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Manitoba Historical Society
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Manitoba Historical Society Announces Top-10 Endangered Structures for 2019

Each year, the National Trust for Canada identifies buildings and other structures around the country that are at risk “due to neglect, lack of funding, inappropriate development or weak legislation.” In 2019, two of the buildings on their list were located in Manitoba.

The Manitoba Historical Society tracks historically-significant buildings around our province that deserve to be preserved and better known. For 2019, we have started with the National Trust’s two buildings and added seven more (plus a rare, old bridge) to offer a top-10 endangered structures in Manitoba.

For Canada Historic Places Day on Saturday, 6 July 2019, we announce our list as follows, in order from oldest to newest.

For further information on other historic sites around Manitoba, visit the Historic Sites of Manitoba page on the MHS website.


York Factory Depot Building

York Factory Depot Building
Northern Manitoba

For centuries, a series of posts at the mouths of the rivers flowing into Hudson Bay played a major role in the operations of the Hudson’s Bay Company. First a major fur trading post, then a base for expansion into the interior, York Factory was the Company’s major centre in the early 19th century. Built between 1831 and 1838, the huge Depot Building is the oldest surviving wooden building in Manitoba. After almost 100 years of decline due to changes in the fur trade and its transport, York Factory closed in 1957. Designated as a site of national historic significance, the Depot is threatened by riverbank erosion and climate change that will eventually cause it to fall into Hayes River.


Kennedy House

Kennedy House
RM of St. Andrews

Built between 1866 and 1870 by master mason Duncan McRae using stones quarried from the banks of the Red River at the nearby St. Andrews Rapids (site of the Lock and Dam), Kennedy House has been described as “one of six most significant historical home sites in Manitoba.” Its first occupant was Arctic explorer William Kennedy. Rescued in the 1960s by a passionate history buff, Dr. Edward Shaw, who opened it to the public as a museum project for Manitoba’s 100th birthday in 1970, Kennedy House was designated as a provincial historic site in 1985. It became a tearoom in 2003, described in a national magazine as “one of the best places for afternoon tea in Canada.” Its proprietor was abruptly evicted in 2015 by the provincial government based on an unreleased engineering study that allegedly found serious structural deficiencies.


Elva Grain Elevator

Elva Grain Elevator
RM of Two Borders

This wooden grain elevator is believed to be the oldest of its kind in Canada. Constructed in September 1897 by the Lake of the Woods Milling Company, the elevator was upgraded with a new foundation and scale around 1950 but is otherwise intact and original. It became part of the Ogilvie Milling Company when, in 1954, the two companies merged but, for reasons unknown, the elevator retains the original company name painted on its side. Purchased in 1959 by the Manitoba Pool Elevators, it was closed in 1968 and sold to private interests. Now open to the elements and suffering significant structural deterioration, the elevator is an important reminder of Manitoba’s agricultural heritage.

UPDATE: This elevator was destroyed by an accidental fire in April 2022.


Leary Brickworks

Leary Brickworks
RM of Lorne

In the early 20th century, many towns around Manitoba had a facility for manufacturing bricks using local raw materials. The Leary Brickworks, the last remaining example in Manitoba, opened in 1901, producing up to 12,000 salmon-red bricks a day. Notable buildings constructed of Leary bricks include the Manitoba Legislative Building. Closed through much of the early 20th century, the plant was reopened from 1947 to 1953, and briefly in 1962. Remaining on the site are a towering brick chimney, a beehive kiln for firing green bricks at temperatures up to 1800°F, a three-storey-tall drying shed, and a building housing a shale crusher and brick press. All are in an advanced state of deterioration.


Rapid City Consolidated School

Rapid City Consolidated School
RM of Oakview

Designed by noted Brandon architect W. A. Elliott and built in 1902, the Rapid City School joined the consolidation movement of the mid 20th century when it combined an urban school with several rural one-room schoolhouses. After the school closed, it was used as a local museum and cultural centre, with a commemorative plaque on the grounds for former teacher and noted novelist Frederick Philip Grove. Closed around 2004, the former school became a municipally-designated historic site in 2014. Local plans to redevelop the building as residential and daycare space have not come to fruition.


