Volume 37, No 2
December 2004 / January 2005
Macdonald Dinner 2005
New MHS members
Young Historians Awards
Manitoba Historical Editorial Board
Historic St. Boniface Green Space Lost
Fall Field Trip
Stained Glass Church Tour
President's Message: Active Membership
The primary benefit of belonging to an organization such as the National Geographic Society is to receive its magazine and, perhaps, watch its television programs. I refer to this as “passive membership” it requires little or no involvement from individual members other than paying one’s membership fees.
The Manitoba Historical Society, on the other hand, depends on what I call “active membership” where members are involved in all aspects of Society operations, most of which would not occur without them. For example, our Centennial Farm program would not function effectively without Anne MacVicar, who often helps to substantiate when a specific farm was established, and her fellow committee members who attend ceremonies around the province to present the cherished awards. I could cite many other examples for our other award programs, committees, and events. I urge you to visit our web site (www.mhs.mb.ca) for a list of committees and their members who enable us to preserve and promote our province’s history.
Some may wish only to receive our newsletter or journal and thereby remain passive members. However, I suspect that many of you are keen to become more active but do not know the many ways of doing so, ways that require only modest commitments of time. Here are five ways that you can become more actively involved in your Society:
1. Attend events. Members repeatedly tell us they want more opportunities to meet each other, talk, learn, and share their passion for a particular period or activity in Manitoba history. But attendance at events is not always as high as possible so the benefits are not fully realized. If you do not like the events that are being offered, why not offer your ideas on other ones? Better yet, why not help to organize events?
2. Get involved in your Society. We are always eager to welcome new members to any of the MHS committees, as well as the Executive and Council. Are you interested in old buildings? How about joining our Historic Preservation Committee, or lead tours at Dalnavert Museum? You like to consider how things have changed over the years? You could join one of our centennial committees, and help to research the history of long-standing organizations, businesses, and farms. Are you knowledgeable about some obscure (or famous) person, place, or thing in Manitoba’s past? Why not give a presentation on it to MHS members? Can you organize a speakers group, historical book club, antique or collectible show, or other event to put you in touch with other people with similar interests? There are innumerable ways that you can make the MHS more relevant to you, and more interesting to others, at the mere cost of some of your time. The commitment can be as little or as much as your schedule permits; we are mindful that everyone seems to live a busy life these days. Consider, though, that by skipping just an hour of television each week, you will make enough free time to attend an MHS meeting or event every month and, in so doing, I suspect you will find more personal enrichment.
3. Make a donation. Your membership in the MHS shows that you understand the importance of what we do. However, your membership fees cover only a portion of the costs of offering these services. Donations and grants are critical to our operations, and there never seems to be enough money to do everything that we could; inevitably, some great ideas have to be set aside for another day. Remember that tax receipts are issued for all donations over $10. If you cannot make a donation, but have ideas on other sources of revenue, those are welcome too!
4. Contribute what you know. When I attend MHS events, I always come home with a great story or two from someone that I met there. I believe firmly that everyone I mean everyone has at least one, and often many more, interesting stories, reminiscences, or historical facts that warrant preservation. For instance, at the Annual General Meeting in Warren, Alan Crossin told a fascinating story about the Winnipeg Car, an automobile that was assembled here in Manitoba in the 1920s. At our recent Film Night, Lynn Jaworski shared fascinating recollections of her father’s work in the fight against tuberculosis in Manitoba. I have encouraged Alan and Lynn to write their stories for our newsletter or journal, and I likewise urge everyone else to do so. Some may feel that no one would find their stories interesting. Do not be so sure! I think you will find that most anything will prove fascinating to at least one other person and probably many more. If you are unable to write your own story, why not record it, or talk with someone who can write it for you? Do not think that stories have to be scholarly and replete with footnotes to be valuable. Personal reminiscences are often great sources of historical information. I am working on new ways in addition to our newsletter and journal of preserving your stories. So let us hear them!
5. Spread the word. Word of mouth is a powerful medium. If you cannot help in any of the preceding ways, tell your family, friends, and acquaintances about the MHS. Explain what the Society is about, and why they should care about its role in preserving Manitoba history. Many Manitobans are interested in history whether of buildings, places, or people but they do not always know about the MHS, and why they should be a member. For example, there are presently over 2,300 members of Canada’s National History Society (publishers of The Beaver magazine) in Manitoba, many of whom are not MHS members. They should be! Many more do not belong to either organization. I venture to guess that each and every one of you knows at least three people who share your interest in history. Why not invite them to join the MHS? Why not give a membership to that historian on your holiday gift list?
