Historic Sites of Manitoba: Customs Examining Warehouse / Royal Winnipeg Rifles Headquarters and Museum (198 Main Street, Winnipeg)
A Customs Examining Warehouse was built by the federal government in Winnipeg around 1900. Situated on Main Street between the Customs Department Office and the Dominion Lands Office, the new structure was intended to replace office space in the basement of the old post office. Prior to that, customs examining had been done at Upper Fort Garry (1870s), off Post Office Street (late 1870s-1881), and at a Canadian Pacific Railway freight shed (1881-?).
The address of the building was given initially as 196 or 196½ Main Street but was re-designated as 198 Main in 1902. The two-storey wood frame structure was decorated in black and purple colours and was used until being replaced by a vastly larger facility on McDermot Avenue in 1910. The property was then acquired by the Winnipeg Amateur Athletic Association (WAAA), which undertook a major renovation starting on 27 December 1910. The work involved extensive repairs and refitting with an interior gymnasium and club rooms. The Winnipeg Camera Club and the Winnipeg Chess Club also used the newly renovated space. Opened officially on 26 April 1911, none of the clubs remained here long. The building was converted into headquarters for the 90th Regiment (Winnipeg Rifles, later the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, also known as the ”Little Black Devils”) less than two years later.
The Rifles opened their new facility on 15 January 1913. It featured rifle ranges and amenities including a pool hall and bowling alleys. Around the time of the Second World War, the building was renovated again, with new insulation and two hot-air furnaces being installed, along with other interior improvements. It served as home to the Winnipeg Rifles until fire struck shortly before their 60th anniversary. An early morning blaze was discovered on 23 October 1943. Crews from Fire Hall No. 1 and Fire Hall No. 4 responded, engaging the flames for around three hours before retiring, by which point the building was thoroughly gutted. Damage to the building totaled some $15,000, including many irreplaceable records and artifacts from the regiment’s museum. The cause of the blaze was never publicized. The disaster would have been much worse if not for the absence of live ammunition, which had been moved earlier to reserve headquarters in the Breen Building. The regiment relocated temporarily to the Breen Building before re-locating to the Mallabar Building. In later years, the unit settled at the Minto Armoury and established The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum.
The site on Main Street remained vacant until the present structure, carrying the address of 200 Main, was constructed.
Photos & Coordinates
“City and provincial news [An examining warehouse],” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 25 March 1878, page 1.
“City and provincial news [The Custom House and warehouse No. 6 ...],” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 1 April 1878, page 1.
“[The locality of the customs examining warehouse ...],” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 6 April 1876, page 9.
“City and provincial news [Telephonic communication between ...],” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 10 April 1878, page 1.
“Board of Trade,” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 28 December 1880, page 1.
“Customs concession,” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 5 December 1894, page 1.
“Local brevities [The dutiable parcel post office],” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 23 April 1896, page 6.
“The Custom House,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 October 1896, page 5.
“Customs staff changes,” Manitoba Morning Free Press, 19 November 1898, page 6.
“A customs sale,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 March 1899, page 6.
“Mourning decorations,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 February 1901, page 5.
“Auction sale,” Manitoba Morning Free Press, 11 June 1901, page 2.
“City and general [The customs sale of unclaimed goods...],” Manitoba Morning Free Press, 19 June 1902, page 12.
“The census taking,” Manitoba Free Press, 31 May 1906, page 20.
“Chess Club wants more facilities,” Manitoba Free Press Sports Section, 25 June 1910, page 5.
“Camera Club work,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 February 1912, page 22.
“Athletes to clean up,” Manitoba Free Press, 23 December 1910, page 6.
“Initial year is one of great success for W.A.A.A.” Manitoba Free Press, 9 May 1911, page 7.
“Little items of interest,” Manitoba Free Press, 24 April 1911, page 6.
“Looking backward [Thirty years ago],” Manitoba Free Press, 16 June 1911, page 1.
“90th Regt. formal opening,” Winnipeg Tribune, 13 January 1913, page 11.
“Local notes [The formal opening of the new headquarters ...],” Manitoba Free Press, 13 January 1913, page 10.
“90th Regiment,” Manitoba Free Press, 15 January 1913, page 28.
“Where to enlist,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 August 1914, page 1.
“Winnipeg waits a second call,” Winnipeg Tribune, 28 August 1914, page 3.
“R.W.R. barracks burnt out,” Winnipeg Tribune, 23 October 1943, page 1 and 2.
“Rifles Headquarters destroyed by fire,” Winnipeg Free Press, 23 October 1943, page 1.
“$15,000 of Regiment property is destroyed in Rifles' fire,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 October 1943, page 7.
“Some valued relics saved from R.W.R. barracks fire,” Winnipeg Tribune, 28 October 1943, page 10.
“Rifles to mark 60th Anniversary,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 November 1943, page 4.
“Rifles Battalion to mark birthday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 December 1943, page 3.
“Rifles Reserve moves to new headquarters,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 January 1944, page 18.
“Royal Winnipeg Rifles celebrate 90th anniversary,” by Edith Paterson, Winnipeg Free Press New Leisure, 10 November 1973, pages 12 and 13.
McPhillips Insurance Plans of the City of Winnipeg, Province of Manitoba - 1880, Sheet No. 3, Library and Archives Canada.
Insurance Plan of the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Volume 1 - August 1906, Sheet No. 2, Library and Archives Canada.
Henderson’s Winnipeg and Brandon Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 1 December 2018