Tuesday, September 5, 2017

811 St. Matthews Avenue - Arlington Station (Substation No. 4)

Sept. 7, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

Place: Arlington Station (Substation No. 4)
Address: 811 St. Matthews Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1929
Cost: $225,000

Through the 1920s, Winnipeg Hydro saw a steady increase in its customer base and their thirst for power as new electrical  machinery came onto the marketplace. To keep up with demand, the utility spent over $2.5 million to expand its delivery infrastructure in 1929, double what it spent the year before.

One of those projects was Winnipeg Hydro Substation No. 4, as it was initially called, on St. Matthews Avenue at Arlington Street. The building permit indicated that the building was expected to cost $225,000, most of that reflected the cost of the equipment that it would house.

It's capacity was 20,000 horsepower.

September 3, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

One thing that Hydro did not have to pay for was the land.

From 1921 to 1928, the site had been home to the St. Matthews Tennis Club. Though anyone could join, the club was associated with nearby St. Matthews Church. Not much information can be found about the club property other than the fact that it had at least two grass courts and contained a small clubhouse.

It is likely that the land was leased to the church.

Sometime after the close of the 1928 tennis season, the city seized the property for unpaid property taxes. It then gave it over to Hydro for the substation project.

The single-storey building was built with reinforced concrete and brick with Tyndall Stone trim. The architect and contractor are not known.

In a release sent to both the Free Press and Tribune as the project neared completion, Hydro noted: "Careful attention has been paid to the architectural features of the building with a view to enhancing rather than depreciating property value in the adjacent neighbourhood."

Google Maps

Like many substations, its footprint is deceptive as some of the walls are just a facade to hide equipment in an open-air yard.

The initial building measured 50 feet by 100 feet and it appears that the site has been enlarged since it was first constructed.

Comparing the 1929 photo to today shows an extension to the north of three windows and the presence of slightly different building materials indicates there was an extension to the east to include a garage door. (Basically, the "L" shaped open-air portion seen in the overhead image above.)

A unique feature of this substation is that it was one of the city's first custom-built "automatic" stations, meaning that there was no staff working there. Its switches were controlled from the Rover Street terminal or Scotland Avenue substation. It was how substations going forward would be controlled.

The building appears to have had a a quiet existence with the exception of a small exposition in May 1966 when a high voltage circuit breaker blew It caused a small fire and $3,000 in damage.

In 2002, Winnipeg Hydro was sold to Manitoba Hydro. Substation No. 4 was renamed Arlington Station.

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