Historic Sites of Manitoba: Masonic Temple / Mother Tucker’s Restaurant (335 Donald Street, Winnipeg)
Organized Freemasonry came to the Red River Valley in November 1864, over five years before Manitoba became a province and over two years before Canada became a nation. Initially the “Northern Light Lodge” was a branch of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, with John C. Schultz (protagonist to Louis Riel and later Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba) as Worshipful Master and A. G. B. Bannatyne and William Inkster as Wardens. In 1866, the lodge received its own charter from the Grand Lodge of Canada. In May 1875, the Grand Lodge of Manitoba, the governing body for all other lodges in the province, received its charter. By 1894, the Grand Lodge occupied space on the top floor of the Western Canada Loan and Savings Company Building at the north-west corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street. A fire destroyed the building on 16 November 1894.
The Masons decided to build their own building as a new home for the Grand Lodge of Manitoba. Excavation at the corner of Donald and Ellice began in July 1895 on what was described as the only Masonic Temple in Canada, and only the second in North America. The cornerstone was laid on 15 August 1895. In the basement of the three-storey brick and stone structure, designed by local architect George Browne, were offices, library, banquet hall and kitchen, two large vaults, janitor’s residence, lavatory, and furnace room. On the second floor were meeting halls, a general waiting room, and small rooms for educational purposes. More meeting rooms were on the third floor. A high-ceilinged attic was intended for storage and two rooms for drills.
In 1969, the Masons moved to a newly built facility at Confusion Corner. The old temple stood empty for a little over a year until, in September 1971, a restaurant and dance club called “The Rec Room” opened in it, featuring a “pulsating plexiglass dance floor.” This was the first use of the building by legendary Winnipeg businessman Oscar Grubert. Unfortunately, The Rec Room was not successful. Within five months of opening, Grubert reconfigured the operation and renamed it “GG’s Cabaret and Supper Club.” It fared only slightly better, closing after about two years. In April 1975, after renovations that included construction of a two-storey kitchen addition at the back of the existing building, it reopened as “Mother Tucker’s Food Experience.” The menu included such staples as prime rib, chicken, steak, shrimp and fish. All meals included “fresh baked bread, salad bar, whipped or scalloped potatoes, vegetables, fresh apple pie, and coffee, tea or milk.” The salad bar was a particularly noteworthy innovation, one of the first in the city, that made the restaurant popular for the next 25 years. In 1975, the Grand Lodge of Manitoba mounted a plaque on the building’s north exterior wall in commemoration of the first Masonic Temple building in Manitoba. In the 1990s, the high-ceilinged third floor was equipped with 110 theatre seats, a stage, and lighting for use in “bare-bones theatrical productions.”
Mother Tucker’s closed in 1999 then the building reopened as “Chris Walby’s Hog City,” a barbecue and sports bar named for the Blue Bombers player. It operated for less than a year. A Mexican-themed restaurant called “Blue Agave Tequilaria” closed at the end of 2003. The following year, the building was purchased by the owner of Pony Corral restaurants, who promised to restore the building to its former glory. On the outside, windows were replaced, bricks were sandblasted and repointed, and a new roof was installed. When workers turned to the interior, two problems were confronted. First, the building lacked an elevator deemed essential for any successful redevelopment of the upper floors, and second, the plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system were out-of-date. In early 2006, the developer gutted the entire interior, leaving none of the original structure.
An ambitious plan to develop the 16,000-square-foot interior for a restaurant, bar, professional offices, or retail space has not come to fruition so the building has sat empty for over a decade.
Photos & Maps
“A black Friday,” Manitoba Free Press, 17 November 1894, page 6.
“PLANS ADOPTED,” Manitoba Free Press, 16 May 1895, page 16.
“A MASONIC TEMPLE,” Manitoba Free Press, 10 August 1895, page 1.
[Public Notice - Champs Food Systems], Winnipeg Free Press, 1 February 1971, page 37.
[Advertisement - The Rec Room], Winnipeg Free Press, 1 October 1971, page 24.
[Advertisement - GG’s Cabaret and Supper Club], Winnipeg Free Press, 3 April 1972, page 16.
[Classified Ad] - Mother Tucker’s Food Experience], Winnipeg Free Press, 4 March 1975, page 33.
[Advertisement - Chris Walby’s Hog City], Winnipeg Free Press, 12 February 2000, page 79.
[Classified Ad - Blue Agave Restaurant and Tequilaria], Winnipeg Free Press, 30 November 2002, page 97.
[Classified Ad], Winnipeg Free Press, 22 September 2005, page 41.
“Temple tampering / Renovations to former home of Masons won’t please history buffs, but they will bring building up to code,” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 February 2006, page 77.
[Classified Ad], Winnipeg Free Press, 2 October 2010, page 148.
[Advertisement], Winnipeg Free Press, 6 April 2015, page 17.
Henderson’s Winnipeg and Brandon Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.
Commercial Use Building For Lease (335 Donald Street, Winnipeg), Colliers Canada.
Masonic Temple, Winnipeg Historical Buildings Inventory.
We thank Stan Barclay for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 14 January 2017
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