Winnipeg War Memorials Reveal Artistry, History and Memory
Brandon Sun, November 5, 2018 –
Here are the stories of two Winnipeg war memorials that are hidden in plain sight at the Deer Lodge Centre on Portage Avenue.
After the First World War, the Canadian Pacific Railway wanted to honour its employees who had fought and died in the war. More than 11,000 CPR employees had enlisted; more than 1,100 had been killed. The CPR awarded the commission for a monument design to a renowned Canadian sculptor with a grand name: Coeur de Lion MacCarthy.
The bronze sculpture “Winged Victory” was placed at each of the CPR train stations in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. The Winnipeg sculpture was unveiled in 1922. It was moved to another CPR property in 1989, and moved again in 2003 to its current location at 2109 Portage Ave.
“Winged Victory” (also referred to as “Angel of Victory”) represents the sentiment of a century ago. An angel gently lifts a dead soldier towards heaven. The handsome soldier shows no wounds. The angel holds aloft the symbol of victory, a wreath of laurel.
WOMEN’S TRIBUTE MEMORIAL LODGE
In 1917, in the midst of the Great War, Winnipeg entertainer Harriet “Hattie” Walker had an idea. Her concept was a dual-purpose edifice, which would serve as a place of solace for returning soldiers and also as a memorial to those not returning. It would be a gift given in gratitude from the women of Manitoba. To make her vision a reality, Walker established the Women’s Tribute Foundation.
Hattie Walker was an actor, director and drama critic. She and her husband, C.P. Walker, were a Winnipeg show business power couple. Originally from the U.S., they moved to the city in 1897. Hattie was a producer of musical comedy, opera and drama. C.P. was a theatrical impresario, bringing touring companies and major shows to Winnipeg. In 1906, C.P. incorporated the best ideas he could find in New York City into a venue he built in downtown Winnipeg. His theatre, the Walker, is now the Burton Cummings Theatre.
As well as being a multi-talented entertainer, Hattie Walker was a social justice activist. Alongside other women like Nellie McClung and Francis Marion Beynon, Walker was a member of the Political Equality League. Their campaign for women’s suffrage led to Manitoba women becoming – in 1916 – the first in Canada to win the right to vote.
After 14 years of lobbying and fundraising, the Women’s Tribute Foundation had enough money for its memorial. Construction started on Portage Avenue at Woodlawn Street in 1931. Walker laid the cornerstone.
For years, the Women’s Tribute Memorial Lodge was a location where “men may gather and renew friendships.” It had club rooms, an auditorium with an 18-ft. ceiling, and a special space to remember the war dead – the Room of Silence.
As time passed, the need for a place for First World War veterans faded away. The facility closed; the Room of Silence memorial was moved to the main Deer Lodge Centre. The heat was turned off in 1986. The building faced demolition.
In 2002, the Patrick Swayze movie “One Last Dance” used the auditorium and stage. It cost $9,000 to clean the mould and water damaged space for filming.
Fortunately, the structure has since been saved, refurbished and expanded. Since 2006, it has enjoyed a new life as the home of the Movement Disorder Clinic. The clinic helps people with movement disorders occurring with conditions like the diseases Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.
The Women’s Tribute Memorial Lodge is a cube shaped brick and stone edifice, a rare Manitoba example of Art Deco architecture. It boasts the oldest known wheelchair ramp in the province. (The building has an elevator now; the ramp no longer meets code.) But the ramp recalls the time when disabled veterans from the Great War were able to go by wheelchair from the ground floor to the second floor auditorium.
A century ago, a dynamic Winnipeg woman had a dream of a war memorial that also would be a facility serving the community. That dream came to fruition with the Women’s Tribute Memorial Lodge. In 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the inaugural fundraiser, a plaque was unveiled honouring Hattie Walker.
Remembered in Bronze and Stone
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Francis Marion Beynon: Compelling Story of a Manitoba Suffragist, Pacifist
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