The Hudson's Bay Company has played a surprising role in Winnipeg's architectural past.
Abigail Auld is a graduate student in the University of Winnipeg's curatorial practices program and SCENE asked her to share some little known facts she's uncovered about the HBC:
The Hudson's Bay Company has existed in Winnipeg for quite some time - far longer than the city itself. Over the years the company has had an enormous influence on the shape of our city. From developing the first distinguishable neighborhood to being instrumental in constructing bridges and roadways, the HBC's lasting impact spreads beyond retail enterprise.
Ever wonder about the origins of downtown's grid street pattern? Or why the Princeton Apartments on Broadway look so posh?
Broadway looking east in 1900, prominent city businessman J.H. Ashdown's house on right. (AM-N4563-4)
Upon Winnipeg's incorporation in 1873, the HBC was the city's largest landowner. By implementing strict regulations, the company assured that its land between Broadway and Assiniboine became a desirable residential neighborhood for the upper-middle class.
And when these wealthy homeowners eventually moved to the newly developing suburbs at the turn of the century, luxurious apartment blocks were built here for the city's downtown professionals.
Any idea who built the first traffic bridges in Winnipeg?
The Main Street Bridge looking toward Upper Fort Garry (HBCA-1987-363-W-200-17a)
An HBC subsidiary, the Red River and Assiniboine Bridge Company Ltd., built the city's first two traffic bridges.
The Main Street Bridge (1881) crossed the Assiniboine River south of Upper Fort Garry. The Broadway Bridge (1882) connected Broadway to Provencher Boulevard over the Red River.
The Main Street Bridge was purchased by the city just a year after construction, but the Bridge Co. continued to operate the Broadway Bridge until 1909.
Have you ever noticed the emblem high on the front of the Keg Steakhouse on Garry Street?
Blueprint for the HBC Garage on Garry built by local architects Woodman & Carey (HBCA-RG1-87-47-9b)
The building was originally an HBC garage, built in 1911, for the HBC store on Main Street that closed when a new store opened on Portage and Memorial in 1926.
The emblem is a circular "HBCo." at the top centre of the blueprint and is still visible on the Keg.
Ever wondered how the HBC store, Memorial Boulevard, and the Legislative Building line up so well?
This 1925 plan is a copy of City Surveyor R.H. Avent's drawing, with annotations and watercolour added by the HBC Land Department (HBCA-RG2-7-419-sheet-2)
Planning for a grand boulevard began soon after the Legislative Building was completed in 1920.
Led by the City of Winnipeg, the proposed development required land owned by private citizens, the Province of Manitoba and the Hudson's Bay Company.
Many designs were considered before construction began on Memorial Boulevard in 1925. The HBC paid for public works improvements on both sides of its boulevard frontage.
The HBC store at Portage and Memorial then opened in 1926, at one of Winnipeg's most prominent corners to this day.
Abigail Auld's work at the Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba, has culminated in a project called WPGxHBC. Check out the window displays on Portage Avenue in the downtown HBC store and join Auld for a Jane's Walk walking tour Saturday, May 4th at 2 p.m. for WPGXHBC. The walk will trace important HBC sites from Main & Broadway to Portage & Memorial.
Related: Countdown to the Winnipeg Art Gallery's 100 Masters show.