MB Heritage


List of contents

Warkentin’s Blacksmith Shop

Glenboro Canadian Pacific Railway Water Tower

Carberry Agricultural Society Display Building

Early Refrigeration – The Icehouse

Manitoba’s Official Mounted Police Museum video

Fannystelle School

Old Red Barn

Minnedosa Fieldstone Commercial Building

Octagonal Grain Silo

Art Moderne Texaco Filling Stations

Prairie Dog Central Video

The Doll House by Heather Benning Video

Star Mound School Video

Treherne Bottle Buildings Video

Stockton Ferry Beached by Flooding Video

Satterthwaite Homestead on Burrows Trail Video

Lone Tree Video

Fieldstone Bank Vaults Video

Criddle Vane Homestead Video

Newcomb’s Hollow Video

Old Deloraine Pioneer Cemetery Video

Heritage Tree, Little Mountain Cottonwood Video

Pipestone RM Municipal Office, Reston

Octagonal Wooden Silo

Brandon Central Fire Station

Stonewall Post Office


Warkentin’s Blacksmith Shop, near St. Francois Xavier

Reid Dickie

Built by Henry Warkentin in 1931, used for thirty years as his blacksmith shop, this unassuming building by the side of the road is now a municipal heritage site. Located at 2172 Hwy #26 a few miles west of St. Francois Xavier, MB. (watch for lot numbers on blue markers) this simple vernacular building reminds us of a very specific aspect of our past, part of pioneer commerce before the days of welding shops and modern farm machinery. Click on pic to watch my video.

Glenboro Canadian Pacific Railway Water Tower, Railway Avenue, Glenboro, MB

Reid Dickie

The very best example of an octagonal wooden railway water tower in Manitoba stood beside the tracks from 1904 until its destruction by arson in 2008. This design, the Standard No. 1 Plan was pioneered by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1903 and quickly became part of the Manitoba landscape. Between 1902 and 1925, the CPR constructed 75 water towers in the province every 80 kms (50 miles) which was how far a steam train could travel before needing water.

The Manitoba Department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism offers further details on the site: Constructed in 1904, the Glenboro structure is the best surviving example of an intact, fully-equipped water tower in Manitoba. The adjacent pumphouse fed water to the tank inside the water tower. A coal-burning boiler powered an interior water pump and prevented the water in the tank from freezing. In 1939 this pumping mechanism was replaced by an electric motor and pump installed inside the tower. A ball, or “float”, glided along a pole atop the tower to indicate the level of the water in the tank. The cedar water tank, with a capacity of 181,840 litres (40,000 gallons) of water, rests upon a framework of large wooden support timbers. By the late 1950s, the railway companies converted to diesel-powered locomotives which made the water structures obsolete. This tower once stored the community water supply for the Village of Glenboro.

Alas, the old water tower was burned to the ground by arsonists in April, 2008 and its rich and consequential heritage value went up in smoke. Several other fires were set in Glenboro the same night. Glenboro is plagued by a firebug who set several fires previous to the destruction of the water tower and since, recently in the summer of 2011.

Agricultural Society Display Building, Fairgrounds, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

The high point of many small town summers was, and still is the annual agricultural fair. Usually one or two days long, depending on the size of the town and the surrounding population, country fairs bring a diversity of rural people together in a spirit of pride and competition. Gardeners show off their best produce and blooms, cattle and horse producers groom and display their prize animals in various formats, riders demonstrate their prowess, farm machinery dealers show off the latest equipment and usually a small midway offers a few rides and carny games.

The fairgrounds was and still is a place unto itself. Even though it is used for a short time each year, large, well-tended acreages are devoted to it. This picture shows the gate leading into Carberry fairgrounds with commemoration of its hundredth anniversary in 1983. Among the permanent fixtures in many fairgrounds are a grandstand in front of the display ring and several small buildings where the competitive displays of agricultural products are shown. You can see these structures in the above picture. (Click pic to enlarge)

These display buildings could be rather fanciful creations, befitting their specialized function. One popular design was the octagon, an eight-sided structure that was both eye-catching externally and spacious internally. This picture shows three completely different designs of display buildings in Carberry.

