History of the Site
Research was conducted into the historical usage of the Parker Lands site dating back to the time of the arrival of the Selkirk Settlers to the Red River Valley in 1812. Original source material was used in this research including cadastral ownership maps, planning documents of the settlements, survey plans, Henderson Directories, and aerial photography.
Secondary source material also used which included newspaper accounts and academic literature on the general history of Winnipeg in the 19th and 20th Century as it relates to growth and development.
There is little to no evidence in the history of the lands to suggest the current conditions reflect a long- standing natural & pristine condition, but rather instead the site being historically denuded of trees and significantly altered by human activities and facilities in the late 19th Century and early-to-mid 20th Century all with a vision for residential land-uses.
PLANS FOR FUTURE RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT
In the 1870’s, the Parker Lands consisted of a few small farms and wood lots in the Parish of St. Boniface on River Lots 17-24, and River Lot 46. On March 9, 1882 the first Plan of Subdivision was created by the McPhillips Bros. and established residential lots of 25 feet by 100 feet on a grid pattern of streets stretching the entire length of River Lot 17 from the Red River to past Pembina Highway.
This plan created Heatherdale and Parker Avenue Rights of Way of 48.5 feet wide bisecting the River Lot east/west with several crossing north/ south streets. Winnipeg was undergoing a significant population boom overflowing in 1881 and 1882 with a corresponding real estate boom connected to the anticipation of the CPR construction of the main line approaching Winnipeg to open up the Canadian Prairies to the World via rails in 1886.
The southern limit of River Lot 17 was the City of Winnipeg Boundary in 1882 and when Plan 358 was introduced in 1890, it established the Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway Portage Extension from the Main Line of the Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway line, which ran parallel to present day Pembina Hwy. The north boundary of the Planned Area became the Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway Portage Extension railway tracks that are today the CNR Rivers Subdivision Main Line heading east connecting to the Portage Junction of the CNR Letellier that runs south to the US border at the east end of the Planned Area; and heading northeast towards Downtown Winnipeg and Eastern Canada. The CNR Rivers Main Line heading west connects about 2 Km west of the Planned Area with the BNSF Manitoba Line and the CPR La Riviere subdivision at St. James Junction in one of the rare locations in Canada with three (3) Class I rail carriers physically connecting.
Plans of Winnipeg from a century ago show the proposed residential street layouts for this area. The vision of the Parker Lands as residential was established with the first plan in 1882 and the subsequent plans continued that vision when in October, 1907 the area became ‘Rosedale’, just north of Parker Ave. and what is shown on the plan as ‘Prospect Park’, was part of the northern extent of what is known today as the Beaumont Neighbourhood.
Subdivision Plan 1295 created in 1907 for this growing residential area originally referenced as ‘Rosedale’ was registered on parts of lots RL 18, 19, and 20 in the Parish of St. Boniface, and continued the traditional grid pattern street system north of Heatherdale and Parker Avenues with 32 blocks containing a number of 25 foot wide lots between Waverley St. and the CNR Letellier. (See Appendix ‘A’ for historical maps and Subdivision Plans for the Parker area).
The same street layout for Rosedale appears on maps of Winnipeg dating back as far as 1908. Many of these planned streets (indicated as “Asquith”, “Georgina”, “Heatherdale”, etc. on the plans) still exist as unimproved open public Right-of-Ways in the Manitoba Hydro Corridor, and could be used to access the developable lands as they are still controlled by the City of Winnipeg.
1912 Chataway’s Map of Greater Winnipeg
With a search conducted in the Henderson’s Winnipeg City Directory from the early 1900’s through to 1964 it was discovered that houses with formal street addresses first started to appear on Parker Avenue around 1910, at which time there were 4 in total along with two additional named owners (but no address at that time) who were likely to build in the near future. (See Appendix ‘B’ for an overview of Henderson’s Directories through the years which show inhabitants along Parker Avenue).
The neighbourhood experienced slow but steady growth before, during and after the Second World War. By 1956, for example, the number of houses along Parker Avenue totalled 49. A few years later by the mid 1960’s there were over 65 homes on the same street, as a small construction boom was taking place throughout the Beaumont Neighbourhood.
The last occupied home on Parker Avenue (at 1500 Parker Avenue) was constructed in 1917 and remained in use until it was recently acquired by the City of Winnipeg to make way for the construction of the second stage of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor.
