New book explores demolished buildings, sites of Winnipeg's history

Old Winnipeg: A History in Pictures looks at places that once lined Winnipeg's streets but no longer exist — from a plant in Transcona that made explosives during the Second World War, to an amusement park that once called Wolseley home.

Old Winnipeg: A History in Pictures will have a virtual launch event through McNally Robinson on Oct. 24

The Transcona Cordite Plant, one of the places featured in Christine Hanlon's new book, stood from 1941 to 1945. People who worked there helped make explosives during the Second World War, Hanlon said. Those explosives were used to blow the building up after the war ended. (Submitted by Christine Hanlon/Manitoba Archives)

A book launching later this month shows a new side of Winnipeg by diving into its history.

"It was a real voyage of discovery," said local author Christine Hanlon, who spent hours combing through archives to find the more than 140 photographs that would make up her new book, Old Winnipeg: A History in Pictures.

Those photos are of places across the city that many won't recognize — because none of them exist anymore. But there's a lot to learn about Winnipeg by looking at the places that made it what it is today, Hanlon said.

The sites featured in the book range from the Transcona Cordite Plant (which stood from 1941 to 1945, helped manufacture explosives during the Second World War and was eventually blown up with its own explosives) to Happyland (an amusement park that was in Wolseley from 1906 to 1922) to the pontoon bridge that was in Assiniboine Park from 1912 to 1932.

"I'm very passionate about our province and I think we're very much underappreciated, so I'm trying to dispel that myth that we're just a very cold place," Hanlon told CBC Radio's Weekend Morning host Nadia Kidwai.

The Happyland amusement park existed in Wolseley from 1906 to 1922, Hanlon said. It's one of dozens of places featured in her new book, Old Winnipeg: A History in Pictures. (Christine Hanlon/Manitoba Archives)

The photos in the book are organized in chronological order by the date each site was destroyed, she said. Each comes with a bit of text explaining some of the story behind the structure that once stood somewhere in Winnipeg.

"They're almost like obituaries to them," Hanlon said of the pages, which start with Upper Fort Garry on Main Street and end with the Public Safety Building that stood in the city's Exchange District until it was torn down earlier this year.

"Every photo that I included in the book has, I think, a very interesting story and tells a part of Manitoba's story."

The building that graces the book's cover — the Industrial Bureau Exposition Building, which stood from 1911 to 1935 — was one of the first Hanlon found during her research.

The building was "the Convention Centre of its day," she said, and housed everything from the city's first art gallery to the headquarters for the Citizens' Committee of 1,000, an anti-strike group during the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

This pontoon bridge was in Assiniboine Park from 1912 to 1932, Hanlon said. (Submitted by Christine Hanlon/Manitoba Archives)

It's an example of a theme that Hanlon said came up a lot in her research: how often the city evolves.

"It reminded me how Winnipeg is constantly reinventing itself," she said, noting Bell MTS Place (which stands on the site of the demolished Eaton's department store) and the former Public Safety Building site (which will soon be home to the mixed-use Market Lands redevelopment) as more recent examples.

"This is a city that is very strong," she said, "just like the people that are in it."

Hanlon's book is having a virtual launch on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. on Zoom. People who want to watch live need to register through McNally Robinson, though the event will also be available to view on YouTube.

With files from Nadia Kidwai