Gimli’s heritage buildings are a tangible reminder of the people and forces that formed the community we know today.
Through a careful heritage inventory and analysis process we have identified the following particularly significant buildings; their high degree of physical integrity allows us to read aspects of Gimli’s story in their walls.
Community Buildings and Sites
Gimli Public SchoolGimli Public School ((1915) is a commendable example of the kind of educational institution constructed by an Icelandic community determined to provide the best opportunities for its children, despite limited resources. The design did not come from a set of standardized plans from the Manitoba Department of Education, as was popular at the time, but rather from a local resident and designer, Halldor Sigurdson. Ascribing to its era’s conventions and regulations for health and safety, the school demonstrates special attention to emergency exits, lighting and ventilation. The original facility, with six spacious classrooms, featured the most modern conveniences and equipment available at the time, housing Grades 1 through 12. The building has been designated as a Municipal Heritage Site.
Gimli Dance PavilionThe Gimli Dance Pavilion (1911) is the older of only two extant facilities of its type still operating in Manitoba and the only remaining dance hall of three built in the Interlake district. Designed by Olafur Thornsteinson, a talented craftsman, musician and early pioneer in New Iceland, the pavilion remains largely intact with its original materials and design features. Although diminutive in size and appearance compared to later facilities, it represents the popularity of dancing as a recreational activity after the turn of the twentieth century. The pavilion also holds significance as a social and cultural venue for the Icelandic community, hosting many events, including the yearly Icelandic Festival of Manitoba. The building has been designated as a Municipal Heritage Site.
H.P. Tergesen and Sons StoreH.P. Tergesen and Sons General Merchant is a rare surviving example in Manitoba of the kind of commercial establishments that served most small communities around the turn of the twentieth century. The store recalls the simple vernacular traditions, construction materials and interior layout, finishes and details that characterized this building type, with the exceptional feature of pressed tin cladding on its facades. The store has been open since 1899, making it one of the oldest small retail establishments in Manitoba. It also has important connections to the Tergesen family, which has operated the store continuously for more than 100 years. The building has been designated as a Provincial Heritage Site.
Gimli Unitarian ChurchGimli Unitarian Church (1904–05) represents the beginning of organized Unitarianism on the Canadian Prairies. As the first church built after four of Manitoba’s Icelandic congregations seceded from the Lutheran Synod, this structure became the Mother Church of the Unitarian movement in Western Canada, as well as an institution of central importance to the Icelandic community. The building expresses this religious development in a direct and functional manner through its basic plan, wooden construction, modest Gothic Revival detailing and simple, yet elegant tower. The building has been designated as a Municipal Heritage Site.
Spruce Lodge Cottage“Spruce Lodge” (Andrews Cottage) is an excellent example recalling the development in the early decades of the 20th century of a summer cottage area around Gimli Park. Here, and at many other cottages, summers were an idyllic time, with mothers arriving in June to stay with the children, and fathers arriving on Fridays at 7:10 p.m. on the “Weekend Special” train. It was probably built in 1913 for Thornton and Emma Andrews. The Nicholson/Sutherland family has had ownership since 1921. The cedar cottage is representative of its type in some ways, with its typical hipped-roof form, entirely wood construction, informal plan and ingenious details. But the building is distinguished by notable variations on the theme: graceful sloping roof and unusual exterior detailing (vertical strapping that gives the cottage a more refined quality). The cottage’s interior is one of the few in town that still reveals its construction, and the rest of the interior is of the highest integrity.
Davidson Wigg CottageBuilt around 1915, the Davidson/Wigg Cottage is an excellent and well maintained example of the “long gable” type of structure that still defines so much of Gimli’s cottage stock. It has been in the family for three generations, beginning in 1937. The building is a typical side-gable type, with the long edge of the roof facing the front. Accessed though the long porch along the front, which faces onto the lake, residents and visitors enter into a modest and well-lit interior that hasn’t changed much over nearly 100 years. The building has been designated as a Municipal Heritage Site.
Erindale Cottage“Erindale” (Truesdale Cottage) was put up in 1918 by a professional carpenter who brought kiln-dried lumber from British Columbia and built two identical cottages in town. Rhodes Scholar Skuli Johnson, father to the current owner, served as Classics Professor at Wesley College, then the University of Manitoba. A well-preserved hipped roof affair, this attractive structure boasts a very high level of integrity: much of the exterior fabric, and the original chimney.
Goodman CottageThe Goodman Cottage was built in 1914 by Carl Goodman, its first owner, who built three other cottages in town for members of his family. The building boasts excellent interior integrity, with an open ceiling and wall studs. It also has original doors, hardware, windows, shutters and linoleum flooring. Even some original furnishings are apparent — oil lamps (with hand-made shades), old Eaton’s cabinets, an old GE refrigerator and RCA Victor windup record player. The cottage was built around the large dining room table which was too big to bring in through the doors or windows. It is in good condition and has a high level of integrity. The building has been designated as a Municipal Heritage Site.
