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History of Portage-Ellice

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Portage-Ellice was part of the City of Winnipeg when it amalgamated with the surrounding municipalities to form the City of Winnipeg which came into legal existence on January 1, 1972.

The Portage-Ellice neighbourhood is a wedge-shaped area located on the north side of Portage Avenue in Winnipeg's downtown. The modern development of the area that is now downtown Winnipeg began with the fur trade and Upper Fort Garry at the southern foot of what is now Main Street, which for many decades was simply a trail connecting this fort with the Hudson's Bay Company's other major post, Lower Fort Garry. The real estate boom of the early 1880s led to an expansion of much of Winnipeg's society, including its retail sector. Logically, many business owners chose Main Street to sell their wares. Business blocks of all sizes and descriptions lined both sides of the street north of the old fort, and by the beginning of the 20th century, there were few empty lots between the fort and Portage Avenue.

The rumour and then the 1905 completion of the T. Eaton Company Store at 320 Portage Avenue changed everything. The avenue witnessed a dramatic increase in the amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic and businessmen were quick to take advantage. Offices, retail stores and banks began to line the street and Portage Avenue slowly began to usurp Main Street as the commercial centre of the burgeoning capital city. By 1915, the Somerset Building (1906), Bank of Nova Scotia (1908), McArthur (Childs) Building (1909), Boyd Building (1912) and Paris Building (1915) had all been added to the growing stock of magnificent Portage Avenue buildings. When the Hudson's Bay Company completed its massive store at Vaughan Street in 1926, it marked both a symbolic and a tangible move away from Main Street for Winnipeg's retailers and the final piece of the Portage Avenue puzzle.

North of Portage Avenue, offices, large apartment blocks, retail stores and other businesses were built and more recently, a large shopping mall, Portage Place, replaced several blocks of early 20th century buildings in the late 1980s.