In my December newsletter I said I wasn't going to write about Regina as much anymore and focus more on international locations, but after a friend of mine told me there was no "interesting history" in my city, I decided I had to write this just to prove them wrong!
Let me know in the comments if you know something I don't, or if I got something wrong! Historical facts seem to change overtime, after all!
I'm happy to present to you, on the 113 year of its existence, 100 Facts About Regina!
1. The land where Regina is currently located was temporarily called "Pile O' Bones" for the piles of buffalo bones kept in the area before shipping them East for fertilizer. Some of the piles of bones were over 6 feet high! (Thank you for everybody in the comments for the clarification!)
2. Had the "March West" by the North-West Mounted Police (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) failed to prove smugglers were trading "firewater" with the Native Americans, many believe the railway would have moved north and Regina would have been absorbed by the threatening United States.
3. The first house was erected in May 1883. It is believed to have been located around what is now Cornwall Street.
4. Regina's RCMP Depot is the only RCMP cadet training centre in Canada. It officially opened in 1885 and houses the oldest church in the city.
5. From 1869 until 1976 only murder, rape and treason were reasons to execute somebody. Only two people have been killed for treason; one was Thomas Scott (killed by Louis Riel) and Louis Riel. Upon hearing Louis Riel was on trial for treason, Queen Victoria asked him that he not be hanged. Her request was dismissed by then Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald.
6. Louis Riel was hanged at RCMP Depot on November 16th, 1885. He died reciting The Lord's Prayer
7. Every summer for the past 48 years, the Trial of Louis Riel is reenacted by local performers. The play was written in 1967 and is based on the original transcript from the trial of 1885. It is the longest running historical dramatic theatrical production in North America.
8. Riel was viewed as a martyr in eastern Canada and a traitor in western Canada. To avoid confrontation, his body was transported by sleigh in the middle of the night by three elders of the Knox Presbyterian Church to a train bound to St. Boniface, Manitoba. The story of how his body left the city was kept secret for over 50 years.
9. A nude statue of Riel was erected in Wascana Park in honor of him. It was removed shortly after complaints by the local community.
10. While Riel is the most controversial of all people executed in Regina, a total of 25 people have been executed here since 1884.
11. In 1901 Regina's population was 2,249.
12. In 1911, ten years later, Regina's population had boomed to 36,000.
13. In 2011, Regina's population was 193,100. It is now over 238,000.
14. Regina officially became a city on June 19th, 1903.
15. While Regina was named after Queen Victoria, Victoria Avenue is also named after her.
16. Albert Street is named after Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert.
17. In an attempt to impress the Prime Minister of Canada, the citizens transplanted all the flowers growing around Wascana Park to the park surrounding Union Station to make the city appear more beautiful. It worked, as the Prime Minster declared Regina the capital of Saskatchewan in 1905.
18. Wascana Center, designed by Minoru Yamasaki, was also the same person who designed the original World Trade Center in New York City.
19. Wascana Center is three times bigger than New York's Central Park, and two and a half times bigger than Vancouver's Stanley Park.
20. Wascana Lake was used to cool equipment from the original power plant of the city, the Powerhouse Building, which is now called the Saskatchewan Science Center.
21. Albert Memorial Bridge crosses a narrowed portion of Wascana Lake, making it the longest bridge over the smallest body of water in the world.
22. Regina was struck hard by the Great Depression, and many people lost their jobs. In an effort to employ more people, Wascana Lake was dammed, widened and deepened all by hand so it would take as long as possible and employ the highest number of people as possible. Something like that would never fly today!
23. The 1930s hurt the Canadian prairies, and many people found themselves out of work. In frustration, they began the "On-to-Ottawa" trek which consisted of over a thousand men riding trains towards Ottawa to force the government into action. The Prime Minister used the RCMP to stop the trains from leaving Regina's Union Station, stopping the trek in the Queen City.
