260 Douglas Avenue
Establishing shot of Millennium Gardens Mural. All photos here are of the Mural at its original site at 1571 Henderson Highway. In 2010, because of the expansion of Chief Peguis Trail, the Millenium Gardens and this structure were moved North and East by a few hundred feet, and one block North, adjacent to the South side of Douglas Avenue.
Location: South side at clearing; all Faces of the building
Occupant: Millennium Gardens
District: North Kildonan
Neighbourhood: River East
Artist(s): Reid Edgeworth
Reid Edgeworth: "The Millennium Gardens group were the client. There's a volunteer
board that maintain the property. In the 1930s, what is now Millennium Gardens was
two family plots: the Doyle's plot was on the north side, and Ida Toews' homestead was
on the south side."
Ida Toews: "The idea of the Mural was to have the history of this piece of land from the
time it was first cultivated, because this is a garden."
Reid: "There is a beauty about this location. I liked the mood of the place because
everybody involved with it was there because they wanted to do something good for their
neighbourhood to help the community. This is a place that brings seniors out of their
apartment blocks and gives them a place to come and use their skills. There are old
farmers living in the area. Before the gardens they were just sitting home lonely and
watching TV. Suddenly all these people are being productive and socializing. It's a
symbol of giving, of people giving their time not to get anything out of it except a happier
world to live in. That's what appealed to me about the project. Being a teacher I can only
take on a couple of projects that I have time for, so I want to do stuff I feel strongly
"I got a phone call from one of the people on the board and that's how it all started. I
brought some pictures of former work, and I talked to them about the way I'd approach
doing it. They wanted an artist that was open to having seniors volunteer and kids; and
have a real sense of community involvement. They wanted to involve students as well as
seniors from the area to make it a kind of a binding experience for the whole community.
That is in fact what happened."
"We wanted to concentrate on the history of the land. Ida Toews used to lived there. The
Mural goes back in time as you go around the building, starting with the 1930s, the LIVING
memory of the people that lived and worked on that property. That was part of the beautiful thing about it: people would come up to me at least once a day. A
senior walking up the sidewalk would go out of their way to come all the way across that
ditch and say to me 'I used to go to school with the Doyle family' or 'I spent many a
rainy afternoon on that porch'. Their faces would invariably have a reflective or
nostalgic look as if they were reliving the experience through the Mural. That's why I
want to do these things, for moments like that!"
"One lady asked 'how could you've done
that; there's no pictures, and it's so close, just like I remember it.' I had no photo
references at all, just oral descriptions; from sitting and drawing with Ida. Ida would
sketch and I would take Ida's sketches and talk with her and then try to redraw it with more
perspective and more of a design to it. Sometimes she would add new details as we went
along, like a railing or something different about a window- that sort of thing; trying to
bring it back to life. We basically re-created her memory of her childhood place here.
Whether we completely succeeded I'll never know because there aren't any records of
Photo 10 illustrates one of 5 sketches which Ida did in the planning stages for the Mural,
and shows the Doyle's property on the left (north side) and the Toews homestead. Ida: "This was only a sketch, and was from a memory that was over 50 years old. I
imagined it from the perspective of looking out at the property from the upstairs window
of Lord Kitchener (now John Pritchard) School. On the finished Murals, the west gable
wall and the south wall may be viewed as one continuous landscape. It was Reid's idea to
blend the west and south wall, and I thought that was just splendid. When you come
down the highway they become almost as one."