I believe that the Manitoba Historical Society can do even more great things than it does today, and that the key to achieving this goal is through encouraging more members to become active. Do you have ideas on how you can become more involved in the work of the Society? If so, I want to hear from you! Please call me at 204-474-7469 or email to email@example.com.
New MHS members
Ed & Jenny Carter
James G. Hanley
Bill & Diane Gillis
MHS Dalnavert Visitor Centre
Shirlee A. Smith
Carolyn Sifton Foundation
William J. Birtles
Edith R. Young
Dr. Harry & Dr. Mary Lynn Duckworth
Emily E. Stamp
George & Elise Allen
M. J. Reid
The Flag Shop
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Jean Irene Sagar, a Dalnavert volunteer, died in Winnipeg on November 1. She was born and raised in Saskatchewan and later lived in Ottawa and Winnipeg. From 1955 to 1986 she worked for the Underwriters Adjustment Bureau. Jean was an active member of the Rebekahs and she was a volunteer receptionist at Dalnavert Museum from 1987 until 2003.
It is not generally known that the MHS sends copies of our publications to "sister" organizations in neighboring provinces and states and, in return, receives their newsletters and journals. The MHS library, which is gradually taking shape in our new office (304-240 McDermot Ave., Winnipeg) has a current periodicals area containing the latest issues of Alberta History, North Dakota History, Ontario History, Saskatchewan History, and others. These journals address many themes relevant to
so anyone interested in our provincial history will find useful information in them.
The Fall 2004 issue of Saskatchewan History, just received, features three articles: "Walter Murray and the state university: The response of the University of Saskatchewan to the Great Depression, 1930-1937", "Linking the past with the future: Voice of women in Regina", and "Ruth Dulmage Shewchuk: A Saskatchewan Red Cross outpost nurse".
will celebrate their centennials in 2005, and special issues of their respective journals will focus on this milestone in Western Canadian history. MHS members are welcome to stop by the office during regular hours to browse our library and enjoy these useful and interesting publications.
Congratulations to MHS member and educator, Anne Smigel and to Hartley T. Richardson, president of James Richardson & Sons Ltd. and David G Friesen of Friesen Book Publishers who received honorary degrees at the
fall convocation. MHS member and historian Dr. Gerald Friesen received the Winnipeg Rh Institute Foundation Medal in recognition of his accomplishments in research.
Young Historians Awards
Irene Shaw presents the Dr. Edward Shaw Award to Kimberley Halwas of Portage Collegiate.
Click here for a list of 2004 award winners.
The Manitoba Historical Society and the Young Historians Committee gratefully acknowledge the support and generosity of the following contributors to the Young Historians Award event:
- The Dr. Paul H. T. Thorlakson Trust Fund
- The Dr. Edward C. Shaw Memorial Award Fund
- The Shaw family
- Grant Park High School staff, students and parent council
Manitoba History Editorial Board Named
An editorial board has been established for the MHS publication, Manitoba History. The editor is Bob Coutts, Historian, Parks Canada. Board members are: Morris Mott, History Dept., Brandon University; Jim Mochoruk, History Dept., University of North Dakota; Sharon McLeod, University College of the North, Thompson; David Carr, Director, University of Manitoba Press; Michael Payne, Director of History, Alberta Community Development; Lyle Dick, Historian, Parks Canada; Peter Geller, University College of the North , Thompson; Adele Perry, History Department, University of Manitoba; Jack Bumsted, History Department, University of Manitoba and Jean Friesen, History Department, University of Manitoba.
Historic St. Boniface Green Space Lost
On Thursday, November 18, a zoning variance Appeals Committee, consisting of three Councillors of the City of Winnipeg, made a decision that is of concern to anyone who cares about the historic places of this province. By a 2 to 1 vote, the Committee rejected an Appeal against substantial zoning variances previously granted to the owners of a vacant piece of land in the middle of the old St Boniface ecclesiastical precinct. As a result, a condominium tower will be built on this site, 80 feet high, and 8.33 feet from the north wall of the venerable St Boniface Museum building. Many members of the Manitoba Historical Society will have been disappointed at this decision, if not shocked. It is now clear that the City of Winnipeg's system for protecting historic places is ad hoc and inadequate. Inducing City Council to improve this system would be a worthy project for the Society.
