Historic Sites of Manitoba: J. Y. Griffin & Company Plant / Swift Canadian Elmwood Plant / Swift Canadian Park / Ernie O’Dowda Memorial Park (Midwinter Avenue, Winnipeg)
This site in Winnipeg, located along the Red River on the southwest corner of Levis Street at Midwinter Avenue and just west of the Louise Bridge, was once occupied by a large pork-canning factory. The J. Y. Griffin Company Limited, owned by James Young Griffin, began building a three-storey, 100 foot by 60 foot building here in 1892. On 29 March 1905, a fire caused great damage. In the aftermath, a new three-storey brick building measuring 300 feet by 60 feet was built at a cost in excess of $100,000. This building was damaged in a fire on 7 June 1908, causing some $55,000 in damages. Again, Griffin rebuilt a vast factory until 1 January 1911 when the facility was purchased by Swifts of Chicago. Pork production continued under the banner of the Swift Canadian Company Limited (SCCL). The site was used until 1939 when the entire complex was demolished and SCCL relocated next to the Union Stockyards.
A local petition sought for the seven-acre property, assessed at some $20,000, to be rezoned for residential development but it lay unused until 8 November 1944 when SCCL donated the property to the City of Winnipeg for the establishment of a public park. Named the Swift Canadian Park, the land was mostly as a snow-dumping site although in the 1960s it was a contender in the selection of a new site for the Winnipeg City Hall.
Following efforts lead by Councillor Alf Skowron, funding was secured for the improvement of the site as a park. The renewed park was dedicated in October 1986 with a pair of commemorative plaques. A second ceremony, on 8 September 1987, was held when the park was renamed for Elmwood sports promoter and community activist Ernie O’Dowda. A plaque were unveiled by Mayor Bill Norrie, Councillor Alf Skowron, and Grace O’Dowda before a crowd of around 100 local residents.
“J. Y. Griffen & Co. open up their new pork-packing house,” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 September 1893, page 4.
“Costly fire in packing plant,” Winnipeg Tribune, 29 March 1905, page 3.
“Biggest plant in Dominion,” Winnipeg Tribune, 13 April 1905, page 12.
“Company spreading,” Winnipeg Tribune, 17 October 1905, page 12.
“Mr. Griffin going west,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 January 1908, page 1.
“J. Y. Griffin Packing Plant is damaged,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 June 1908, page 5.
“J. Y. Griffin & Co.,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 June 1910, page 2.
“Swift Canadian Co.,” Winnipeg Tribune, 27 December 1910, page 5.
“Packing firm change,” Winnipeg Tribune, 27 December 1910, page 5.
“Permit has been issued for Sterling Bank Building,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 August 1911, page 1.
“Swift-Canadian Co. to erect $50,000 creamery,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 June 1919, page 1.
“Two men burned as fire breaks out at meat packing plant,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 1935, page 3.
“Billinkoff’s,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 August 1939, page 19.
“Old Elmwood property,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 November 1944, page 13.
“New City Hall may be on one of these sites,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 October 1960, page 7.
“Elmwood sportsman park’s namesake,” Winnipeg Free Press Weekly Northeast Edition, 6 September 1987, page 3.
“O’Dowda tickled about opening of park,” Winnipeg Free Press Weekly Northeast Edition, 13 September 1987, page 5.
“Tribute to O’Dowda,” Winnipeg Free Press Weekly Suthwest Edition, 20 September 1987, page 12.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 9 October 2017
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