Doyle All Star Ranch (Photo 4):
Ida: "The Doyle family owned and operated a Silver Fox and mink ranch. The All-Star
Ranch Tower was a well-known landmark along Henderson Hwy. The "All-Star"
indicated that the breeding stock consisted of pedigreed champions. The Doyle home and
the Tower were located where the Millennium Gardens boxes are built. A row of oak
trees and Manitoba Maples grew along the access road to the ranch. Some of them are
Reid: "I spent so much time researching and trying to get examples of Fox Farm towers
and 1930s homesteads. I could find some examples of the architecture but it still wasn't
exactly the way she wanted it and remembered it. Luckily we got along so well and it
was fun going back in time with her. The Fox Farm tower wasn't close to the house; that's
why it has that magnifying circle around it. It was a striking landmark in the area. When
Henderson Highway was a one lane highway, everyone knew that tower. These trees are
still there. I just stood on the spot and looked to the right at them while I was painting
John Lee Doyle: "You see that Silver Fox on the top of the roof? Her name was Sybil.
The cutout was made from an oil painting that was done by famous German artist because we
had her over there for an international showing. Sybil was a beautiful Fox and she ended
up being a world champions Silver Fox. We showed her in Sweden and Norway; just
everywhere. There were several trophies which we won internationally."
Toews homestead (Photo 5):
Ida: "On the right behind the caragana hedge my Father planted ash trees. A few of them are still there. The fields went
back 1 kilometre. We grew raspberries; and then there was a wide band of asparagus.
Beyond the asparagus were the tomatoes. He would sell the crops to the stores. We'd
pick them, box them, and then took them to the stores. My father was a teacher but he decided
to go into agriculture for a while. In the last few years before we moved away, my Father
planted some cherry, plum and apple trees; and they're still there. They've gone wild.
We also had flowers: Hollyhawks, Larkspur, Nasturtiums and Poppies (both the
California and the red poppy type). We also had Four O'clocks: they're a little bit like
morning glories except much smaller and they're only open when the sun is shining.
They had a beautiful scent!"
Reid: "They had the pump from the well, and that ash tree is still there. They had a
greenhouse for all their plants, and behind the house as far as the eye could see were the
fields. In the fields I painted a couple working together. They're just tiny, but they're at the
center of it all. I wanted to paint them in the same colour as the property: they're part of
the environment, they're tied into it, silhouetted like the trees are. As far as anyone can
remember this land is always used for this union between people and the environment.
People were always growing things here, and tried to make the land more beautiful by
planting flowers and living off the land and the food grown on the land. Now it's a
shared property, and Ida's still there and part of it."
East Wall: "Breaking the Land" (Photo 2):
Reid: "This is going back in time prior to the two homesteads, right around the turn-of-
the-century: turning the soil. The land is being broken for the first time. This wall was
fun, too. This is my favourite wall: the struggle and the muscle of it; the physical aspect
of breaking the land. That's so much of the history of our province, really. There is such
a work ethic here of trying to survive off the land. While I was painting this wall, an
older gentlemen walked up behind me and stood there looking for a long time and then
said 'I know what that guy is going through, I did that myself until I left home; ripping
the land with the hand plow behind a team of horses. I can still smell it!' This was so
neat, because it was alive for so many people. They were in the painting; it was part of
Ida: "Reid did a beautiful job on 'Breaking the Land'. His colours are so beautiful and
vibrant. The sky is just fantastic and this rich gold and yellow sand is so true to its
Reid: "I wanted the man to be ambiguous as to ethnicity. In Manitoba you have so many
ethnic cultures that have left their mark with their presence here. In North Kildonan you
have Scottish, Dutch, Irish, Metis, Mennonite, Ukrainian and many other peoples. So for the
man I wanted something where you couldn't necessarily pinpoint his background. The
sun's beating down on him at midday and the face is shadowed. I wanted the viewer to
relate more to the act than what background the man was."
North Wall: "Coming to the Land" (Photo 3):
Reid: "This is back in time further. The property is very close to the Chief Peguis Bridge
and the river. Along the river at various points were ox cart ferries. The figure of the
scene has disembarked from the ferry and is about to begin his homesteading. He is
surrounded by beauty. You can see the landing on the other side. He has his ox cart; a
huge symbol of Manitoba's development of people arriving by ox cart on ox cart trails,
getting their plot of land and starting their new life. This is 'coming to the land'. I have
lived on this side of the river with THAT view of the river. This river reflects light
differently at different times of the day. This is an early-morning scene: start of the day,
start of his new life. And Ida mentioned going across the river on picnics on the ferry in
Ida: "Reid left out the ferry, because he felt strongly that if there wasn't actually a ferry at
that particular location that it shouldn't be explicitly portrayed in the Mural."
