Saturday, March 20, 2021

794 Ellice Avenue - Former Salvation Army Citadel

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Salvation Army Citadel No. 8
Address: 794 Ellice Avenue (Map)
1916 and 1965

When this section of the West End was developing into a modern suburb around 1910, the Salvation Army purchased a large parcel of land at Ellice Avenue and Home Street for a future citadel, (church and administrative centre).

At the time, most of its five citadels were located in the inner city, (Rupert Ave and King St, 229 Pritchard Ave, 669 Elgin Ave, 391 Logan Ave, and 301 Queen St. in St. James). This would be part of a First World War-era expansion into newer, suburban neighbourhoods that included the West End, Weston and Elmwood.

August 5, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

The Ellice Avenue Corps of the Salvation Army was established in November 1915 and initially operated from a store at 749 Ellice Avenue, (now demolished), under the command of Captain F. Poulter who lived at 461 Victor Street.

Construction of the citadel got underway on May 1, 1916. The lot was large enough to include the citadel, which actually faced Home Street, a house facing Ellice Avenue where the adjutant, or officer in charge, and their family could live, and a lawn area.

It is likely that the architect of the building was the Salvation Army's own Brigadier Gideon Miller, (also see). It cost $3,500 to construct and was opened on Sunday, August 6, 1916 by Commissioner Charles Sowton, the Salvation Army's chief officer for Western Canada. Captain and Mrs. Beckett, formerly of the North End Corps, were put in charge of the Corps.

September 8, 1945, Winnipeg Tribune

The citadel hosted countless church services, gospel meetings and Sunday school classes over the decades. Music is a large part of the Salvation Army's fabric and the Ellice Avenue Corps was no different as it featured a choir and band. Thanks to its lawn area, the citadel hosted an annual picnic into the early 1940s.

The Salvation Army officers rotated its adjutants every few years and it appears that no one officer stayed in charge for a particularly long time.

May 23, 1964, Winnipeg Tribune

The citadel suffered a major fire on the night of March 3, 1964. The adjutant, Major Smith, noticed smoke coming from the building as he was coming home around 11:15 pm. He went to investigate and discovered a fire which took firefighters about two hours to put out.

The fire started in the basement and was blamed on a faulty oil furnace. The building suffered heavy damage but did not have to be torn down. Lost in the fire were the corps' collection of musical instruments, including a $4,500 organ.

Salvation Army officials decided to repair the old citadel and build a modern extension that would go right to Ellice Avenue. The new building was likely designed by George A. Stewart of Winnipeg who was responsible for a number of the Salvation Army's 1960s citadels which all had a similar appearance. 

The new building was around 9,100 square feet spread over two levels. The upper level church sanctuary held 150 people with a similarly sized basement to house a youth centre and gymnasium. The old part of the citadel became offices. (Walking through the building one goes seamlessly from the new building to the old without a sense of entering a separate building.)

The new citadel opened at 2:30 pm on Sunday, September 12, 1965.

July 16, 1966, The War Cry

Thanks to some insurance money and a number of community fundraisers, the new citadel was soon paid off and a mortgage burning ceremony was held in the summer of 1966.

The Salvation Army didn't stay long in its new home. The last newspaper mention of it comes in a February 1973 funeral notice.

That September, the Balmoral Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses appeared before a city committee to seek permission to add up to three residential suites to the rear portion of the building. (It seems they added just one.)

It continued as a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses until at least March 1991, though classified ads appeared in May 1990 looking to sell the building for $345,000.

April 14, 1991, The Catholic Church Extension Society newsletter

The next owner of the building was the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Winnipeg.

The Kateri Tekakwitha Aboriginal Church was established in Winnipeg around 1980. It originally worshipped at Sacre Coeur Church and rented office space in a nearby building. When that building was sold, the congregation approached the Archdiocese to say it wanted a permanent home of its own.

Through a combination of its own fundraising and a loan from the Archdiocese, it was able to purchase this building in April 1991 and moved in on August 1. It renamed itself Kateri Tekakwitha Aboriginal Catholic Parish.

The church is named for Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk woman who died in 1680 at the age of 24. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2012, making her the first Indigenous North American to become a saint. (The church added  "St." to its name in 2012).

In the 20-teens the church began looking for a new home for its 150 or so parishioners. It wanted somewhere in the North End where many of them lived. In January 2021, the church announced that it had purchased the the 300-seat former Aberdeen Evangelical Mennonite Church at 265 Flora Street near Main Street.

794 Ellice Avenue is currently for sale.

Kateri Tekakwitha Aboriginal Catholic Parish Facebook page
794 Ellice Avenue sale listing
Indigenous parish finds a new home Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg parish celebrates Saint Kateri's canonization CBC

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