The lonely and seemingly out of place house at 202 Christie Avenue — slated for demolition in 2020 — was home to the same family for a century.
Frederick (Fred) Charles Barnard was born in England in 1883 and moved to Selkirk around 1908. Annie Harris Wilson was born in Canterbury, England and came to Canada around the same time, but she lived in Montreal and Winnipeg.
Fred and Annie married in Winnipeg in June of 1923 and soon after relocated to Selkirk. They had four children: Charles, Gerald, Yole (Helgi) and Elaine. They all lived in the house at 202 Christie Avenue. One reference to the house in an early newspaper article claims that it was built in 1915 for the Barnard family.
Fred was an avid cricketer and ran the pool hall inside the Merchants Hotel. His livelihood was threatened on the night of May 30, 1930 when the neighbouring building on Manitoba Avenue caught fire. It destroyed that building and damaged the hotel, wiping out the contents of the pool hall.
The pool hall must have been rebuilt, as in one Selkirk history book, an old timer remembers Fred operating it during the 1940s.
During the Second World War, Annie was the first president of Selkirk’s ANAVETS auxiliary and worked with Red Cross. She was also a long-time member of the Christ Church Women’s Association.
Annie died in 1953 at the age of 70 at the home of her daughter, Helgi, in Selkirk. Fred died September 12, 1964 at Winnipeg General Hospital at the age of 81. They are both buried at St. Clements Cemetery.
After the deaths of his parents, 202 Christie Avenue became home to Gerald (Gerry) Barnard. A mechanic by trade, he married Margaret Lee from Semple, Manitoba in October of 1952. The couple had no children.
The house was not part of a secluded residential neighbourhood. It was located just 30 metres from bustling Eveline Street with its industrial sites, fish plants, and commercial docks. It faced the rear of the civic buildings on Eaton Avenue and its immediate neighbour to the east was the back end of a large medical clinic.
The land west of the house appears to have always been open land, presumably part of a school field. At a 1961 town council meeting, it was noted that 202 Christie Avenue was zoned as a park rather than commercial or residential lot.
It was around the time of the Barnards’ deaths that the neighbourhood began to change as the services around it expanded.
A new civic building was constructed on the site of the old town offices in 1960, and an adjacent fire hall soon followed. A new Selkirk Medical Centre opened in 1973 on the site of the old one. A fire in the early 1970s destroyed a business block along Main Street between Eaton and McLean Avenue. This led to the first phase of construction for the Town Centre shopping mall, which opened in 1975.
By the mid 1970s, 202 Christie Avenue had many of the same neighbours, just bigger in size. Gerry Barnard often appeared at town council and planning commission meetings to air his grievances about parking, traffic, and zoning issues around his house. In the 1980s, he even hired a lawyer after no one acted on his numerous complaints about the sound of commercial air conditioners from surrounding buildings.
Margaret Barnard died at the Selkirk General Hospital on June 11, 2007 at the age of 81. Gerry died at his residence (202 Christie Avenue) on July 9, 2013 at the age of 87. Both are buried at St. Clements Cemetery.
After Gerry’s death, the house took on a surprising new life.
The City of Selkirk purchased the house in May 2014 for $181,426, with the intention of demolishing it for additional parking and an expansion to the fire hall across the street. It offered the building to Our Daily Bread for them to use as a homeless shelter until the expansion was complete. Rene Gauthier, the organization’s chair, tried in previous years to open a winter shelter, but ran into opposition each time.
After some renovations to bring it up to code, 202 Christie Avenue was renamed the St. Francis Place Homeless Shelter and opened in November of 2014. It contained six beds in three bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom with shower, and a washer/dryer.
In January 2018, the shelter closed due to a lack of volunteers. The city broke ground on the fire hall expansion in June 2018 and it officially opened in September 2019.
$14,000 has been included in Selkirk’s 2020 capital budget to cover the cost of demolition of 202 Christie Avenue.