Academic journal article Manitoba History

Victoria Beach and the Cottage Experience: Early Years and Beyond

Academic journal article Manitoba History

Victoria Beach and the Cottage Experience: Early Years and Beyond

Article excerpt

This article is from the recently published book 100 Summers on Lake Winnipeg: A Resort History of Victoria Beach by Greg Thomas and Sheila Grover. In describing the history of the cottage experience at "VB," the article looks at the layout of the original cottage lot grid, early cottage architecture and furnishings, as well as daily life and train travel to and from the lake. It is part of a larger popular history which traces the resort history of Victoria Beach from its inception to the present day. To purchase copies of 100 Summers, visit their website at www.vbhistory.ca. Eds.

For some cottage dwellers in the planned community of Victoria Beach the experience may not have been altogether positive. The original cottages are just that: modest, boxy and often old-fashioned, if not actually primitive. They are situated on lots 75 feet wide (23 metres) packed into busy avenues that churn with kids and adults, bikes and dogs. Crows wake you early in the morning. It's so dark at night that you can't see your hand in front of your face. You are not allowed to drive your car in the summer months. There are bats. There are skunks. Did we mention the bugs? The poison ivy?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But for those who share the founders' vision, it is a little slice of heaven. Situated along the shores of Manitoba's Lake Winnipeg, with white sand beaches, sparkling water and an infinite horizon, the summer resort is a leafy peninsula in an ancient boreal forest brimming with ecological diversity. Intense development of cottage lots along the winding lanes has created a community where socializing is made easy. Engaging in community life is as simple as choosing an ice cream cone at the Moonlight Inn, buying fresh bread at the bakery, and groceries at the general store. It means participating in kids' games, bridge or yoga, playing golf or tennis, or simply dangling a fishing line over the pier--these are experiences we value. We appreciate the interaction with nature because it isn't urban, it's natural. It may not always turn out perfectly, as anyone with road rash from a night-time bike crash can tell you, but it's how we like it, if only for a precious few days or weeks in the summer.

Early Years

The original cottage development, which is now defined by the restricted area where cars are not allowed in summer, evolved from a campsite on Pier Point and followed the shoreline north. As surveyed within the Victoria Beach Company plans, the cottage area formed a grid of eight avenues crisscrossed by three (later four) roads leading to beaches of the same name: Arthur, Patricia, King Edward and later, Alexandra, to continue the royal lineage. Connaught Beach was a later addition. This grid was laid over a horseshoe-shaped land form mainly looking west across the expanse of Lake Winnipeg. The area developed incrementally in response to the demand for cottage lots. Early on, Arthur Road was the primary axis to Sunset Boulevard. Running east-west, this road was the link from the permanent settlement to the east, right down to the shore at its western terminus. Arthur Road continued beyond 8th Avenue as a path running through thick forest to the local school and beyond to the year-round properties. It broadened to a wagon trail, then later a road and is now the final approach of Highway 59 and the entrance to the vehicle parking lot. Arthur Road crosses 8th Avenue, which runs due north and is a sectional boundary in the original purchase of the Company from the Crown. (1)

Roads were cleared from the dense forest on an 'as need' basis. If you examine the original plan, it appears that the avenues run straight on the grid but this is not the case. Winding roads were an integral part of the original vision of a picturesque country village. The roads were cut to accommodate heavy glacial erratic boulders (which can be seen on any avenue) and large clumps of trees to form gently wandering routes with as little loss of vegetation as possible. …

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