Updated: Feb 5
The community of Transcona has not been around forever - only 107 years in fact. Before Transcona was even a dot on the map, other communities and villages existed in the Springfield area with their own histories and identities. You may even know some of them by name: Suthwyn, Montavista, and North Transcona. Time and circumstance are not always kind to these settler communities, and only small vestiges of them remain today - if you know where to look. Join us as we remember the communities that time forgot.
Origins of South Transcona
There has been considerable discussion as to whether the original community of Transcona was to be developed in what is now the South Transcona area. Oral histories would argue that this was true, while recorded documents would argue otherwise.
South Transcona as Original Townsite
The land surveys of 1908 - 1910 reveal a well-designed community layout, with at least eight planned subdivisions. One report in the Manitoba Free Press claimed that 200 lots in South Transcona were sold by one firm in a "few weeks" in August 1913. This early real estate boom was supported by the rapid construction of wooden sidewalks, a hotel, a fire hall, a school, and a church.
Unfortunately, this area was low-lying and subject to periodic flooding in the spring. Drainage ditches were dug, and hundreds of loads of gravel were hauled-in and spread to a depth of 3 feet just to secure the foundation of the Shops. It was not uncommon for the streets to become"sticky mud" in the spring. By the end of the First World War, South Transcona's early activities came to an end while the town continued to develop north of the Transcona Shops.
A Battle over Transcona Boundaries
Shortly after the formation of the Transcona Board of Trade in 1911, discussions of incorporation as a town began. The initial plan did not include any property south of the railway shops because of increased costs related to fire, water, and sewage systems. Travel between north and south communities was also raised as an issue. Premier Roblin and his government favoured including both the southern region and the railway shops in the new boundaries and forwarded a plan to the effect. In 1912, the Law Amendments Committee of the Manitoba Legislature eventually decided that South Transcona and the Shops were to be included in the new Town of Transcona boundaries.
As the Winnipeg Tribune reported on the proceedings: "The people of Transcona have fought bitterly against the portion south of the shops being included but their efforts were futile." After the initial battle over boundaries, South Transcona witnessed a period of tremendous optimism and by 1913 included 241 residents.
South Transcona Subdivisions
The townsite of South Transcona was to have no less than eight named subdivisions. The electoral list of 1915 indicates that the majority of land lots in these subdivisions were purchased but remained undeveloped. This would change ultimately in the 1930s as many subdivision plans were cancelled through by-laws passed by the Town Council of Transcona. The electoral list of 1938 supports this development change as residents occupied the areas associated with present-day South Transcona.
The following were the originally planned subdivisions of South Transcona:
East Winnipeg Townsite - The majority of present-day South Transcona has been developed in this area.
Transcona Heights - In 1930 the plan for this subdivision was cancelled. Those residents who had purchased lots in the area were given new ones north of the Transcona Shops. This area has since been re-developed into the Transcona Golf Club.
Grand Trunk Place - In 1935 this subdivision was cancelled and many of the residents were given new lots in the former Parish of Kildonan. There are few houses in the area today. Buhler Recreation Park occupies the majority of this development.
Springfield Place - The plan for this subdivision was cancelled in 1936. The residents were given lots in the former East Winnipeg Townsite. Buhler Recreation Park occupies the majority of this development.
G.T.P. Town - Cancelled in 1930, the subdivision remains farmland along Plessis Road and St. Boniface Road.
Grand Trunk City - Cancelled in 1930, the original subdivision looks quite different today. Located at Dugald Road and Plessis Road, there are both private homes and condos that have been built in the area.
Grand Trunk Point - The smallest of all the subdivisions, the area remains farmland along St. Boniface Road.
Fire Hall #2
In 1912, the land was set aside in the Grand Trunk Place subdivision for a fire hall. This would be the second fire hall in Transcona and was located at Copeland Street and Rennie Avenue. Constructed for $5000 in 1914, the fire hall would remain in operation until 1930. The fire hall was equipped with two manually-drawn fire pumps and a ladder wagon. Allegedly, this equipment was never used. The equipment was later sold in 1933 in order to purchase new equipment for Fire Hall #1 (located on Victoria Avenue).
At the time of its closing in 1930, the Town Council of Transcona offered the building to be purchased as a schoolhouse, but the offer was never taken. In 1938 the fire hall was eventually sold to the Transcona Curling Club, who used the building materials in the construction of the former curling rink located at Day Street and Melrose Avenue East.
