Historic Sites of Manitoba: Salvation Army Citadel (221 Rupert Avenue, Winnipeg)
In December 1886, the Salvation Army arrived in Winnipeg, holding its first prayer meetings in an Opera House and later in a former Baptist church at the corner of Rupert Avenue and King Street. As the need for space outgrew the church, the building was demolished and the present structure was erected on the site. Plans were drawn by Toronto architect J. Wilson Gray and construction occurred between 1900 and 1901, with a cornerstone laid by R. J. Whitla on 15 June 1900. Completed at a cost of $12,000, the three-storey brick and stone structure contained a hall capable of seating 900 people, a smaller hall for 250 people, a band room, offices, and officer’s quarters.
The Salvation Army had three main areas of charitable work in Winnipeg: 1) maternity care (women’s rescue work and Grace Hospital), 2) immigrant aid, and 3) supervision of parolees and their families. In the early years, the Army employed homeless men to cut wood for sale as home fuel. By the 1950s, they also began working for the care and rehabilitation of alcoholics. The Citadel became the Harbour Light Centre for Alcoholics, a de-tox centre with hostel accommodation, counseling, and a soup kitchen. It also offered family services, a suicide prevention line, and missing persons tracking service. It offered disaster assistance during the 1950 Winnipeg Flood, a Christmas Cheer Board (now a separate agency), and Red Shield campaign to fundraise for the needy.
In 1961, new Salvation Army headquarters opened on Colony Street north of Portage Avenue. Harbour Light continued on Rupert Avenue until 1986, a century after arrival of the Salvation Army in Winnipeg, when the facility (now known as the Booth Centre) moved to a location on Henry Avenue. In 2002, the former Citadel, along with two other buildings on the same block, were bought by a local businessman and donated to an Indigenous environmental group that planned to redevelop them into “Canada’s most environmentally sustainable building.” An ambitious $5 million plan was announced in 2004, focused on the old Citadel building. In July 2004, a cleanup project funded by CentreVenture entailed the removal of “vast amounts of pigeon droppings.” About $100,000 was spent in cleanup work but, in 2006, the group was told by the City of Winnipeg that it had to spend thousands more to comply with a new bylaw aimed at thwarting arson in vacant buildings. They were required to repair its roof, install interior stairs, and cover holes in its floors. The cost of the proposed new facility had risen to $7 million. The costs may have been too much for the non-profit group and, as a result, the building was put up for sale in May 2010.
In June 2010, visitors to the building found extensive damage caused by two fires, and water used to extinguish them. Despite the earlier cleaning, pigeon guano was abundant and the smell was described as “atrocious.” Remnants of the two original halls were still visible. A large map of the globe on stage in the large hall showed Salvation Army facilities around the world. Sold in 2011, the new owner of the building refused to reveal their plans. It is believed the interior has been completely gutted and the building is an empty shell. However, municipal heritage designation protects it from demolition.
Photos & Coordinates
Salvation Army Citadel (221 Rupert Avenue), City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee, April 1982.
“Soldiering for souls,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 February 1986, page 51.
“A green rebirth for core eyesore,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 September 2002, page 13.
“‘Green’ group re-energizing old buildings,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 June 2004, page 19.
“Citadel cleanup to begin,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 July 2004, page 17.
“Chinatown facelift hits bylaw snag,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 July 2006, page 16.
[real estate listing], Winnipeg Free Press, 31 May 2010, page 25.
“Chinatown heritage site purchased,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 February 2011, page 26.
“Cleaners buy buildings,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 July 2011, page 20.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 17 May 2020
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