Ninette Sanatorium

Ninette Sanatorium
RM of Prairie Lakes

At that time, effective treatments were not available to treat tuberculosis so TB sufferers were isolated from the general public and prescribed rest and good nutrition. The Ninette Sanatorium opened in May 1909 with buildings on a site overlooking Pelican Lake designed by architect W. H. Shillinglaw and built by contractor William Bell. Over the next several decades, the facility grew into the largest sanatorium in Manitoba, comprising over a dozen buildings. With medical advances through the 20th century, the sanatorium became obsolete and it closed in 1972. From 1973 to 2000, some of the buildings provided accommodation for intellectually-disabled people while others fell into disrepair and were torn down. After this facility closed, the remaining buildings were used as a Christian conference centre and retreat. All have been vacant since September 2007.


A. E. McKenzie Building

A. E. McKenzie Building

In 1910, the seed and grain business of A. E. McKenzie moved into a seven-storey concrete and brick office tower designed by architect Thomas Sinclair and constructed by the Brandon Construction Company under the supervision of Thomas Harrington. It was the first reinforced concrete building in Brandon and the city’s tallest building until 1973. A large concrete seed bin at the rear of the building was constructed in 1918. By the 1980s, it was Canada’s only national seed-packing plant and its largest distributor of garden seed, operating as a Crown corporation of the Manitoba government until December 1994 when it was sold to private interests. In 1996, the building became a provincially-designated historic site. The company moved into a new single-storey building few blocks away in late 2008 and the original building was sold to real estate developers. Plans to renovate the empty building into condominium units or, later, rental apartments have not materialized.


Rubin Block

Rubin Block

This three-storey building was built in 1914 on a design by noted architect Max Blankstein for contractor Reubin [Rubin] Cohen. The main floor hosted a branch of the Merchants Bank of Canada and shops for a barber and tailor. The upper two floors had residential apartments. The building had a succession of owners throught the early to mid 20th century and since the late 1940s by the Werier family. The building’s interior was damaged by major fires in 2007 and 2014, and has been empty since that time.


Turtle River Bowstring Bridge

Turtle River Bowstring Bridge
RM of Ste. Rose

Major highways throughout Manitoba began to develop in the 1920s and, in 1921, this bowstring bridge (named for the resemblance of its two graceful load-carrying arches to a bow) enabled the former Highway #5 (later relocated one mile to the east) to cross the Turtle River south of Ste. Rose du Lac. Once numbering in the dozens, there are presently only five bowstrings surviving in Manitoba, with two specimens at Clearwater and Ste. Anne having been demolished within the past few years. Being too narrow and lightweight for the passage of two vehicles simultaneously or for use by wide agricultural equipment and heavy trucks, these reminders of the transportation history of Manitoba are increasingly under threat.


Birtle Residential School

Birtle Residential School
RM of Prairie View

In 1894, a school for the accommodation and education of Indigenous children was built on a hill overlooking Birtle. It was replaced in the early 1930s by a three-storey brick and steel building constructed by the Claydon Brothers Construction Company of Winnipeg. Until 1943, students spent a half day in the classroom and the rest in vocational training. Boys worked at a farm on the grounds while girls learned domestric tasks such as sewing and cooking, and helped with the laundry. Operated originally by the Presbyterian Church in Canada, responsibility for the facility transferred to the Canadian government in March 1969. It closed in 1972 and the main building has been bought and sold several times. An attached principal’s residence was maintained for continued accommodation. Plans to develop the former school into a cultural centre were announced but the heavily vandalized and water-damaged structure has been vacant since closure.

See also:

Manitoba Historical Society Announces Top-10 Endangered Structures for 2020

Manitoba Historical Society Announces Top-10 Endangered Structures for 2021

Manitoba Historical Society Announces Top-10 Endangered Structures for 2022

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Abandoned Manitoba

Page revised: 1 July 2022

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