In the Carberry Fairgrounds, you will find an octagonal display building constructed in 1893 and used continuously by the local agricultural society ever since. This rare building, remarkably, retains all its original design and construction features right down to the ornate hand-carved display shelves. Even the original carved brackets are still in place. You can how well the exterior is maintained with its coat of fresh paint. Carberry has another octagonal building – a wooden grain silo. Read my post about it here.

Early Refrigeration – The Icehouse

Reid Dickie

Until rural electrification reached small towns and farms via Manitoba Hydro in the mid to late 1930s and refrigerators became available, the icehouse played an important role in keeping perishable foodstuffs from spoiling.  A small building, often wood frame or made of fieldstones, was built near the house. Blocks of ice were piled inside and covered with sawdust to keep them from melting during the hot summer months.  A fresh supply of ice was added to the building every winter. This is a typical fieldstone icehouse that was built around 1890 and still stands in Shoal Lake, MB today.

Before electricity, Shoal Lake Creamery organized “ice days.”  Because the creamery stored vast amounts of ice to keep the milk, cream and butter from spoiling, when word got out that the creamery was cutting ice, townspeople and farmers from far and wide converged on the lake to get their share.

Hand powered saws cut long strips about 24 inches wide and cut again into sections about 3 feet long. Clydesdales provided the horsepower to pull the blocks of ice out of the water and onto the waiting sleighs.  The horses had done this job for so many years that they didn’t even have to be driven.  They simply went around and around waiting patiently until the hooks were fastened to the ice blocks and a soft “get up” was all that was necessary to put them into action.

Once the ice was hauled home, the blocks were slid into the icehouse and covered with a good layer of sawdust.  The sawdust effectively kept the ice from melting all summer. When the sawdust lost its insulating power it was replaced with fresh aromatic sawdust.

Most kitchens had an icebox with a compartment at the top holding a block of ice releasing cold air over the perishable food below.  The ice had to be replenished every day.  Ice boxes had drip pans which caught the water from the melting ice. Often forgotten, the drip pans overflowed onto the kitchen floor.

Manitoba’s Official Mounted Police Museum

Reid Dickie

Every Canadian province has an official Mounted Police Museum. In Manitoba it is located in Shoal Lake. In my video report find out why this is an extremely appropriate town to have the museum.

Fannystelle School, PTH 248, Fannystelle, MB

Reid Dickie

By the 1950s, consolidation of the Manitoba educational system had all but eliminated the need for local one-room schools. Centralized facilities were considered more effective and efficient. New schools were built to meet this need. At the same time, new design philosophies were being brought to bear on school building design. Built in 1951, a basic wood-frame structure covered with stucco, Fannystelle School is just such a building, a model example of “the new” for its time. It was Modern.

The Modern movement toned down the already smooth and luxurious Art Moderne style to its basic straight lines that cooperated with the landscape. Crisp and sleek, characterized by unadorned flat symmetrical surfaces (it’s nothing if it’s not symmetrical) and horizontal lines, the Modern style was used on many schools. On Fannystelle School the horizontal lines begin with the flat roof and continue with a plain straight cornice, the belt course above each row of windows, the large paired windows, canopies above entrances and shallow foundation, all give the place a low profile that fits with the flat prairie surrounding the school.

The stepped detail around the front entrance and centre pavilion welcomes you into the building. The use of two colours, one providing the building’s detail and the other the basic colour, was a common and simple technique of the style. The fenestration is generous and adds to the style, offering large windows to flood the classrooms with light. The slightly wider mullions separating the pairs of windows indicate walls between the school’s eight classrooms.

The building is now owned by the Manitoba Housing Authority and has been divided into apartments although the exterior remains as you see it in these picture taken in October 2011.

The little village of Fannystelle, besides having an enchanting name, has an unusual genesis, according to Geographical Names of Manitoba: “Fanny Rivers worked among the destitute and homeless in Paris and through her work met Parisian philanthropist Countess Albufera. The Countess persuaded her husband to finance emigration of poor Parisians to Canada. Fanny Rivers continued her work in Canada but died 1883. The Countess founded this French settlement in 1889 in memory of her friend. T.A. Berbier (later senator for St. Boniface) was trying to encourage more settlers from Quebec to come to Manitoba and join the nobles and well-to-do gentleman from France who formed the nucleus of the community (many of whom later returned to France). The village was described as “an island of French culture in the middle of a sea of English” and it was said that “the Countess seems to have decreed that her colony be called Fannystelle – Fanny’s Star.””

