The Importance Of The CPR Station To The Community
The CPR Station reflects the true past history of our city of Portage la Prairie. It now stands as a monument to the
arrival of our early settlers and their goods to the development of western Canada and the Portage Plains. This was
the real gateway to the west.
The CPR Station was designed by Edward Colonna (1862-1948) of Montreal, and built by Tompkins Construction of
Vancouver. The design of the station was influenced by the Romanesque Revival style, popularized by the American
architect H.H. Richardson. The style was characterized by symmetrical facades, squat columns, massive round-headed
arches, and heavily textured and polychromatic surfaces. The station, with its unique heavy, rusticated base and
massive, round-headed arched entrances is a handsome subdivided illustration of it's style.
The most prominent features of the ground floor are the large round-headed openings with radiating stone heads and
keystones. On both north (track) and south facades, these arched openings originally held door and arched windows
and are a distinct reflection of architectural designs not in vogue present day.
The unique style and a history steeped in heritage certainly ranks the building worthy of perpetuity. In addition,
plans to maintain the east end baggage room area (which is approximately one-third to one-half of the station's
interior) as a "rail centre" with collections and tributes to past maintenance-of-way employees of both CN & CP
railways, will provide continued interest from not only local and area residents to appreciate but will attract
national and international tourist atraction.
In future, with promotional development of our annual "Canada Train Day", the station will
grow in visibility and national importance as a must-see location.
The Architectural Significance Of This Station in Relations To Other Stations Built Across Canada
In 1889, the weekly paper "Manitoba Liberal" described the first Canadian Pacific Railway Depot in Portage la Prairie
as a "dingy little combination of country tavern and freight shed". The paper continued to criticize the CPR's lack
of service to a community with a population of nearly 1,500. Although the man who fulfilled the terms of
confederation by building the rail line to the west coast in record time announced plans for the construction of a
new depot for Portage la Prairie in 1891, it was not until 1893 that the new facility was constructed using imported
sandstone and local brick. The association of this building's construction with Van Horne himself, who recognized
the potential growth of this (then) aggressive community reflects the heritage of the pioneers of the day who saw
worthy fortunes for their future generations.
It is likely that there are similar stations that have been built across Canada. However, it's greatest
significance, perhaps, is that this one is in Portage la Prairie. As a wise man once said: "In addition to the
importance of recognizing what you have, is what you do with it!"