Most Winnipegers, and many other Manitobans, will be familiar with the old St. Boniface ecclesiastical precinct, located along Taché Avenue opposite the Forks. This peaceful tract of dignified buildings and well-treed green spaces has been in the hands of the Roman Catholic church for over 180 years, and features the façade of the old Cathedral; the cemetery where Louis Riel and other early Western leaders are buried; and the St Boniface Museum. The Museum building, built in the 1840s as the residence for the Grey Nuns, is a historic treasure of national importance.
The Grey Nuns recently closed down their Winnipeg operations, and transferred their real estate assets to others. One of these assets was the green space just north of the St. Boniface Museum. For much of the last century, this space had been occupied by the Grey Nuns' Hospice, a place for sheltered accommodation of the elderly, but in 1970 this building was demolished, and replaced by another structure behind the Museum. Since 1970, then, the space between the Museum and the Cathedral cemetery has had the aspect of a well-treed park, linking the Museum grounds with the Cathedral precinct itself. Most people would have assumed that this space was part of the Museum grounds, or perhaps a public park.
It was a great surprise when it emerged that this land.was privately owned, that it was zoned RM-4 as the result of a City decision quietly made about ten years ago, and that it was now in the hands of a development group that proposed to build a condominium tower upon it. The architects, Gaboury Prefontaine Berry, wished to preserve the mature trees that fill the front of the property, and therefore placed the building towards the back, but then had to push the dimensions up and out. To achieve this, they requested a series of zoning variances, one of which would put the condominium extremely close to the St Boniface Museum, while another would permit it to reach a height of 97 feet, instead of 45 feet as specified in the zoning bylaw. In their report on this application, the City of Winnipeg Planning Department ruminated on the impact of this colossal building on the historic site, and recommended that the height be reduced to 80 feet. With this change, the Board of Adjustment granted the zoning variances at a meeting on September 29.
Some have pointed out that the variances requested were so extravagant that the owners of the land should have land should really have requested a rezoning of their property; and that the variances finally granted amounted to a rewriting of the zoning bylaw for this project.
Until the Board of Adjustment met, most of the discussion of the condominium proposal had remained within the Francophone community of St. Boniface, where there was vigorous debate for months. Some welcomed the condominium as a high-class investment in the heart of old St Boniface, a district starting to struggle with the problems of inner cities. For others, there was only dismay at the prospect of a large modern tower in the middle of such an historic place.
Two groups argued against the zoning variances at the Board of Adjustment on September 29 the St. Boniface Historical Society, and Parks Canada, which has invested considerable funds in the Museum building. Both groups appealed the granting of the zoning variances. Awareness of what was at stake moved outside St Boniface itself, and the MHS was asked to support the St Boniface Historical Society's position. Our Council passed a motion to do this and Gordon Goldsborough, our president, wrote a letter, pointing out that private stewardship had failed us in this case, and that the City government would have to act.
The Appeal hearing, the City Council Chamber on November 18, lasted six hours, before a large audience in the public galleries. Councillor Bill Clement, the Chair of the Appeals Committee, correctly pointed out at the outset the issue under appeal was the zoning variances, not the historic nature of the site. Having said this, he nevertheless ran the meeting with tolerance and some latitude, anyone who wished to say something had the chance, and he and the other members of the Appeal committee, Councillors Thomas and Pagtakhan, listened attentively.
Strong arguments in favour of the Appeal (and thus against the building) were made by Michel Lagace, for the St. Boniface Historical Society and Mireille Lamontagne, who first told our Society about the issue. Speaking as Chair of the city’s Historic Buildings Committee, Councillor Gerbasi pointed out that, with the right political will, an important issue like that underlying the Appeal need not be decided in the limited context of zoning variances. Speaking for the MHS, I emphasized that historic places are often more vulnerable than they seem, that government must protect them when private ambitions do not, and that it is the ability to take difficult decisions that makes a city great.
A particularly telling case was made by Dawn Bronson of Parks Canada, whose presentation included a thoughtful analysis of technical issues by an architect, Steve Cohlmeyer. Parks Canada emphasized that the City of Winnipeg like the federal and provincial governments, has already accepted a set of Standards and Guidelines for heritage sites, but that these were never considered by the City Planning Department whose report guided the Board of Adjustment’s decision.
It’s disturbing that so important a place as the St. Boniface ecclesiastical precinct has to suffer damage, before the lesson becomes clear. Now we have confirmed to us that it’s unsafe to leave the protection of historic properties to private enterprise. When the City of Winnipeg is asked to step in, its approach is ad hoc, and tangled in technicalities. It would be appropriate for the Manitoba Historical Society to take a lead in convincing City council to regularize the process of approving a development that affects a historic place. Most important would be to ensure that the City Planning Department incorporates the existing Standards and Guidelines for heritage sites, already accepted by the City, into its review process. Parks Canada, while pointing out this gap between theory and practice, acknowledged that Winnipeg, not a federal agency, has the authority to decide how our land will be used. It seems to me that Parks Canada has suggested a course of action that we, the Society, should now take up.