24. After these unemployed men set up a temporary camp in the city, the Regina police attempted to infiltrate the camp and arrest the leaders. Their presence started a riot, killing two people and a police officer. The riot moved downtown and had several shops looted and burned. The Regina Riot received international attention and ultimately forced Ottawa into action.
25. Seen as a catalyst against the corrupt and broken capitalist system, the socialist party called the "Co-operative Commonwealth Federation", or CCF, published their very critical document, the "Regina Manifesto", in 1933. The purpose of the document was to "eradicate capitalism" in Canada.
26. Due to strong anti-communist sentiment during the Cold War, the "Regina Manifesto" was replaced by the "Winnipeg Declaration" in 1956 and focused more on socialist remedies to capitalism's problems instead of a complete overhaul of the system.
27. However, Regina is the birthing place to "Medicare", Canada's world renowned healthcare system. The "Father of Medicare" was Tommy Douglas. Unbeknownst to most people, Tommy Douglas wasn't native to Canada and was actually born in the United Kingdom.
28. Tunnels under Regina's Union Station were used to transport goods to the Warehouse District and to nearby hotels and shops. All of the tunnels, minus one, have been destroyed.
29. Some rooms in the tunnels under Union Station were also used to house prisoners. Other rooms were used by the local police as a shooting range.
30. Union Station would see its last train on January 16th, 1990 and would close down. It would reopen as Casino Regina. The old tunnels below the building are now used for private tours and as an art gallery showcasing the city's history.
31. While the 1930s were a hard time for Regina, the 1920s were the opposite. Seen as Regina's "Golden Years", the booming population brought in a plethora of new people and sparked the dream of Regina becoming another motor city, coined the "Detroit of the West".
32. The General Motors Company opened an assembly line in the city and began producing 150 cars a day, or about one car every four minutes.
33. GMC crumbled during the Great Depression, and the factory was abandoned. It was taken over by the military during World War II to develop munitions for the war.
34. There have been several reports of a "secret weapon" being developed at the old GMC plant, but after the war was over it was stripped and it attempted to reopen as a vehicle assembly line. All evidence of what happened there was deliberately removed from history.
35. The 1920s also brought in a new era of film into the city, and the downtown area that was once predominantly shops and banks became a theater district, with over a dozen movie theatres dotting the area.
36. The most beautiful theatre was the Capitol, and was referred to as "one of the finest theatres in the Canadian West". It opened in 1921 and closed in 1992 after being unable to compete with the box office cinemas.
37. The Capitol was equipped with a balcony and a live twelve piece orchestra.
38. The first movie to show at the Capitol was "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse".
39. The world premiere of "Northwest Mounted Police" was at the Capitol. That movie would go on to win an Academy Award.
40. In honor of the world premiere, the Capitol decorated their building with wooden logs to make it look like a fort.
42. During World War II, Japan attempted to light the forests of North America ablaze via 10,000 fire balloons. Only a fraction of the bombs reached North America and many of them drifted into Saskatchewan. One flew over Regina before exploding in Moose Jaw.
43. The government feared these bombs were biological in nature and could have been carrying anthrax, bubonic plague or cholera. To destroy these bombs from the air, they set up plane hangars all across Saskatchewan and Alberta. It is believed the hanger inhabited by the Regina Flying Club was one of these hangers.
44. Regina's most iconic building, the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly (commonly called the "Leg", pronounced "Ledge"), was supposed to be located in the heart of the city in what is now Victoria Park. It was moved to the south side of the Wascana River by Thomas Walter Scott.
45.While several design submissions for the Leg came from as far as London and New York, the chosen submission came from a good friend of Walter Scott's, although he claimed the decision was made anonymously. Correction: Walter Scott originally was inclined to use an acquaintance architect of his from New York named Cass Gilbert to design the Leg. He also favored F.M Rattenbury, another architect out of Victoria, British Columbia. When it was discovered Scott's two first choices were acquaintances of his, the public, media and fellow cabinet colleagues pressured him to conduct a competition instead. In the end, it was Edward and William Sutherland Maxwell's (The Maxwell Brother's) design that was chosen.
