Downtown Winnipeg centres around the junction of Portage Ave and Main Street, and encompasses the Exchange District, Chinatown, Central Park and The Forks. The meeting point of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers has been used as a meeting place and centre of hunting/ fishing/ trading for at least 6,000 years. Much later, in 1822, Upper Fort Garry was built nearby, only to be destroyed by floods in 1826. Downtown was the core of Winnipeg’s early ‘boom’ in the early 20th Century, as a transportation and commodity hub.
The Exchange District is named after the Winnipeg Grain Exchange, the early locus of the grain industry in Canada, as well as other commodity exchanges and banks which filled the area in the late 19th century. Because of the large number of remaining buildings from this time, The Exchange District was named a National Historic site in 1997.
Winnipeg’s Chinatown began forming in the late 19th century, as Chinese immigrants came to work as gold miners and railway labourers. A clubhouse formed around 1909 for the Chinese United League hosted Dr. Sun Yat Sen when he visited in 1911, and by 1919 it was the fifth largest Chinatown in Canada.
The North End is the northern end of the old City of Winnipeg prior to the Unicity merger in 1972. The CPR mainline serves as the physical barrier between the North End and downtown. Originally part of the parish of St. John, it is one of the oldest parts of Winnipeg settled by Europeans. Fort Douglas was built in the area by the Selkirk settlers in 1812. The area was characterized in the early 20th century by a large population of immigrants from Eastern Europe, and was a major pro-strike hub during the 1919 General Strike. The left of centre support continued, with Communist Party of Canada aldermen representing the Ward from 1933 to 1983.
The West End was originally part of the Parish of St. James, but became part of the City of Winnipeg in 1882 when the boundary was extended to St. James Street from Maryland. The community developed as a residential neighborhood close to Winnipeg’s downtown through the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The West End slid into poverty and crime in the 1970s, but many attempts have been made to revitalize the neighborhoods.
Wolseley was developed in the early 20th century as a middle and upper class residential neighborhood. Wolseley was home to Happyland, an amusement park with a Ferris wheel and rides, until the park closed in 1909.
St Boniface is now known as the largest Francophone region in Western Canada. Early European settlement in the area included fur traders, but increasingly became French in flavor, with the founding of the Catholic mission in 1818. Much of the community’s early educational and cultural organizations, including the Collège de Saint-Boniface (founded in 1818) and the St. Boniface General Hospital, grew out of the French religious influence. St. Boniface was also an important locus of Métis culture and politics. The Rural Municipality of St. Boniface was incorporated in 1880, became a town in 1883, and a City (with their own Town Hall) in 1908. St. Boniface joined the unified City of Winnipeg (“Unicity”) in 1971.
The original Rural Municipality of St. Vital was an early francophone settlement subdivided from the R.M. of St. Boniface. It was established predominantly by fur traders, and remained largely francophone and Métis until the early 1900s. The City of St. Vital was incorporated in 1962, and joined into Unicity in 1971. The name “St. Vital” was first used by Bishop Tache, in tribute to his colleague, Bishop Vital Grandin.
St. James- Assiniboia started out as a farming community based on the North bank of the Assiniboine River, comprised of Scottish/ English settler, and Anglo-Métis peoples. The area was originally comprised of the RM of Assiniboia, incorporated in 1880, St. James, which became a City in 1956 , and the village of Brooklands. Brooklands became part of the City of St. James in 1967 and Assiniboia merged soon after to become part of the City of St. James-Assiniboia in 1969. In 1972, the City of St. James-Assiniboia joined Unicity.
The Parish of Kildonan was an original part of the Red River Colony, created in 1817, and named for an area of Scotland where many of the settlers originated. The Municipality of Kildonan was established in 1876, and was initially an agricultural and market gardening centre. The southern area of the region, Elmwood, was more heavily developed and joined with the City of Winnipeg in 1906.
In 1914, the RM of Kildonan was subdivided in East and West Kildonan. In 1925, the RM of North Kildonan further separated from the RM of East Kildonan, to reflect a growing urban/ rural split. The Rural Municipality of North Kildonan was incorporated in 1924 when rural residents of the Rural Municipality of East Kildonan chose to break away from their urban counterparts over concerns for development of the area. It became the City of East Kildonan in 1957. The Kildonans were reunited in the 1972 merger into Unicity.
In 1816, the Battle of Seven Oaks was fought in what is now considered West Kildonan. The RM of West Kildonan was incorporated in 1914, after the RM of Kildonan was split according to which side of the Red River the communities lay on. An RM of Old Kildonan was formed after a further subdivision within West Kildonan reflecting an urban/ rural divide, but became part of the City of West Kildonan, incorporated in 1961. The Garden City neighborhood, west of the CPR tracks, saw considerable development in the 1950s and 60s. West Kildonan joined the City of Winnipeg in Unicity in 1972.
Fort Garry was part of the RM of St. Vital until 1912, when the West side of the river separated and became the RM of Fort Garry. Fort Garry joined Unicity in 1972. Fort Rouge is named after a fort built on the Assiniboine River in around 1738 which may (or may not) have been located in the area. Prior to 1880 it was mainly small farms, but bridges built in 1880 and 1881 helped grow development. The area was originally part of the Parish of St. Boniface, but was annexed by the City of Winnipeg in 1882.
St. Norbert was historically inhabited as a prime hunting and fishing location and later as an important trade route. It became a parish in 1857, named St. Norbert in honour of Bishop Joseph-Norbert Provencher, the first bishop of St. Boniface. St. Norbert became an important hub for Métis peoples, and the site of resistance. After land disputes with the Government of Canada, the Comite national des Métis was formed in St Norbert in 1869, with Louis Riel as secretary. The Red River Rebellion led to the formation of a Provisional Government, eventually paving the way for the recognition of Manitoba as a province.
Transcona’s unlikely name is a combination of Transcontinental (after the railway) and Strathcona (after Lord Strathcona, an important contributor to the founding of the Canadian Pacific Railway). The community was founded in 1909 as a location for the repair shops for the Grand Trunk Pacific and National Transcontinental Railways. Transcona became a Town in 1912, a City in 1961, and incorporated into the City of Winnipeg in 1972.