2nd Vice President MHS
Hon. Tim Sale presents Manitoba government grant cheque to Tim Worth, Dalnavert Curator
Volunteer tea in Dalnavert kitchen
MHS Council meeting in the Dalnavert attic
In 2003, a group of Winnipeg historians published a fascinating book entitled "A Celebration of Life" in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Brookside Cemetery. The book contained stories about the famous (and infamous) people interred there. At the same time, historic plaques were installed around the cemetery to highlight the stories of some of the more prominent burials, such as Stanley Knowles, Billy Mosienko, Major Harry Colebourn (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame), and Sgt. Tommy Prince, to name a few. Now, in late 2004, the group has produced Volume 2. Copies are available for purchase from the Brookside Administration Office at 3001 Notre Dame, Winnipeg. They are also available from McNally-Robinson bookstores.
Fort Garry Historical Society is continuing to develop its collection of photos of PEOPLE, PLACES AND EVENTS related to the area that map up the former municipality of Fort Garry. We would like to receive copies of any old photos you may have so that we may file them for future use in displays for school children, community meetings and publications. Please contact the Society at 284-6567 for further information. The Society has released the second of a series of volumes, Fort Garry Remembered for sale through the Society. This little book would be a great Christmas present for someone who has lived in Fort Garry in days gone by. Volume 2 costs $12 plus $3 for postage and handling. Send orders complete with cheque to Fort Garry Historical Society, Box 152, St. Norbert Post Office, Winnipeg MB R3V 1L6Oor contact the Society by phone at 204-284-6567.
Copies are now available of a photographic 2005 calendar celebrating the life of Father Noel J. Richot (1825 1905) on the centennial year of his death The calendar was researched and complied by Corinne Tellier. Copies may be purchased at the St. Boniface Museum and The St, Boniface Historical Society Office. For more information please phone 204-256-9967.
The Beausejour Review reports The Springfield Women’s Institute is creating a commemorative display for the 60th anniversary of the Dugald Train Wreck of September 1, 1947. People with memorabilia or memories of this tragic event are asked to call 866-2405 and leave a message. 31 people were killed and 85 were injured when the Minaki Campers’ Special collided with a westbound Super Continental train at Dugald.
On July 28 the Manitou community unveiled a bust to Nellie McClung, a former resident, beside the town’s opera house. A plaque reminds people of her many accomplishments.
Heritage Winnipeg officially launched its virtual library on November 25. Visit the Gallery to access over 3000 photos at www.virtual.heritagewinnipeg.com. There are 170 interactive vignettes which detail the growth of Winnipeg to become the financial, transportation and grain centre of western Canada.
The City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee has just released its 2003 annual report. The seven-member committee, chaired by Councillor Jenny Gerbasi, added the Behavioural Health Foundation Building (35 Avenue de la Digue) to its Historical Buildings Inventory, while removing 43 Grace Street ( a city-owned residence in the Point Douglas area) from the Inventory due to significant alterations over the years and an unstable riverbank at the site. The Lake of the Woods Milling Building (212 McDermot Avenue - just down the street from the MHS office) was added to the Buildings Conservation List. The Cadomin Building at 280 Main Street (former home of Wilson Furniture, an MHS Centennial Business) was removed from the Conservation List due to "unsympathetic alterations" to the building's interior and exterior. The MHS is represented on the committee by Tim Worth with Ashleigh Drewett-Laird as alternate.
Special events throughout December as the Manitoba Museum celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Nonsuch exhibit. On the weekends during December visitors may go below the deck to the hold of the ship between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The Nonsuch book by Laird Rankin has been updated and expanded and will be available for sale.
Click here for an up-to-date list of Centennial Farms.
Fall Field Trip - September 25 & 26
The heritage icons of Manitoba's prairie and parkland. Photos submitted by Don Fraser.
