Winnipeg's strategic geographical location made it the natural focus for the western extension of the transcontinental railways. With the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1885), the city was launched into a period of growth and prosperity unequalled in Canadian urban development. A flood of immigrants, high wheat prices, plentiful capital and improved dryland farming all contributed to sustained growth. The city became the wholesale, administrative and financial centre of the West. By 1911 Winnipeg ranked fourth in Canada in manufacturing.
This meteoric rise had peaked by 1914, when the city entered a recession. The WINNIPEG GENERAL STRIKE (1919) left scars, and the GREAT DEPRESSION plunged business, manufacturing, wholesale trade and the mail-order business into sharp decline. Factories closed and unemployment soared. Not until World War II did the city lift out of its stubborn depression. Conditions improved greatly in the postwar years, but growth was slow and steady compared to the frenzied pace earlier this century.
In the interim, the development of oil, natural gas, coal and potash shifted economic power westward. Winnipeg's previous monopoly on the marketing of agricultural products and distribution of goods was challenged by other Prairie cities. However, the city's traditional resources have sustained its commerce and its position as one of the largest cities on the Prairies.
River lots and fur trade routes shaped early street patterns, and later the dominant feature was the railway, which physically divided the city in 2: the "North End" was the home of most of the city's Slavs and Jews; the prosperous and politically dominant Anglo-Saxons were concentrated in the west and south. Commerce centred at Portage Avenue and Main Street, and after 1886 industry moved from the riverbanks to the rail lines.
Early ARCHITECTURE was in the indigenous form, called "Red River Frame," composed of vertical and horizontal logs. Early public buildings and better houses were built of limestone in imported styles, and after the railway arrived, Winnipeg began to resemble other cities of the time. Prosperity brought greater pretensions, notably the famous "gingerbread" city hall, a picturesque Victorian fantasy built in 1886 and demolished in 1962. Much of the city had to be rebuilt after the disastrous Red River Flood (1950). In 1968 a floodway dubbed "Duff's Ditch" after former Manitoba premier Duff ROBLIN was opened to protect the city from such disasters. The floodway has been tested many times since (such as in 1997) and has proven to work well.
The first major shopping centre was built in 1959, and during the 1960s and 1970s Winnipeg changed steadily, though not as dramatically as places like CALGARY. Nonetheless, almost the entire urban landscape was remade. New industrial parks housed relocated industries. A new city hall, convention centre and a Centennial Centre, including a planetarium, concert hall and museum, were completed. Numerous high-rise hotels, banks and office buildings altered the skyline, and industries relocated to new industrial parks.
More major changes occurred during the late 1980s when a stretch of downtown Winnipeg's famous Portage Avenue was dramatically remade with new office and apartment buildings, a major shopping mall and enclosed pedestrian bridges which connected much of the downtown. Government and private funds were also used to redevelop many areas, including Chinatown in downtown Winnipeg, the Italian quarter along Corydon Avenue and downtown's Exchange District, one of the most historically intact turn-of-the-century warehouse areas in North America.
When the 3 government levels revitalized the Canadian National Railway East Yards to open The Forks, the waterfront was opened to Winnipeg for the first time in decades and "The Forks" became the nucleus of 128 km of interconnecting walkways which wind through Winnipeg. Plans for more riverwalks are being developed. The Forks also contains numerous shops, restaurants and cultural facilities.
Winnipeg changed in several distinct stages from a small, compact, ethnically homogeneous community to a large, sprawling, cosmopolitan city. With the exception of a sharp increase in the early 1880s, growth was steady and resulted primarily from immigration from Britain and Ontario. These early immigrants established a dominance that persisted until after 1945, despite the arrival of other groups. In contrast, the growth from 1900 to 1913 was phenomenal, and by 1911 Winnipeg was the third-largest city in Canada. Rapid growth placed strains on the city, which faced serious problems of public health and the provision of services.
But the most serious problem was the conflict of values between the charter groups and the immigrants, many of whom were Slavs and Jews who did not fit into the Anglo-Canadian mold and as a result experienced overt discrimination, ranging from residential segregation to job discrimination and destruction of their property. A deeply prejudiced majority saw the immigrants as a threat, and by 1920 Winnipeg was a city of isolated and frequently bitter ethnic groups. Tensions eased as immigration declined during the period 1920-60 and as natural increase played a greater role. The decrease in hostilities was apparent when Stephen JUBA, a Ukrainian, was elected mayor in 1956. Juba was joined by increasing numbers of other non-Anglo-Saxons on city council and also in other public positions.