Old Red Barn

Reid Dickie

About 300 yards from the north boundary of Riding Mountain National Park, in a long-abandoned farm yard next to some tumbledown buildings, stands this beautiful old barn, striking a dominant pose against the backdrop of yellowed birch. Still retaining some of its red colouration – the traditional recipe for barn paint was cow’s blood, rust, lime, milk and linseed oil – and withstanding the northwesterlies with the help of a tall thick windbreak, the old place demonstrates classic massing and materials. The tiny and sparse windows meant a rather dark barn but they helped retain heat in winter. The barn tilts to the rear a little, the first sign of a future tumbledown.

Minnedosa Fieldstone Commercial Building

Reid Dickie

Pearson Building, 110 Main Street S, Minnedosa, MB

The art of stonemasonry thrived in Minnedosa, not just in house building but in commercial buildings as well. Situated on a prominent corner of Minnedosa’s Main Street, the Pearson Building is an extremely rare example of a commercial building combining the rustic charm of fieldstones with a bit of eye-catching Gothic Revival flair in the two proud steep gables, and Italianate style with the paired rounded windows and the beautifully detailed wooden cornice.

Built in the 1870s, the exterior of the building has survived virtually as it was built with very little apparent cracking or movement of the stones. It’s a solid piece of stonemanship! Though currently called the Pearson Building, in the past it was the Setter Building and the Bruce Building. As often is the case with small town commercial establishments, it has housed many businesses over the years: movie theatre, stores, offices, meeting rooms and halls. Sir John A. MacDonald is said to have orated in its second floor meeting room.

What distinguishes this handsome building are the simple, but not plain, uses of style elements and their effect on the overall feeling from the structure. The window pairs wrap around the exposed sides of the building, creating in us the comfort of pairs. The marvellous wooden cornice with its hundreds of dentils tucked into tiered rows and the evenly spaced double brackets help achieve perfect symmetry, an interesting contrast to the various colours of rocks. The wooden brackets are the most ornate feature of the place and the fact they are still original and well-maintained speaks to the tenderness and love this building has enjoyed over the last 140 years. It deserves it!

All the Minnedosa fieldstone buildings in this series are still in use, either as homes or as their original purpose. I find it wonderfully heart-warming to know these old piles still thrive with life and continue to nurture new generations as they grow up and old.

Octagonal Grain Silo

Reid Dickie

I have written about these rare, precious and beautiful relics from our prairie past elsewhere on this blog. A fine example of an octagonal grain silo stands in a farm yard just west of Hwy #5 a mile north of Carberry. Accompanying the silo are several other old farm buildings, all likely built around the same time, circa 1885-95. The silo has most of its original detailing including the little roof extending over the ascending openings, the small dormer for ventilation and a wooden pinnacle at the roofpoint. Well-built, this one stands relatively straight considering it has been buffeted by prevailing northwesterly winds for over a hundred years. Sharing the same yard with the silo are a couple of old barns of the same era. As you can see, one unusual barn has a square section topped with a small square tower. The roof pitches are quite This is the opposite end of the building behind the silo. Still lived in, a beautiful buff brick two-storey house stands in the neatly mowed yard. Apparently none of these buildings has any heritage designation or protection although, due to their rarity, condition and site, the silo and barns merit recognition. Today they are heritage under duress. Without some form of acknowledgement, it is likely these buildings will all disappear from the prairie landscape, replaced with monoculture.

Art Moderne Texaco Filling Stations

Reid Dickie

This article, minus the Dauphin update, originally appeared in Crossroads This Week in 2004 under the title The Treasure in the Middle of Town. Today it also appears on my blog about my hometown’s history www.shoallakehistory.com

What do Kodak Brownie cameras, bullet trains, Spartan radios and the Central S building in Shoal Lake have in common? The answer: the same person, an innovative American industrial designer named Walter Dorwin Teague, designed them all.

Teague’s most popular camera design for Eastman Kodak was the Bantam Special. Perfection!

From Pendleton, IN Teague worked as an illustrator and commercial artist, notably for Time magazine. A trip to Paris in 1926 exposed him to new ultra-modern designs and materials that captured his imagination. Hired by Texaco to design service stations, Teague employed architectural elements from the Art Deco and Art Moderne schools. The Central S building is a classic example of this style and one of the few remaining in western Canada.