Stained Glass Church Tour - October 16
The Rev. Robert Brownlee (center) shows the windows of
St. Lukes Anglican Church, Winnipeg
The Rev. Hugh Heddin (right) shows the windows at
Trinity Baptist Church, Winnipeg
The MHS 125 Committee held its wind-up meeting at the home of Carl James on November 21. The committee was responsible for promoting the 125th Anniversary of the Society within the Society and in the community. Members of the committee were: Carl James, chair, Céline Kear, Margaret Morse, Corinne Tellier, Judith Hudson Beattie, Steven Place, Bob Sutton and Bill Fraser. The committee organized the very successful event on June at the Legislative Building. Displays commemorating the anniversary were set up at thirteen different sites in Manitoba in 2004 and more displays are planned for the coming year. At the request of the committee, staff at the University of Manitoba set up a display in the Dafoe Library this fall.
MHS 125th display at Elizabeth Dafoe Library, University of Manitoba
The MHS Publications Committee has been established. The chair of the committee is 1st Vice President Dr. Jack Bumsted. Other members will be the editor of Manitoba History, the editor of the newsletter, the webmaster, and one or two members at large.
In the 1880s the Manitoba Historical and Scientific society was responsible for the establishment of a public library in Winnipeg. The Reverend Dr. George Bryce, a founder of Manitoba College, was President of the Society from 1884 to 1887 and 1905 to 1913. In the text below he speaks at the Society's annual meeting in 1905 on the evolution of the Winnipeg Public Library from its inception in the 1880s until 1905. In that year, aided by a grant of $100,000 from Andrew Carnegie, the city built the Camegie Library on William Avenue.
The isolated position of Winnipeg as the one great city of Western Canada throws the greater responsibility on it to provide books - expensive books - to supply information for our Western Provinces. Books are needed - books covering all departments of the social, educational and legislative demands of the provincial life. The city has many requirements - industrial, manufacturing, business, statistical, legal, artistic, aesthetic, athletic, intellectual and religious.
Thousands of questions are constantly rising in all these fields of thought, and books are needed to answer questions, to stimulate enquiry, to learn from the successes or failures of other cities what we may do.
If the books demanded were to be had otherwise in Winnipeg, the city certainly would not need to provide them; for books even in private hands are now regarded as in some sense public property open to appreciative readers. But the needed books are not to be found among us. The Provincial Library is chiefly legislative, with a certain number of books historical and general. The Colleges have small libraries of books - educational, scholastic and theological. The University professors are very properly clamoring for reference works in science for their use - but their library is in its infancy. All these do not and cannot supply the demands of our Western life; or provide for the well being of our rapidly developing city and country.
It lies at the door of Winnipeg to supply the pressing want, expensive though it may be, if it is to be supplied at all.
Our Present Position
The Historical Society, incorporated in 1879, has always stood for the maintenance of a library to supply this want. Early in its history the Society raised from the citizens some $1,600 to make the beginning of a Public Library. The library was maintained in the Society's rented rooms until 1888, when an agreement was made between the City Council and the Historical Society to carry on the library jointly in the City Hall. The library, with a small fee of $2 a year from each reader, was carried on until 1895, when it became a Free Public Library, the City Council meeting the whole expense. The joint management so continued until 1904. The grant, even after the establishment of the Free Library, was insignificant - $2,000 a year, from which salaries and all charges were required to be paid.
The narrow quarters, and their unsanitary and uncleanly condition operated much against the library. We have in the last few days transferred some two thousand of our books - the best selection of them - to the Public Library.
We speak of the "dust of ages," but if the dust of ages accumulates in proportion to that of the eighteen years since we entered the City Hall, then I don't wonder at the dread of antiquity that the aldermen have had, and yet there was a clause in the agreement
"That the City Hall caretaker be responsible for the care of the Historical rooms as well as of those belonging to the Public Library."
We are pleased, however, with the greater energy and higher appreciation of books shown by the present Library Committee, in comparison with their predecessors.
The Carnegie Library, notwithstanding the ungrateful remarks made now and then by citizens as to the donor, Mr. Andrew Carnegie, was the only solution of the Library question. It has given us new hope of having a great City Library.
The quarters then - suitable and commodious having been provided, the city is committed to making the Public Library worthy of the great metropolis of Western Canada, worthy of a University City, and worthy at the ambition of a city of nearly one hundred thousand people.
It becomes citizens interested in the higher interests of the metropolis to discuss: What shall be put into the Carnegie building? What ideals shall prevail? What class of books shall be obtained - the merely ephemeral or the permanent?
The 1901 Canada census, which has been available on microfilm for several years, is now available on-line infree, fully searchable form at http://automatedgenealogy.com. The transcription of over 269,000 scanned census pages was completed by a large group of volunteers from around the world. Transcription errors continue to be corrected so, in the meantime, be prepared to check alternate misspellings. The 1906 census of western provinces is also being transcribed but is not yet complete.