Tuesday, May 19, 2020

280 St. Mary Avenue - Former Imperial Veterans in Canada Legion Branch No. 84

Place: Former Imperial Veterans in Canada Legion Branch 84
Address: 380 St. Mary Avenue
Constructed: 1958
Architect: Pratt and Lingren
April 26, 1919, Winnipeg Tribune

The Imperial Veterans in Canada (IVC) was established in Winnipeg in January 1919*. Its aim was to ensure that those who fought in the British Army and Navy in any previous war got fair pension and hospitalization benefits in Canada. (*There was a previous Imperial War Veterans Association in Canada formed in Winnipeg in 1910, but the IVC was a newly incorporated group.)

In late January, the organization moved into offices in the Boyd Building on Portage Avenue and soon launched a newsletter that would be sent to hundreds of members across Canada.

The Dominion president of the IVC was W J Tupper, who was also from Winnipeg. The Dominion secretary was H. B. Willing. The local auxiliary was created by Mrs. C. C. O'Neil and Mrs James Fletcher.

The first president of the Winnipeg branch of the IVC was Captain Charles F. G. Wheeler. A 42-year veteran of the British Army, he retired in Winnipeg and became active in Veterans' causes. He was leading military figure in the Winnipeg General Strike supporting soldiers who found themselves without work after the First World War.

Perhaps becasue of Wheeler's high profile political persona, much of the organizing and speaking on behalf of the organization, nationally and locally, was left to H. B. Willing.

The IVC was one of the 15 or so national organizations that came together at the Marlborough Hotel in Winnipeg in November 1925 to discuss merging into a single Royal Canadian Legion (B.E.S.L.).  It is it is unclear if the IVC signed on right away as they did not begin using "Legion Branch No. 48 B.E.S.L." as part of their name until the 1930s.

The IVC moved from the Boyd Building to 183 McDermot Avenue in 1924. In 1945, now just a Legion branch, it purchased 310-312 Main Street as a new headquarters.

Top: September 27, 1958, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: October 2, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1957, architects Pratt and Lingren were hired to design a new clubhouse for Branch No. 84.

This brown brick building with ceramic tile mosaics has two upper floors and a full basement and cost $114,000 to build. The ribbon was cut on September 27, 1958 by Lt.-Gen. P. J. Montague, the former Chief of Staff at the Canadian Military HQ in London, and David Millar, the branch president.

At the ceremony Montague called it "the finest legion building I have ever seen".

The building was expanded in 1982 and 1984, nearly doubling its footprint. One windowless section took the original building to the back lane and a second windowless section extended it southward along along Smith Street.

The final building measures 21,969 square feet. The main and upper levels are mostly open spaces with washrooms on each floor.

November 25, 2000, Winnipeg Free Press

Branch No. 84 fell on hard times in the 1980s and 1990s as membership dwindled. It did not pay property taxes from 1996 to 1999 and racked up a bill of around $60,000. The city was about to seize the building in September 1999, but it held off to give the branch time to sort out its future.

In November 2000, Branch No. 84 sold its building for $305,000 to Anokiwin Training Institute, a private Aboriginal college. The building's contents were auctioned off in December.

September 28, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

The building never did get redeveloped. In 2001, for sale ads appear for it and the neighbouring building at 260 Smith Street as a package deal. From at least 2007 to 2014 it displayed a "for  lease / will develop" sign.

It is listed as sold in the August 2018 edition Cushman Wakefield's availability report as "12,000 square feet of developable land".

It is unclear what the future holds for the lot.

Also see:
280 St. Mary Ave Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

© 2020 Christian Cassidy

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