Architectural Tour of Niakwa Park

by Marieke Gruwel
Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

Vertical Files, Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

Niakwa Park

Niakwa Park, located north of Fermor Avenue, south of Windsor Park Golf Course, and adjacent to the Seine River, was developed in the mid‑1950s. When it was proposed, the project aimed to construct 160 homes on 16.2 acres of land. The area’s homes were designed by Nicola Zunic, a 1950 graduate of the University of Manitoba’s School of Architecture. The subdivision’s name is derived from an Indigenous term for “winding river,” and had earlier been applied to the Niakwa Country Club, established in 1921 and located south of Niakwa Park.

The construction of Niakwa Park was a direct result of a large population boom in St. Boniface during the post-war era. The number of people living in the municipality, which was amalgamated with the City of Winnipeg in 1971, increased by nearly 20,000 between 1951 and 1969. This growth rate significantly exceeded that of Metropolitan Winnipeg as a whole, resulting in an increase in housing development projects. One of these projects was Niakwa Park, approved by St. Boniface City Council in 1954. Niakwa Park Limited (then the Niakwa Park Syndicate) agreed to spend roughly $130,000 on roads and improvements including, as part of the agreement, constructing an extension of Archibald Street connecting it to the Trans-Canada Highway.

The subdivision was developed by Niakwa Park Limited. Beyond Zunic, partners in the area’s construction included: Johanson Construction; builders T. Urbanksi, J.Brown, and the Heintz Brothers; J. Les Thompson & Son; and, Thompson Lumber & Fuel Limited. Lorne Thompson, of the latter company, was an early leader in the area’s construction and orchestrated the purchase of the neighbourhood’s lots from the City of St. Boniface. The initial investment in the neighbourhood was $2.25 million, with homes selling for $13,000 to $15,000.

Of Niakwa Park, Zunic stated that he and his partners attempted to engender a certain diversity in design and wanted to embrace the park-like terrain, achieved partly by building around existing trees. Years later, Zunic commented further on the creative approach taken in the design: “…it was our plan that we wouldn’t set up the houses like soldiers.”

The Architect: Nikola Zunic

Born on April 12, 1921 in Prilisce Dolnje, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Nikola Zunic and his family immigrated to Canada in May 1933. Zunic attended Immaculate Conception and Norquay Elementary schools, Aberdeen Junior High, and St. John’s Technical High School. In 1939, he enrolled at the University of Manitoba in the Arts and Science Faculty.

His studies were interrupted in 1942 when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, serving as a navigator with the 419th Squadron in England. He was honourably discharged in September 1945 with the rank of Flight Officer. Having witnessed war-time destruction, Zunic wanted to build. He was quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press saying, “I knocked down a hell of a lot of equipment in the war, so I decided it was time to build.” He resumed his studies at the University of Manitoba and graduated from the School of Architecture in 1950.

Following graduation, Zunic briefly worked for the University of Manitoba’s Planning Research Centre, a position he held until 1952—the same year he registered with the Manitoba Association of Architects. He went on to establish his own practice, with his offices on the second floor of the Canadian Bank of Commerce building, located at the corner of Marion and Tache in St. Boniface. A large number of Zunic’s projects would be built in this area, including the Niakwa Park subdivision.

Important early commissions included the design of a 12-classroom school in St. Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba. Another significant project Zunic worked on in the early stages of his career was the Canadian Legion Gardens on Talbot Avenue in Winnipeg. This development for low-income seniors—a series of small, clean-lined duplex cottages in a park-like setting—was built with the aid of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Legion members on city-donated land.

From this period onward, Zunic worked not only as an architect, but as a developer and builder as well. His designs expressed a tempered form of modernism that remained open to local conditions and alternative functions. This can be seen in the design of Niakwa Park, which may have been Zunic’s largest project.

During his career, Zunic designed more than 35 schools throughout the province and a large number of churches, including St. Alphonsus Catholic Church (with Victor Sobkowich) and the Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church (with Radoslav Zuk). Other notable projects included Happyland Park Swimming Pool, the St. James Civic Centre, and a retirement residence in Gretna, Manitoba.