Reid: "This was a meaningful project for me. It's close to home. When I was a
schoolboy I used to cut through this plot of land. Up until the point I did this Mural it
was it was an empty lot to me. There was a big drainage ditch and it was landlocked: it
was basically a dirty field that I had to cut through when I was walking to school. When
they approached me to the do the painting, I became aware of how much life and
memories were there with that land. Lifetimes had been lived there. That's what made it
special. I got to hear those stories from dozens of people that came to watch me paint
and from working with the people in the initial stages getting those stories and living
memories. With the Mural scenes you have definite icons of Manitoba and they're put
into context. I guess that's the thing about public art: why do you do public art? It can't
last forever. I think a big part of it is that connection to other people, that through public
art you suddenly have something in common with them; and who otherwise who you
couldn't meet and share something with them."
Ida: "I think we chose the right artist. No one could have shown more dedication than
Reid. He did a wonderful job!"
One warm October weekend in 2003, shortly after the Mural had been completed, the
family of John Lee Doyle travelled from Vancouver and Kenora to converge on
Winnipeg to view the Mural for the first time (photos 7 & 8). This writer feels privileged
to have been a part and witness to the Doyle/Toews reunion at this splendid Mural that is
a loving testament to their living memories. It was an extremely warm time and a happy
day for everyone who was present. Both Reid and myself were very pleased to have the
pleasure of meeting Mr. Doyle in person. I also enjoyed the chance of meeting and
chatting with some of his children. All of them still felt a strong connection to this land, I
think. One of Mr. Doyle's daughters told me that whenever he left the main house to use
the outhouse, he would always leave the outhouse door wide open because the view of
their own property was so marvelous!
Brief history of the land and memories of Ida Toews:
Ida: "The history of cultivating this land goes back much farther than when I lived here in
the 1930s-all the way to the early 1800s. The Hudson's Bay Company granted this land
to Lord Selkirk who brought the first settlers here. In 1817, he named the land east and
west of the Red River KILDONAN. This piece of that area is River Lot 53 of the parish
of Kildonan. River Lot 53 is a narrow strip of land, the Inner part extending east to the
two-mile road, the Outer another 2 miles plus 53 "A" (Note: the division of this land by the Red
River by Lord Selkirk into these long, narrow plots of land extending two miles back of
the river is the focus of another Mural on this website; see 1812 Main (4) ).
I did a little research on the continuous ownership of this lot at the land titles office. I did
not have time to find out who the first resident was but I have a copy of the certificate of
title for one Catherine Thompson. She bought the land in 1892, and having paid off the
mortgage, received the title of ownership in 1899. It is interesting to note that among the
names of previous owners were Alexander Ross and Hugh Pritchard, both well-known
names in this community."
Ida: "Let us now fast-forward to 1933. There had been many settlers from Holland here
that had market gardens which became known as DeJong market. This land had been
part of those DeJong market gardens which flourished for many years. In the early
1930s, their land was divided and sold off as smaller acreages. So Lot 53 had been
divided when my father A. H. Toews bought a 3 acre parcel bordering on Henderson
Hwy. The Doyles next door had 40 acres."
"At this time, Henderson Highway then was a paved, two way road, with a wooden
sidewalk on the west side and the streetcar tracks on the east side. A small two-ended
streetcar fondly named 'Dinky' rumbled by every half-hour, its clanging bell loudly
announcing its approach. Another sound I remember was the early-morning clip-clop,
clip-clop of the horses of the market gardeners from East St. Paul and Gonor driving the
vegetable-laden buggies and democrats to the market on Main Street just over the
Redwood Bridge. By 1940 pickup trucks had replaced them."
