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Virden Tourism Heritage Buildings and Sites

Virden is well known for it's many restored heritage buildings, dating back to the early 1880s.  Architectural styles are varied with most of the heritage being of either fieldstone or brick construction. 

Many of the structures are unique in western Canada, in architectural style and purpose.  Examples include the Aud Theater, which is unique in style as an example of a restored turn of the century opera house.  Another example is St Mary's Anglican Church, whose unique fieldstone construction exemplifies 1800s English style construction using abutments and high pitched roofs.

Virden's unique history as an early railroad center, has also left the community with a central business district, rich with heritage brick buildings, constructed at the turn of the century. Currently the community is beginning to undertake a process to re-establish the turn of the century heritage character to the central business district.
 
 

Canadian Pacific Railway Station
Located at 425 - 6th Avenue S, the Canadian Railway Station was constructed in 1900 after the original wood frame station burnt in 1899.  It has been restored and declared a heritage building in 1994.  It's unique fieldstone and overhanging eaves style was common with many rail stations in larger centers.

In the early years, many new immigrant farmers and businessmen  would have first disembarked from the train at this location and passed through the doors of this station.

Today, it houses many community based organizations including the "Virden and Area Arts Council", the "Virden Chamber of Commerce" and "Kelchris".  Also included is an art gallery and a separate board room area.
 
 
 
 
The Aud Theater
228 Wellington street

The Aud Theatre was built in 1911 as part of the municipal building.  The building was open to the public on February 29, 1912. The building consisted of a government telephone exchange room, new court room, three large offices, and the opera house, costing $32,500.00.
 
The population at this time was about 1500. The Aud Theatre was built by W.T. Manser. The comedy "the Misogynist” was the first to play in the theatre. The Great Eastern Sign Painting Co. of Toronto supplied the 22x30ft curtain. During the 30’s and 40’s the Aud was a movie theatre.
 
The Ceiling on the stage was originally 40ft high but it was lowered to 24ft to save heat. The building was originally heated by steam which was replaced with electric heat in 1984-85 after the renovation and re-opening in 1983.  When the theatre fell into disrepair it closed as a movie theatre and  the town council was preparing to demolish it.
 
A local steering committee was formed to save it, and after substantial renovations, it was re-opened in April 1983. The lower level consists of 257 seats and the upper level consists of 210 seats. The majestic curve of the balcony gives the audience a panoramic view of the stage. On either side this are two double decker boxes or loges which add an air of sophistication.
 
 
 
 
 
St Mary's Anglican Church
633 9th Street
This structure is a great example of fieldstone construction. Much of the stone for the fieldstone construction came from along the top of the Assiniboine River Valley.  The first church was a frame structure built by Clayton& Sons in 1885. This was the first church building in Virden.  Masonry work was done by Mr. Saul of Carberry with carpentry done by Mr. Harrington. of Winnipeg. Walter Chesterton a Winnipeg architect designed this notable structure while building the school across the street. The cloister and fence were added in 1952. The church features two stained glass windows created by famous artist and sculptor Leo Mol. The church also features a stained glass medallion window. This window was presented by the city of Brugge, Belgium to honor the 12th Manitoba Dragoons.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Goulding House
Located at 677 - 9th Avenue,  it is today a private residence.  Built in 1893 by Dr. Goulding, the fieldstone house represents a prime example of early prairie architectural designs with bi-level verandas and upper look out.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Virden Pioneer Home Museum
Located at 390 King Street, and Established in 1970, the museum holds over 6,000 items relating to the Victorian era of Virden's history. The museum itself was constructed in 1888 and the displays depicts a Victorian era home.

The museum is open daily from June1 to August 31 and it is staffed by youth dressed in attire of that era.  Staff provide daily interpretive tours of the museum and in August an annual "Museum Day" is held with active displays of crafts such as quilting and yarn spinning.

 
 
 
 
 
Fort Montagne a La Bosse
Fort Montagne a La Bosse is one of the most significant historical sites in western Manitoba. Located approximately 2.5 miles directly east of Virden, along the original # 1 Highway,  the Fort Montagne a La Bosse site is marked by a cairn which was erected in 1933.
 
 
 
 
 
Site and Cairn Location Map - Fort Montagne a La Bosse
Although it appears there is little left of the historic fort, it played a major role in the expansion of the fur trade to the north west.
 
As one of a series of supply forts for the Northwest Company scattered along the Assiniboine River,  it has hosted a list of memorable early explorers and fur traders.
 
It played a role in the Lewis and Clark " Corps of Discovery" exploration tour, as a jumping off point for   Northwest Company men who were entrusted with communicating with Lewis and Clark prior to their westward exploration of the United States northwest.

Established in 1790 by the Northwest Company, it was composed of a stockade and several cabins.  During the initial years it was the furthest west post within the    "Assiniboine Region" and served as the jumping off and supply point for expeditions to the west.