46. The Leg was originally supposed to be built of red brick, but Walter Scott decided to use white Tyndall stone instead. This increased the cost by $50,000 (about $1.1 million today).
47.Winters in Regina are very cold, so steam power was used to heat the Leg. The steam came from the Powerhouse building across the river from the Leg, and was transported through tunnels under the water. It is believed there were several more tunnels connecting other buildings in the area as well. Correction: Thanks to the comments on this article, I have learned the Leg was actually powered by a smaller power plant behind the building. Nevertheless, tunnels are still rumored to have once existed under the lake.
48. Trafalgar Fountain sits just east of the Leg, and was a gift from London, England. It stood in Trafalgar Square from 1845 to 1939.
49. Trafalgar Fountain has a twin that sits in Ottawa.
50. Across the lake from the Leg, alongside Albert Street is the Speaker's Corner, a small brick platform surrounded by gas lamps and birch trees. These lamps originate from London and the tress are from Runnymede Meadow, the location where King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215.
51. Regina's Victoria Park was originally called "Victoria Square" and was once just a field with a fountain in the middle. The fountain would be replaced with a cenotaph after World War I and trees would be planted throughout the park, transforming it completely.
52. On June 30, 1912 Canada's deadliest tornado, the Regina Cyclone, touched down in Regina, killing 28 people.
53. The tornado traveled for 30 kilometers, 18 of those kilometers happening before hitting the city. The tornado was 150 meters wide.
54. The tornado was spinning at an incredible 400 kilometers an hour.
55. The tornado started from the south of the city and tore through the city's core. It would take two years to repair the damage and forty years to pay off the debt.
56. The tornado would damage three 3 churches, destroying 2 of them, including the Knox Presbyterian Church. It would be rebuilt in three months.
57. There were so many bricks needed to rebuild the city that they temporarily ran out. This is why the bricks on the north wall of the Knox-Metropolitan United Church are different colours.
58. The tornado would cross the train tracks and enter Regina's warehouse district, destroying a Chinese laundromat on the corner of Dewdney and Cornwall. It is believed everybody inside perished, although there is only one Chinese oriented name on the list of deceased from the tornado.
59. A man named Stewart would open a warehouse on the location of the old laundromat. His brother James Strathdee would join him, making the Stewart-Strathdee building. A few years later they would later expand to bring in Campbell, making it the Stewart-Strathdee-Campbell building.
60. In 1933 James Strathdee was returning home from Calgary and was in a motor accident. He was left physically disabled and unable to share his own weight in the company. In 1936 he was found dead on train tracks near his work from a shot gun blast to the head. Many believed it was a homicide but the police determined it was suicide.
61. While the closest train tracks are across the street from the Stewart-Strathdee-Campbell building, spur tracks used to branch from the main train tracks and spread throughout the Warehouse district.
62. Bushwakkers now sits in the Stewart-Strathdee-Campbell building. It is a paranormal hotspot, apparently haunted by several ghosts, with stories of lights flickering on and off, shadow people, items being thrown and people being pushed.
63. William Henry Pratt was traveling through Canada in 1912 with a group of actors. Upon reaching Regina the group broke up, and Pratt was left on his own. A few days later the cyclone struck the city and he was hired to help rebuild. Pratt would later return to England and adopt the stage-name Boris Karloff, known best for his role of Frankenstein's monster in the 1931 movie Frankenstein.
64. Regina's leading citizen, Francis Nicholson Darke, had his house damaged by the cyclone in 1912.
65. Darke's wife Annie, fearful for her life, requested he build her a house to withstand another storm. Being one of the richest men in the city, Darke brought in Tyndall stone and built a "fortress" on the corner of Cornwall and College Ave.
66. While building his second house, Darke was approached by the Canadian Pacific Railway and offered $1,000,000 for his first house and the adjacent properties. That is equivalent to over $20,000,000 today.
67. Darke also invested in the creation of Regina College, an education center down the street from his second house. His involvement with that, and Darke Hall, lead to the city renaming 16th Avenue to College Ave.
