Monthly Archives: July 2013

Winnipeg’s Kelly House- A Home with a Long History

kelly house 88 adelaide streetThis charming home is right here in my Exchange District neighborhood at 88 Adelaide Street, but I had never noticed it till just a couple of weeks ago when I was on  a walk. Built in 1884 it stands as the lone residential dwelling on a street of warehouses, factories and businesses. In 2010 it became the home of Cancer Care Manitoba. 

sunburst motif gables kelly house winnipegI loved the sunburst gingerbread motif on the gables. When I got home from my walk I did some research to learn about the house. thomas kelly winnipegThe house was built by Michael Kelly a contractor originally from Ireland in 1894 for a cost of $2.200. In 1875 the land on which it stood had been given to Alexander McDermott as part of a Crown grant. He sold it to John McKechnie, the Scottish owner of a Winnipeg foundry who in turn sold it to Michael Kelly and his brother Thomas.  Michael lived in the house till 1894. 

kelly house oldMichael and Thomas rented the house to a variety of people.  A Mrs. M Redmond rented it when Michael moved out and in 1896- J.M. Murray a printer took out a lease. James Cadham an architect settled in with his family from 1897 to 1901. Cadham had come to Manitoba from Ontario with the Wolseley Red River Expedition and stayed when he was discharged. By 1908 there was a boarding house at 88 Adelaide run by Mrs. Margaret Little and it was in that same year Thomas became the sole owner of the house. kelly house 2004In 1922 the house was seized by the city of Winnipeg because its owner Thomas Kelly was involved in a big scandal and had failed to pay his taxes. Kelly was arrested for perjury, embezzlement and fraud and although he tried to escape to the United States ended up being sentenced to two  and a half years in Stony Mountain prison. He had been given a contract to build the Manitoba Legislative Buildings and was charged with graft and corruption and lost the contract.  Turns out he was lowering wages and changing building specifications to keep costs down to the unrealistically low bid he’d made. An article in the New York Times claimed he had defrauded the Manitoba government of some $1.182,562. According to an article by Bruce Cherney Kelly only served a nine months of his prison sentence and not behind bars, but staying at the warden’s house and passing his days playing poker. kelly house 2007A whole variety of people owned 88 Adelaide after that, a restaurateur, a hotel proprietor, and a sportswear company.  In 1982 the Winnipeg Film Group had its offices there.
back of kelly house 2004

In 2007 the house was incorporated into the plot of a series of children’s middle years fantasy books called The Serpent’s Spell written by Rae Bridgman.  The 2008 annual report of Centre Venture says they will partner with the City of WInnipeg and Adelaide Investments Group to restore Kelly House as the new headquarters for Heritage Winnipeg.

Photo by Gordon Goldsborough

Photo by Gordon Goldsborough

But I also read the house was in danger of being razed for a parking lot in 2010 and Cancer Care Manitoba saved it and renovated it. The sign on the door today says it is the home of Cancer Care Manitoba as does the Manitoba Historical Society website. 88 adelaide street winnipeg

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Confessions of A Fairy’s Daughter




The final Winnipeg Fringe Festival show I saw was without a doubt the best. Check out my review on my blog What Next.

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Fringing Times Four

Quilters (Shoestring Players) Two women who are my colleagues at the Winnipeg Art Gallery were acting in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival production of Quilters. Tiffany and Rhonda pictured here were part of an impressive cast that provided a moving and meaningful performance rich with music and story. A woman is making a legacy quilt for her daughters and as she creates each quilt square a story unfolds. The stories are told in different ways. Some are sad. Some are funny. But they give us a window into what life was like for pioneer women. We get a glimpse of church life, school life, family life, community life and the many hardships faced by women trying to raise children and eke out an existence in hard times. In an era before birth control, equality for women and many of the modern conveniences we enjoy, their lot was not an easy one. It made me think about what life must have been like for my grandmothers. I was in tears at the end of the show as the cast sang a hymn. The CBC only gave this show 2 stars but discriminating Fringe goers ignored that. There wasn’t an empty seat in the Warehouse Theatre at the performance I attended.