PARKER AVENUE DAIRY
Besides the new residential homes in the Parker neighbourhood, the first reference to a Parker Avenue Dairy is listed in 1928, located at 1164 Parker Avenue to supply milk, cream and butter, both wholesale and retail for people in South Winnipeg (Winnipeg Free Press, 1937).
Two years later, two more dairies, Winnipeg Dairy and Red Star Dairy, are recorded as well but with no specific street address and only a reference to ‘S .S.’ (south side) to indicate their location on the street.
Aerial photographs from 1950 confirm the presence of dairy farms as barns and fenced cattle pens are clearly visible as well as the images of cows grazing on the grassy fields to the north of Parker Ave., which today make up part of the poorly drained lands at the centre of the site. (See Appendix ‘C’ for various historical aerial photographs through the years).
Originally, this land was likely level ground covered in grasses which was good for cattle grazing. But perhaps with the influx of new homes to the south in the Beaumont Neighbourhood as well as the later development to the west and north especially the raised embankments of the railway tracks, these substantial changes altered the drainage patterns which then established much of this area becoming a low point for drainage on site. The result of these man-made changes to the natural drainage patterns is evidenced today with much of this land covered in pockets of water for a good part of the year.
References to the dairy farms in the Henderson Directory continue through until 1949 after which it is observed that they are no longer listed. Noted in its place, however, at 1164 Parker Avenue is Glenmore Stables which likely repurposed most of the existing livestock infrastructure. By 1952 the reference is updated to Glenmore Coop Riding Club which appears at that street address until the late 1950’s.
Also of interest on the street in 1956 is a reference to Parker Grocery at 1134 Parker Ave. As was the case with most new neighbourhoods at the time, it was important to have a corner store within an easy walking distance from most homes.
Also around this time, further to the north of the Parker Lands and the CNR Rivers, an informal community known as “Rooster Town” existed alongside present day Grant Ave. It had a significant Métis population and had been described as the ‘last road allowance community in Winnipeg.’
During the 1950’s, some 30 to 50 people inhabited this area in more than a dozen shacks, many of them old boxcars purchased from the CNR. At the end of the 1950’s, the last residents of Rooster Town were relocated to make way for the construction of new developments in the area like Grant Park Shopping Centre.
Eventually, increased development spawned commercial and industrial growth in Crescentwood and Fort Rouge, including utility complexes on Corydon and Grant Avenues and retail/service corridors on Osborne St. and Corydon Ave. Pressure from this growth forced any remaining squatters from the informal communities as the City’s boundaries continued to expand southward.There was also another smaller informal community known as “Tin Town” which stood further to the south near present day McGillivray Boulevard. Shelters here were even less sophisticated than rooster town, often built of any leftover construction debris that could be found. Though these two settlements were directly to north and south of the Parker Lands, there isn’t any evidence that the Parker Lands site itself was used by squatters perhaps as it was intensively cut off by the rail lines.
With the need for more electricity to power the growing number of homes in south Winnipeg the newly created Manitoba Hydro Electric Board (established in 1953) constructed a head office at 1650 Harrow Street (also 820 Taylor Avenue) between 1957 and 1958.
The company became Manitoba Hydro in 1961, a crown corporation of the government of Manitoba. The head offices are adjacent to a major power station that has transmission lines running south and bisect the Parker Lands site.
Original Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board building at 1650 Harrow St.
Existing overhead electrical infrastructure – looking south through the Parker Lands (mid site).
The research concludes these specific lands are typical for most of the Winnipeg area as being farmed by early settlers in River Lots until growth booms saw the lands transform through subdivision for residential uses. The increasing expansion of the railways network of tracks crisscrossing Winnipeg and economic hard times transformed the lands again from rural pasture to sparse single family to industrial.
The arrival of the electrical grid infrastructure in the early 20th Century and economic hard times combined to cause these lands to be left idle in the perception the isolated location near industrial was less than ideal for residential uses as Winnipeg grew around and leapfrog past these lands to more easily developable parcels.
Today the Parker Lands Major Redevelopment Site are zoned for industrial use and has remained as agricultural and industrial land (A-agricultural and M1, M2-manufacturing under the Winnipeg Zoning By-Law) although a large portion of the site has been used as an official and unofficial dog park for the last several years.