WINNIPEG REAL ESTATE News, Friday, February 4, 1994 3


Crescentwood: A History

by Kip Park

No bridge. Poor water quality. No transportation. An almost bald prairie. Far removed from the centre of things. That was about 90 years ago. Now there's a waiting list to live in the same, but much improved, Winnipeg neigh- borhood. , -

It's known as Crescentwood, and most Winnipeggers think it covers a fairly large area in the southwestern part of the city. But, strictly speaking, Crescentwood is a small community, bounded by the Assiniboine River on the north and east, Waverley St. onthe west and Grosvenor Ave. on the south.

But the community contains some of the most impressive early 20th-cen-

tury homes in Winnipeg, if not Western J

Canada. , Just published is C rescentwood : A

History, by Winnipeg historian Randy Rostecki, a 1 74-page book that covers .

the history of thecommunity, from its earliest days in the 1830s to contem- porary times. . I

As a publication, this $30 coffee table book has somewhat limited ap- peal -— to past and present area resi- dents and Winnipeg historians. But in terms of creating a social ethos, it can

only bring pride to those who devel-

oped the community and those who i

live in it today.

"Thefirst printing of 800 books sold out in four months, and the second run of 500 is half sold," said Gordon Al-

, vare, chair of the research committee

for the Crescentwood Home Owners Association, whichpublished the book. "It has raised real interest in our community," he added, "and it has re- ceived excellent community support." Prior to 1870, said Rostecki in the book, the land around the Red River

, Settlement was divided into narrow

river lots that stretched two miles back onto the Prairie. 1 The first house in what is now Cres-

. centwood was on 66 acres in an area now bounded bythe backlanes of Yale

and Harvard avenues, built after 1869. But because getting across the Assini— boine River was awkward, and most development was taking place in Win- nipeg proper or St. Boniface, the land south of the Assiniboine didn't attract much attention.

With the boom in Winnipeg's econ- omy between 1 882 and 1 9 1 3, the city grew by leaps and bounds; from about 8,000 in 1881 to about 136,035 in 1911. =

, It wasn't until 1 895 that a bridge had " been built over the Assiniboine at the

site of the present Maryland Bridge. Further stimulus to the area came with

the construction of St. Mary's Academy in 1901-02. 5 »

About this time,Winnipeg's "afflu- ent" districts near Upper Fort Garry

were deteriorating. Conflicting land uses in what is now central Winnipeg —- there were no zoning restrictions -—-

i meant a mansion might be next to an odor-producing industry. It was time

for Winnipeg's more affluent to find new area in which to live.

Starting in 1882, various surveys had been made of the land that now makes up Crescentwood, and various development plans were drawn up for portions of the land, but it wasn't until 1902. that the community began to take shape. '

Developer Charles Henry Ender-

Thiesen.) , ~

Thiesen. . a

ton, born in Indiana in 1864, arrived in Winnipeg in 1 890 and enteredthe real

estate market. In mid—September,

1902, he started marketing his new "subdivision," which was named Cres-

. centwood following a public contest.

His philosophy was somewhat dif-

ferent from the rough and tumble prac- tices of other real estate developers, in

that he wanted to ensure that Cres- centwood would be "the district most sought after for homes of the better Class."

On each lot, Enderton placed a

caveat requiring dwellings to have a value of at least $3,500 and be set back

I 60 feet from the front street line. On

Wellington Cres., homes had to have a

6 completed value of at least $6,000,

and be set back 1 00 feet from the cres- cent, and no more than one dwelling was allowed on each lot. "The reasoning behind the Ender- ton caveat was simple," Rostecki

writes. "Before this time no public zon- - ing existed. The owner of a lot had no -

control over what took place on adja- cent properties"

The homes in the Hudson's Bay Re-.

serve, between Portage and Assini- boine avenues, Memorial Blvd. and Main St., were built as mansions and too quickly had become "third-rate boarding houses." In Crescentwood,