The building, on prime real estate at the intersection of Highways 21 and 42 in the centre of Shoal Lake, was constructed in 1936. It opened for business on July 31 of that year as the Red Indian Filling Station, the brand name used by the Frontenac Oil Company. Formed in 1873, the McColl-Anderson Oil Company in Toronto consisted of a refinery and lubricating oil and grease facility. Around the turn of the century, they shortened the name to McColl Brothers. A merger with Frontenac Oil in 1927 gave the McColl-Frontenac Oil Company Canadian operations from coast to coast. About this time, Texaco began acquiring shares in Frontenac, gaining control of the company in the early 1930s. In 1941, they formally changed the name to Texaco and the brand to Sky Chief and Fire Chief products.

Texaco service stations became a common site along highways all over North America. Unmistakable they had bright white stucco finishes, forest-green stripes and large red three-dimensional stars around the upper area below the roof along with a freestanding signpost bearing the red Texaco star logo on a white disk.

Teague created two designs for Texaco service stations: a small one like the Shoal Lake building, and a larger example with a breezeway supported by angled pillars that covered the pump area. The prominent decorative detail was the large, 3-D red star taken from the Texaco logo and duplicated on the company’s uniforms, prompting the advertising slogan “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.” There were about 10,000 such service stations on the continent by 1950, most of them in one of Teague’s two cookie-cutter styles.

Teague’s industrial projects always represented the dynamic progress of the 20th century, the streamlined machine esthetic suggesting motion and speed, denoted here by the jutting rounded tower bearing the company name. Elements common to Teague’s designs are all evident in the Central S building: flat roof, rounded corners, symmetrical facades and raised signage, both modern and economical at once. Front doors on both sides of a protruding curved entranceway compliment the double service bays. There was another bay entrance on the east side of the building. Inside was a small storefront area, office and storage behind that and the service areas on either side joined by a wide, open backspace.  The building, though small, gives the impression of stability and confidence. Yet there is a charming lightness and optimism to the design that appealed to the newly mobile to “Trust Texaco.”

            The large version of Teague’s Texaco stations with breezeway.

Owned by Texaco until 1953, the service station was leased to Dean Brothers, Mr. Burns, Roy Garlick, McLean’s, Mr. Kashton, Louis Bart and John Byram. It was bought in 1953 by John Decelle who operated it until 1960. The small furnace room at the back was added on during this time. Roy Garlick ran it for a few years, followed by Doug Susinski, Don Wiburg and Bill Schwaluk. With the absorption of Texaco into Chevron, Bill Stebnicki bought the building in 1987 and it became the Central S convenience store. Today Mickey and Yvonne Shust are the proprietors.

As a fine example of Art Moderne architecture, the building stands among a dwindling number of such historic places left in Canada. Its geometric form, precise location for striking visual appeal and the renown of its creator conspire to make this a little treasure worthy of preserving.

I’ve known about it for years and finally got around to photographing a twin to Shoal Lake’s service station, this one in Dauphin, MB also designed by Teague. Built in 1936 and formerly Greening’s Garage it now houses a computer business. The sweeping sign with the rounded receding corners prominent at the front, the flat roof, the horizontal lines, and sleek, sensuous curves of the building overall suggest movement and speed to match the modern automobiles. All this is evident in this  Dauphin Texaco picture, the same as the Shoal Lake version.

Today most of the openings have been closed and the place stuccoed but the sign is still the same. Although covered over, the rounded front entrance remains intact and the paint job kept the horizontal stripe along the roofline, two distinctive elements of the style. Originally set back from the street to accommodate gas pumps, without the pumps it still stands out positioned on a street corner. By the way, the company Walter Teague started in 1926 is still going strong today creating innovative and award-winning industrial design.

Prairie Dog Central

Operated by Winnipeg’s Vintage Locomotive Society, the Prairie Dog Central has been offering the experience of an old-fashioned steam train ride since 1970, making it one of the oldest regularly scheduled steam trains in North America. The locomotive was built in 1882 and worked the rails between Fort William (Thunder Bay) and Vancouver for decades. The rest of the rolling stock – the passenger coaches and caboose – was built between 1900 and 1912. On one of its last trips of the year, I caught the PDC taking a Sunday run out to Grosse Isle, MB. Smell the smoke, hear that lonesome whistle blow, feel the soothing rhythm of the tracks and enjoy the Prairie Dog Central. Gone from modern trains, the Prairie Dog Central still sports a caboose.