68. Darke would be the first person in Regina to own a motorcar.
69. Darke's second house would become a funeral home after his and his wife's passing. It would later be purchased by Jason Hall and transformed into Stone Hall Castle.
70. Darke is buried in one of the few mausoleums in the Regina Cemetery, built of Tyndall stone to protect him and his wife even after they are gone.
71. In 1913 the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway began construction of the Chateau Qu'Appelle, a luxury hotel that was to be ten stories tall. World War I broke out a year later and due to a labor and materials shortage, the project was halted. Grand Trunk would later go bankrupt and the building was left incomplete.
72. The Canadian Pacific Railway would later savage the "pile of scraps" left behind from the Chateau Qu'Appelle and create the Hotel Saskatchewan on the land they purchased from Francis Darke.
73. Upon excavating the Hotel Saskatchewan, the CPR moved the dirt to the site of the Chateau Qu'Appelle, swapping building materials for soil.
74. The Hotel Saskatchewan was built to be "self-sustaining". Upon construction it had its own fire department, its own water source and its own furnace. No matter what happened outside the hotel, the building would survive any storm.
75. The Hotel Saskatchewan has had guests such as Queen Elizabeth II, Jon Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, Bill Clinton and a Canadian Prime Minister. The room they all stay in, the "Royal Suite", is the only room with bullet-proof windows.
76. Before recent renovations, each of the 224 guest suites in the Hotel Saskatchewan had different colored wallpaper. They stopped doing this because it was difficult to maintain and store 224 different roles of wallpaper.
77. Being the capital of Saskatchewan, Regina was home to Government House, the house of the elected official to represent the Queen in England.
78. Children living inside Government House were only allowed outside for half an hour a day, believing sunlight was dangerous for their health. They would also need to make appointments to see their parents.
79. At age 13, the male children were sent away to school and the female children were married off.
80. Government House is supposedly actively haunted by Cheun Lee, better known as Howie. Being Chinese and unable to speak English, it isn't known how Howie became employed at Government House. Only half a picture of Howie remains to prove he ever existed.
81. After the horrors of World War II, it was decided it was inappropriate for the Governor General to live in luxury, so they were moved to the Hotel Saskatchewan and the building was transformed into a soldier hospital and then an adult school. All the items inside were auctioned off, minus those in a safe next to the dining room as the locksmith wasn't available that day.
82. The safe was forgotten and would eventually be reopened in 1977 after being closed for thirty years. Inside they found hundreds of priceless century old dishes, glassware and cutlery. This find is the building's greatest collection of original items.
83. The Royal Saskatchewan Museum now sits on the former site of the Chateau Qu'Appelle. The museum is angled because it was much cheaper to use the foundation of the hotel than to dig it all up and start over.
84. The Royal Saskatchewan Museum's first items were old horseshoes, Hindu embroidery, Zulu necklaces, a girdle and shield, Mesopotamia greeting cards, Mexican feather work, a Jamaican hat, one polar bear foot and a boot worn by Captain Scott on the South Pole expedition.
85. Taylor Field was named after Neil J. "Piffles" Taylor, a World War I fighter pilot that lost his eye during the war and who was imprisoned in a German prisoner of war camp.
86. Although he only had one eye, Piffles played football until the 1920s. In one notable game, he was tackled and his glass eye popped out. The game was stopped and both teams helped to search for his eye.
87. The original architect of the current Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field is "Unknown", according to Wikipedia.
88. Regina currently has several English newspapers and one French newspaper.
89. When Regina was receiving more German immigrants during the early 20th Century, there was also a weekly German newspaper.
90. An early picture of The Leader building (the original home of the Leader Post) is included in The Big Bang Theory introduction.
91. Several secret societies, such as the Ancient Order of United Workmen, Brotherhood of American Yeomen, Sons of England, Sons of Scotland and Loyal Order of The Moose were involved in the initial creation and planning of Regina.