Warters CottageThe Warters Cottage is one of many extant examples that recall the development in the early decades of the 20th century of a summer cottage area at Loni Beach. A 1912 photo taken from the beach shows a line of cottages, including this one, along the shoreline of North Lake Street. The cottage (long owned by the Snidal family), built in or before 1912, was constructed from a catalogue kit (interestingly, it is noted that the kit may have been put together incorrectly, with base plates missing on the north and south sides). The cottage is a very good representative example of the side-gable cottage type, is in good condition and boasts excellent integrity. The cottage also contains much early hand-made furniture.
Maryville Deaks Cottage“Maryville” (Deaks Cottage) is a well-preserved and excellent example of the basic hip-roofed cottage typical of the Gimli Park Cottage Area from the 1920s. With typical window and door treatments (and with original hardware in many cases), floor plan, building materials (simple wood frame on stout wooden blocks), the cottage is a textbook example of its type. “Maryville” seems to have been built for John and Mary Deaks, and subsequently was owned by daughters Elsie and Beatrice, who owned the place until 1999. A typical hipped roof design, the cottage was put up around 1925, and was built from a kit, likely from Eaton’s. The cottage is in good condition and has an impressive level of integrity, even including the old chimney. The building has been designated as a Municipal Heritage Site.
Thorson CottageThe Thorson Cottage, dating from 1918, is a very good example recalling the development in the early decades of the 20th century of summer cottages in town. Originally owned by Stefan Thorson, it was purchased in 1925 by Jacob Greenberg, a merchant and businessman. The Ludlow family owned it for many years, before the Blicqs moved in, in 1997, and began a restoration and upgrade. This cottage is said to have been built by Hjalmar Thorsteinson, (a well-remembered early carpenter whose hands touched many Gimli buildings). It is a fine example of the hipped type cottage. The building is in very good condition and has a high level of integrity. The cottage is well remembered by a generation of Gimli residents who brought good report cards to the back door where they were rewarded with candies by its kindly former owner, Pearl Glendora Ludlow. Mrs. Ludlow also loaned out the cottage’s vintage piano for local dances and parties. The building has been designated as a Municipal Heritage Site.
Devon Lodge Cottage“Devon Lodge” (Whiteway Cottage) is an important Gimli site, built by A.P. Whiteway in 1922 and maintained in the family for almost 90 years. It is one of the best examples of a summer cottage in its original condition. This basic side-gable building is an exemplary example of that type, with high levels of integrity—exterior qualities like sheathing, original windows and door, window canopies, as well as many interior characteristics — that make it a notable place. It is filled with original furnishings and artifacts such as a 1931 GE refrigerator (with warranty!), RCA windup record player with old needles and Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy records.
Maddin CottageThe Maddin Cottage, from 1910, is a reworked side-gable type of cottage, moved to this site. While of some heritage significance, the cottage is best known for its connection to noted Manitoba film-maker Guy Maddin, whose movie, Tales from the Gimli Hospital, was shot here, and featured local residents in several scenes that were filmed on the cottage site.
Arnes Fish PlantThe Arnes Fish Plant, from 1951, is a rare surviving link to the once-thriving fishing industry that dominated economic life around Lake Winnipeg in the early 1900s. Inaugurated by Steve Sigurdson and Joseph Dzydz, the building still boasts the original core, as well as filleting tables and a large industrial scale. Steve Sigurdson invented mounted ice augers and net pullers, manufactured jiggers, and sold all of these wares across Canada. The simple utilitarian building is typical for such quasi-industrial enterprises, in this case still boasting original wood construction materials, sheathing and windows and doors.
Berlo Farm VillageThe Berlo Farm Village, northwest of Camp Morton, is a unique aspect of Gimli history, recalling the arrival of German-Austrian immigrants in the early 1900s. The development by these pioneers of distinctive farm villages is still apparent in the landscape. The setting, which is defined by narrow strips of land and concentrations of buildings along a narrow street, also still features several original structures including sheds, barns, the “stackwall” Schnerch House from 1942 and the Adam Franz shed from 1944.
Arnes Lutheran Church
Arnes Lutheran Church is a fine example of a modest wooden church that was built in the early twentieth century and continues its function in a small rural village.
With its rectangular footprint, distinctive tower, round-arched windows, subtle exterior detailing and uncluttered auditorium plan, the structure defines the community’s Icelandic origins and religious institutions. It also provides a link, both symbolic and concrete, to the origins of Arnes, a community that has seen much change but continues to thrive.