Historic Sites of Manitoba: Winnipeg Hydro Substation No. 3 (541 Waterfront Drive, Winnipeg)
This Winnipeg property, located on the northeast corner of Waterfront Drive and MacDonald Avenue, was acquired by the city government in 1906 as the site for a substation to receive electrical power from the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company’s generating station on the Winnipeg River, the Pinawa Hydroelectric Power Dam. Designed by H. R. Eade and W. C. Eade, construction of the two-storey brick and stone structure began under the supervision of contractor John Saul in the late fall of 1906. The concrete foundation was laid before winter set in, with work resuming in spring 1907. Completed at a cost of $19,000, the 50 by 66 foot building opened around September 1907 when it was turned over to the City’s Electrical Department. Inside were transformers and controls for managing 2,000 streets lamps, along with lamp repair facilities and store rooms. Atop the building was a tall steel wire tower erected by Vulcan Iron Works.
Known as the May Street Sub-Station, the facility drew its name from the adjacent May Street which has since been renamed and incorporated into the much longer Waterfront Drive. When the the Pointe du Bois Generating Station came on-line in 1911, this building became one of three sites where power was bought into Winnipeg and, after being stepped-down at the Rover Avenue Electric Terminal, was distributed to local substations. It was here in October 1911 that Edward Gurney Evans, the four-year-old son of Mayor William Sanford Evans, officially pulled the first of 21 switches to release power to the area of Sherbrook, Maryland, and Crescent Streets. The ceremony continued as other municipal officials took turns lighting their own neighbourhoods.
While the original structure remains intact, the latter third of the building was added within a decade of its construction. The building was eventually decommissioned and converted for industrial and commercial uses. It is presently occupied by a labour organization and a wholesale distributor, with the top floor used as a private residence.
Photos & Coordinates
“Still another power proposal,” Manitoba Free Press, 12 June 1906, page 5.
“Winnipeg’s water supply,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 July 1906, page 1.
“Tenders for erection of warehouse, transformer house, etc., for Electrical Department,” Winnipeg Tribune, 22 August 1906, page 2.
“Tenders for switchboards, feeder regulators, etc.,” Manitoba Free Press, 20 April 1907, page 10.
“Tenders for iron wire tower,” Manitoba Free Press, 20 April 1907, page 10.
“Officials will resign,” Winnipeg Tribune, 15 April 1907, page 1.
“May Street Station,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 August 1907, page 11.
“Electrician’s annual report,” Winnipeg Tribune, 24 September 1907, page 7.
“Expenditure on municipal works,” Manitoba Free Press, 21 November 1907, page 19.
“Electrical Sub-Station,” Manitoba Free Press, 21 November 1907, page 19.
“Power Committee,” Winnipeg Tribune, 4 February 1909, page 2.
“Everybody had pull upon switches at power station,” Winnipeg Tribune, 17 October 1911, page 5.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 16 October 2023