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Memorable Manitobans: John Nelson Semmens (1879-1960)

Architect.

Born at Toronto, Ontario on 7 June 1879, son of the Rev. John Semmens and Helen Kalista Behimer (1855-1901), he came to Winnipeg with his family and attended North Central School, Brandon Collegiate, Wesley College, and the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). He graduated in 1905 and worked in New York until 1910, returning to Winnipeg that year and becoming associated with the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. He did much commercial work, specializing in institutional buildings. He was the consulting architect for the Winnipeg Public School Board and architect to the Salvation Army for Western Canada. In 1921, he was President of the Manitoba Association of Architects.

He had a keen interest in military affairs, serving as Captain of the Winnipeg Grenadiers. In February 1913, he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Major with the 45th Battalion (D Company). He went to France as second-in-command with the 78th Battalion and served at Ypres, Somme, Vimy, Passchendaele, and Last Hundred Days. He was mentioned in dispatches three times.

On 12 June 1907, he married Laura Edith Carr (1877-1963) at Portage la Prairie. They had no children. He was a member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Kiwanis Club, Carleton Club, Methodist church, and was one of the Governors of the Elmhurst Golf Club. In 1925, he lived at 334 Maplewood Avenue in Winnipeg.

In 1957, he retired to Victoria, British Columbia where he died on 2 November 1960. He was buried in the Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens.

Some of his architectural works in Manitoba included:

Building

Location

Year

Status

Edmund L. Taylor Residence

611 Wellington Crescent, Winnipeg

1911

 

Bannatyne School No. 1549

360 Wallasey Street, Winnipeg

1911

 

Bank of Montreal

335 Main Street, Winnipeg

1911-1913

 

McCormicks Limited Building

425 Henry Avenue, Winnipeg

1912

 

North End Library

Salter Street at Machray Avenue, Winnipeg

1914

 

R. R. Scott House

29 Ruskin Row, Winnipeg

1914

 

Champlain School

Machray Avenue, Winnipeg

1920

 

General Wolfe School

Ellice Avenue, Winnipeg

1920

 

Montcalm School

Tecumseh Street, Winnipeg

1920

 

Margaret Scott School

Arlington Street, Winnipeg

1920

 

Aberdeen School No. 3

Stella Avenue, Winnipeg

1920

 

Wolseley School

511 Clifton Street, Winnipeg

1921

 

Sir Sam Steele School

15 Chester Street, Winnipeg

1921

 

Sir John Franklin School

Beaverbrook Street, Winnipeg

1921

 

Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute

720 Alverstone Street, Winnipeg

1922

 

Kelvin High School renovations

55 Harrow Street, Winnipeg

1922

Demolished (1965-1966)

Isaac Newton School

730 Aberdeen Avenue, Winnipeg

1922

 

McKenzie School

First Street NE, Dauphin

1927

 

Winnipeg Civic Auditorium

200 Vaughan Street, Winnipeg

1930s

 

St. Matthew’s Anglican Church (restoration)

641 St. Matthews Avenue, Winnipeg

1945

 

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer

59 Academy Road, Winnipeg

1946-1947

Demolished (1962)

Saints Vladimir and Olga Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral

115 McGregor Street, Winnipeg

1947-1951

 

Rockwood School (expansion)

350 Rockwood Street, Winnipeg

1952

 

Winnipeg Electric Company

Winnipeg

?

 

RCMP Barracks

Winnipeg

?

 

St. Boniface Sanatorium

440 River Road, Winnipeg

?

 

Grace Maternity Hospital

Winnipeg

?

 

Strathmillan School

339 Strathmillan Road, Winnipeg

1953-1954

 

See also:

To Honor and Remember: Remembrances of the Great War, The Next-of-Kin Monument in Winnipeg by Marilyn Baker
Manitoba History, Number 2, 1981

Sources:

Ontario birth registration, Ancestry.

Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

“Semmens hears architects,” Manitoba Free Press, 26 January 1921, page 5.

“Norquay sits where Selkirk Settlers once sowed grain” by Claire Tisdale, Winnipeg Free Press, 1 February 1949.

Death registration, British Columbia Vital Statistics.

Obituary [Laura Edith Semmens], Winnipeg Free Press, 10 December 1963, page 27.

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

Winnipeg Building Index

Crescentwood, A History by R. R. Rostecki, Winnipeg: Crescentwood Home Owners Association, 1993.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 2 September 2017

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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