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Historic Sites of Manitoba: Customs Examining Warehouse / Royal Winnipeg Rifles Headquarters and Museum (198 Main Street, Winnipeg)

Link to:
Photos & Coordinates | Sources

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

No. 2 Customs Examining Warehouse at Winnipeg

No. 2 Customs Examining Warehouse at Winnipeg (no date) by F. W. Steele
Source: Public Works, Library and Archives Canada, PA-046611, MIKAN No. 3304651

Firemen battle the Royal Winnipeg Rifles headquarters blaze

Firemen battle the Royal Winnipeg Rifles headquarters blaze (23 October 1943)
Source: Winnipeg Tribune, 23 October 1943, page 1.

Site Location (lat/long): N49.89074, W97.13646
denoted by symbol on the map above

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Customs Examining Warehouse / Parks Canada Building (145 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum (969 St. Matthews Avenue, Winnipeg)


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“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.

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“Rifles to mark 60th Anniversary,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 November 1943, page 4.

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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

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