It's primary role was one of pemmican supplier for Assiniboine River travellers and for the Red River district in general. This was due to the abundant buffalo   which roamed the plains in the region.

In 1804, Fort Montagne a La Bosse was the connecting link for Northwest       Company personnel to connect up with the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Several   letters were passed back and forth through Fort Montagne a La Bosse, between Lewis and Clark and the then Assiniboine District head of the Northwest Company, Charles Chaboilez.

The following is several excerpts form various journals and books.

"One such passage from the manuscript copy of Hannon's journal anticipated,    perhaps, the most important of all North American exploratory adventures:"

"November 24, Saturday [1804] A Man arrived from Montagne a la Basse, with a letter from Mr. Chaboillez which informs me that two Captains Clarke & Lewis & one hundred & eighty Soldiers had arrived at the Mandelle [i.e. Mandan] Village on the Missisouri [sic] River -- who invite Mr. Chaboillez to go & pay them a visit (which is only a distance of five or Six Days march from where he is).
 
It is said that on their arrival there they hoisted the American Flag and told the Natives that they were not come among them to traffic, but merely to see the Country, and that as soon as the navigation was open they should continue their route across the Rocky Mountains & then down to the Pacific Ocean. They also made the Natives a few trifling presents, as well as repaired their Guns & Axes &c gratis. Mr Chaboillez writes that they behave remarkably honourably towards his people who are there to traffic with the Natives.[12]"

"It appears that the invitation extended to Mr. Chaboillez was accepted; for Sergeant Patrick Gass, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition wintering at the Mandan Village (near the present site of Bismarck, North Dakota), made the  following entry in his A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of A Corps of Discovery . . . (London, 1808):"

"Sunday 16th [December, 1804] Three of the traders from the N. W. Company came to our fort, and brought a letter to our commanding officers. They remained with us all night. The object of the visits we received from the N. W. Company, was to ascertain our motives for visiting that country, and to gain information with respect to the change of Government.[13]"

Daniel Harmon also wrote:
April 10, Wednesday - 1805 - On the 24th Ult. I accompanied by one Man a Horse back sat off for Montagne a la Basse, and when we were arrived there we were not a little surprised to find the Gates shut and about eighty Lodges of Crees & Assiniboins encamped about the Fort, who threatened to massacre all the White People who were in it, and those blood thirsty Savages had the boldness to throw Balls over the Palisades & tell our People to gather them up, as they might probably want them a few Days hence."
 
I after having past several Days there sat off to return home but as I got out of the Fort Gate, three rascally Indians stepped up towards me, one of whom laid hold of my Horses Bridle and stopped my Horse, in saying that he belonged to him and added that he would take him from me.
 
However I told him that he had sold the Beast to Mr. Chaboillez, and he had given him to me, therefore he must go and speak to that Gentleman about the Horse as I had nothing to do with him, but the rascal would not let go of the Bridle, and when I saw that, I gave a pretty good blow with the butt end of my whip on his knuckles and then another to my Horse, which made him spring forward & leave the Indian behind, & so I continued my route. But the villain with one of his companions followed us nearly half of the Day, but after that we saw them no more.
 
On my return I remained four Days at Riviere qui Appelle where I passed my time very agreeably in the company of Messrs. John McDonald & Thomas McMurray (both for the X. Y. Company) and Andrew   Poitras - but in leaving that place I had the River to cross, and at that late Season the ice was bad, so much so that my Horse with me upon him fell through twice, and the last time I was very nigh going under the Ice, but kind Providence spared me once more.

J B Tyrrell in 1890 visited the site with most of the fort outline still being visible.  Although he gave some conflicting information as to it's location due to misinterpretation of maps most likely, it is generally accepted that the site he visited is the site located 3 miles due east of Virden, on the edge of the Assiniboine Valley, in the RM of Woodworth.

Over the last decade research has been undertaken, to further define this fort as one of earliest in the area. Work is continuing to be done to define the site and to develop a integrated history of it's role in the exploration and expansion into western Canada.

Costume Closet
Located at 484 6th  Avenue S. the costume closet is a unique collection of over 15,000 costume items.  The selection is varied from early era evening gowns, to military uniforms, to Halloween costumes.  The facility has provided costumes to various local theater productions or school performances and has received donated materials from through out Canada and the United States.

Virden Tourism Community Events and Tours

Aud Theater Presentations
Professional Entertainers
Film Series
Theatrical Productions
Festival of the Arts
Community Tours

Numerous tours are conducted annually.  These tours include tours of the rich heritage buildings and business tours such as tours of the oilfields.
 
Vendor Supplied Tours
Privately operated heritage walking tours are available by contacting Kel Smith at 204-748-3321 Limo heritage tours are available by contacting Virden Taxi at 204-748-2920
 
External Tours
Assistance for large tour groups and for business tours can be accessed by contacting the Town of Virden’s Economic Development Manager at 204-748-2440