Manitoba Municipal Heritage Site No. 272


Elma Pool Hall and Residence
Railway Avenue

Elma Pool Hall and Residence

Designation Date:  August 24, 2005
Designation Authority:  R.M. of Whitemouth
Present Owner:  privately owned

The Elma Pool Hall and Residence, built in the early 1900s, are valued primarily for their colourful history as places of legitimate and illicit entertainment, and as rare Manitoba examples that preserve and recall aspects of early twentieth-century social life. For several decades the pool hall’s pilaster-embellished boomtown front invited patrons into a spacious games room and lower-level lunch counter. Of greater intrigue is the separate residence. Deceptively ordinary on the outside, the building contains upper boarding rooms, a basement gambling den and concealed crawl space connected to a network of tunnels and escape hatches running off-site, all redolent of the kind of baser entertainments frowned on by polite society in the early 1900s. The escape routes, likely constructed in 1916, when Prohibition made the sale and consumption of alcohol illegal in Manitoba, are rare reminders of how some determined Manitobans sought to circumvent anti-drinking laws, which were repealed in 1921. The buildings are also valued for their unique vernacular construction. The solid wood-frame structures, designed and built by owner Peter Kolega, are examples of ingenious building techniques and material recycling, featuring sheathing boards, flattened tin cans and layers of elaborately sculpted, hand-mixed concrete. Rehabilitation of the site by Frank Smerchanski has ensured that this important connection to Elma’s past will endure.

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