Lower Fort Garry
Lower Fort Garry, or "the stone Fort", as it was referred to historically, is western Canada's major historic site.
It was built in 1830 by the Hudson's Bay Company after Fort Garry, at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers (now central Winnipeg), was destroyed by flood in 1826. It was constructed 20 miles (32 kin) north high above the flood waters, and below the dangerous St. Andrews Rapids (Lockport Bridge). The Hudson's Bay Company felt that Lower Fort Garry would become the headquarters of the richest fur region in the British Empire. However, this did not happen, as for two decades the fort's influence extended little beyond the Red River Settlement.
In 1837 the Upper Fort (at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine River) was reconstructed, as this was the established social and economic centre of the Red River Settlement. Upper Fort Garry conducted the Hudson's Bay Company's trading and administrative functions and the Lower Fort evolved as a significant fur trade provisioning and transshipment centre, and retail outlet for the Red River Settlement.
Lower Fort Garry was actively involved in the volatile political atmosphere of Red River, and from 1846 to 1848 soldiers were quartered there during the free trade crisis, and again in 1870 after the Rid resistance.
By 1865, the Lower Fort had become an economic force in the St. Andrews area, as an industrial complex south of the fort contained a boat building yard, blacksmith shop, lime kiln, brewery and grist mill. However, after the expansion of the eastern agricultural frontier even these activities became less significant.
But it was the signing of Treaty Number One with Ojibwa and Swampy Cree peoples in southern Manitoba at Lower Fort Garry in August of 1871 that led to the fort's commemoration by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The first of eleven numbered treaties negotiated across the west between First Nations peoples and the Crown, Treaty Number One assisted the government in its goal of establishing immigrant agricultural settlement within the borders of southern Manitoba.
Lower Fort Garry was also used as a training ground for the Northwest Mounted Police, as a provincial penitentiary, and in 1885-86 as a provincial lunatic asylum. The fort continued as a Company residence until its closing in 1911 and two years later was leased by the Manitoba Motor Country Club who occupied the site until 1963. In 1951 title passed from the Hudson's Bay Company to the Crown. Parks Canada began the restoration of the site in the 1960s and in the 1980s carried out conservation work on the fort's perimeter stone walls. The current focus of the program of costumed animation at Lower Fort Garry is on the 1850s fur trade period.
by Bob Coutts, Parks Canada historian