Advocating for Heritage
The Manitoba Historical Society tracks historically-significant buildings around our province that deserve to be preserved and better known. For Canada Historic Places Day on July 3rd every year, we announce our list of the ten most endangered buildings and other structures, in order from oldest to newest.
MOST THREATENED HISTORICAL STRUCTURES
Emerson Customs Building, 1868
This log building at the entrance to Emerson from Highway 75 was once situated on the west bank of the Red River. It is alleged that Louis Riel stopped here for the night when he was leaving Manitoba in 1870. It was known as the “Outport of North Pembina” when, in 1871, it became the first customs office for the newly established province of Manitoba. It was moved to this site around 1980, with intentions of eventually moving it near a newly constructed visitors centre. Those plans never came to fruition and, today, the building’s foundation is deteriorating and in need of restoration.
Winnipeg Hotel, 1881
One of the oldest surviving buildings in downtown Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Hotel was constructed on the west side of Main Street and opened for business by September 1881. The facility featured a restaurant and bar on the main floor and 60 beds on the upper two floors. Enlarged in 1882, 1901, and 1903, it operated as a hotel until closing in 2019. Other nearby historic buildings, including the Fortune Block and Macdonald Block, have been thoughtfully and fruitfully restored, and it is hoped that similar restoration awaits the Winnipeg Hotel.
Leacock House, 1882
This 2½-storey brick building overlooking the Red River was constructed in 1882 for politican and con man Edward Phillip Leacock. In 1911, it was sold to the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (Soeurs du Bon Pasteur), who had come to the city that year to care for young girls who had passed through the juvenile court system. The facility would later become known as Marymound. In the late 1950s, the building was converted into a residence with other buildings around it as part of the Marymound complex. In early 2023, Marymound sought to demolish the municipally-designated historic building, arguing that it required costly repairs that the non-profit organization could not afford. The request was denied by the Winnipeg City Council but its future remains uncertain.
Craig Block, 1894
This building began its long association with Winnipeg’s Black community in the 1920s. In 1922, it became home to the meeting hall of the Order of Sleeping Car Porters. Locally organized in 1917, some believe it to be North America’s first Black union. It was later joined by the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Railway Porters’ Band of Winnipeg. The main floor was home to several Black businesses including Unity Pool Hall. It has been vacant since around 2018.
Stonewall Post Office, 1915
This one-storey stone building in Stonewall is Manitoba’s foremost example of Prairie Style architecture and the only known surviving example of Prairie Style institutional architecture in Manitoba. It was designed by Francis Conroy Sullivan (1882-1929), one of Canada’s pioneer practitioners of this style. The Dominion Department of Public Works built the building between 1914 and 1915 using locally quarried limestone. It served as a post office until 1978. Privately owned, the provincially-designated historic building is presently being offered for sale.
Steel Pony Truss Bridge, 1927
This steel pony-truss bridge, east of Beausejour, was constructed in 1927 by the construction firm of Macaw and Macdonald using materials provided by Manitoba Bridge and Iron Works. The bridge enabled the Trans-Canada Highway to span the Brokenhead River. Used on a daily basis by local traffic, it is the only steel bridge remaining on that original route, which is now a rough service road adjacent to Highway 44. Deterioration of its substructure warrants restoration work to keep this historic bridge in service for another century.
No. 12 Service Flying Training School Hangar, 1941
This massive aircraft hangar is situated on the east side of Brandon’s municipal airport. Built at a cost of about $1 million, the hangar was a component of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Under that Plan, military personnel from around the British Commonwealth were trained as aircraft crews. Opened in July 1941, the hangar is now occupied by the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, Canada’s only museum dedicated solely to preserving the Plan’s history and artifacts, including vintage aircraft and equipment. It is designated by the Manitoba government as one of its Signature Museums and is a municipally-designated heritage building. In 2022, damage to the hangar’s wooden roof trusses was discovered. It is estimated the essential repairs will exceed $6 million. Temporary repairs have enabled the museum to open for visitors this summer but work is needed to maintain this vital reminder of Manitoba’s contributions to the successful conclusion of the Second World War.
Brandon Sun Building, 1948
This two-storey building and attached warehouse in Brandon was built for the John Deere Plow Company, an agricultural implements manufacturing firm. In mid-1963, the building was sold to the Brandon Sun and occupied by the newspaper from 1964 to 2022. The main floor was used by the editorial department including news room, photographic library, composing room, press room, and mailroom. The second floor contained management and business offices, and the advertising, accounting, and circulation departments. In 2022, as part of the general decline in the newspaper industry, and with printing functions moved to Winnipeg, the Sun moved its editorial staff to office space elsewhere on Rosser Avenue. This building now stands vacant and a new use needs to be found. It has already sustained vandalism.
Pineland Forest Nursery, 1953
In 1953, the provincial government opened this tree nursery on a 128-hectare site alongside the Whitemouth River near Hadashville. Seedlings were shipped to forest sites around Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Minnesota, as well as to other government agencies, cottage associations, woodlot owners, Christmas tree growers, retail landscapers, utility companies, mining companies, soil conservation authorities, and the general public. In May 2018, the government announced plans to close the nursery by the end of the year, with speculation that its high-tech greenhouses and heat/electricity generating capability would be sold to another tree nursery or be converted to other horticultural ventures. None of these possibilities have come to fruition so the nursery has been vacant since 2019. The cutting-edge facility has sustained extensive theft and vandalism.
Manitoba Pool Grain Elevator, 1987
A 177-foot-high, 244,160-bushel concrete grain elevator near Rosser was built for Manitoba Pool Elevators to replace much smaller wooden elevators at Gordon and Bergen. Between 1985 and 1987, its massive silos were built using the slipform method, one of the first such elevators in Manitoba. In July 2020, Pool’s successor Viterra announced its intention to replace the elevator with a high-throughput facility that had five times the capacity, surrounded by a 1.6-mile loop track with room for 156 hopper cars. The massive new elevator opened in July 2022. The fate of this first-generation concrete elevator, now closed, is presently unknown.