Threads (Tonya Jone Miller - Photo by Gina Bixby)Tonya Miller, the sole actor in the play Threads wants us to think about how one event in life can change everything. In the case of the heroine of Tonya’s story, who just happens to be her mother,  that event was landing in a course about the history of Asia by default during her first year at college. That leads to a trip to Vietnam where she meets Tonya’s Vietnamese father and becomes involved with a little boy in an orphanage who hides threads from her clothing in his hands. It’s a heart wrenching tale about love and loss and how the war in Vietnam impacted Tonya’s mothers’ family. Staged at  Cinematheque Threads is a sell out most performances. I only got in because I went to a 10:45 pm. show. 

Hot Thespian ActionI attended a show by Hot Thespian Action at last year’s fringe and once again I was impressed by their impeccable timing, amazing mime skills and professional presentation.  They do a series of sketches that pass commentary on modern life.  I enjoyed three especially. One was a spoof on those home decorating reality shows. It depicted a make-over of a bachelor pad. Another was an ad for an agency that Rents a Son to help older parents handle technology. The agency contends that many parent child relationships are ruined by the parents’ constant demand for help with texting, smart phones and television remote controls. Rent a Son will provide a substitute child to help parents with technical difficulties so they can enjoy a normal relationship with their own offspring.  The third sketch that struck a chord with me was about a woman unable to find her phone in a messy purse. She ends up diving into her purse and discovering all kinds of interesting ‘treasures’ inside. The line up was long at the Gas Station Theatre for this show and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. 

stranger next doorThe Stranger Next Door at Alloway Hall was a little strange and over the top when it came to drama.  It’s plot has been translated from a French story and perhaps lost something in translation. A lovely elderly couple just starting out retirement in a the country home of their dreams has their life totally transformed, and not for the better, by the doctor who lives next door with his mentally unstable wife. Some of the events were quite implausible and we lacked enough background knowledge to really care or connect with the doctor or his wife.  The acting was good, but the play dragged a bit in spots. I thought some of the story instead of being told as a narrative by the elderly gentleman who is the main character, might have been more effectively conveyed through dialogue and action. Still it’s thought-provoking to consider how our interactions with one person can completely change the kind of person we become. 

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Fringe Festival – Second and Third Play

till death do us part tara travis winnipeg fringe festivalWhat would happen if Henry VIII’s wives all met in heaven and St. Peter told them they needed to decide amongst themselves which one gets to spend eternity with the famous monarch and husband they all shared? Although there are seven characters in the show Till Death Do We Part– the six wives and the great Henry himself- there is only one actress, the remarkable Tara Travis who plays all the roles. Each wife, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boylen, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Jane Seymour and Catherine Parr have their own accent, body language and personality and Travis slips effortlessly from one character to another sometimes in an instant, while having conversations, participating in arguments and telling stories. It was always easy to know which of the seven characters she had become. You learn plenty of British history from the play but it’s never boring. The answer to the question of who spends eternity in royal heaven with Henry is answered in an unexpected but satisfying way. The show is at the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Theatre .Crumbs winnipeg fringe festival

I’ve seen the CRUMBS improv team perform before and they can be very funny, but last night was not one of their best nights.  I felt they were struggling to find humour while creating a drama based on what was a very funny suggestion from the audience. A woman told a story about how her parents met while hitchhiking in Scotland. Her Dad picked her Mom up. They were both teachers, he American and she Canadian. They married and raised five kids, three of them a set of triplets. There was lots of potential there but the story veered off into a tale about murdering Scottish sheep and two detectives chasing the American teacher for some unknown crime. The intermittent thunder from the storm outside could have been fodder for some great jokes but again things didn’t click. I guess improv teams all have less than stellar nights. I’m sure tomorrow’s show could be hilarious and I’d go back just in case it was, because I know from the past these guys are talented and can definitely make you laugh. They are playing at the Kings Head Pub. 

