Opinion Column

A corner full of history

By Les Green, Special to The Graphic

There will be no classes in East Ward in 1915. (Submitted photo)

There will be no classes in East Ward in 1915. (Submitted photo)

While driving east on Saskatchewan Avenue the other day, I turned south onto Broadway --- that’s 5th Street East, you know ---when it struck me that there is a lot of old Portage in that first block south. The fact that I grew up just around the corner, as had my Dad before me, might be the reason for my reasoning. But as you may or may not know, the original business section of Portage was in that corner of what is our present-day spread-out city, and the name and extra width of Broadway must have signified some grand plans for its future, as evidenced by the many fine houses still there. (Yes, it is 99 feet wide compared to the ordinary street width of 66 feet.) 

It was in 1894 that East Ward School was built right there, a fine brick school to serve the students of of the east end. Right across the road was the Pratt Terrace that had once been a warehouse out on the Assiniboine River until it was rolled into town, after the steamships had been replaced by the railway, and made into a fine five-plex apartment block.

Now the school did not take up all of the block, and it was in 1893, on the south west corner, that Mr.Linden acquired enough land for a house and garden. He loved to grow beautiful flowers. It so happened soon after that the old Court House, which was farther south on Broadway, became our first hospital, and people passing-by started asking him for flowers to take to those who were ill. So he built some greenhouses and went into business.

It was in 1915 that the not-so-old school burned down and the new Victoria School rose from the ashes. Somewhere in the process, Mr.L. moved his greenhouses up to the corner of The Avenue, where he, and later his family, carried on the florist, car license and home decoration business for many years.

When my Big Brother started to attend Wolf Cubs in about 1930, meetings were held in a frame building called The Annex on the corner we are talking about. He reported that the roof always leaked  on Fridays. Eventually the story came out that it had once been part of the old St.Mary’s Anglican Church, the one before the present stone ediface that was built in 1899.  It had remained in use on 2nd Street S.W. till the Parish Hall was built in 1915, then moved to Broadway.  At least, that is the story; it was gone by the time I joined Cubs in 1934.

So the property to the south of the new school became the girls’ playground, where us boys were forbidden to set foot during school hours. Of course, we had our spacious play area on the north side of the school, complete with interesting things like the sewage ejection station --- The Power House, we called it. And then there were Saturdays and no fences.

Time rolled on, and the Terrace came down and was replaced by the Duchess Apartments.  The greenhouses at the corner disappeared when I was not looking. Victoria School no longer heard the reciting of the times-tables and the A-B-Cs, but came alive again in a few years as the Red River College.  Both sides of the latter now have paved parking lots, with the north side having lots of green grass and a new sewage building, while the south side sports a much-used playground for local children.

So there, what did I tell you? And drive carefully, for it is a busy street.....


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