Memorable Manitobans: Jon Jonnson Vopni (1864-1956)

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Jon Jonnson Vopni
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Building contractor, printer, municipal official.

Born in Iceland on 4 September 1864, he immigrated to Canada in 1887 and worked for a time on construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway east of Winnipeg. He then worked as a builder in Winnipeg, where he was responsible for construction of many of the city’s first apartment blocks and numerous houses. He supervised the construction of all railway buildings between Winnipeg and Redditt, Ontario. At Gimli, he built the pier and was involved in building and selling cottages. He was in the real estate business until 1920 when he founded Art Press Limited. He managed the printing firm until late in his life, when it was taken over by his son Edward.

On 27 October 1893, he married Sigurborg Magnusdotter (1877-1957) at Winnipeg and they had eleven children: Aurora Vopni (1895-1993, wife of Harold Edward Ross), Anna Vopni (1897-1920, wife of Paul Bardal), John Arnthor Vopni (1898-1972), Magnus Bjorgvin “Bud” Vopni (1900-1989), Edward “Eddie” Vopni (1902-1992), Wilfred Herman Vopni (1904-1996), Rakel Margret Vopni (1906-1996, wife of Samuel R. Lloyd), Augusta Vopni (1909-1995, wife of James Alexander Clark), Wilfred Haldor “Bill” Vopni, Richard Leon Vopni (1913-1941), and Helen Jona Sigurborg Vopni (1915-2001). He served as a Winnipeg city alderman (1917-1918), a member of the Board of Governors for Winnipeg General Hospital (22 years), and was President of the First Lutheran Church for many years. He served as President of the Gimli Icelandic Festival in 1907 and 1919.

He died at the St. Boniface Hospital on 11 June 1956 and was buried in the Brookside Cemetery. At the time of his death, he lived at 597 Bannatyne Avenue. He was commemorated by Vopni Avenue until 1982 when the street was renamed Park Lane Avenue.

Some of his construction works in Manitoba included:





Johnson House (Thomas Herman Johnson)

633 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg


Demolished (?)

McKerchar Block (with Edward Cass)

600-602 Main Street, Winnipeg



Dingle and Stewart Warehouse (with Davidson Brothers)

263 Stanley Street, Winnipeg



Simonson House (Joseph Simonson)

540 Toronto Street, Winnipeg



First English Evangelical Lutheran Church

732 Ellice Avenue, Winnipeg


Demolished (1951)

Aurora Court

543 Ellice Avenue / 476 Langside Street, Winnipeg


Destroyed by fire (12 January 1977)


Birth, marriage and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

“Another new church,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 September 1905, page 5.

“Candidate for civic honours in Ward 4,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 December 1916, page 4.

“Ex-alderman J. J. Vopni dies at 92,” Winnipeg Free Press, 11 June 1956, page 5.

“John J. Vopni, 92, active in city,” Winnipeg Tribune, 11 June 1956, page 27.

“Early Icelandic builders in Winnipeg” by S. Aleck Thorarinson, Logberg Heimskringla, 30 March 1967, pages 4-5.

Obituary [Edward Vopni], Winnipeg Free Press, 14 November 1992, page 73.

Vopni family genealogy, Geni.

We thank Dorothy Mills and Jordan Makichuk for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 10 May 2024