by Bruce Cherney (part 2 )
A June 12, 1911, meeting showed that not all had been resolved among Granite Curling Club shareholders. The question of winding up the affairs of the existing club at the corner of Hargrave Street and Ellice Avenue, which was built in 1892, became a point of contention.
The goal of the club executive was to disband the existing club (incorporated as a company in 1892) and then issue shares for a new company in order to finance the construction of a new Granite Curling Club rink.
Meanwhile, at a private meeting of the shareholders on April 16, 1911, verbal offers were being discussed for the existing club, which ranged in price from a low of $125,000 to a high of $150,000. The location was considered to be quite valuable, as property prices had been rising over the years, especially during the last several months prior to the meeting. The climbing value of real estate in the downtown was shown by the sale of the Grand Central Hotel, at the corner of Graham Avenue and Fort Street, for $200,000, which represented a profit of $157,000 over an eight-year period.
A few months before the Granite shareholder’s meeting, a reasonable selling price for the site, with 120 feet along Ellice Avenue and 200 feet along Hargrave Street, was $80,000.
“Such a large space as this is hard to get in inside (downtown) property nowadays and it is probably for this reason that so many offers are being made,” commented the April 17, 1911, Free Press.
At a meeting of shareholders on May 11, 1911, Isaac Pitblado said that if the existing building was sold without securing a new site, the Granite Curling Club would cease to exist. At the time, the executive of the Granite was considering several locations for the new rink
“Every active curler who is at present a stockholder,”reported the Manitoba Free Press on June 13, “with one exception, voted in favor of keeping the club in existence, and it was only after a lively meeting opening at 8 o’clock and winding up about midnight that those having the larger interests won out and the meeting adjourned ...
“It was the contention of the old timers that they had helped curling in the past, and it was up to the younger members to pay for their sport, and that they should not be compelled to put money in a new club.”
While the old-timers didn’t want to purchase new shares in a new company, the majority carried the motion to wind-up the existing Granite company.
On March 28, 1912, during the annual meeting of the club, secretary R.P Lewis reported that the name of the club had been changed to the Granite Curling Association “as a matter of convenience” for the 1911-12 curling season. “owing to the fact that the original Granite club has suspended (operations)...”
The club was finally formally incorporated as a company under Chapter 116, Statues of Manitoba, 1912. As a formal company, the Granite had a board of directors (executive) and sold shares to its members.
It was announced in local newspapers that tenders would be received on September 26, 1912, for “the erection of a Curling Rink and Club House at the corner of Colony street and Mostyn place, Winnipeg, for the Granite Curling Club.”
The advertisement was signed by James Chisholm & Son, the local architectural firm selected to design the new curling rink. James Chisholm was a long-time member of the Granite’s executive and was in partnership with his son C.C. “Cam” Chisholm, who happened to be the president of the Granite in 1912.
Thomas Kelly, a skip at the Granite, successfully bid to acquire the contract to build the new rink. Kelly is infamous for having been convicted for padding the government contract to build the Manitoba Legislative Building. Kelly served only nine months of his 2 1/2-year sentence. On Saturday, August 25, 1917, the Free Press reported Kelly was released from Stony Mountain “on parole on Thursday on the grounds of ill-health.”
The site of the new Granite Curling Club occupied 400 feet along Mostyn Place and reached back 250 feet to the banks of the Assiniboine River. The river location was well-suited to the new rink, as water could be pumped from the river and then filtered to flood the curling sheets. River water was one of the few options available to the club, as it would be several years until the aqueduct bringing potable water from Shoal Lake was opened in 1919.
“From the east side of the building was open land to Osborne Street because Mostyn Place ended in front of the new rink (1986 — The Year Past, City of Winnipeg Historic Buildings Committee report). Another street running parallel just north ... called Whitehall Avenue, had several big houses on its south side, stables and a garage across from the Granite and the city’s big Amphitheatre looming across its north side ... Somewhat later, the property that is now the older Great West Life Building was for decades the Winnipeg (Osborne) Stadium ... The area, therefore, formed a disjointed sports complex, with good access to streetcar lines and considerable public profile.”
A day after the November 21, 1912, annual meeting to plan for the curling season, the Free Press commented that the members of the Granite club “were on the eve of entering what is claimed will be the biggest and best equipped curling club this side of the Atlantic and last night’s gathering was marked with probably more enthusiasm than has ever been seen at the many meetings of this pioneer club which has put the game on such a high level which it now enjoys in Winnipeg.”
At the meeting, Granite president Cam Chisholm told the members that the stock for the company would soon be subscribed. Secretary A.H.S. Murray said no member (who was charged a membership fee of $15 a year) would be compelled to purchase shares (non-shareholding members belonged to the Granite Players’ Association), but that it “would take some hustling” to finance the completion of the building, which was expected to cost over $100,000 ($40,000 went toward the acquisition of the property).
(Next week: part 3)