DREAMS OF CASTLES IN THE SKY"
Produced for Prairie Public Television ©2004
Written By George Siamandas
This document is copyrighted and may not be used
or excerpted without the permission of the author.
This is Portage Ave. It runs from the corner of Portage and
Main, through Winnipeg's central business district, and out
west, past city limits. Once known as the Portage trail, it
extends west almost 800 miles to Edmonton. It’s a wide
street originally laid out at 132 feet. Four lanes of traffic
each way. Portage Ave. contains a mix of elegant architecture
from its golden era and an eclectic collection of newer structures
that speak of today.
year is 1905. Winnipeg is entering a fabulous new era of growth.
And it's all happening along Portage Ave. Its warehouse district
around old city hall is already well built. Banks and shops
from the 1880s and 1890s line Main St. for miles. But a new
light is shining on Portage Ave. And the path is being blazed
by the new Eaton's store. At five stories and occupying an
entire city block, Eaton's will start a flurry of new construction
that in 10 years will transform Portage Ave and truly make
it Winnipeg's main street.
JOHNASON YOUNG, FORMER EATON'S MANAGER
Eaton's started in 1905 it was a huge building and it employed
many many people. It employed generation after generation
and in some cases families of people. Everyone you run into
when you say you've worked at Eaton's they say either I know
somebody or I've worked there too. I actually met my husband
working at Eaton's 27 years ago.
Eaton's lead is followed by 2 more important players. The
new Winnipeg Post Office and the Bank of Nova Scotia, both
leave behind Main St's Banker's Row, to take up prominent
places on Portage Ave. And at the corner of P&M, railway
developer John Duncan MacArthur will build Winnipeg's first
skyscraper, The MacArthur building better known as the Childs
building. Portage Ave. fast becomes Winnipeg's new Avenue
NAR: Portage Ave. bubbled with life. Filled with shops, theatres
and restaurants. Fuelled by the draw of two major department
stores: Eaton's and the Bay. Fifty other stores found success
located between these two retail giants.
DEBRA JOHNASON YOUNG
The Winnipeg downtown store was 865,000 sq. ft. It offered
everything. It was like a full line mall housed in one big
MCMILLAN, HERITAGE WINNIPEG
I can remember working at Eaton's before WW2, Eaton's was
a very, very busy place at the time. I think they accounted
for 2/3 of the retail sales in the city of Winnipeg and they
would put on special sales. One they had was the Trans Canada
sale, and at 9 o'clock when the gong went off, people literally
stampeded into the store. They ran up the stairs with the
pounding of feet and up the elevators. It was quite a site
to see them pouring into the store.