City & Politics

Winnipeg and St. Boniface, 1962

There is a tendency to view the distant past as something that existed in black and white. Most still and moving images we’ve seen from the time, in history books, Hollywood movies, and your grandma’s photo albums, show a world without colour. Colour, we think, was something they invented during the Carter administration.

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Of course, this is not actually the case, and although these photos of Winnipeg and St. Boniface (all found at the University of Manitoba’s Winnipeg Building Index) look like they have one of those weird Instagram filters no one uses, they still help add a little texture to the world that existed here 51 years ago.

Winnipeg (and its smaller sister city across the Red, St. Boniface) in 1962 was a place that was energized by an optimism not seen since before the 1914. Postwar prosperity and the promise of Modernity — particularly Modern planning and architecture as a catalyst for urban renewal — were two things that gave hope to the citizens.

However, all of this had yet to manifest itself physically to any significant degree, and central Winnipeg and old St. Boniface still looked much like they did at the outbreak of the First World War. This change would come later in the 1960s and 1970s, and these images show an old city that would soon disappear.

Portage Avenue looking east toward Main Street. The City of Winnipeg had removed the streetcar tracks seven years before, and much of the city’s transit fleet was made up of electric trolleybuses
Main Street near Portage Avenue. These graceful office buildings would be demolished in the 1970s to make way for the Trizec skyscraper at 360 Main
Portage and Main. Within a decade, most of what is seen here would be replaced by the Richardson Building and what is now the Fairmont Hotel
Main Street looking south near Bannatyne Ave. The Ashdown building seen here dates back to the 1880s, but by 1962 its exterior had become the subject of an unfortunate attempt at modernization. (The original facade was recently restored when it became the Crocus Building.)

Looking north on Main Street from Logan Avenue. This stretch of Main had something of a rough reputation in 1962 (as it had since the late 19th century), but its seedy element was still simply one part of its broader function as a secondary retail and entertainment strip. Looming in the background is the Royal Alexandra Hotel, which would close within five years, and be demolished in 1971
Princess Street and Elgin Avenue. The buildings in the foreground have been replaced by a parking lot
Rupert Avenue looking east from near Martha Street. In the background is the coal-powered plant that supplied steam heat to much of downtown Winnipeg. The plant has since been demolished to make way for condo development on Waterfront Drive. In the foreground are 19th century houses that were, by 1962, increasingly rare vestiges of the neighbourhood’s earliest days.
Henry Avenue looking west toward Martha Street. Rosh Pina, one of the oldest synagogues in the city, had by 1962 followed their congregation to suburbia, building a new structure in West Kildonan. The city’s drunk tank is located at this corner today
Main Street looking north from near Boyd Avenue. Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral had been completed a decade previously. Next door to it, a GM dealership sells the New Winnipeg Dream to the North End.
The Queen’s Hotel on Market Street near Princess Avenue. Within three years, the Queen’s and the rest of Market Avenue between Princess and Main would be lost to the Civic Centre urban renewal project
The Law Courts at Broadway and Kennedy Street. In the background, the recently-completed Norquay office building on York Avenue. Note the absence of the horribly garish tin-covered walkway across Kennedy
Christmastime rush hour on Portage Avenue near Vaughan Street. Winnipeg’s public policies and development patterns were almost entirely suburban by 1962, but most people in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba continued to shop on Portage Avenue, which still had a better concentration of retail than the shopping mall at Polo Park that opened three years earlier
The corner of St. Mary Avenue and Carlton Street, where the Delta Hotel is today. The tree-lined, residential character of the blocks between Graham and Broadway would be almost entirely wiped away in the 1950s and ’60s, replaced by modern urban renewal projects, massive surface parking lots, and wider roadways
The Provencher Bridge crossing into St. Boniface. At the time, St. Boniface was the second-largest city in Manitoba
St. Boniface’s city hall on Provencher Boulevard. St. Boniface would amalgamate with the City of Winnipeg and a dozen other municipalities in 1972
Looking across the Red River to Winnipeg from St. Boniface. Today, the view from this spot is much more dramatic, dominated by the Esplanade Riel, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and a cluster of modern skyscrapers



Robert Galston likes to write about Winnipeg, urbanism, and other very, very exciting topics. Follow him on Twitter @riseandsprawl

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