the skip of one active team, is best-known in Manitoba’s history for his tarnished role in the Legislative Building scandal of 1915. These two gentlemen were responsible for the structure.
The new Granite facilities were the best that money could buy. Nine sheets of ice ran the length of the large column-free rink, with room for spectators on four sides and a large glassed opening into the clubhouse proper, allowing spectators to watch from the warmth of the main building. Punctuating each of the four corners of the rink were square brick towers that visually linked the rink to the clubhouse.
The clubhouse was designed to be a “home away from home” for its members. The exterior, three storeys high, had a Tudor design of stucco and half-timbering that lowered itself securely to the ground in a richly-coloured brick. The roof was broken into two large gables set with dormered windows for an inviting and picturesque appearance.
The theme of welcoming comfort was continued through a formal gateway that led onto the main entrance. Open spectator space, offices and a large veranda took up most of the main floor, but the heart of the club was its gracious members’ lounge on the second floor. Here, beneath a beamed ceiling and oak-lined walls, members pulled on cigars and sipped warming drinks, resting on heavy upholstered chairs and chesterfields pulled around a massive brick fireplace. Flanking the mantel were the numerous silver trophies that Granite members won. Gentlemen’s billiards or cards could be conducted in the games room on the third floor. Ladies were kept tastefully at bay in a special waiting room. Washrooms, lockers and showers were in the basement.
With the new facilities open for the season of 1913-14, the Granite’s heavy investment eventually paid off. Both the sport and club continued with great success. Women and youths were admitted as the times changed. The club’s superior facilities enhanced the Granite’s leadership role, allowing it to host and sponsor some of the top matches and to assemble some formidable teams. The Granite has had an impressive lineage of winners. For example, in 1965 Terry Braunstein skipped the fourth Granite Club team to the national championship, and in 1970 and 1971 Don Duguid’s rink captured the world title “Silver Broom.”
In 1953, the Granite was the first local curling club to install artificial ice. Its towers have been altered, its veranda removed, the club room remodeled as a dining room, and a two storey service wing added to the south side, but the essential atmosphere of welcoming camaraderie endures. Today its members still slither rocks down the ice in the good-natured spirit of competition that led to the formation of the Granite one-hundred and six years ago.
Page revised: 8 December 2014