The Doll House by Heather Benning

A chilling monument to the decline of the prairie farm stands next to Manitoba Highway #2 just a few miles east of the Saskatchewan border. The 2007 art project by Saskatchewan artist Heather Benning is called The Doll House. Heather took an old abandoned farmhouse, removed the rear wall completely, furnished the place with stuff from the late 1960s when it was last inhabited and covered the open wall with plexiglas – instant doll house! The name is only one of the many ironies the project evokes. The loneliness of prairie pioneer women who could go months without seeing another woman struck me. The location would have been bleak if not desolate although Highway #2 was once a trail. The house is about a hundred years old now and Heather says it will remain an art project until it falls down. Here’s my video report on The Doll House.

Star Mound School

I have written about Star Mound in the Sacred Places series with mention of the old schoolhouse that sits next to the beaver mound. Located in extreme southern Manitoba near Snowflake, Star Mound School opened in 1886 and closed in 1962. Moved six times in its existence, the one-room schoolhouse now rests as an excellent hands-on museum on a historically significant site. The school museum retains the original desks and fixtures, books and pictures. All that is missing is the blackboard. The building is simple wooden rectangular box with steep gable ends. The porch was a later addition. The decorative features of the small flared pediments over the windows and indented frames painted red add charm.

Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and departing leave behind us, footprints in the sands of time.

Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for any fate, still achieving still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait.

In addition to a beaver-shaped burial mound, possibly one of only two in the country, the top of Star Mound offers a spectacular 360-degree view of the prairies. Rolling hills cut with treed breaks flow off to the north, shadows of massive lazy clouds slide across the land, the garish colours of the monoculture glow. Explorer La Verendrye witnessed this vista; artist Paul Kane made sketches from this vantage point. Instead of tractors, half tons and toxic canola yellow, their landscape had buffalo, tipis and tall rippling grass. Had they come in spring, they would have found the sides of Star Mound glorious with crocuses.

Today the site also offers a number of buffalo rub stones, a geodetic survey marker denoting the place’s relationship to the Canada/US border, a small picnic area, constant breezes coming up the hill and a peaceful oasis to commune with Spirit. Step out of the wind and into education as it was a hundred years ago.

Treherne Bottle Buildings

In 1982, Bob and Dora Cain along with Fred Harp created a bottle house using 4000 bottles out on the Cain farm near Treherne, MB. That was only the beginning of their bottle ideas. The uniqueness of the project has resulted in a small bottle village relocated to downtown Treherne on Hwy #2. There is a house, church, well and working restroom, all made of bottles! Let me take you on a guided video tour of the bottle buildings.

Stockton Ferry Beached by Flooding

The last remaining river ferry in southern Manitoba has been beached by the flooding Assiniboine River. The Stockton Ferry carried people and vehicles across the river for decades but now the future of the ferry is in doubt. While the actual ferry was hauled out of the water and rests above the flood level, its cables and infrastructure were badly damaged by the raging waters leaving a tangled mess of wire and metal. I visited the site yesterday and have a short video report on the Stockton Ferry and the aftermath of the river’s flooding.

Satterthwaite Homestead on Burrows Trail

On Manitoba Highway #5 along the east side of Riding Mountain National Park a few kms south of McCreary a little roadside stop has given respite to weary travelers for over 125 years. Known as the Satterthwaite Homestead, the site contains several historic relics from the region’s early settlement.

If Highway #5 had flashbacks, it could easily recall being the Burrows Trail, which moved thousands of pioneers into the area around Dauphin. Before that, natives used the trail for its ease, as did untold herds of bison and other wildlife. The physical origin of the trail began when the last Ice Age ended. As one of the beaches of old Lake Agassiz – cold, deep and filled with glacial meltwater – the Arden Ridge, as it is known, stayed clear of overgrowth and become a convenient path, the only high ground between two lowlands.

Jane and Thomas Satterthwaite’s house sat right on the Burrows Trail. Built in 1895 from logs with a sod roof, it became a stopping house along the Trail. Whenever a traveling preacher came through, the house became a church. The Satterthwaite’s even built a large wood frame Eaton’s Catalogue house straddling the trail.

