home > chalmers

History of Chalmers

Heritage Buildings
Heritage Resources

Chalmers, as the east portion of Elmwood, became Ward 7 of the City of Winnipeg in 1906. It formed part of the new expanded City of Winnipeg which came into legal existence on January 1, 1972.

The history of Elmwood's settlement does not begin until well after the City of Winnipeg was incorporated, and decades after the settlement of other areas around the city had begun - mainly because Elmwood was a low lying area and therefore swampy and prone to flooding. Settlers chose higher ground to the north (what became North and East Kildonan). [1] In 1877, Charles Midwinter (1851-1939) became the first settler in the area, all of which became part of the KildonanMunicipality in 1876. Midwinter was an employee of the Brown and Rutherford lumber yards across the Red River in Point Douglas.

As with other communities in western Canada, the coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was to have a dramatic effect on the development of Elmwood. The construction of the LouiseBridge for rail traffic was so eagerly anticipated, civic officials declared a half day civic holiday for citizens to attend its opening in 1881. Prior to its construction, crossing the Red River meant travelling north to the Kildonan ferry or south to the St. Boniface ferry. The new bridge provided Elmwood with its own, year-round connection to Winnipeg. [2]

The Elmwood side of the bridge, what became Nairn Avenue, quickly developed with stores, stables, a farmers' market and other businesses, while the rest of the area remained virtually empty. By the turn-of-the-century, however, several dairy farmers and market gardeners had established themselves in the neighbouring river lots. Industrialization along the CPR tracks, including the J.Y. Griffin meat packing plant, also spurred settlement. [3]

After the CPR stopped using the LouiseBridge, pedestrians and streetcar traffic were free to move across it anytime, not just when there were no trains. Streetcars first began running over the bridge in 1903, servicing the meat packing plant along the river. As the service extended further into Elmwood, the cheaper land and lower taxes began attracting buyers, many of them recent immigrants. The RedwoodBridge was opened in 1908 and the entire area populated and urbanized so quickly that it soon asked to separate from the more rural Kildonan municipality. In 1906 Elmwood became Ward 7 of the City of Winnipeg.

Chalmers developed into a large residential neighbourhood, with associated commercial, institutional and industrial development.

[1] City of Winnipeg, East Kildonan-Transcona Community, On the East of the River (Winnipeg: East Kildonan-Transcona Community, n.d.), p. 92.
[2] Ibid., pp. 92-3.
[3] Ibid., pp. 93-5.