The History of the Armstrong’s Point Association (APA)

The APA was formed in 1955.  It has been working diligently ever since to ensure Armstrong’s Point survival as a vibrant “residential community in the heart of Winnipeg”; and every year since 1955, up to sixteen neighbours have volunteered to serve on the APA board. 

Crescentwood homeowners started a similar organization in1952 in response to the demolition of homes along the south side of the Assiniboine to build apartments. Residents in Armstrong’s Point feared their community would be the next focus of developers.

Armstrong’s Point resident, R.D. Guy corresponded with the chair of the Crescentwood group, George Richardson (then President of James Richardson & Sons), before drafting a constitution for the newly formed APA. Though the annual membership fee was set at $10 (almost $94 in 2019 dollars), sixty Armstrong’s Point households signed up. 

Justice Guy’s report to the first annual meeting indicates that he had a very busy year as counsel for the APA at Winnipeg Zoning and Appeal Boards, as did APA members who wrote letters and attended hearings. They successfully opposed the following applications: the conversion of one house to six units, one to a quintuplex, three to triplexes, one to a rooming house, one for an institution  (Committee on Alcoholism) and finally, one for a university fraternity.  The construction of a new dwelling was turned down because the lot was too small. Three additional applications for triplexes succeeded because the APA approved architectural drawings that “retained the original residential character” and “included safe exits from all units”.

Zoning was not the only focus of the early APA.  When the second span of the Maryland Bridge was built in 1970, the APA successfully lobbied the City to close Cornish to through traffic from Sherbrook.  Other long-term aims included maintaining a healthy tree canopy and fostering neighbourhood connections through social activities such as the annual holiday party.

In looking through the APA archives, many early issues resurface on a regular basis. Inappropriate institutional expansion has been the focus of much activity, with the APA winning some battles and losing others.  Developers learned they would face a tough fight here, however.  The APA took a 1961 application for institutional expansion all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and, although leave to appeal was denied, that institution (St. John’s Ravenscourt) listened to the community’s objections and decided to pursue its plan at a larger, more suitable location.

Many of the amenities that we now take for granted in Armstrong’s Point exist only because of the APA’s considerable efforts.  It responded each time adjoining property owners attempted to buy all three street-ends in Armstrong’s Point for personal use.  We now have two attractive parks at either end of Blanchard  and the end of Middle Gate will be next.

Many APA initiatives have been directed at maintaining our beautiful tree canopy.  The first Tree Committee was formed in the 1970s and, over the years, the APA has raised funds to plant hundreds of trees.  The Coalition to Save the Elms (now Trees Winnipeg) started as an offshoot of the Armstrong’s Point Tree Committee. More recently, as Dutch elm disease has gained a firm foothold in Winnipeg, Armstrong’s Point is one of many communities losing magnificent elms.  The City’s Forestry Branch cannot replace all the casualties and so the APA Tree Committee has stepped up to plant new boulevard trees.

For this reason, fundraising has become a major part of APA activities.  A Garden Tour in 2000 and more recent elaborate Heritage House Tours have raised thousands of dollars to fund APA projects such as the parks and boulevard trees. The House Tours are also real community-building exercises, with over 100 volunteers helping with the most recent event.

Other community groups were helped by APA participation. When Cornish Library was threatened with closure on at least four occasions, the APA rallied the broader community and saved Cornish from demolition by initiating its designation as a Heritage Resource.  An APA offshoot called Friends of Cornish Library continues to support the next phase of upgrading and renewal. APA representatives helped to strengthen both Art City and Broadway Neighbourhood Centre and another group that began in Armstrong’s Point worked to save Sherbrook Pool.  Newsletters, community emails and a website keep residents informed.

After years of effort, Armstrong’s Point has recently been named as Winnipeg’s first Heritage Conservation District.  The City’s administration report, which says that they chose Armstrong’s Point “based partly on residents’ long-standing advocacy”, sums up the unique characteristics that have made it such a wonderful place to live:
“Armstrong’s Point’s history, architecture, cohesive streetscape and natural landscape contribute to its recognition as a highly valued district that is worthy of protection.”