What’s left of the original log house, built about 1885 using half-lap dovetail construction, rots away into the prairie in one corner of this site. An approximation of it has been built on the site. A section of the original Burrow Trail with ruts cut by Red River carts and wagons is fenced off and protected. A mature garden of local flora with signage and an information sign about the Burrows and other trails through the area give the stop extra interest. It is obscure and the signage is overgrown but it’s a fine leg stretching place and a fascinating glimpse into pioneer life. Watch my short video report about Satterthwaite’s homestead.

Lone Tree

One of the most frequent sights on the prairies is a single tree left at the edge of a field. Why would they leave one tree? I have the answer on video.

Fieldstone Bank Vaults

When town building began in earnest on the prairies in the late 1800s, most little settlements had a bank. Often they were private banks, such as the one in Old Deloraine which was owned by Cavers and Stuart. Toronto Dominion opened a bank in the original site of Pilot Mound. As was frequently the case, the railroad decided the locations of towns despite the best intentions of early pioneers. Usually the whole town was moved next to the railroad. Early bank vaults were made of fieldstones and due to their clumsy weight were left behind. There are only two such bank vaults in western Canada and both are in southern Manitoba. One rests on the lower slope of Pilot Mound and the other sits in the middle of a farmer’s yard which is the site of the original Deloraine.

Criddle Vane Homestead

I have just uploaded my 100th video to YouTube, appropriately it is about one of the most unusual and historically significant families to homestead on the Manitoba prairie. In 1882 London merchant Percy Criddle packed up his wife Alice and their four children, and his mistress Elise Vane and their five children, and transported them all across the ocean to a homestead southeast of Brandon. Exceptional and eccentric describes this family. Music, art, sports, astronomy, entomology – the family had wide and varied interests and pursued them all in what is now called Criddle Vane Provincial Park. This picture shows Percy, Alice, Elise and 11 of the brood which eventually totalled 13 children.

At the park, a short easy well-documented walking trail shows you the significant remains of the homestead. I wrote about the Criddle Vane family and homestead in my 2006 book Manitoba Heritage Success Stories, available at libraries all over Manitoba. Though slightly obscure, the homestead is easily accessible, offers lots of information on the site while providing a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these pioneers. Below is a picture of Norman Criddle standing in front of his entomology lab, the first one in western Canada.

Step back in time to pioneer days now and join the Criddle Vane adventures via my video report.

Newcomb’s Hollow

Newcomb’s Hollow – the name conjures visions of strange new landscapes presenting unknown challenges to the mere mortals who dare to go there. In a sense, that’s what Newcomb’s Hollow was, a new beginning for thousands of people homesteading on the prairies. From the Land Titles Office, conveniently located in the little hollow where Turtlehead Creek has its ford along the Boundary Commission Trail, over 1.2 million acres of land were titled between 1881 and 1893. The man responsible was a land titles clerk from Winnipeg named George Newcomb who built his home and office in the hollow that now bears his name. New settlers had to register with Newcomb and pay the small fees before moving out to their claim. Sometimes people lined up for miles out of the hollow and waited days to see George. One of the most significant heritage sites in southwestern Manitoba, Newcomb’s Hollow holds and evokes centuries of history and pre-history.

Old Deloraine Pioneer Cemetery

About 1880, settlers began arriving in southwestern Manitoba, necessitating this cemetery above Newcomb’s Hollow, south of the actual community of Old Deloraine. Founded in 1881, the community was first called Zulu but citizen demand had it changed to Deloraine when the town was moved to meet the railroad in 1886. This hilltop cemetery is a beautiful place to spend eternity!

Heritage Tree, Little Mountain Cottonwood

Yes, Manitoba has a long list of trees deemed worthy of heritage designation by the Manitoba Forestry Association. One of them is a beautiful old cottonwood that you can see for miles on the edge of Little Mountain Park in northwest Winnipeg. Here is my short video report on the tree.

Pipestone RM Municipal Office, Reston

The municipal building for the RM of Pipestone is a beauty! Located on a permanent corner in Reston, MB, the municipal building is a rare example of Italianate style used on a public building. The style, popular at the turn of the 20th century, was employed mainly on houses, rarely for civic structures. Built in 1917, Brandon architect William Alexander Elliott designed this elegant, compact two-storey place, which features many  Italianate elements including  low-pitched rooflines, wide eaves, tall windows and the small corner tower. The main entrance on the building’s south side has a rounded brick arch with stone highlights. The secondary entrance is simpler with a shed roof. The windows are a variety of shapes and sizes with the slim arched window on the west side complementing the main entrance beautifully. There is playful contrast between the striking red tapestry brick and the light coloured second floor and tower and white trim.

