Historic Sites of Manitoba: Winnipeg Public Docks / Alexander Docks (70 Alexander Avenue, Winnipeg)
Located along the western bank of the Red River in Winnipeg, this riverfront property was owned in the late 1920s by businessman William J. Guest of the Guest Fishing Company (GFC). At that time, the present-day Waterfront Drive was the Winnipeg Transfer Railway connecting the Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway lines. The federal government optioned this land in 1926 but did not purchase it from GFC until 20 August 1928, at a price of $2,500. The Federal Department of Public Works then sought tenders for construction of a wharf measuring 40 feet wide and 265 feet along the embankment, tapering to 235 feet along the river. It was intended to service government-owned and commercial vessel to replace the lesser-used Rover Docks. The winning bid was submitted by local contractor W. J. Holmes.
Construction started late in the year and carried over into the spring of 1929. To adequately accommodate vessels, the surrounding area was dredged to a depth of around 13 feet. The site was administrated by the Winnipeg and St. Boniface Harbour Commission and was intended to be the central hub for river traffic, serving government vessels, passenger ships, fishing boats, and tug-towed barges. The adjacent railway transfer line and road networks provided easy access to and from local businesses.
The first vessel to moor along the finished wharf was the the SS Swan of the Hadley Bjornson Fish Company, docking on 27 May 1929. Over the next few years, the site became known by the adopted title of Alexander Docks, taking its name from a nearby street. By 1932, the new name had gained widespread acceptance.
As both rail and road networks expanded and improved over the following decades, river traffic diminished accordingly, with vessels began increasingly based at Selkirk and Gimli. The last vessel of significance to dock here were the paddle-wheelers, and following their withdrawal from service, the dock went unused. The wharf, now owned by the City of Winnipeg, was closed in 2015 and remains fenced due to concerns over structural integrity and safety.
Photos & Coordinates
“On to the Bay chief pleased with government move,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 February 1928, page 9.
“City will be served by new public wharf,” Winnipeg Tribune, 20 August 1928, page 3.
“Local firm gets dock contract,” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 November 1928, page 20.
“New wharf ready when river opens,” Winnipeg Tribune, 15 March 1929, page 12.
“City hall sidelights,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 March 1929, page 7.
“First boat ties up at new government dock,” Winnipeg Tribune, 28 May 1929, page 7.
“Dredging operations begin at new government wharf,” Winnipeg Tribune, 29 May 1929, page 10.
“Steamer reaches here with cargo of fish,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 June 1929, page 1.
“A busy day at Winnipeg's waterfront,” Winnipeg Tribune, 25 June 1932, page 3.
“Here and there with the camera,” Winnipeg Tribune, 25 September 1933, page 3.
“The fleet is in,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 June 1938, page 5.
“Freighters unfold new saga of western mining,” Winnipeg Tribune, 29 September 1938, page 3.
“‘Round the Horn’ sailor ends river harbormaster career,” Winnipeg Tribune, 29 October 1948, page 5.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 15 May 2021