Springfield School No. 1569 / South Springfield School / South Transcona School
The Springfield School District was established in May 1911, and a two-storey four-classroom schoolhouse was built on Copeland Street in 1920. Prior to the construction of the school, classes were held in the Campbell home on McFadden Avenue. In the first year, there was an enrollment of 40 students from grades 1 to 5. By 1922 the curriculum was expanded to cover grades 1 to 11. In subsequent years secondary education for grades 9 to 11 was discontinued.
The original schoolhouse was replaced in 1955 by a new modern four-classroom building erected to the north of the first school. Enrollment for that year was 110 students from grades 1 to 8. The schoolhouse was closed in June 1969, as students were being bused to schools north of the Transcona Shops.
The former school building still stands at the site and is currently being used as a private residence.
Suthwyn United Church / South Transcona Church
Following the closure of the Suthwyn Presbyterian Church in 1916, the few remaining members of the congregation met for service in the Springfield School until 1925. That same year, the Dugald Methodist Church was purchased and moved to South Transcona along Copeland Street. The congregation of the new Suthwyn United Church (also known as the South Transcona Church) re-established church services and Sunday school for several years. In 1938, after dwindling membership, the church was officially closed. The frame building was eventually sold and relocated.
Transcona Railway Station
Constructed around 1910, the Transcona Railway Station was located south of the mainline at Plessis Road. The structure is classified as one of the National Transcontinental's distinctive 3rd class stations. There are only two of these types of stations still standing in Manitoba today, with the other located at Anola. The station design features a strong symmetrical roof with projecting hipped gable dormers and a characteristic second storey, although it's not clear whether it served as living quarters.
South Transcona Community Club
The South Transcona Community Club was first organized in 1919. Their first meeting place was in a hall previously used as a barbershop and pool room, located along Fuller Avenue next to the former Grand Trunk Hotel.** Within a few years, the club ceased operations, and the building was demolished. In 1927 the club was re-organized, and meetings were held in Central School. By 1958 the club purchased the present building at Borden Avenue.
**As an aside, according to local histories, the barbershop contained a single chair and failed as a business since most men in the community simply cut their own hair. Prices were recorded as 30¢ for a cut and 15¢ for a shave. Top wages for workers at the time were $2 for a 10 hour day.
Grand Trunk Hotel
There is little information on the Grand Trunk Hotel that was built in South Transcona along Fuller Avenue sometime in the 1910s. According to local histories, the hotel was a three-storey building with single and double room suites on the upper two floors. The main floor consisted of a large kitchen, a large dining room, a men-only parlour room, and a barroom. There were separate quarters on the main floor reserved for the hotel manager and his family. The Grand Trunk Hotel was demolished in the late 1920s following a period of decline.
In 1959, the Town Council of Transcona passed By-Law #148/59 which changed several of the original street names in South Transcona. A few of the other streets would be renamed in the early 1960s, but the rest would remain as they were originally penned in the first land surveys. Perhaps the most notable street in South Transcona was the original "Regent Avenue", which was renamed Webster Avenue. Other former streets included:
Selkirk Road = Symington Road
Mulvey Avenue = Goodyear Avenue
Ashland Avenue = Rennie Avenue
Campbell Avenue = Fuller Avenue
Flora Avenue = Vesel Avenue
Howard Avenue = Ried Avenue
Lorette Avenue = Murdock Road
Copeland Street = 1st Street
Taggart Street = 2nd Street
Interactive Map of South Transcona
Do you have stories and/or information on the community of South Transcona? If so, please leave a comment or contact the Transcona Museum, as we would love to hear them!
Thank you very much for following the "Communities that Time Forgot" series.
David Butterfield. Railway Stations of Manitoba: An Architectural History Theme Study. Historic Resources Branch of Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism, 1987. Accessed 1 February 2019.
Golden Jubilee Historical Booklet Editorial Committee. Transcona Golden Jubilee 1911-1961: 50 Years of Progress. Town of Transcona, 1961.
"Suthwyn United Church." MAIN – Manitoba Archival Information Network. Accessed 1 February 2019.
Town of Transcona By-Laws.
Town of Transcona Minutes.
Transcona Museum Archives.