One of southwestern Manitoba’s most prolific architects, W. A. Elliot’s buildings include Park School, Brandon 1904 (demolished), Hamilton Hotel, Neepawa 1904 (burned), Bank of Montreal, Brandon 1905, Clark Hall, Brandon University 1906, Empire Bottling Company bottling house/warehouse, Brandon 1906, Brandon Collegiate Institute 1907, Methodist Church, now Dutch Christian Reform, Brandon 1909, Carberry Town Hall 1909, Cecil Hotel, Brandon 1910 (burned 1981), Central Fire Station, Brandon 1911, Opera House, Virden 1911, St Matthew’s Anglican Cathedral, Brandon 1912, Methodist Church, now St Paul’s United, Souris. Elliot also created design plans for over 40 public schools built before WWI in Manitoba towns like Baldur, Newdale, Elkhorn, Melita, Brookdale, Rivers, Oak River, Rapid City and Reston.

Octagonal wooden silo, Rural Municipality of De Salaberry, MB

Ghosts of a bygone era, their scale puny by today’s standards yet there is a mystery, a dense past contained within the weathered and lichened boards. This example, given a sensuous curve over the decades, is situated in the Rural Municipality of De Salaberry in southern Manitoba, one of three such structures in the RM. The local heritage buffs proudly refer to them as “our litttle Eiffel towers.”

Octagonal wooden silos and barns were built mainly between 1850 and 1900, the advantage being the interior corners were less acute creating more storage space. Typically, polygonal silos – some were 16-sided – had a hipped roof like this example, sometimes a dormer on the top as here which was used to fill the silo. More often a trap door covered the ingress opening.

The relics in De Salaberry RM were likely built around 1885 by the original landowners and used well into the next century. The silos were formally turned up when the RM conducted an inventory of local heritage buildings in 2009. They discovered 65 potential heritage sites from silos to churches to houses to various architectural styles that represented the various ethnic groups who settled the region, including French, Metis, Hutterite, British and Ukrainian.

Brandon Central Fire Station, 7th & Princess, Brandon, MB

Brandon’s Central Fire Station began its existence in controversy as a replacement for an 1882-83 fire hall on this same site that was a High Victorian Gothic design by British architect Charles Timewell. Timewell was deeply influenced by English architect John Ruskin, an advocate of Venetian Gothic designs. The 1911 replacement we see today was created by local architect W.A. Elliott in the Chateauesque style with an Italianate tower. It was built by A.E. Bullock for less than $40,000. The two styles integrate completely into a picturesque result. The roofline is a swooping statement ending in the exclaiming tower! The steep pitched hipped roof with flat top is punctuated all around by small dormers with steep flared gables. A wide dormer in an eyebrow shape looks out from the front and back. The contrasting white trim on the cornice and stringcourses gives the red brick a striking appeal. The fenestration on the front elevation is a fine balance of double windows over each garage door with the dormers and eyebrow centered again above them.

The Italianate tower is a beauty. Towers were used to dry hoses and played an essential role in early fire fighting. The little invisibly pitched roof has wide eaves with huge carved brackets and pairs of arched openings with small wrought iron balconies. Beneath the balconies is a delicate bit of corbelling. The tower has corner pilasters, which give it a sturdy feeling. Originally the tower contained a large fire bell, known as “Coronation Bell” named in honour of the coronation of King George. The bell weighed 1995 kg and a base of 1.58 metres. It was removed in 1971 to reduce the stress on the tower. The brickwork around the sides on the main floor has alternating relief courses that give the building a sense of stability.

The old fire hall no longer serves its intended purpose and waits empty for its fate. Brandon now has a spiffy new fire hall, all glass and concrete, that, ironically, also came into existence with controversy. The location of the new fire hall, situated in the valley, meant that if the river flooded, access to the north part of the city would be cut off and the ability of engines to cross the crowded 18th Street bridge to get to the south part of the city was held in serious question. With this year’s flooding, the first scenario played out, forcing Brandon fire officials to station several pieces of fire fighting equipment in the lot of a car dealership north of the river in case the bridge was impassable.

