111 Middle Gate today (CBC)
On Sunday September 18, between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Winnipeg's Armstrong's Point neighbourhood is hosting a house and walking tour. Affectionately known as the Gates, Armstrong's Point is an urban jewel situated minutes from downtown Winnipeg.
Homeowner Leon Johnson has lived in Armstrong's Point since 2001. SCENE asked him to share his family's story about transforming their home and ultimately preserving a piece of Winnipeg's history.
Ten years ago, we didn't buy a house. We bought a project. 111 Middle Gate in Armstrong's Point was built in 1913. Over the years it had been - shall we say - transformed. By 1956, this single family home had become the residence for six families and two boarders. According to Winnipeg City code, this was five more families than was allowed and so the owner was fined.
For nearly forty years prior to the start of our new project, the three story brick home had been owned by the Oblate Fathers. It had evolved into an office building, a desk in every room. There was no real functioning kitchen, although there were three small dated kitchens and a couple of partial ones leftover from its rooming house era.
We had been looking for a larger home for some time. We liked the Armstrong's Point neighbourhood and we stumbled upon the house by accident minutes after it had gone on the market. Despite the old stained, multi-coloured indoor/outdoor carpet glued to the floor everywhere (including under the furnace), along with the non-functional water system and inadequate electrical, we put in our offer immediately.
We took possession in September that year, moved in in November (to the third floor only), removed seven sinks and 4000 square feet of carpet and finally were able to use the first floor in May. You'll be pleased to know that the entry no longer has a speckled blue ceiling, and original oak hardwood floors greet our guests. See some before and after photos below.
One day I decided to check out the ceiling in the dining room. My cell phone rang so I went outside to hear better. Moments later, I heard a loud bang and saw a cloud of white. The dining room ceiling had fallen to the ground! Other ceilings followed suit. Each time, our lives were spared. We saw this as a sign. A sign to continue to restore the home as a great place to live and raise our son and also pass along some of the 1913 vision of life in the Gates.
After all, we finally had enough wall space to hang our art. We could build a kitchen from scratch. Our new home was like a blank canvas to us.
Renovations continue and will be going on long after we sell the house to the next family with an appreciation of living in a part of early 20th century Winnipeg history.
Leon Johnson (CBC)
This content is provided by Leon Johnson. The views expressed do not express the views of CBC. CBC is not responsible for this content.
Hear event organizer April Kassum on the Weekend Morning show with Keran Sanders Saturday September 17, at 7:15 a.m.