Beyond his architectural practice, Zunic served on the executive of both the Manitoba Association of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. He was involved with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, serving as an executive from 1957 and as a provincial representative beginning in 1965. Furthermore, beginning in the 1960s, Zunic was twice elected as a board member of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a prominent federal housing agency.

Notable Projects in Winnipeg

  • 101 Champlain Street, 1954

  • Park Lawn Funeral Home, 1858 Portage Avenue, 1955

  • Niakwa Park, 1955–1956

  • Frontenac School, 866 Autumnwood Drive, 1956

  • St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, 341 Munroe Avenue, 1958

  • Windsor Park Library, 955 Cottonwood Road, 1961

  • Happy Land Park Swimming Pool, 520 Marion Avenue, 1962

  • Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church, 1001 Grant Avenue, 1963

  • Transcend Police & Fire Hall, 730 Pandora Avenue West, 1966

  • St. James Civic Centre, 2055 Ness Avenue, 1966

  • 117 Clearwater Road, 1967

  • Foyer Vincent, 200 rue Horace, 1970

The original Niakwa Park Subdivision Plan (City of Winnipeg Archives), 1955

The Design of the Subdivision

In North America, a subdivision is an area of land divided into plots, becoming the location of housing, commercial, and industrial developments. The original Niakwa Park housing subdivision plan divided the land into 164 lots. Eight of these lots were located south of the Trans-Canada Highway and were ultimately never developed as part of the Niakwa Park subdivision; that land was later developed in the late-1960s as part of Niakwa Place.

Zunic was not just responsible for designing the homes of Niakwa Park; he also played a significant role in their placement and the general layout of the subdivision. Zunic, like other designers of post-war housing developments, opted to move away from the older grid-pattern street layout, which was increasingly criticised. The gridpattern was simple and convenient for arranging homes, and allowed for easy identification of streets. However, a major criticism of this design was that these streets would often be used by commuters avoiding congested main roads. This additional traffic affected residential areas, making them less safe for children and less pedestrian friendly.

To discourage traffic, Niakwa Park has only one entry point, which also acts as the only exit. Another design element that decreases through-traffic is the inclusion of bays rather than streets. These design choices result in a safer and more private residential subdivision.

Advertisement for the Niakwa Park subdivision, Winnipeg Free Press, May 21, 1955
Article and floor plan for a standard ranch-style bungalo, Canadian Homes & Gardens, August 1956

The Homes of Niakwa Park

Period advertisements touted Niakwa Park as a park-like district and proclaimed the area’s homes were designed to fit with their neighbours—even the colour of the roofs were taken into consideration. The neighbourhood was deemed a “High Class” project and described as “The most exclusive development in Western Canada.”

The Niakwa Park homes were advertised as bungalows designed in the California style. The word bungalow dates back to the late seventeenth century and originates from the Hindu word baṅglā, which translates to “belonging to Bengal.” The California-style bungalow was one of the earliest variations of this type of dwelling to emerge in the United States. Appearing first in the late nineteenth century, these detached, single-family homes were popular through the twentieth century. Typically one or one and a half storey, California-style bungalows are characterized by their sloping roofs and front porches. They are designed to integrate into their surroundings and to connect their interior spaces with the outdoors.

Many of the Niakwa Park homes were also advertised as being designed in the ranch style, a style that had first appeared in post-war America. Ranch-style homes sit low to the ground and are defined by their horizontality and long, low-pitched roofs. Like California-style bungalows, ranch-style homes are designed to connect to the outdoors, often featuring large windows and sliding glass doors that open to a backyard.

To generate public interest in Niakwa Park, Alexander Agencies issued a booklet illustrating the designs of 10 different homes. Descriptions of the homes boasted various features, many of them characteristic of California- and ranch-style dwellings. While most clients were asked to choose one of the 10 designs, they were able to work with the architect and developers to create a home to suit their needs.