After 1960 the population of the city proper actually declined as surrounding municipalities grew. In 1972, Winnipeg and these municipalities were unified into one city, dubbed "Unicity," which also included the large concentration of Francophones from ST-BONIFACE. In recent years, Winnipeg's population has generally increased slowly.
Winnipeg has become more cosmopolitan with each succeeding decade and is now one of Canada's most ethnically diverse cities. By the 1990s, the city's Francophone community was declining slightly, but the aboriginal community was Winnipeg's fastest growing population. Other major ethnic groups include SOUTHEAST ASIANS, SOUTH ASIANS and POLES.
Winnipeg dominates Manitoba's economy, containing 55% (1996c) of the provincial population and 65% of its labour force, producing most of its manufactured goods and accounting for more than two-thirds of its retail sales. It is still pre-eminently a transportation centre, with extensive rail and air links, the head offices of several major Canadian trucking firms and the Canadian Air Force headquarters, Air Command. However, the economy has diversified with strong manufacturing and export industries which protect it from boom-or-bust cycles and create a stable, albeit slower-growing economy. Recently there has also been growth in MEDICAL RESEARCH, health care industries, TELECOMMUNICATIONS and information-processing companies.
Still the headquarters for Canada's grain industry, it is home to the country's only commodity exchange (see WINNIPEG COMMODITY EXCHANGE). Winnipeg has also retained some of its prominence as a financial and insurance centre. All 3 levels of government are major employers but in recent years have reduced staff due to budget restraints.
The city has a long tradition of "boosterism." In 1906 the Winnipeg Development and Industrial Bureau was organized to promote manufacturing and commerce. It became the Industrial Development Board (1925) and operated until 1979, when Winnipeg Business Development Inc was formed to attract high-technology industry to the city. In 1991, Winnipeg 2000 Economic Development Corporation was established as an arm's-length agency that encourages economic and business development.
Government and Politics
Until 1920 Winnipeg was governed by a mayor and 14 aldermen from 7 wards. In 1920, after the general strike, the ward system was, in effect, gerrymandered by business interests to prevent labour representatives from gaining control of city government. The move worked, for although a few radical mayors and aldermen were elected, the so-called "Citizens' League" retained a majority on council. The powerful Board of Control, created in 1907, was representative of the URBAN REFORM movement of the time. The mayor and 4 controllers, elected annually, carried out the executive work. The board was disbanded in 1918.
The next attempt at reform did not take place until the 1960s when Winnipeg was moved into the forefront of North American cities by first creating a metropolitan form of government and then moving to a unified, single level of government. Although the division of the region into a number of separate jurisdictions made it difficult to provide services and administer community affairs, it was not until the 1950s that the first step was taken towards REGIONAL GOVERNMENT. In 1960 the Metropolitan Winnipeg Act was passed, creating a new alignment of 7 cities, 5 suburban municipalities and one town.
The Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg was given sole authority over planning, zoning, building, flood control and transportation, which made many of the municipalities unhappy. In 1972 through the formation of Unicity, the provincial government replaced the area municipalities with a 51-member city council that controlled an urban territory with a population of 550 000. With the formation of Unicity, Winnipeg became the first large North American city to move beyond the stage of split-level metropolitan government to a single administration.
The original Unicity format has been studied extensively, resulting in further reforms, such as the reduction of the council size from 51 to 30 part-time members including the mayor. In 1992, following the recommendations of the Winnipeg Wards Boundaries Commission, the provincial government further amended The City of Winnipeg Act to significantly redefine the city's political structure. Ward boundaries were again changed, and the council was reduced to 16 full-time members, including the mayor.
Long a major cultural centre of the Prairie provinces, Winnipeg holds a reputation as a thriving community of literature, sport, religion, ethnic organizations, music, education and art. It has a thriving writing community with such internationally recognized authors as Carol SHIELDS and Sandra BIRDSELL. Many early novels were also either set in Winnipeg or written by novelists who had lived in the city, including Jack Ludwig, John Marlyn, Dorothy LIVESAY, Adele WISEMAN, Margaret LAURENCE and Patricia Blondel.
