There’s a forgotten stretch of sidewalk in West Broadway, behind the Great-West Life Assurance Company headquarters. Running east from Balmoral Street and its curving row of tidy mansions built in the early years of 1900s, it ends when it meets a fence and some shrubs at the at the edge of Great-West Life’s endless ocean of parking lots. Imprinted into the concrete of this sidewalk is the name “Osborne Place.” What is remarkable about this tiny piece of public infrastructure is that Osborne Place is a street that has not existed in name since the First World War, and not existed in actuality since the 1950s.
The Great-West Life headquarters sits on what was the western extent of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s land reserve, which encompassed most of what is now downtown Winnipeg. Running north from the Assiniboine was Colony Creek, which wound its way up as far as the corner of Sargent and Furby. As the city grew, and development expanded westward beyond the reserve and into the narrow farm lots of the Parish of St. James, the creek was filled in and built over. (Its name lives on in Colony Street, and a dip in Broadway west of Osborne is a physical remnant of the creek’s existence.)
When the Colony Creek was filled in, a street was built to connect Balmoral and Osborne Streets, named Osborne Place. At some point between 1912 and 1917, Osborne Place was renamed Whitehall Avenue.
By 1940, the land south of Broadway between Osborne and Balmoral housed a large brewery, an enclosed amphitheatre, an outdoor stadium (home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers), a row of houses on the east side of Balmoral, as well as a number of houses along Whitehall Avenue and Colony Street. There was also, of course, the Granite Curling Club on Mostyn Place, built in 1912.
When Great-West Life built its headquarters on Osborne in the late 1950s, Whitehall Avenue was closed and its houses demolished. So too were the stadium and amphitheatre. In time the brewery and all but one of the houses on the east side of Balmoral would be torn down.
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It is this lost piece of the West Broadway neighbourhood, and not just a street name that hasn’t existed for nearly a century, that the sidewalk imprint “Osborne Place” is today a reminder of.
Robert Galston likes to write about Winnipeg, urbanism, and other very, very exciting topics. Follow him on Twitter @riseandsprawl
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