David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Driving Tour of Brandon Finds Historic Places

Brandon Sun, August 8, 2010 - David McConkey

Brandon history fascinating? Yes, it is. And we can get to know it by looking around us.

Some of the past is recognized with plaques, monuments, and memorials. Other historic places are not marked and are in danger of being forgotten.

Often we don’t know what we have.

Consider the proposal of Brandon’s municipal heritage committee to build a new monument to honour our war veterans.

Actually, Brandon already has several memorials honouring war veterans.

Interestingly, after the First World War, Brandon City Council refused to contribute to a veterans’ memorial. The efforts of veterans and donations from citizens in 1924 made a memorial a reality.  

Let’s get to know our city better. Let’s visit veterans’ memorials, see other historic sites, and consider places that need more recognition.

This is an 18-kilometre driving (or bicycling) tour. It complements last month’s shorter walking tour.
  • Start at 23rd Street and Louise Avenue. Walk into the park to view the cairn. 
Don’t trees add to the life of the city?

This was originally Jubilee Park. In 1937, horticultural society members planted trees here to mark the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth – parents of our current Queen.

The trees honoued Brandon citizens, identified by stone plaques. But the plaques have since disappeared and need replacing.

This became Coronation Park when the cairn was dedicated. But the wording on the cairn has since weathered and needs restoring.
  • Drive north on 23rd to Princess Avenue, east to 18th Street, north to Braecrest Drive, east across First Street, and south at the new ACC main entrance. Drive towards the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts and the east parking lot, but turn south at the metal arch.
This was the cemetery of the Brandon Asylum for the Insane. Used from 1898 until 1925, it was re-dedicated in 2009.

A great fire destroyed the Asylum buildings in 1910, but all 643 patients were saved.
  • Drive back to First Street, south to Victoria Avenue, and west to 10th Street – southwest corner.  
Here stood the Winter Fair Exhibition Building, built in 1907; and the Wheat City Arena, built in 1908.

After the 1910 Asylum fire, this was the only place in the city able to house the patients. They lived here for two years.

During the First World War, 700 Ukrainian Canadians and other “enemy aliens” were imprisoned here. (A plaque is at City Hall.)

A new memorial should be part of this site’s re-development. It should recognize the fair buildings, and the unusual ways they were used a century ago.

Three veterans’ memorials are across the street, in front of the Brandon Armoury. One is dedicated to those who served during 100 years of the Armoury, built in 1908. Two honour those who died in the Second World War.
  • Drive west on Victoria to 18th Street, south past Aberdeen Avenue, and east into the Brandon Municipal Cemetery.
Here is Brandon’s war memorial, the Cross of Sacrifice.

This cross is one of 24 in Canada maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Brandon’s is unusual as it was procured by citizen donations.

Erected in 1924, the cross honours the dead of the First World War. Later inscriptions commemorate those who served in the Second World War, in Korea, and as Canadian and United Nations peacekeepers. 

We have now completed the tour.

Let’s consider other local historic places that deserve acknowledgment.

One is the Brandon Indian Residential School. Located on Grand Valley Road, it operated from 1895 to 1972. This is Brandon’s link to an important national issue now being addressed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Recognizing the former school would be important not only for the families and First Nations directly affected, but also for the whole community.

Finally, what about that proposal for another war veterans’ memorial in Brandon? 

If that concept goes ahead, I would like to suggest planting a “Road of Remembrance.” These tree-lined avenues were created in Canadian cities as living memorials after the First World War.

The idea has faded, but it should be revived as a way to remember the past and provide a legacy for the future.

* * * *
See also:

Take a Brandon Ghost Walking Tour

Community Memorials a Link to the Great War  (Two-part series)

Walking Tour of East End Brandon History

Discovering Historic Downtown Brandon

Manitoba History – A Citizen Appreciation



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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