Winnipeg is the home of the acclaimed ROYAL WINNIPEG BALLET and of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which has the world's largest INUIT sculpture collection. The city's strong theatre community includes one of the most important regional theatres in North America, the MANITOBA THEATRE CENTRE, and Rainbow Stage, Canada's oldest continuously operating outdoor theatre, as well as several other theatre companies and the annual Fringe Festival.
Home to the WINNIPEG SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, the Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers, the Manitoba Opera Association and Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Winnipeg also hosts several annual festivals, including the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, Folklorama and the famous Winnipeg Folk Festival, held just north of the city. A strong film community includes both the internationally renowned Winnipeg Film Group and the Animation Centre of the NATIONAL FILM BOARD.
The Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, Provincial Archives, the Royal Canadian Mint and Lower Fort Garry (see FORT GARRY, LOWER), a historic restoration located north of the city, and the new interactive Manitoba Children's Museum at The Forks are also major attractions.
In sports Winnipeg is noted especially for curling and football. Its rinks won the Canadian curling championship at least 12 times between 1928 and 1993, and in 1991 hosted the World Curling Championship. The WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS won the GREY CUP 10 times between 1935 and 1993. In 1972 the WINNIPEG JETS joined the World Hockey Association, and then the National Hockey League in 1979, but 1995-96 was their last season in Winnipeg. The team was sold and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Winnipeg hosted the fifth Pan-American Games in 1967 and again in 1999. Other amenities include the Assiniboine Park Zoo and an extensive park system.
The UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA (founded 1877), the UNIVERSITY OF WINNIPEG (founded 1871, as Manitoba College), St-Boniface College (founded 1818) and more recently Red River Community College, Concord College, Catherine Booth College and Providence College are located in Winnipeg. There are several special educational facilities, such as the Manitoba School for the Deaf and South Winnipeg Technical Centre, and a variety of synagogues and cathedrals. The city has 2 newspapers, the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS (founded 1872) and the Winnipeg Sun (founded 1980), plus several TV stations and local radio stations.
Author ALAN F.J. ARTIBISE
Alan F.J. Artibise, Winnipeg: An Illustrated History (1977); Artibise and E.H. Dahl, Winnipeg in Maps, 1816-1972 (1975); Artibise and G.A. Stelter, Canada's Urban Past: A Bibliography and Guide to Canadian Urban Studies (1981); R.C. Bellan, Winnipeg's First Century: An Economic History (1978); T.J. Kuz, ed, Winnipeg, 1874-1974: Progress and Prospects (1974); P.L. Sloane et al, Winnipeg: A Centennial Bibliography (1974); T.R. Weir, Atlas of Winnipeg (1978).
Links to Other Sites
The official website for the City of Winnipeg.
Check out the latest news and events at the Rainbow Stage, Winnipeg's famous outdoor theatre.
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
The website for a museum devoted to history of Pier 21 in Halifax, once the primary point of entry for immigration to Canada. Check out the virtual exhibits, lesson plans, and online copies of "The Passport" newsletter.
View a brief video about three Canadian soldiers from Winnipeg who earned the Victoria Cross in the First World War. A Heritage Minute from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related lesson plans.
Watch the Heritage Minute which reveal's A.A. Milne inspiration for his classic childhood story, "Winnie-the-Pooh." From the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related learning resources.
Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
The website for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Features their current performance calendar, a biography of their music director, information about educational programs, a brief history, and a link to the "Musicians of the Winnipeg Symphony" website. Check out the extensive "Teacher's Guide," an introduction to classical music (a PDF document).
Geographical Names of Canada
Search the "Canadian Geographical Names Data Base" for the official name of a city, town, lake (or any other geographical feature) in any province or territory in Canada. See also the real story of how Toronto got its name. A Natural Resources Canada website.
Carlton Trail - First Western Highway
Check out the colourful history of the Carlton Trail, the first highway west of Winnipeg. A Manitoba Historical Society website.
The Murals of Winnipeg
An extensive searchable database of Winnipeg's colourful outdoor murals.
The Société Historique de Saint-Boniface
The Heritage Centre conserves and promotes resources which have cultural, heritage, judicial, and historical value; the product of Francophone presence in Western Canada and Manitoba for over the past 250 years. Their website is a great source for information about Louis Riel, Le "Voyageur," and other Manitoba history topics.
The website for Travel Manitoba highlights popular tourist destinations and events throughout the province.
The Winnipeg Foundation
Canada's first community foundation offers grants to local projects concerned with the arts, heritage, education, health, and environmental issues.
