St. Boniface’s unusual tower is actually a century-old water tank — and still in use

By | April 15, 2019

Surrounded by glassy modern condos, tidy bungalows and industrial warehouses, the cylindrical brick tower on Winnipeg’s Taché Avenue stands out.

“In some ways it kind of looks like an old turret,” Matt Allard, the city councillor for St. Boniface, said Friday. “It’s circular, it’s round and it’s fairly tall.”

The tower located at 866 Taché Ave. is actually what’s known as a surge tank, and though it’s now over a century old, it still serves an important purpose — helping regulate the city’s water pressure. 

The City of Winnipeg’s public service wants the tower to be added to the list of historical resources. A committee will consider the application on Wednesday.

Built in 1918, the tank can hold thousands of litres of drinking water when too much is flowing from the Shoal Lake aqueduct, the city says. 

In situations where the pressure is especially high, the tank can actually release water out the top. The tower was built near the Red River so the water has somewhere to go, according to a report prepared by a researcher with the City of Winnipeg. 

In a building synopsis written for the historical resources committee, the city says the tower illustrates the evolution of Winnipeg’s drinking water service and is an example of a “conspicuous building within a residential neighbourhood.”

Diversity defines north St. Boniface

The 101-year-old building is also in excellent condition and has had few alterations since it was first built.

“The brickwork on the actual tower is very intricate, including header and stretcher courses, arches, diamond shapes with concrete accents and at the top, a raised area of brick leading to the stone and concrete cornice [decorative moulding],” the city’s researcher says. 

Coun. Allard supports the idea of preserving the tower, despite the fact it sticks out in the neighbourhood. 

“When you consider things like community character, I would say that diversity is the community character of north St. Boniface,” he said.

This photograph from 1918 shows the Red River and construction of the St. Boniface surge tank in the background, says the City of Winnipeg. (Winnipeg Water and Waste Department)

Between the rail bridge, modern condos, single-family homes, an ice-climbing wall and heavy industrial buildings, an odd tower that looks like it’s been lopped off a castle seems somewhat fitting.

“There’s a lot going on in north St. Boniface so with that in mind, I don’t really think that it’s out of place,” said Allard. 

The historical resources designation is intended to protect historic buildings in Winnipeg from demolition and alterations to character-defining elements.

A committee comprised of council members and experts will decide whether the building will be added to the list.