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History of Wellington Crescent

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Wellington Crescent was part of the old City of Winnipeg when it amalgamated with the surrounding municipalities to become the City of Winnipeg which came into legal existence on January 1, 1972.

One area that received considerable attention during the real estate boom of the early 1880s was south of the Assiniboine River, a district known originally as St. Boniface West and later as FortRouge. Serious development of the area was delayed because of poor connections with Winnipeg. Ferries gave way to a pontoon bridge in the late 1860s, but even an iron bridge constructed in 1880 at the foot of Main Street failed to produce substantial development. The area remained underutilized, although a number of large residences had been built in the present-day Roslyn Road area. [1] Speculators in the early 1880s, however, saw the area as a possible gold mine, renamed it Winnipeg South, subdivided the land and began auctioning it off.

One of the major landholders/speculators was Arthur Wellington Ross, who organized the South Winnipeg Bridge Company and began work in the autumn of 1881 on a bridge at the foot of Osborne Street to improve access to the western part of the district. The bridge opened on September 23, 1882 and was purchased by the City, which had annexed FortRouge on May 30, 1882. Part of the annexation deal included a promise by the City to build another bridge at the foot of Boundary (Maryland) Street within a year and to make general road improvements. [2] The promised bridge did not materialize until 1895 (Plate 1), which would ultimately attract St. Mary's Academy shortly after the turn of the century (Plate 2).

The earliest fine home of the area was barrister John H. Munson's house, 475 Wellington Crescent, built in 1888 and named Crescentwood. It was, for many years, the showpiece of the suburb, being enlarged on several occasions before and after its occupation by the James A. Richardson family after Munson's death in 1918 (Plate 3). [3]

The modern development of Crescentwood began under the watchful eye of developer Charles Enderton (1864-1920). By 1902, he had accumulated a large amount of land in the western portion of FortRouge, subdividing it into large lots, formally establishing Wellington Crescent as a "grand drive" and, in May of that year, running a highly public suburb-naming contest. The winning name - Crescentwood - was submitted by a 16-year-old boy who received $100 for his efforts. [4] In September 1902, Enderton took an entire page of the Manitoba Free Press to promote his new subdivision and to outline the building restrictions therein. These caveats (attached to each registered lot) included: minimum setback from the street (18.3 metres, 60 feet); minimum completed values for homes ($6,000 on Wellington Crescent, $3,500 and $4,000 elsewhere); restrictions on non-residential structures; and one home per lot.

Land sales were slow in the early years, but the suburb eventually grew and flourished, and the Enderton caveats ensured the district remained a haven for Winnipeg's affluent (Plate 4). When economic growth slowed and then stopped after 1914, Enderton (and others) could not sell their extensive holdings (Enderton alone owned 133 vacant lots in 1917). [5] Ever the showman, Enderton decided to hold a public auction for the lots in September 1917, attracting some 4,000-5,000 people on Saturday, September 15. Only 100 lots sold, but a second session held on Monday took care of the remaining lots. [6]

[1] M. Peterson, "40 Osborne Street- Roslyn Court Apartments," report for the City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee, May 1998, p. 1.

[2] R.R. Rostecki, op. cit., pp. 18-19.

[3] Ibid., pp. 44-46. Upon the death of Mrs. James A. Richardson in 1973, the family donated the house and the land to the City of Winnipeg. The buildings were demolished in 1976, the land became MunsonPark.

[4] Ibid., pp. 22-23.

[5] Ibid., p. 36.

[6] Ibid., pp. 36-38.