"every house erected will improve the

district." - Construction of -the luxurious houses began in 1905. By the au-

Firt home in rcentwood,s26 Avonherst St. (1992 photo by Gail

r 25 Harvard Ave., 1 908 (left, Town Topics photo) and 1 992.c(Photo by Gail

tumn, an "impressive number" of houses had been built. The first home wasthe R.-C. McDonald residence

ting a book published was, however, long and arduous. "We started work- ing on the book about six years ago, but the idea was first suggested three years before that," said CI-IOA presi- dent Jackie Ritchie, who lives in an el- egant home on Harvard Ave.

CHOA members and volunteers combed building permit records and

archival sources for information. "We

tried to get a history of every house, and we obtained anecdotes and sto- ries from older residents," Alvare said.

Alvare is credited. as being the driv-

C ing force behind the history. He has

lived in Crescentwood in astately home on Academy Rd. for the past 1 1 years. "I'm interested in history,

and wherever I live, I like to find out

more about the house, to try and un- derstand why people did what, they did when they built their home," he explained. , ' Those who live in an area are usu-

ally fascinated by its history, Alvare

- nity's present problems, is not new-

said."When Mr. Rostecki gave a slide lecture (when the book was launched), people were so interested you could have hearda pin drop."

Oddly enough, traffic driving through the area, one of the commu-

As early as 1906, roads and streets werebeing rearranged on civic plans. But only Wellington Cres. seemed to be considered a "major traffic artery."

In recent years, Crescentwood and River Heights residents have ex- pressed concern because cars use res-

t idential streets during rush hours. -


begun in 1905 at 26 Amherst (now i 7

Avonherst)’ St. . Rostecki said that "the collapse of the wheat and immigration boom of

I the 1896-1 9 1 3 era brought a decline

in realty values," and by 19 1 7 Ender- ton was forced to sell off his remaining lots by public auction to avoid paying taxes on unsold properties.

The auction brought out about

. 5,000 Winnipeggers, but only 100 of

the 133 remaining lots were sold, at prices which were considered to be "bargains." ' 6 L Enderton died in 1920, but the caveats limiting houses to single fam- ilydwellings remained until the Sec- ond World War, when the caveats were suspended because -of housing shortages. Official civic zoning regu-

6 lations didn't.-appear in Winnipeg until

after this period.

It was the caveats, which were the first form of zoning, that keptCres— centwood the way it is today. Very few of the large and stately homes have been converted to multiple-fam— T ily use. Only 36 of these magnificent

homes, have been demolished since

1905, despite shifting subsoils and politicians. And Crescentwood is still one of the most attractive neighbor- hoods in Winnipeg.

, That's what C rescentwood A His- tory is all about. The process of get-

"Traffic routes cut our neighbor—

hood into sections," which prevented a "sense of community" from really

-developing, Alvare said. With W the publication of thehistory, there seems

to be much more community spirit. Rostecki and Ritchie, who were in-

strumental in bringing the Crescent-

wood history a from concept to publication, are currently completing another historical project about the

history of St. Mary's Academy, which - I

this year marks its 1 20th year of exis- tence, though the school was built in Crescentwood in 1904. The publica-

tion is to be launched in September.

Thinking back on the hard work of the past six years, Ritchie finds satis- faction. ''I learned a lot about my neighborhood and that makes me feel good," she said. "And the feedback has been incredible."

She, and others connected with the project, give special credit to A1- vare for the success of the history. "He

kept us motivated," Ritchie said. "If we

were discouraged, he gave us opti- mism. He kept us on track." « Alvare believes that this is the kind

of project that knits a neighborhood .

together. The more we know about our origins, the better we -can under-

stand the present, and the more flexi-

ble we can be in the future.

(Crescentwood: A History is

available from the Crescentwood Home‘ Owners Association, call 475-11 70, or from Angus Murray Gifts and Books at 1 63 Stafford St.)


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