1881: The struggle for our first city hall

Part 2 of 2

 

In order to counteract this threat to their position, the businessmen and citizens of the East Ward decided to build the East end Public Hall and Market and to donate the building and lots valued at $7,000 to the town. In accepting the gift, Council was to maintain the lots and use it for its intended purpose forever. The East Wards apparent easy victory was short-lived. McIlvanie and Fletcher succeeded in having the previous motion accepting the motion rescinded on the grounds that it was too costly, unnecessary and divisive to Portage’s well being.

Portage’s well being was truly shaken by the action that followed the September 12th decision. The following meeting saw Young and Fulton push through another acceptance motion, but only after the Mayor, Thomas Collins broke the tie by voting for the motion with Watson, Young and Fulton. Eventually, the town agreed to pay $5,000 in bond to the trustees of the East Ward, Michael Blake (gentleman) and William Lyon (hotel keeper), for town lots 3, 4, 5 and 7 on the House Estate. The bond was void if the building was not started in two months and completed in nine. A great deal more trouble was encountered before the East End Hall and Public Market was concluded. Legal opinions were called for and Judge Ryan sought for his views. In the opinion of the lawyers, the town was getting involved in perilous legal matters. Another lawyer, W.J. James said that because the property was a gift it remained town property but that East Ward could sue Portage for $5,000 or compel the town to keep the agreement to build.

Don 1881 photo 2

Town council met in this the first courthouse and in Wallace and Blake’ s Hotel bar until the Court House became the Portage Hospital, and the new City Hall was built.

The fight over this was to go on for years but in the meantime, the West Ward won and the new Town Hall was built after the plans chosen from the competition. Ironically in 1886 Portage la Prairie’s Fire Hall was destroyed by fire, probably set by an arsonist. Financially unable to construct a new building immediately, Town Council had the firefighting equipment housed in the ground floor of the Town Hall. This substantial and charming building served the community as Town Hall until 1954 when the sale of the property to the federal government for a new post office brought its days to an end. 

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