The City of Winnipeg’s 1973 District Plan for St. Boniface describes Niakwa Park as a neighbourhood of “well-built bungalows of above average size for their time.” It elaborates:

“The interiors are well planned and every home has an attached garage or carport. Care has been taken in the choice and use of exterior materials—with great emphasis being placed on the natural materials such as brick, stone and wood. The use of these natural materials, house set close to the ground and a well tree’d area, gives Niakwa Park a character which is not apparent in most of the newer subdivisions."

More than half a century later, Niakwa Park remains a sought-after neighbourhood.

Tour Stops

1

Niakwa Park Entrance Sign

Archibald Street at Comanche Road

Niakwa Park Entrance Sign (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

The sole entry point into Niakwa Park is off Archibald Street. Upon turning into the neighbourhood, you are greeted by the Niakwa Park sign. The City of St. Boniface erected the sign, which features a colourful figure, in 1955. Over time, the sign’s colours began to fade. In 2007, the Niakwa Park Residents Association held two contests: (1) to name the figure on the sign and (2) to choose the colours that would be used to repaint the figure. The winning name was “Maqua” (pronounced Mukwa), the Ojibwe word for “bear.” An 11-year-old resident won the colour contest and the sign was later repainted according to her colour specifications.

In 2015, only a few years after being revitalized by the community—and coinciding with Niakwa Park’s 60th anniversary—Maqua went missing. Preparing to fundraise to replace the figure, Niakwa Park residents must have been pleasantly surprised when they found out that the City of Winnipeg had already begun working on a replacement. A replica of Maqua was put up later that year.

2

Niakwa Park Street Signs

Various Locations

Niakwa Park Street Sign for Pawnee Bay (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

Articles published in the mid-1950s boasted the decorative elements found in Niakwa Park, including the ornamented street signage identifying the neighbourhood’s five bays and one road. Each street—Iroquois, Pawnee, Mohawk, Cherokee, Chippawa, and Comanche—is named after an Indigenous group of North America. Not only are the street signs a different shape and colour than traditional street signs, they also feature drawings.

Niakwa Park Street Sign for Cherokee Bay (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

By 1996, many of the street signs had become worn down—some had even reportedly gone missing—and the Niakwa Park Residents Association wanted to do something about it. In a Winnipeg Free Press article, the president of the association at the time, Chris Chipman, expressed the neighbourhood’s desire to maintain its heritage, including its unique street signs. The group applied for a grant to help fund its project, and also hosted garage sales and barbecues to raise the money.

3

7 Chippawa Bay

Advertisement for Canada's first Gold Medallion Home at 7 Chippawa Bay, Winnipeg Free Press, September 5, 1958

In 1958, the house at 7 Chippawa Bay was extensively featured in the local press as the winner of Canada’s first “Live Better Electrically Gold Medallion Home.” An advertisement from the time touted that the home was “another sign of progress in Manitoba” and had won the award for embodying “all the best features of electrical living.” The award was meant to serve as a guide for homeowners. Representatives of the Electric Service League attended the award ceremony where a medallion was embedded into a brick planter at the front of the house.

7 Chippawa Bay (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

The home’s three bedrooms were intentionally separated from the main living area as a way to ensure both privacy and restfulness. The kitchen was advertised as being designed to “run itself” and was equipped with electrical appliances that would make life “comfortable, easy, [and] enjoyable for years.”

From September 5 to 20, 1958, this furnished award-winning dwelling served as a Niakwa Park display home.

4

4 Chippawa Bay

4 Chippawa Bay (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

The Mawson family home at 4 Chippawa Bay was featured in the April 1960 issue of Canadian Homes magazine. The article, titled “The hideaway world of Bob and Lydia Mawson,” focused on the transformation of the couple’s backyard.

The backyard at 4 Chippawa Bay, Canadian Homes, April 1960

The Canadian Homes article cited lack of backyard privacy as an issue for many homeowners purchasing in new subdivisions, whether that be privacy from vehicles driving by or simply from the curious eyes of neighbours. The Mawsons dealt with this issue by building a fence that enclosed their entire backyard. By the 1960s, many of their neighbours followed suit, even though initially some had not been pleased with the Mawsons’ “landscaping” efforts.