Check out the multimedia portfolio of Patkau Architects, one of Vancouver's leading architectural firms. Projects vary in scale from gallery installations to urban planning, from houses to major urban libraries, from glassware and furniture design to research into sustainable practice and the future of educational technologies. Their website also provides an extensive bibliography and list of awards.
Winnipeg Music Festival
The official website for the internationally renowned Winnipeg Music Festival. Check out the extensive listing of previous award winners.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
The Société franco-manitobaine supports and promotes programs that preserve and enhance French language and culture in Manitoba.
Prairie Visionaries: Guy Maddin and the Winnipeg Film Group
Radio and TV media clips featuring Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin and the Winnipeg Film Group, a filmmakers' co-op that has brought global acclaim to many Manitoba moviemakers. From CBC Archives.
The Manitoba Museum is the province’s largest heritage centre renowned for its combined human and natural heritage themes. The institution shares knowledge about Manitoba, the world and the universe through its collections, exhibitions, publications, on-site and outreach programs, Planetarium shows and Science Gallery exhibits.
A review of “My Winnipeg,” Guy Maddin’s award-winning “docu-fantasia" film about his home town. From the media news source “Variety.”
Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives
Check out the digitized archival images of Canadian cities and more at this website for the Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives.
Manitoba: Life and Times
A great information source about Manitoba's history and its many noteworthy pioneers. Features an extensive online archive of newspapers, first-hand accounts from letters, memoirs and diaries, drawings, maps and photos - all of which record the early development of the province. From the Manitoba Library Consortium and its partners.
Public Markets Ltd.
A brief history of the Union Stock Yards, established by Public Markets Ltd. in the City of St. Boniface to provide a marketplace for Manitoba livestock producers. From the website for the University of Manitoba Libraries.
Winnipeg Tribune fonds
The material in the Winnipeg Tribune fonds pertaining to the Canadian Wartime Experience includes newspaper clippings and photographs of subjects relating to a number of conflicts including the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. From Archives & Special Collections, University of Manitoba.
A brief history of Old Pinawa and the construction and operation of the nearby hydro-electric development of the Winnipeg River.
Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts
The website for the historic Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts, which was known previously as the Walker Theatre and the Odeon Cinema. Click on the links on the left to see a history of this landmark Winnipeg venue, and a photo archive including images of the impressive theatre interior.
Panoramic Maps: Canadian
Click on the map to select historical panoramic maps of various Canadian locations. Use the "zoom" function for close-up views. From The Library of Congress in the US.
“Kootenai” Brown in the Red River Valley
A biography of frontiersman John George ‘Kootenai’ Brown, who became the first Park Superintendent of Waterton Lakes National Park. From the website for the Manitoba Historical Society.
Charles Arnold Barber
A biography of Charles Arnold Barber, architect, inventor, and convicted extortionist. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Manitoba Military Aviation Museum
Check out the virtual tour of the Manitoba Military Aviation Museum.
Official Winnipeg Jets jerseys unveiled
Watch a video clip of a press conference that introduced the official 2011 - 2012 Winnipeg Jets jerseys. From YouTube.
Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport
See a CBC slide show featuring scenes of the new terminal at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.
Historical Walking Tours in Manitoba
Peruse this collection of walking tours that highlight the history and heritage of various Manitoba communities. From the website for the Manitoba Historical Society.
Citizens Hall of Fame
An organization devoted to recognizing individuals whose contributions have enhanced the City of Winnipeg.
Winnipeg Art Gallery
This site offers a brief overview of the growth and development of the Winnipeg Art Gallery's art collections. See also a photograph of the distinctive art gallery building designed by local architect Gustavo da Roza.
The Red River Flood of 1950
Detailed accounts of Red River flooding in the Winnipeg region. From the Manitoba Historical Society.
A description of the Red River and its role in the settlement of the Canadian West. Click on the links at the bottom of the page for more information. From the Canadian Council for Geographic Education.
The website for Jane’s Walk, a network of free walking tours that explore the quality and livability of local neighbourhoods based on ideas espoused by Jane Jacobs. Click on "The Community" to access the latest news and photos on their blog and more. Also, check out "Find Your Walk" for maps and descriptions of local walks throughout the country.
Red River Cartes de Visite
View a collection of vintage photos of Louis Riel and the Red River settlement. From the University of Manitoba Libraries website.