In the years leading up to 1911, Winnipeg was ranked fourth for manufacturing in Canada. Yet the 1914 recession, the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, and, most notably, the Great Depression spanning from 1929 to 1939 completely shut down economic growth until the beginning of the Second World War.

While the Great Depression plunged local business, manufacturing, wholesale trade and mail-order business into a steep decline, the city was still ripe with life and development. Here’s a chronological look at 15 photos that showcase Winnipeg from the beginning of the Depression in 1929 until right before the Second World War in 1939.

Canadian Bank of Commerce, 1929

Number 16

Photo: Archives of Manitoba

The Canadian Bank of Commerce was built in 1910 to showcase Winnipeg’s financial dominance among prairie cities. The building is located on the corner of Smith and Portage Streets but has since been renamed to the Millennium Centre.

Winnipeg Water District Railway, 1930

Number 7

Photo: Winnipeg Archives

Number 9

Photo: Winnipeg Archives

These photos show men standing by cut and stacked cord wood by the Winnipeg Water District Railway. In the early years of the railway, wood was transported for resale to Winnipeg residents and in 1935 more than 35,000 cords of wood were stacked at the St. Boniface station yards.

Construction for Winnipeg Auditorium, 1931

Number 10

Photo: Winnipeg Archives

The construction of the auditorium was a Depression unemployment relief project and was funded by civic, provincial and federal governments and cost approximately $1 million. The building was officially opened in October 1932.

North End Farmers’ Market, 1931

Number 13

Photo: Winnipeg Archives

Number 14

Photo: Winnipeg Archives

The market was on the west side of Main Street, north of Stella Avenue. Shown above is the front entrance to the market, the North End horse exchange, different types of cars and shoppers walking through stalls of fresh vegetables.

Saint Norbert’s Church, 1937

Number 20

Photo: Archives of Manitoba

The original church on this site was constructed out of logs in 1857 and replaced with a newer building in 1883. That building stood until 1929 when it was burned down in a fire. The church that still stands today was completed in 1937 and is the third church to be built on the site.

Portage Avenue pipe construction, 1938

Number 3

Photo: Winnipeg Archives

Number 12

Photo: Winnipeg Archives

These photos show workers changing eight-inch cast iron pipe with 10-inch transit pipe along Portage Avenue from Kennedy Street to Main Street.

New Hangar at Stevenson’s Field, 1938

Number 23

Photo: Archives of Manitoba

The Stevenson Aerodome was named after Manitoba aviator and pioneer bush pilot Captain Fred J. Stevenson and opened in 1928. By 1938 there were four civil aviation hangars, three hard-surface runways and a radio range station where they had their first air traffic controller. In 1958 the Stevenson Aerodome had grown exponentially and was renamed Winnipeg International Airport.

Greek-Ukrainian Church at Dauphin, 1938

Number 24

Photo: Archives of Manitoba

The construction for this Greek-Ukrainian Church took place from 1936 to 1938 in Dauphin, north of Winnipeg. The rapid growth of these churches across Canada was due to mass immigration from Galicia and Bukovina, Ukraine to Canada following World War One. Roman Catholics in Canada thought the married priests of the Galician Greek Catholic churches would cause a scandal within the religious community in Canada. As for the Bukovina immigrants, they were Orthodox Church members, meaning they were to attend Russian Orthodox services, even though it was not conducted in their native tongue. In 1919 the Ukrainian-Greek Orthodox Church was created.

Royal Visit to Winnipeg, 1939


Photo: James Tworow

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s royal visit in 1939 lasted from May 17th to June 15th. It is estimated that 100,000 people gathered in Winnipeg on May 24th to see the royals arrive.

Number 26

Photo: Archives of Manitoba

The King and Queen on Main Street.

Number 29

Photo: Archives of Manitoba

Crowd gathering at Polo Park.

T. Eaton Company, 1939

Number 27

Photo: Archives of Manitoba

While an Eaton’s branch in Winnipeg was not in the original plans, John Craig Eaton convinced his father to build a store at Portage Avenue and Donald Street. By 1919 the Winnipeg branch employed over 8,000 people and for many years was considered one of the most successful Canadian department stores.

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