5

21 Chippawa Bay

Photo and floor plan of 21 Chippawa Bay, Canadian Homes & Gardens, August 1956

An early Niakwa Park show home, 21 Chippawa Bay was featured in the 1956 August issue of Canadian Homes & Gardens. The magazine called the home “a lesson in ingenious livability.” The home’s three bedrooms are located to the back, separated from the living-dining area by an entrance hall and bathroom.

21 Chippawa Bay was completely decorated and furnished by Eaton’s Interior Decorating Service. A 1955 advertisement in the Winnipeg Free Press proclaimed that the decorators at Eaton’s had “scored a hit” with this home. The colours chosen for the interior created an “atmosphere of warm hospitality” while the furniture was meant to work with the architecture to create a beautiful and liveable bungalow.

6

41 Cherokee Bay

Illustration and floor plan of The Mohawk, Alexander Agencies Marketing Booklet, c. 1955

The following description was published in The Winnipeg Tribune on Saturday, July 7, 1956:

The Mohawk – Plan No. 9 built by Heintz Bros. on 41 Cherokee Bay. An L-shaped house with the 3 bedrooms at the front. Built-in mahogany divider and buffet between the dining room and hallway with wrought iron designs on top to give you a complete hallway and yet have an open effect. Built-in china cabinet. Large kitchen with mahogany cabinets. Living room approximately 18 × 12 1/2. Twin coloured bathroom fixtures with tile around bathtub. Tiled hallway. Thermopane picture windows. Attached carport. Price $16,400. Cash approximately $4,630. Balance $68.00 per month I.P. 5% interest.”

7

40 Cherokee Bay

Advertisement for open house at Niakwa Park's second display home, Winnipeg Free Press, September 20, 1955

Niakwa Park’s second display home, located at 40 Cherokee Bay, opened at the end of September 1955. It was advertised as “representative of the fine type of housing being produced in Niakwa Park.”

The house at 40 Cherokee Bay was built to “The Comanche” design, one of the 10 plans published in the Alexander Agencies marketing booklet. In the booklet, the design was described as having been “planned for luxurious living.” The dining and living areas were in the “ever-popular” L-shape, allowing for spacious and open living spaces. A T-shaped hall connects all the rooms, but also facilitates a separation between the home’s bedrooms and living areas. An advertised feature of “The Comanche” was the option of sliding, folding, or swinging doors for homes’ closets.

8

21, 25, and 30 Cherokee Bay

Standing at the curve of Cherokee Bay, you can see the diversity of design that the architect Zunic incorporated into Niakwa Park. Take, for example, the homes at 21, 25, and 30 Cherokee Bay. While all homes were built to a collection of plans drawn by Zunic, variations on these designs allowed for this diversity.

Occupying a corner lot, the home at 25 Cherokee Bay slightly follows the curve of the road. The home has elements of "The Niakwa Plan," which was one of the more expensive designs. The home features a pitched roof and a chimney that protrudes from the front facade. A breezeway acts as a connection from the home to the garage, and also can be used as a patio.

Across the street, the home at 30 Cherokee Bay is much more of the ranch style. While the roof is slightly pitched, it looks flat when viewed from the front of the home. This contributes to the horizontality of the home, which is extended even further with a carport. The home at 21 Cherokee Bay is also horizontal, but has added height due to its more pronounced pitched roof.

9

4 Cherokee Bay

Illustration and floor plan of The Cherokee, Alexander Agencies Marketing Booklet, c. 1955

The following description was published in The Winnipeg Tribune on Saturday, July 7, 1956:

The Cherokee – Plan No. 2 built by Geo. Demare Ltd. on 4 Cherokee Bay. This ranch style 3 bedroom bungalow has a combination living and dining room approx. 28 × 14 ideal for TV and entertaining. Bright roomy kitchen with birch cabinets. Birch doors throughout with by-pass double doors in bedrooms. Beautiful bathroom with coloured twin basins, built-in vanity accented by a mirror three feet by six feet. G.E. remote controlled wiring with master switch controlling all lights throughout the home. Finger-tip silent switched. Laundry tubs in the basement. Attached carport with a cement driveway to the street. Price $15,900. Cash approximately $4,350 Balance $66.00 I.P. 5% interest.”

