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Meet me at the Fox Tower by Mayor Shelley Hart

Posted: June 12, 2017

Meet me at the Fox Tower
Mayor Shelley Hart

Council is looking into restoring and moving the last known
fox tower in the community 
to a public location so our history
can be preserved, and enjoyed, by locals and visitors.

The year 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of East St. Paul.

We celebrated all year long with a variety of events which marked our history and we added some new community events which we hope will endure - our Farmers Market and the July 1st road race featuring 5k and 10k distances for runners and a 3k family walk.  We acknowledged the past and embraced our future.

Over the course of the year, I learned a great deal about East St. Paul's rich history.

We published a Centennial book which celebrated our stories and community spirit.  I soon realized that our history was mainly captured in print and with the families that have lived here for many generations, but there were not many landmarks in our community which shared our past.

Reid's Blacksmith Shop, which was built in Birds Hill in 1909, found a lasting home for the building and its contents at the Cooks Creek Heritage Museum in 1986.

The original Birds Hill School was built in 1914 on the site where Sobey's is located today.  The two-storey school had huge classrooms, high ceilings and hardwood floors but it was the fire escape slide on the second floor which many past student remember the best.

The school was torn down in 1987.  These landmark buildings have been lost to our community.

A few of the key industries that drove the east St. Paul economy in its early years were:gravel and stoneImperial Oilfarming and market gardening, andfox and mink farmingSilver Springs Park, located 3221 Birds Hill Road, was an operational quarry from which gravel and stone were mined for over a century.

In the late 1990s the pit was depleted and it was eventually rehabilitated into the park it is today by the last owners of the quarry, the Swistun family.  

In 1951, Imperial Oil established an oil refinery at 2925 Henderson Highway.  Today, this same location is used as a depot for oil products that are shipped in by pipeline.

Most Winnipeg residents can recall taking a leisurely weekend drive north of the city on Henderson Hwy, stopping at one of the many market garden roadside stands to buy fresh produce.  East St. Paul began as a farming community.

One of the few, and largest market gardens still operating in our community is Hnatiuk Market Gardens.  This third generation family of market gardeners grows 40 varieties of vegetables, farming approximately 25 acres a year.

In honour of our farming and market gardening community, East St. Paul established a Farmers Market as a centennial event.  The popularity of the market made it clear to us that it was here to stay.

This year, the Farmers Market opened on June 11th with a special dedication ceremony honouring the original owners of the property where the market is now located.

Joseph & Anna Kruszelnicki were Hoddinott Road pioneers of this property from 1945-1980.

After their deaths, their son Harry remained on the property, farming for many years.  Harry died in 2011 and property was purchased by the municipality.  Special markers were unveiled at the ceremony, preserving the history of the site.

Lastly, I'd like to share with you another historical project we are undertaking.  In homage to our fox and mink farming history, Council put aside a substantial amount of capital funds in this year's budget, $80,000, to possibly restore and relocate the last known fox tower in this community.

In fact, the Manitoba Historical Society website has recorded only two other locations with similar structures in Manitoba.

Time is of the essence with this project as the fox tower has some structural concerns.  We are currently having the fox tower assessed and we will then have a better idea of the project's feasibility.

Our goal is to move the tower to a public location where residents and visitors alike can come and learn about our history.

The tower would be our landmark - like the Komarno mosquito, Altona's Van Gogh Sunflowers, or Selkirk's catfish.  We will have our own landmark which may lead to a new catchphrase in East St. Paul; "Meet me at the Fox Tower."


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