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Memorable Manitobans: James McDiarmid (1855-1934)

Click to enlarge

James McDiarmid
Click to enlarge

Architect, builder, naturalist.

Born at Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland on 9 March 1855, he immigrated to Canada in April 1883 with his brother John McDiarmid. He moved to Winnipeg two years later and soon became a partner in a construction firm that, in 1905, became the James McDiarmid Company, General Builders and Contractors, with branches in Calgary and Vancouver. His firm built many different kind of structures, including grain elevators all over the prairies, and the Legislative Building after the cancellation of the original contract that had led to the fall of the Roblin government. McDiarmid designed many of the buildings himself, especially churches. He was also Vice-President of the Beaver Elevator Company.

As well as working as an architect, he was an amateur painter, and a collector of art. He joined the art committee of the Winnipeg Industrial Bureau in 1906, and he proposed the construction of a civic art gallery, never built, in 1909. He served for many years as Chairman of the Winnipeg Parks Board and was instrumental in founding the Municipal Golf Course. A member of the Natural History Society of Manitoba, he collected mineral, semi-precious stones, and shells. He was also a member of the Carleton Club and the Masons. On 17 April 1890, he married Isabella Smith at Winnipeg. They had no children.

He died at his Winnipeg home, 250 Balmoral Street, on 24 February 1934 and was buried in the Old Kildonan Cemetery.

Some of his works in Manitoba included:

Building

Location

Year

Status

St. Andrew’s Manse

429 Elgin Avenue, Winnipeg

1893

 

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

415 Elgin Avenue, Winnipeg

1894

 

James Penrose House

232 Bell Avenue / 444 Logan Avenue, Winnipeg

1894

 

Winnipeg Lutheran Tabernacle

Furby at Sargent, Winnipeg

1894

 

Speirs Bakery

170 Higgins Avenue, Winnipeg

1895

 

Emerson Presbyterian Church

Emerson

1896

 

Bodega Hotel / Victoria Hotel

312 Main Street, Winnipeg

1897

Demolished

Great West Saddlery Factory

112-114 Market Avenue, Winnipeg

1898

 

MacPherson Fruit Block

491 Main Street, Winnipeg

1898

Demolished

D. H. Bain Building

115 Bannatyne Avenue, Winnipeg

1899

 

Marshall Wells Warehouse

123 Bannatyne Avenue, Winnipeg

1900

 

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

338 Hamilton Street, Manitou

1901

 

Corbett Block

613 Main Street, Winnipeg

1901

 

Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall

216-218 Princess Street, Winnipeg

1902

 

Steele Block

360 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg

1903

 

Sandison Block

302 Main Street, Winnipeg

1904

 

Point Douglas Presbyterian Church

95 Macdonald Avenue, Winnipeg

1905

 

Winnipeg Paint and Glass Company Building

179 Pioneer Avenue, Winnipeg

1908

 

Customs Examining Warehouse

145 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg

1908-1910

 

Canada Building

352 Donald Street, Winnipeg

1910

 

Rover Avenue Electric Terminal

199 Annabella Street, Winnipeg

1910-1911

 

Kemp Block / Gaylord Block (addition)

111 Lombard Avenue, Winnipeg

1911

 

St. Stephens Presbyterian Church / Elim Chapel (addition)

546 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg

1911

 

Swift Canadian Wholesale Market

312 William Avenue, Winnipeg

1911-1912

 

Knowles School for Boys

2065 Henderson Highway, Winnipeg

1912

Destroyed by fire (1959)

St. James Presbyterian Church

221 Hampton Avenue, Winnipeg

1912

Demolished

St. Stephens Manse

299 Young Street, Winnipeg

1913

 

Scott Fruit Company Warehouse

319 Elgin Avenue, Winnipeg

1914

 

Pointe du Bois Staff House

Pointe du Bois, Whiteshell Provincial Park

1926

 

Nokomis Block

Cumberland Avenue, Winnipeg

 

 

Playhouse Theatre

Winnipeg

 

 

Sources:

Natural History Society of Manitoba, 21st Anniversary Bulletin, 1920 to 1941. Natural History Society of Manitoba.

Marriage and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Jas. McDiarmid, prominent city pioneer, dies,” Winnipeg Tribune, 24 February 1934, page 1.

Winnipeg Building Index.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough, Gordon McDiarmid, and Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 6 December 2016

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