Historic Sites of Manitoba: Osborne Theatre (108 Osborne Street, Winnipeg)
Located on the east side of Osborne Street in Winnipeg, this theatre was designed by the Montreal-based firm of Ross & MacFarlane, which maintained a local office managed by Herbert B. Rugh. The building was commissioned by the Osborne Street Theare Company, lead by President Edmund Bourke, Treasurer William J. Williamson, and Managing Director Bruce Eggo. Construction began around October 1912 and was overseen by Carter-Halls-Aldinger. The three-storey structure measured 100 feet deep with 44 feet of frontage along Osborne, with the front elevation featuring ornamental plaster and stucco over the brick surface. Its interior was of a Chicago decorative style, and the initial seating configuration allowed for 600 people. It was completed at a cost of $30,000, with opening night held around mid-December 1912.
By October 1913, the capacity was found insufficient so a balcony was added to accommodate 200 more patrons. In 1914, three rental apartment suites were developed in the top floor. The theatre operated during the First World War until being destroyed in a fire on 12 December 1917. The blaze wrecked the theatre and residential units, leaving some $75,000 to $80,000 in damages. The property was sold at a mortgage auction in October 1918 and acquired by Raymond Kershaw of Kershaw Theatre Limited (KT).
Kershaw set about rebuilding the gutted Osborne Theatre, commissioning $15,000 in repairs, and announcing a re-opening in March 1919. In the end, the restoration project totalled $60,000 and included two Simplex projection machines and a radium gold screen. Seating in the new facility, between the ground floor, second floor horseshoe balcony, and two luxury boxes (each of which seated 15) was 1,000 people. It was reopened officially on 10 March 1919, and Kershaw and his family took up residence on the top floor. Under the KT brand, Ramyond owned and operated the premises into 1931, when he moved to British Columbia and negotiated for the property to be operated by the Famous Players Canada Corporation. His son Frank continued to reside in the upper suite before KT sold the premises to Famous Players in 1936, at which time the residential unit was vacated. The Osborne Theatre operated into the mid-1950s and was purchased by the realty firm of Aronovitch & Leipsic.
The Elks of Canada (Winnipeg Branch No. 10) purchased the site in October 1958 and began to transform it into a clubhouse, with executive office space, kitchen and catering facilities, as well as a dance hall, games room, and locker rooms. The first $45,000 in renovations involved the removal of over 200 tons of brick, plaster, and material from the structure, with a total $135,000 earmarked for the full project. In later decades, it has seen a variety of commercial and retail occupants, and was an American Apparel outlet (2008-c2017) until being converted into a fitness centre.
Photos & Coordinates
City of Winnipeg Building Permit 3173/1912, City of Winnipeg Archives.
“Theatre for Osborne Street,” Winnipeg Tribune, 20 August 1912, page 1.
“The “Osborne” picture theatre,” Manitoba Free Press, 16 November 1912, page 13.
“Storage and offices to rent,” Manitoba Free Press, 19 December 1912, page 28.
“Music and Drama [The Oborne],” Manitoba Free Press, 26 December 1912, page 9.
“Osborne theatre,” Manitoba Free Press, 18 January 1913, page 8.
“Osborne theatre,” Manitoba Free Press, 22 January 1913, page 8.
“The new Osborne Theatre in Fort Rouge [...],” Manitoba Free Press, 22 January 1913, page 8.
“Big crowds at Osborne Theatre,” Manitoba Free Press, 4 October 1913, page 8.
“Picture theatre directory,” Manitoba Free Press, 4 October 1913, page 8.
“Untarnished shield,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 January 1915, page 16.
“The Osborne Theatre,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 May 1915, page 13.
“Boost for Fort Rouge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 May 1915, page 13.
“The Osborne,” Winnipeg Tribune, 22 January 1916, page 23.
““Unseen hand” critises film stores in vault,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 March 1917, Churches-Movies-Drama Section page 2.
“Theatre block prey to flames,” Manitoba Free Press, 13 December 1917, page 8.
“The City [A fire at the Osborne Theatre],” Brandon Daily Sun, 13 December 1917, page 3.
“Soldiers wives and children escape flames,” Brandon Daily Sun, 13 December 1917, page 6.
“Mortgage sale of valuable city property,” Manitoba Free Press, 12 October 1918, page 7.
“Local notes [The Osborne Theatre],” Manitoba Free Press, 10 January 1919, page 8.
“Opening of new Osborne Monday,” Manitoba Free Press, 8 March 1919, page 23.
“Leaving to reside in B.C.” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 23 May 1936, page 8.
“Looking them over [There will be regret that Raymond Kershaw ...],” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 23 May 1936, page 8.
“Here, there and Hollywood,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 December 1952, page 5.
“‘Distorted’ operas on view at Osborne,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 December 1954, page 19.
“Commercial building - Osborne Theatre,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 September 1957, page 22.
“Elks convert theatre into posh clubrooms,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 February 1959, page 8.
“Flood sale!” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 August 1984, page 14.
“New retailers pump up area,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 May 2008, page B6.
“Steakhouse franchise expands in Manitoba,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 August 2017, page B4.
Henderson’s Winnipeg and Brandon Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.
We thank George Penner for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 11 July 2022