"We moved there in 1933 and lived there until approximately the spring of 1943. The
Doyles were there when we moved there were there for quite a few more years. I don't
know exactly when they moved out, but after that the place was dismantled. The fields
where the ranch had been and our garden had been slowly went back to nature and all the
trees and the bush grew up at the back. That used to be open land, cultivated land. The
land is so beautiful! Our councillor has told us that in the event the freeway (to extend
Chief Peguis Trail eastward to connect with Lagimodiere) is built that the Millennium
Gardens will be part of the landscaping for it. But still, I just hope Winnipeg doesn't have
enough money to develop that freeway!"
About Millennium Gardens:
Ida: "Sonja Lumdstrom was the driving force behind making The Millennium Gardens a
reality. It was her idea. The heart of the project is that it's a garden for seniors. The
purpose that Sonya had when this idea came to her was to give the seniors an outlet for
growing things: an open green space to come and grow their vegetables and to call their
own. For the first-year some of the seniors from the high-rise apartments were active. It
took a year for it to catch on, but it did. She worked hand in hand with her associate,
Eleanor Stelmack; and together are a very good team.
Since the city now owns the land, they were approached and lobbied by this group about
having the Millennium Gardens on their land. Sonja was very busy with that."
"Darlene Karp and Diane Wickenden volunteered to become the Executive Director and
Secretary. When Darlene and Diane became involved things really started moving much
more quickly. The foundation was put down, the shed was purchased and installed. Leo
Reidke was president of Good Neighbours (the senior's centre in North-East Winnipeg)
at the time, and they became involved as well, as did Mary Pauls. The committee
fundraisers approached various businesses and banks in the area. Palliser Furniture and
DeFehr Foundation gave generously. They built all the raised garden boxes
(approximately 36) and filled them with excellent soil. The Fast Foundation (Bill &
Margaret) were similarly generous. Also, there used to be a creek there in the whole area
and later it was filled in so that the water table was blocked and the place became
swampy. Frank Penner, a retired engineer surveyed the whole place and had a ditch built
around the place and now it's nice and dry and well drained. The Green Team came to
the land to pick garbage, and we had them mow a path. They're not paved; they're just
green pathways which is nice, natural. Martin Bergen owns many of the apartment
blocks in the area; and he is very much a part of the support of the Gardens. He donated
money and the gazebo. The gazebo (as of this writing) is not quite finished yet- the
screens are not yet in."
"And then there are the ground plots too (approximately 3 dozen). They're a little larger
than the garden boxes; and there is an area set aside for Winnipeg Harvest. Anyone is
welcome to contribute part of their vegetables to Winnipeg Harvest but there are some
plots there that are planted specifically for Winnipeg Harvest. There is a mound, a berm-
that is our gardener Horst Rennpferd's idea, and very much his project. He grows all
kinds of herbs there. Horst is a master gardener! Sonya Lunstrom was responsible for
the Wildflower Garden there that Horst is also involved with."
"Today, the committee consists of a fine group of very capable, dedicated and hard-
working people: Sonja, Eleanor, Darlene, Diane, Pauline Senkiw, Annette Henson, Ann
Watt, and myself. Mark Lubosch (City Councillor); Bonnie Michelson (MLA) are also
involved and attend many of the meetings, as do our sponsors."
"In 1939, I was just a youngster and I was babysitting for this lady and I admired the
daisies in her garden and she said well, you can have a root if you like. I took it and I
planted it at our house. When we moved away from there in 1943 I took a root along to
McKay Avenue where we lived for a few years. We moved away again to Rossmere
Crescent and I again took a root along. When I bought my present house, I took my
daisies with me again. When Mary Pauls told me about the Millennium Gardens and that
we were going to plant a garden at the site, I immediately knew exactly what I was going
to plant there! And they survived (Photo 9)! Two of my sisters have a garden box there
but I myself don't have time to garden. I go there for the sheer love of the place."