10

3 Mohawk Bay

3 Mohawk Bay (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

Built in 1961, 3 Mohawk Bay was completely remodelled in the 2010s but largely retained its mid-century modern exterior. The exterior was reclad in hardiboard, also known as hardy board and hardiplank, a building material made from cement reinforced with cellulose fibers. The interior floor plan was also changed, with the stairs to the basement placed on the other side of the home. A mudroom was added to the rear of the carport, leading directly into the kitchen.

This is a good example of alterations being made to the home, while also respecting and staying true to its original design.

11

16 Mohawk Bay

Illustration and floor plan of The Iroquois, Alexander Agencies Marketing Booklet, c. 1955

The following description was published in The Winnipeg Tribune on Saturday, July 7, 1956:

The Iroquois – Plan No. 7 built by J. Les Thompson & Son on 16 Mohawk Bay. Planned for the large family. Sloping ceilings throughout. Spacious living room with solid mahogany planking along one wall. Large kitchen with plenty of cupboard space, ideal for a deep-freeze or built-in washer and dryer. Pass-through serving counter into the family room designed to cut down the work of the housewife. Large family room with tile floors planned for dining, TV or play-room for the kiddies. Three large bedrooms. Coloured bathroom fixtures with vanity and a large mirror. Attached carport with plenty of storage space. Price $17,080. Cash approximately $5,100. Balance $69 per month I.P. 5% interest.”

12

19 Mohawk Bay

19 Mohawk Bay (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

The home at 19 Mohawk Bay was featured in the Winnipeg Free Press on October 6, 1962—six years after its construction. It was touted as having “achieved the utmost in privacy for family living indoors and out.” The home sits on a wedge-shaped lot, backing onto the Windsor Park Golf Course. The exterior of the T-shaped structure originally featured white stucco with cedar siding.

The floor plan shows kitchen, dining, and living rooms on the main floor, in addition to three bedrooms. The living room contained a fireplace made of gold- and pink-toned brick; windows face the trees that line the golf course. The basement contained a large rumpus room—now often referred to as the recreational room—as well as a smaller play area for the children. The furnishing of the rumpus room included black and red linoleum with matching checkerboard curtains and black walnut finishings on one of the walls. Another wall featured cedar siding that was meant to provide a “ranch fence effect.” This “fence” was then topped with plywood cutouts in the shape of cocktail, wine, and beer glasses.

The original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, were involved with the design of the home. Mrs. Andrews had the idea of placing the kitchen to the left of the front door while Mr. Andrews asked for a nook with built-in seating around the two walls. While it is often the designers—in this case Zunic—who take credit for successful residential developments, 19 Mohawk Bay offers one of many examples that demonstrate the collaboration between builder and client.

Few alterations have been made to the front façade of the home, aside from the conversion of the carport into a garage and the recladding.

13

21 Mohawk Bay

This lot backs onto the Windsor Park Golf Course, as do several of the homes in Niakwa Park. For this reason, Zunic wanted to place one of the larger and more expensive homes on the lot. To his dismay, the original owners had chosen the least expensive design from the portfolio. This led to a disagreement between the clients and the architect. Ultimately, they reached a compromise: the clients allowed for the addition of both a garage and a breezeway to their home.

At some point, the original garage and carport must have been combined or torn down to create a two-car garage.

14

25 Mohawk Bay

Site Plan for Mohawk Bay, April 1955

The house at 25 Mohawk Bay was built in 1958 with an advertised possession date of September 1 that same year. The home sits on a treed lot, backing the Windsor Park Golf Course. It is one of the larger homes built in Niakwa Park, featuring six large rooms, an L-shaped living and dining room, and a kitchen with a breakfast nook. Sliding doors located in the hallway separate the bedrooms from the front of the house.

