Historic Sites of Manitoba: Starland Theatre (626 Main Street, Winnipeg)
Located on the north side of Logan Avenue along the west side of Main Street in Winnipeg, this property was acquired by Starland Limited in late 1909 for purposes of developing a theatre. The firm reportedly began at Portage la Prairie, opening their first Starland Theatre in 1906. They expanded their circuit across Western Canada and provincially incorporated on 6 October 1909. Around this time, its Directors included Adrian Le Marquand (President) and Paul Le Marquand (President, later Secretary-Treasurer) of St. Paul, Minnesota, along with Wilfred Ledoux, Eugene L. Ledoux, Mrs. Eugene L. Ledoux, and Walter Percy Wilson (theatre manager). In late 1909, they purchased the former Royal Theatre, re-opening it as the Starland Theatre on 1 January 1910. In July 1910, the company increased its capital stock from $100,000 to $500,000 in anticipation of further expansion.
Purchasing the former Royal Theatre building was a temporary measure while Starland Limited commissioned a new building to be located immediately south of it at 626 Main Street. Excavation on the Starland Theatre began in early February 1911 based on architectural drawings of architect brothers Alexander D. Melville and William N. Melville, in cooperation with developer Andrew R. McNichol. The new two-storey facility had a Main Street frontage of 44 feet and a front facade featuring over 500 lights. The interior was coloured old rose and bronze throughout. It was built in haste by local day labour and opened to the public in a little over four months with a grand opening held on 3 May 1911. The new venue had seating for around 900 people, plus six balcony suites with around nine seats each. Initial plans called for the former Royal Theatre to be demolished and replaced by leased commercial space. The economic hardships of the First World War caused the Starland Limited partnership to fall apart after June 1915 and to be dissolved by the court in the spring of 1916. However, the name endured and the theatre continued to operate until its final showing on 30 April 1921. By 2 May, demolition work was underway on this and the adjoining buildings.
A new Starland Theatre on the same site was promptly commissioned by the Winnipeg Amusements Limited (WAL). The three-storey fireproof building was also financed by developer McNichol, designed by architect George [McPherson] Macpherson, and built by the Sutherland Construction Company, with the McDonald Brothers sub-contracted for ornate iron work. The facility’s exterior of brick and masonry led to a lavish interior of marble flooring in the lobby, box office, and stairwells, along with decorative plastering and tile-work, and birch finishing. The auditorium boasted leather seating for 1,200, with a total building capacity for 2,000. Of note was a $15,000 Warren pipe organ along with numerous wall tapestries by local artist Mr. R. H. Vankirk. The building was completed and furnished at a cost of $500,000. It was leased to Kenneth McClure Leach (WAL President) and overseen by Ralph Miller (General Manager). With an intended opening date of 1 September, it was formally opened on 3 October 1921. The theatre came under the Universal Theatres banner prior to being acquired by Jacob “Jack” Miles of the Allied Amusements Limited in the spring of 1935, with property formally changing hands in September of that year. Theatre operations continued until being closed around December 1965, after which the building was home to a department store.
In March 2008, the site was de-listed from the Winnipeg Heritage Buildings Inventory and was demolished the following month. The site is now occupied by the Access Downtown facility (640 Main Street) of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
Photos & Maps
“Another theatre to open,” Winnipeg Tribune, 27 December 1909, page 7.
“Starland opening,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 December 1909, page 18.
“Starland opening,” Winnipeg Tribune, 31 December 1909, page 10.
“[Starland],” Manitoba Free Press, 1 January 1910.
“Locals [Starland was crowded],” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 January 1910, page 21.
“Music and drama [The exhibition of western views ...],” Manitoba Free Press, 7 January 1910, page 9.
“Starland limited,” Manitoba Free Press, 31 December 1910, page 12.
“Largest picture show,” Manitoba Free Press, 2 February 1911, page 2.
“The new Starland Theatre, Winnipeg,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 February 1911, page 7.
“Starland,” Winnipeg Tribune, 11 March 1911, page 17.
“Starland,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 April 1911, page 4.
“Starland,” Winnipeg Tribune, 28 April 1911, page 6.
“Starland,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 May 1911, page 9.
“[The New Starland ...],” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 May 1911, page 28.
“Took long lease,” Manitoba Free Press, 17 November 1911, page 9.
“Prospects bright,” Brandon Weekly Sun, 11 January 1912, page 4.
“K. M. Leach to operate two new city theatres,” Manitoba Free Press, 5 March 1921, pages 1 & 6.
“Over half million investment in two new theatres for Winnipeg,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 March 1921, page 33.
“New syndicate to take over Universal Theatres in city,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 March 1921, page 33.
““Fatty” Arbuckle closes old Starland,” Manitoba Free Press, 30 April 1921, page 44.
“20 men tear down Starland Theatre,” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 2 May 1921, page 6.
“New Starland Theatre ready for September,” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 9 July 1921, page 25.
“Brevities from City Hall [Owners of Starland ...],” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 15 July 1921, page 7.
“New billiard parlor for rent,” Manitoba Free Press, 13 August 1921, page 2.
“Starland to offer grand appearance,” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 20 August 1921, page 24.
“New Starland to startle public,” Manitoba Free Press, 3 September 1921, page 33.
“Starland opening program one of merit,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 October 1921, page 41.
“Starland opens Monday to public,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 October 1921, page 42.
“Novelty orchestra,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 October 1921, page 42.
“New Starland opens; real beauty palace,” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 4 October 1921, page 6.
“New Starland two years old,” Manitoba Free Press, 29 September 1923, page 34.
“Starland the theatre beautiful,” Manitoba Free Press, 4 October 1924, page 25.
“Attention foto nite patrons,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 July 1965, page 7.
“Where are they now?” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 December 1965, page 3.
“A sign of better days [photo caption],” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 May 2008, page B2.
“Clear-cutting a streetscape,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 March 2008, page 13.
“Botched demolition leads to stop-work order,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 2008, page B3.
“Theatre's final bow proves dramatic,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 May 2008, page 3.
Companies Office corporation documents (CCA 0059), 163S - Starland Limited, GR6427, Archives of Manitoba.
Companies Office corporation documents (CCA 0059), 342A - Allied Amusements Limited, GR6427, Archives of Manitoba.
Companies Office corporation documents (CCA 0059), 651W - Winnipeg Amusements Limited, GR6427, Archives of Manitoba.
Court of Queen’s Bench Winding Up Act pockets (ATG 0015), #131/16 - Starland Limited, GR0195, Archives of Manitoba.
Henderson’s Winnipeg and Brandon Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 10 February 2019
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