Historic Sites of Manitoba: Robertson Memorial Institute Building / Robertson House (650 Burrows Avenue, Winnipeg)
This two-storey brick and stone building at the intersection of Burrows Avenue and McKenzie Street in Winnipeg, across from the former Robertson Memorial Presbyterian Church, was designed by local architect John Hamilton Gordon Russell and built by contractor George Thomas Clark Halford. Completed in the fall of 1911, the building’s basement contained a gymnasium, showers and dressing rooms, lavatory, and heating plant. On the first floor was an office and a large clubroom. On the second floor was a lecture room that could be divided in two as needed, a kitchen for teaching domestic skills, and a suite for the janitor.
The building was the home for the Robertson Memorial Institute that offered educational, social, and recreational activities to girls, boys, and women of the adjacent church under the supervision of three church deaconesses. Up to 100 girls belonged to one of three clubs: Busy Bee Club for those aged six to ten, Sunshine Club for those aged ten to twelve, and Victoria Girls’ Club for older girls. Up to 150 boys were enrolled in a Dominion Boys’ Club. A mothers’ club of up to 35 women undertook sewing and knitting projects, and used the space for social gatherings.
Later renamed Robertson House, the facility offered youth programming for the community into the 1960s under the auspices of the United Church of Canada and the Children’s Aid Society of Winnipeg. In 1970, these organizations transferred responsibility for its operation to the Adult Education Centre of the Winnipeg School Division. Among its uses was a special junior high school for students who were unable to cope with the regular school system.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the building was offered for sale by the United Church. It was used by urban indigenous organizations into the late 1980s, and as a Buddhist temple from around 1990 into the late 2000s. By 2021, it had become a sixteen-bed safe house for children and youth living on the streets.
“Excavation completed,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 May 1911, page 5.
“Robertson Memorial Church dedication tomorrow,” Manitoba Free Press, 18 November 1911, page 51.
“Community goals concern of Robertson House in city,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 March 1971, page 74.
“Increased emphasis on adult education in ‘school of the second chance,’” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 August 1971, page 13.
“Coffee break,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 September 1972, page 69.
“Tenders,” Winnipeg Free Press, 23 November 1978, page 121.
“Tenders,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 November 1983, page 93.
“Billboard,” Winnipeg Free Press, 11 August 1990, page 37.
“Mystical Buddhist relics making stop in city,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 October 2007, page 22.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 17 January 2021