Bawlf House

by Lillian Gibbons

Manitoba Pageant, Autumn 1977, Volume 23, Number 1

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

Please direct inquiries to

Help us keep
history alive!

The Nicholas Bawlf house at 11 Kennedy St. has been razed, the corner lot at Assiniboine Ave. left treed and grassy. For years it was a sad survivor of a stately home. The tower, pillared porticos, broad steps and shining windows went the way of servants, horses and coachmen.

Like the Alloway, Tupper, Kelly and Ashdown homes, the grain merchant's mansion made the Broadway-Assiniboine area the city's show place. An unnamed writer of 1903 wrote: "Socially Winnipeg takes the palm. The city has scores of palatial mansions inhabited by wealthy men of plain, practical ideas, whose greatest aim is the work of building up commercially, industrially, socially and morally the city they live in. No claim can be made in Winnipeg for austere, alleged saints. The people are too active and practical for that."

Nicholas Bawlf was born in Smith's Falls July 15, 1849. He heard the call of the west, arriving here in 1877. He started with a flour and feed store, became a founder of the Grain Exchange in 1887, and built his brick and stone home in 1897.

Now in 1977 the house is gone, the name Bawlf no longer is listed in the phone book, but there is a Bawlf St. in Logan west, and the Exchange Building still stands on Princess St.

Mrs. W. T. Kennedy used to speak of her first visit to No. 11 Kennedy St., (no relation between the names), as a bride, to pour tea for a St. Joseph's orphanage benefit. She wore her trousseau finery, met other young matrons doing their afternoon 'duty' in the feathered hats and chiffon flounce era. It was a real life Upstairs-Downstairs house of 20 rooms with a family of eight children.

Suddenly at Christmas, 1914, Winnipeg heard with shock that Nicholas Bawlf had died. One of his last projects had been canvassing for the Patriotic Fund to aid families of newly enlisted men. Several of his sons followed him into the grain trade; Edward, the first son born in Winnipeg, became president of the Grain Exchange and rode polo ponies at St. Charles Country Club.

With the family's founder gone, No. 11 became the home of Archbishop A. A. Sinnott from 1916 to 1918 while he was awaiting the completion of his new rectory at St. Mary's Cathedral. The clergy in their black soutanes and red sashes must have felt at home where Nicholas Bawlf had lived. As they left every morning for mass they would have admired the glorious stained glass of the entrance, the sidelights and transom showing urns overflowing with greenery and flowers, the sunset catching every leaded petal. Golden oak paneling marched up the square staircase. Double round arches sup-ported slender oak pillars. Plaster ornamented ceilings revealed cherubs sporting amid garlands and even torches. The bronze lamps with amber glass carried on the mellow tones.

A painted sign with the words "Abandon Rank All Ye Who Enter Here." was erected over the leaded No. 11 in 1922 when the house became a servicemen's centre. Barney Bawlf had lost his life in the Royal Naval Air Service. The centre was named for Gilbert Talbot, the son of the Bishop of Winchester, who was killed in Belgium. The Prince of Wales became the patron and as such visited No. 11. Other visitors included the Padre P. B. Clayton and General Sir Edmund Allenby who had freed the Holy Lands from the Turks. These distinguished visitors also paid a visit across the street at Government House.

Government House, built in 1883, still stands, well kept. The only other house in the district preserved from the "good old days" is 61 Carlton, the home of Sir Hugh John Macdonald, saved by the Manitoba Historical Society.

The date of building Nicholas Bawlfs house, 1897, was carved into the third floor south gable, commemorating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Now it's gone in the Silver Jubilee year of her great great granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth, the centenary year of Nicholas Bawlf's arrival in the city he helped build.

Page revised: 20 July 2009