Tuesday, December 28, 2010

65 Ellen Street - Firehall No.1

© 2010, Christian Cassidy
Fire Hall No. One
Place: Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Station No. 1
Address: 65 Ellen Street (Map)
Architects: John Whitecross, Fred Trimble (City of Winnipeg)
Contractor: G. A. Baert Construction
Cost: $350,000
Opened: November 24, 1965

Fire Hall No. One ca. 1925 (source)

In October 1963, Winnipeg ratepayers voted in favour of a $790,000 debenture to acquire land and build a new central fire hall. It would be the city's fifth "Fire Hall Number One".

The existing central fire hall at Albert Street and Bannatyne Avenue opened in 1899 and the days of horse drawn fire engines. As the city grew up around it, reaching fires in the central business district now centred around Portage Avenue was becoming increasingly time consuming.

The building was overcrowded with equipment and men and was also beginning to crumble.

Former Fire Chief Dunett commented at the time that it was "... the most depressing place I've ever been in". (WFP, January 15, 1965).

Sketch of new hall, Winnipeg Free Press, Jan. 15, 1965

Initially, the fire department wanted a site in the central business district of downtown, but the costs were prohibitive as the building was itself was expected to cost around $350,000 which left just $440,000 for land acquisition.

Instead, this site between Ellen and Dagmar Streets north o
f Notre Dame Avenue was chosen as it only required the demolition of eleven houses and two businesses and offered easy access to Portage Avenue.

This was the era when the city still had architects on the payroll and turned in-house to John Whitecross and Fred Trimblle to design the building. (Whitecross had recently designed the West End library branch on Ellice.)

Once the necessary expropriation and demolition work was completed, tenders were let for the new, single storey building with basement. Sixteen firms bid to build it, but it was G. A. Baert Construction that had the lowest bid of

Fire Hall No. One

Construction got underway with the spring thaw. On August 6, 1965, construction was half complete and the building's cornerstone was laid by Mayor Steven Juba and Fire Chief Cecil Leckie.

At 2:19 pm on Wednesday, November 24, 1965 the new fire hall went into service after an opening ceremony presided over by Mayor Steven Juba and other civic officials
The 16,000 square foot main floor consists of eight vehicle bays, a dormitory, officers' room, recreation facility and dining room. The basement contains storage and mechanical rooms. In all, it could accommodate as many as 120 fire fighters.

As soon as the new hall was opened, the old hall was torn down.

While council debated about what to do with the land complaints from residents and neighbouring businesses about the unsightliness of the vacant lot promoted the city to spend $11,000 to install curbs and sod to create a temporary park.

Site of former Fire Hall No. One (source)

That temporary park remained and by the late 1970s would become known as Old Market Square.


  1. Interesting post. This must have been one of the last buildings to go up with the pre-Unicity coat of arms in it. (Or one of the last buildings to go up in Winnipeg with a coat of arms on it, period!)

    It's a pity that the old fire hall couldn't have been preserved, but those were the times, I suppose...

  2. That is the Travellers Building in the background of the photo captioned “ca. 1925.”