15

30 Mohawk Bay

Illustration and floor plan of The Niakwa, Alexander Agencies Marketing Booklet, c. 1955

The following description was published in The Winnipeg Tribune on Saturday, July 7, 1956:

The Niakwa – Plan No. 8 built by T. Urbanski on 30 Mohawk Bay. An Ultra modern three bedroom bungalow built on the turn of Mohawk Bay about 50 steps from the Golf Course. Spacious home with the living room accented by a mahogany divider and a mahogany paneled wall. Matching mahogany kitchen cabinets with a pocket door opening into a large tiled family room. Double closets in all bedrooms. Very large bathroom with built-in vanity tiles around the tub and frosted glass shower doors. Attached carport. Price $16,800. Cash approximately $5,000. Balance $68.00 I.P. 5% interest.”

16

37 Mohawk Bay

Illustration and floor plan of The Pawnee, Alexander Agencies Marketing Booklet, c. 1955

The following description was published in The Winnipeg Tribune on Saturday, July 7, 1956:

The Pawnee – Plan No. 3 built by J. Brown Const. Ltd. on 37 Mohawk Bay. This 1,200 sq ft. bungalow consists of three bedrooms at the back portion of the house with double closets with by-pass door. Roomy kitchen with two-toned mahogany kitchen cabinets and double stainless steel sink. Built-in mahogany buffet faced in brick with a recess planter box. Combination living and dining room approx. 25 × 14'3". Wrought iron railing off the front step. Pella combination windows throughout. Attached carport. One of the lowest priced homes left in the project. Price $15,750. Cash approximately $4,195. Balance $66.00 I.P. 5% interest.”

17

1 Pawnee Bay

The following listing was published in the Winnipeg Free Press on December 10, 1956:

Niakwa Park

Here at last!

A completely furnished Model Home situated at No. 1 Pawnee Bay, Niakwa Park.

See it!

6 room elaborately built L shape ranch style bungalow with 3 large bedrooms, open fire place, completely furnished by the ‛Bay.’”

18

8 Pawnee Bay

The following listing was published in the Winnipeg Free Press on May 26, 1957:

Niakwa Park

Treed Development

Where Particular People Dwell

Come and see the new Display Home on No. 8 Pawnee Bay

Furnished by The Hudson’s Bay Co.”

19

15 Iroquois Bay

Six of the 12 finalists from the Miss Manitoba Pageant, The Winnipeg Tribune, June 17, 1968

In 1966, this home was purchased by Maurice (Mo) and Irene Renaud. Mo was a public announcer for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Football club for 35 years and worked as a General Manager and CEO of the Red River Exhibition for 25 years. For several years in the late 1960s, their home was host to the swimsuit competition of the Miss Manitoba Pageant—also known as the “Splash Party.” A Winnipeg Free Press article dated June 17, 1968 reported that the judges of the competition, including Professor of Interior Design Grant Marshall, “watched closely and took notes as the girls paraded around the pool in their bathing suits.” It has been claimed that this lot was home to the city’s first concrete residential pool, however this has never been confirmed.

12 finalists of the Miss Manitoba pageant, The Winnipeg Tribune, June 17, 1968

20

17 Iroquois Bay

17 Iroquois Bay (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

When a client purchased a lot in Niakwa Park, costs associated with constructing the subdivision, such as roads, were included in their purchase. Not all the lots were occupied at once and some residents moved in long before the subdivision's infrastructure had been completed. The original owners of 17 Iroquois Bay profited from this delay. For much of 1958, they boarded their horses in a shelter they built on the lot next door. They were known to take children living in the area on horseback rides. They also used that space for bonfires and as a starting point for their snowmobile drives to the Seine River.

More Information

Niakwa Park is unlike most housing developments as no school or church was incorporated into the design of the area—likely due to the small size of the subdivision. As a result, children must cross a major street to walk or bike to school, or are required to take the bus or be driven. This is different from the design of Windsor Park, located on the east side of Archibald Street, where part of the design was to minimize the number of streets children had to cross to get to school. Also, of note, there is no public transit that passes through Niakwa Park—residents must walk to Archibald Street to access public bus service.

Over the years, efforts have been made to increase the number of services in the area, which includes a community pool and most recently, a public library. The following stops offer more information on these projects.

