David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Walking Tour of East End Brandon History

Brandon Sun, June 19, 2011 - David McConkey

Do you remember the news story a couple of years ago when singer Bob Dylan was performing in Winnipeg and looked up the boyhood house of Neil Young?

Dylan wanted to connect with the history of his fellow musician.

That story inspired the Manitoba Historical Society to start a program putting plaques in front of the homes where prominent Manitobans once lived.

It is also a reminder to notice historic places in our own community.

Here is my second suggested three-kilometre Brandon historical walking tour. Take a short stroll and get to know some of our city and its citizens of bygone years.

•  Start at the corner of First Street and Louise Avenue.

The building on the northeast corner once was Zink’s food store, which Albert Zink operated from 1932 until 1980. It was a typical small family business, which used to dot the city before the advent of larger grocery chains.

It is now a municipal heritage site. (A plaque is on the south wall.)

•  Walk north on First Street to Rosser Avenue and east to the 00-block of Rosser Avenue East.

In 1888, this was on the outskirts of Brandon.

William Webb and his wife ran a laundry from their small house (south side). Their son used a wagon pulled by a pair of dogs to deliver cleaned clothes to customers.

Webb, however, was an abusive husband. On Sept. 1, after a day of drinking and arguing, Webb shot his wife dead in front of their four children. (More to follow . . . )

•  Walk east on Rosser Avenue to Dennis Street, south to Princess Avenue and east to 113 Princess Avenue East.  

This was once the home of important politician Sir Clifford Sifton (1861 – 1929). As Minister of the Interior in the cabinet of Wilfred Laurier, he aggressively promoted immigration to Western Canada.

Sifton looked to eastern Europe for newcomers like “a stalwart peasant in a sheep-skin coat, born on the soil . . . with a stout wife and a half-dozen children.” 

A plaque honouring Sifton is on the grounds of City Hall.

•  Walk east on Princess Avenue to Park Street and south to Rideau Park.  

Imagine all the people who have enjoyed this park over the years! Acknowledge the foresight of city council, which created the park in 1908.
 
•  Walk southeast diagonally through the park to the corner of Franklin Street and Louise Avenue.

The Rideau Park Personal Care Home stands on the site of the old jail. It incorporates the original court house, which was built in 1884 and is now a provincial heritage site.

William Webb, of the laundry on Rosser Avenue, was found guilty of murdering his wife, hanged, and then buried here on Dec. 28, 1888.

Webb was the first of four Brandonites to be hanged, and one of three to be buried here. (Another was Hilda Blake, who was hanged in 1899.)

•  Walk west on the path that becomes Louise Avenue to Russell Street and north to 302 Russell Street.

This was the home of Walter Shillinglaw, and is a municipal heritage site.

Shillinglaw moved to Brandon in 1882 as a young man and became an architect. He was also city engineer for a number of years. He shaped the face of Brandon by designing buildings, bridges at 1st and 18th streets, and Stanley and Rideau parks. 

Shillinglaw died in 1957 at the age of 93 and is buried in the Brandon Municipal Cemetery.

•  Walk west on Lorne Avenue to Dennis Street, south to Louise Avenue, and west to the starting point.

That wraps up this tour. (If you are walking around supper time, you might well be tempted to stop in at the restaurant now at this heritage site.)

The record of our local history is in archives, libraries and museums. Some history is remembered by designated sites, plaques and monuments.

There are also books like Brandon: A City 1881-1961 and Every Stone a Story: Manitoba's Buried History.

The Brandon municipal heritage committee’s Heritage Brandon website has more about historic buildings and people of the city.

The committee will host “Doors Open Brandon Heritage Tours” July 16 and 17. (Check the website or call 729-2210.)

And “Gossip in the Graveyard” returns Saturday June 25, and Sunday June 26.

This two-hour interactive theatrical walking tour features the actors of 7 Ages Productions portraying some of the colourful people buried at the Brandon Municipal Cemetery.

Tickets are $15 and can be reserved from Kelly Lumbard, 724-2682. Sponsored by Brockie Donovan Funeral Home, proceeds will be donated to Westman Hospice.
  
You are invited to join me in the future with more glimpses into the past.

* * * *
See also:

Discovering Historic Downtown Brandon

Historic Downtown Brandon Walking Tour

Take a Brandon Ghost Walking Tour

Driving Tour of Brandon Finds Historic Places

Manitoba History – A Citizen Appreciation

 



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David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
204-726-9440
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