92. The beautiful Kings Hotel was built in 1907 just south of Union Station and would stand until 1978 when it was demolished to create the Cornwall Shopping Center.
93. While the oldest church is in the RCMP's Depot, the oldest continuous church in Regina is St. Paul's Cathedral. It was constructed between 1894 and 1895. Originally a church, it became a pro-cathedral in 1944 when St. Peter's in Qu'Appelle lost its status. St. Paul's was only supposed to be a temporary cathedral until an actual one was built on the corner of Broad Street and College Avenue. It became obvious in 1973 this new cathedral wasn't going to happen, so St. Pauls' was promoted to being an official cathedral.
94. The basement of St. Paul's Cathedral is a columbarium which stores over 150 urns. The basement also holds a quilt brought back from World War II, but it has decayed so much that it's too delicate to hang. The imagery on the quilt shows a scene from the New Testament, Matthew 15:21-28, where Jesus removes a demon from a Canaanite woman's daughter. Nobody knows who made this quilt, where it came from, or why it has this scene on it.
95. Regina held its very first Gay Pride Parade in 1990. At the time, it was legal in Canada to discriminate against somebody for their sexuality. This led to the participants in the parade to cover their faces with masks so they would not be recognized.
96. Former City Hall looked like this:
97. Now City Hall looks like this:
98. During the 1950s and 1960s, a group of artists called "The Regina Five" (Kenneth Lochhead, Arthur McKay, Douglas Morton, Ted Godwin, and Ronald Bloore) found national and international fame for their works, and were displayed during the 1961 National Gallery of Canada's exhibition in Ottawa.
99. On November 13, 1971, Paul Joseph Cini hijacked Air Canada Flight 812 from Vancouver to Toronto, with a scheduled stop in Calgary, claiming to belong to the Irish Republican Army. His demands were for $1.5 million and for the passengers to be dropped off in Regina. After that, the plane would refuel in Calgary and fly to Ireland. Cini's actual plans were to jump from the plane mid flight and escape with the money and never be found. His plan almost succeeded, except his parachute got tangled and he put down his gun for the pilot to help him cut it. D.B. Cooper would successfully complete a similar hijacking 11 days later and would live in infamy.
100. Expedia ranked Regina as one of the top 10 cities to visit in Canada!
How many of those facts did you know? Let me know in the comments!
I'm proudly Canadian, and I accept the fact that a lot of people know very little about my country. A lot of people also seem to think cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver "define" Canada. Just to set it straight, while these are beautiful cities, they don't represent the whole of Canada.
Being such a quiet country, we often keep our secrets to ourselves... and often from ourselves. This is a list of 7 things you -- and maybe other Canadians -- don't know about Canada.
Located southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia is a small island where the average citizen are not allowed. This island is called Sable Island, and is a fragile ecological environment home to the unique Sable Island Horse. Over 400 horses live on this island, with only 5 humans there to watch over them.
Frank Albo is known to many as "The Dan Brown of Canada". He gained this informal title through his many decades of research, interviews and investigations into the secrets of the Manitoba Legislature. Through his work, he claims that Winnipeg was meant to have a much larger role in Canada – going so far to say that it was to be the "Jerusalem of the New World".
It may sound odd, but there are a lot of strange motifs within the Manitoba Legislature that otherwise wouldn't make sense. These include being the exact dimensions of King Solomon's Temple, having medusas and demons guarding the entrances, and a "black star" of sacrifice beneath the rotunda. Stranger still is that none of these symbols are in the visually similar Saskatchewan Legislature which was constructed about the same time and for the same purpose. For some reason, the Manitoba Legislature was uniquely created in this manner.
Albo's research has not only gotten a lot of attention in Canada, but international attention too. One of these people was His Excellency Konstantin Zhigalov, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan. While visiting Winnipeg in 2014, Zhigalov attended Albo's tour. After it concluded, Zhigalov pulled Albo aside and invited him to the capital of Kazakhstan. The request was peculiar, but the moment Albo arrived, he knew exactly why he was chosen.
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.