The Seine River

The Seine River, a tributary of the Red River, is one of four rivers that flow through Winnipeg. Running through southeastern Manitoba, the Seine follows a winding course, meeting the Red River in St. Boniface. While some assumed the river was named after the Seine River in Paris, it is much more likely that its name is the French translation of what is thought to be the river’s Indigenous name, Tchinâhâgânisipi.

Many important historical sites can be found along the Seine, some dating back to the early nineteenth century. The homestead of Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière (1778–1855) and Marie-Anne Gaboury (1780–1875) can be found along the river, as well as the family home of the writer Gabrielle Roy (1909–1983). The first written reference of the Seine River dates back to 1800 when fur trader Alexander Henry wrote about the river in his journal. However, Indigenous peoples had a presence on the land long before European settlement.

The river valley of the Seine had traditionally been home to a range of wildlife. Sadly, their habitats had been largely damaged or destroyed over the years as a result of various developments along the river. This reality, along with several other issues plaguing the river, resulted in a call to action by a group of concerned community members. The first accounts of the Save Our Seine advocacy group appeared in September 1990 in the Winnipeg Free Press, following a meeting that saw the formation of the Save Our Seine residents’ committee. One of the committee members cited the river’s “filthy condition,” low water level, lack of flow, and pollution from chemicals and waste as the main problems the committee wanted to see addressed. That same committee member also expressed concern for wildlife, commenting that in prior years, there had been wood ducks and mallards nesting in the area.

The group continues to be active today as a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation. It works towards goals that aim to preserve, protect, and enhance the river while also raising public awareness and improving appropriate and low-impact public access along the river.

Windsor Park Golf Course

10 Des Meurons Street

James McDiarmid driving off at the first tee at the opening of Windsor Park Golf Course, The Winnipeg Tribune, July 31, 1925

The boundaries of Niakwa Park include the Windsor Park Golf Course, a mass of land that takes up the majority of the neighbourhood and is laid out on both sides of the Seine River. Early discussions of the course date back to 1921, the same year that the City of Winnipeg opened the first municipal golf course in Kildonan Park. On October 8, 1921, the members and board of directors of the Windsor Park Golf Course placed an ad in the Winnipeg Free Press, inviting interested community members to visit the property and witness its current developments. A couple of weeks later, another ad appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, claiming that:

“The essentials of a good golf course are undulating land, natural hazards and bunkers, well placed traps, light, loamy rich subsoil for fairways and greens, and surroundings which are attractive. These features will stand out prominently on the Windsor Park Golf Course.”

The golf course was set to open on, or around, May 15, 1922; however, only nine holes would be ready for play. While it appears that there were no reports of this opening in the local press, a year later, the clubhouse had been expanded to accommodate additional lockers.

In 1924, the Winnipeg Parks Board purchased the Windsor Park Golf Course for $75,000 from the Municipality of St. Vital, ultimately making it Winnipeg’s second municipal golf course. When the land was purchased, the golf course and its facilities had only been partially completed. A new clubhouse was built to the design of James McDiarmid, architect and member of the Winnipeg Parks Board since 1914. Known in the golfing community as the “Father of Municipal Golf,” McDiarmid drove off the first tee at the opening of the course on July 30, 1925. The course continues to be maintained and run by the City of Winnipeg.

Niakwa Trail Rain Garden

located near St. Vital Pool

Illustration of the Niakwa Trail Rain Garden (Save Our Seine and HTFC Planning + Design), 2015

Designed in 2015, the Niakwa Trail Rain Garden was the result of a partnership between Save Our Seine, Manitoba Eco-Network, the City of Winnipeg, and HTFC Planning & Design.

Located along the Niakwa Trail at Fermor Avenue and St. Anne’s Road, the aim of the Rain Garden is to filter rainwater run-off, pollutants, and sediment before they flow into the Seine River. The water, coming from the adjacent Superstore parking lot and Niakwa Trail, first flows over stone and sod strips that help to filter out large debris. Then, the water flows into the garden, where it slows down and is absorbed by plants that neutralize and convert heavy metals and chemicals into useable nutrients. The urban habitat is now home to 670 native plants and 58 native species.

