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James Street Pumping Station


Much of downtown Winnipeg was threatened in 1904 when a fire raged out of control at James Ashdown’s Main Street hardware store. The domestic water supply, fed by artesian wells, proved inadequate to fight a fire of this scale. Untreated Red River water was pumped into the domestic supply in a desperate attempt to increase water pressure. The fire was extinguished but contamination of the city’s water supply resulted in 1,300 cases of typhoid fever in the following days.

The business-oriented civic leaders saw fire protection for their new commercial buildings as the priority. James Ashdown led the way in the construction of the James Avenue High Pressure Pumping Station (historical PDF)

The Pumping Station was considered the most sophisticated in the world. Water was drawn directly from the Red River and pushed through an eight-mile network of high-pressure lines to more than seventy downtown fire hydrants. Four large pumps were each capable of delivering 1800 gallons per minute. As a result, any hydrant in the network could produce a 600-foot stream of water assuring fire protection for existing as well as prospective buildings.

The James Avenue Pumping Station was taken out of service in 1986, a victim of higher operating costs, deteriorating water mains, and modern pumper trucks which offer firefighters greater flexibility.
(above adapted from Heritage Winnipeg)


After being vacant for 30 years, and following many proposals there is a new plan that appears to have some legs.

It remains to be seen what will become of this historic building. Once you view the inside of the structure, and understand the historical significance, you will understand that, whether it is this proposal, or another, what is of utmost importance is that the James Avenue Pumphouse must be preserved for future generations.