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Winnipeg Fringe Festival – The First Play

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Winnipeg Fringe Festival- First Play

A cardboard cutout of the single character in Thom Pain adorned the stage

A cardboard cutout of the single character in Thom Pain adorned the stage

I went to my first Fringe Play last night. It was Thom Pain written by Will Eno and performed by Grant Burr, who just happens to be the editor of The Carillon the regional newspaper I’ve worked for as a weekly columnist for many years.

The play was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and has been performed to great acclaim in cities around the world.  It reminded me of a stream of consciousness poem. The sole character reflects on his childhood, a romance gone awry and life in general. Existence has been tough for Thom as his last name suggests and we are forewarned about the darkness of the play when the lights fail to come on during its first few minutes. The script does have its funny moments and the small audience responded well to the humorous bits.

It must have been quite a feat to memorize this sixty minute reflective and erratic rant on how painful and fearful life can be. Talking to Grant later he said he’d taken holiday time off work to prepare and intimated that he wasn’t always able to deliver the script word for word the way it is written, although I thought he performed admirably without any discernible lapses in memory. 

One question in the play really got me thinking. “When did your childhood end?” A fellow play attendee told me after the show she thought her childhood had ended when her mother was diagnosed with cancer when she was just ten years old.  I think mine ended when I realized my parents weren’t perfect, although I can’t say exactly when that was. My husband told me his childhood has never ended.

Several references in the play reminded me of a poem by Raymond Carver called Fear which I studied with my high school students.  I wonder if the playwright Will Eno had read Carver’s poem. 

I liked the script’s reference to the overuse of the word ‘whatever’ in our modern-day as a way to express our tolerance of things we perhaps shouldn’t tolerate and the general laissez-faire attitude of much of society. This despite the fact a recent poll says ‘whatever’ is the phrase in the English language found to be the most annoying to people. 

Thom Pain can be uncomfortable to listen to because you feel sorry for the protagonist and at times perhaps can identify a little too closely with his story. One reviewer warns that ecstatically happy people shouldn’t attend this play. It is at the Red River College (RRC) Theatre, the alma mater of the play’s sole actor, Grant Burr.  He studied drama at the University of Winnipeg and Creative Communications at RRC. 

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Fort Gibralter

Fort Gilbralter St. Boniface

Fort Gibralter St. Boniface

I’d always wanted to visit Fort Gibralter, which is very near our home and on Canada Day I finally did. Admission was free because it was a national holiday.  While Dave was watching baseball at nearby Whittier Park I took a very interesting tour. 

The Blacksmith Shop

The Blacksmith Shop

Fort Gibraltar was built to show visitors what life was like in the area around Winnipeg in the early 1800’s. It was the home base for the North West Trading Company which was in direct competition with the Hudsons Bay Trading Company. The original fort was built in 1809 but captured and destroyed by the Selkirk colony in 1816.  Later the two companies amalgamated.

Fur trading at Fort Gilbraltar

Fur trading at Fort Gibraltar

The fort served as a supply depot and trade center for the voyageurs. The voyageurs were French Canadian transportation experts. They were seasoned woodsmen and fearless canoeists, known for their music making and love of life. Their job was to move  furs from one place to another.

These women were making baskets to hold voyageurs' supplies

These women were making baskets to hold voyageurs’ supplies

Look at her dress decorated with shells

Look at her dress decorated with shells

This young woman was curing cast iron cooking pots for the voyageurs. I loved the way the shells on her dress jingled and jangled as she moved around.

Packing a bison bladder with pemiccan

Packing a bison bladder with pemiccan for the voyageurs to take on trips

This fort worker was making pemiccan,  a paste of dried and pounded meat and maybe berries mixed with melted fat. It was good food for the voyageurs to take on their journeys and was stored in a dried out bison bladder.

Main Building at Fort Gilbralter

Main Building at Fort Gibralter

Voyageurs used Fort Gibraltar as a place to trade, rest up and restock their supply caches. 

Rental space at Fort Gilbraltar

Rental space at Fort Gibraltar

You can rent the main lodge for events. On Canada Day when I visited it was all set up for a wedding.

Guide explaining the willow china pattern

Guide explaining the willow china pattern

The guides at the fort were so helpful and answered all of my many questions.fort gilbralter
I know I’ll visit Fort Gibralter again.

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