Windsor Park Library

1195 Archibald Street

Exterior, Windsor Park Library (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

The new Windsor Park Public Library at 1195 Archibald Street was designed by David Penner Architect with h5 architecture and built at a cost of $4.9 million. Opened in March 2018, the new library replaces the 1961 Windsor Park Library at 955 Cottonwood Road. Not only does the structure meet the City of Winnipeg access standards, it was designed to meet LEED silver certification, exceeding the provincial standards for energy efficiency.

Interior floor-to-ceiling windows, Windsor Park Library (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

The 8,000-square-foot, triangular building features floor-to-ceiling glass, allowing a significant flow of natural light. Inside, a collection of 25,000 books, movies, and music is stored. There is also a mosaic mural of 60,000 ceramic tiles, created by local artist Simon Hughes. When you step outside to the back of the library, you will encounter an outdoor reading area and a surrounding of trees.

Interior mosaic mural, Windsor Park Library (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation), 2018

The library was part of the city’s larger public library redevelopment strategy. The opening was marked with a ceremonial shelving of books as opposed to the more traditional ribbon cutting.

Bonivital Pool

1215 Archibald Street

Built in the early 1970s, Bonivital Pool was St. Boniface’s first indoor pool. When it was constructed, it served the Niakwa Park, Windsor Park, St. Vital, and Southdale neighbourhoods. In 1971, there were approximately 50,000 residents living in these areas. However, with the addition of Southland Park, Sage Creek Royalwood, and Island Lakes, that number rose to just over 89,000 in 35 years. As a result, the community has expressed that not only are the facilities outdated, Bonivital Pool is just too small to accommodate this increase in population.

Bibliography

Archives

Niakwa Park, St. Boniface Collection, City of Winnipeg Archives
Vertical Files, Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

Books

Kostka, Joseph V. Planning Residential Subdivisions. Winnipeg: The Appraisal Institute of Canada and Hignell Printing Limited, c. 1950
Niakwa Park Residents’ Association. Niakwa Park: 60 Years of History. Winnipeg: Niakwa Park Residents’ Association, 2016

Newspapers

Lewys, Todd. “1960s bungalow gets reimagined.” Winnipeg Free Press, October 7, 2017
Lewys, Todd. “Fabulous fifties: Vintage home has been given a modern makeover.” Winnipeg Free Press, October 16, 2010
Robertson, Bud. “Renewing a heritage.” Winnipeg Free Press, September 4, 1996
Shnier, Cliff. “A Parade of Beauties: Ex party makes a splash.” Winnipeg Free Press, June 17, 1968
Taylor, Gloria. “Architect just wanted build: Zunic a major player in design of south Winnipeg.” Free Press Weekly, South Edition, October 7, 1990
van Gerwen, Jasmine. “Bonivital Pool ain’t what she used to be.” Winnipeg Free Press, October 8, 2013
“Canada has largest supply of electricity.” Winnipeg Free Press, September 5, 1953
“Efficiency leisure, keynotes of modern living habits.” Winnipeg Free Press, May 21, 1955
“For those who love privacy.” Winnipeg Free Press, October 6, 1962
“ʻHigh Class’ Housing Plan Gets Nod from St. Boniface.” Winnipeg Free Press, November 17, 1954
“Housing booms in greater Winnipeg,” Winnipeg Free Press, May 21, 1953
“Housing project near approval.” Winnipeg Free Press, January 18, 1955
“Niakwa home awarded Canada’s first medallion.” Winnipeg Free Press, September 8, 1958
“Niakwa Park: where particular people dwell.” The Winnipeg Tribune, July 7, 1956
“Windsor Park golf course in fine shape for play.” Manitoba Free Press, Saturday, May 12, 1923
“Windsor Park Golf Course Opens.” The Winnipeg Evening Tribune, July 31, 1925
Advertisements and real estate listings. The Winnipeg Free Press, 1955 to 2018
Advertisements and real estate listings. The Winnipeg Tribune, 1955 to 1980

Periodicals

Canadian Homes & Gardens, August 1956
Canadian Homes, April 1960

Private Collections

We would like to thank the Niakwa Park Residents’ Association and the many Niakwa Park residents who allowed us to consult their private collections during the research phase of this project.