Now that it’s empty, maintenance of the building seems to be lax which is a pity since it is a fine example of architectural blending producing unique results. The destiny of Central Fire Station remains in limbo. One of the campaign suggestions of Brandon’s new mayor, Shari Decter Hirst, was to use it as a micro brewery complete with brew pub which seems a suitable use as long as its heritage integrity is maintained. Recent changes in provincial liquor laws could bring that idea closer to fruition. To demolish this classic would be a crime against beauty.

Stonewall Post Office, Centre Avenue & Main Street, Stonewall, MB

Modest in size, exemplary in design and gargantun in provenance, Stonewall Post Office is among my favourite Manitoba heritage buildings. Francis Conroy Sullivan (1882–1929), one of Canada’s pioneer practitioners of the Prairie School style, designed the building. His inspiration was Frank Lloyd Wright (1869–1959), the renowned Chicago architect and originator of the Prairie School which achieved widespread acceptance from 1900–1914. Today, it stands as Manitoba’s foremost example of Prairie School architecture and only known surviving example of Prairie School institutional architecture in the province.

The Dominion of Canada Public Works Department chose a prominent corner in Stonewall’s streetscape and built this little beauty using local Stonewall limestone in 1914-15. It was used as the community’s post office until 1978.

Prairie School characteristics abound here. Notice the combination of rough and smooth limestone all around the building and the interplay between them. The low boxy massing with flat roof uses powerful horizontal lines in several ways to accentuate the prairie horizon: four belt courses of smooth limestone, one at the cornice, two below and one just above the low foundation, the heavy modillions along the cornice and the broken limestone lintels under the windows.

Typically the facade is balanced and symmetrical with modest yet effective geometric details. The wide stairs are flanked by platforms and shallow round planters. Though small in size, the building has an impressive presence as you ascend the front stairs. The windows all around are narrow and separated by smooth limestone, which is also used on the quoins. All openings are deeply recessed.

The The side view of the place is an exhilerating display of balance and symmetry with windows of various widths, horizontal banding and the various stone textures. Interesting treatment of the basement windows.

The rear of the building carries on the geometric detailing and interplay of limestone textures to stunning effect.

What is it about this place that turns my crank? For me, the best architecture is a brilliant conversation between space and place. I love the sympathy Stonewall Post Office displays toward the prairie environment honouring the horizon with great intentionality, the sensual textures of its natural stone cut from the local soil, its prominence and how comfortable the building looks, settled into the streetscape.

Stonewall Post Office bears federal and provincial heritage designation.

“Architects may come and architects may go and never change your point of view.” Watch a video featuring pictures of Frank Lloyd Wright creations while Simon & Garfunkel sing So Long Frank Lloyd Wright.

12 responses to “MB Heritage

  1. kerrin asmundson

    great site! i grew up in a 1912 mansard-roofed house (also originaly post office, it still stands, was occupied until 2001) in the village of elva (near melita) the little village still has a few of its original turn of the century houses, the orignal dance hall, and two of western canada’s oldest grain elevators.

    • Hi Kerrin, Thank you for the comment on my blog. And thanks for the heritage travel tip. I will definitely visit Elva this summer and try to capture its past for the blog. Best regards, Reid

  2. David Antoniuk

    Great Site! I just drove by the barn you have pictured that is near the base of Riding Mountain. It is still standing. And my 70+ cousin from Dauphin, who was my guide, told me she used to work for the family that owned that farm. They were apparently very nice people.

  3. Wayne Bissky

    As a homesick Manitoban I enjoyed your blog very much, especially the sense of place you are capturing, especially with a focus on the people. While still living there , as we drove down the highway, I would ponder the abandoned and overgrown homesteads. They seemed melancholic reminders of dreams hitting hard reality. Why did this family make it and their neighbour not? Where did they go?



  5. I have come across your site and love old buildings. watched a couple already and will watch more. I am from Winnipeg but have lived in Vancouver now most of my life.

  6. follow up, I did belong to this site and must have forgotten about. great to find again.

  7. Susan Mitchell Church.

    Me again. I took the Stockton ferry over to the north side of River and then accessed the Criddle/Vane house by driving along a very narrow sand road/pathway. Thanks for reminding me.

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