A Short Pictorial History On Upper Ft. Garry

Letter This is a short pictorial history on the most important fort in the development of Western Canada. Sadly, all that remains of this magnificent fort is the North Gate. This gate is conveniently tucked away just off the corner of Broadway Avenue and Main Street. When viewing this small but significant artifact of Manitoba history, it is difficult to imagine how impressive this fort really was.

Upper Fort Garry was the last of five forts, known to have been built in this general vicinity. The other forts included: Fort Rouge (circa 1736), Fort Gibraltar (circa 1806), Fort Douglas (circa 1815) and the original Fort Garry (circa 1821).

After the flood of 1826 when the original Fort Garry was demolished, Govenor George Simpson (later to be Governor of Ruperts Land), for politcal reasons, decided to rebuild the fort downstream and in 1831 built Lower Fort Garry at its present location near Selkirk, Manitoba. The move was unpopular because the majority of trade was already established at "the forks" and it required at least a day's journey to Lower Fort Garry. So the Hudson's Bay Company decided to returned to the forks, which was the centre of trade and built a second fort. This new fort built in 1835, was named Upper Fort Garry to distinguish it from Lower Fort Garry. With its four large bastions and formidable 15 foot high stone walls its presence was meant to demonstrate the Company's dominant role in the area. Both forts were named after Nicholas Garry, an important director of the Hudson's Bay Company, who assisted in the amalgamation of the HBC and the North West Company.

Famous Photograph of Upper Ft. Garry This view shows the south end, the original part of the fort as seen from across the Assiniboine River. This photograph (circa 1878) probably the most famous one of Upper Fort Garry, gives a good indication of how impressive this structure was. Among the buildings enclosed by the fort were the barracks, officers quarters, Chief Factors residence, general store, fur store, Governor's residence and pemmican store. The building in the far right of the photograph, just outside the south wall is the liquor store.

Outline of the outside wallsBy 1853, the fort was proving to be too small for the increasing trade and it was extended to the north. It was decided to forgo the expense of stone in favour of wooden walls made of two rows of squared oak logs filled with dirt. The North Gate, the only original remnant of the fort that has survived, had parts of it's wooden walls restored about 20 years ago.

The traffic between the two forts was considerable. To traverse this trail, the ox carts would travel 20 side by side, rather than in a long single file. This was to distribute the weight of the carts and avoid very deep ruts which was a problem with the soft earth of the area. This left a wide road of about 120 feet. As the city of Winnipeg developed, this trail known then as Garry Street would eventualy be paved over, maintaining its original width. Of course we know it better as Main Street.

To continue the journey:
Choose to view aerial photograph showing the outline of the fort overlaid on top of the present city

  • choose the clickable map of the fort that will provide you with different views of the original fort.
  • Note: Some of the images were originally in poor condition and required extensive image enhancement, e.g. removing blemishes, creating contrast, sharpening and pixel editing. Regardless of what type of image editing was required, or how the image was cropped to fit in a particular space, the basic image integrity was not compromised, except for what's stated in the following paragraph.

    To help relate the past to the present, some of the images have been colourized. Yes, skies were actually blue, and flowers had colour, even in the old days. Unfortunately, we are use to seeing historical photographs in black and white and forget that the colours we see outside were the same colours seen in the past. Hopefully the colourized photographs will help relate the past to the present.

Clickable Map buttonTo the Clickable Map
Aerial View buttonTo the Aerial View of the Fort Overlaid on the Present City

Original photographic material from:
Provincial Archives
200 Vaughan St., Winnipeg, MB., R3C 1T5
(204) 945-3971
Original aerial map from:
Department of Natural Resources Land Information Centre
1007 Century St., Winnipeg, MB., R3H 0W4
(204) 945-6666
This page is a production of Lincoln Park Gallery.
Enquiries, Ideas, Thoughts? E-mail : info@lpgallery.mb.ca