History

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Gimli, ca. WWII

The original farmland now occupied by South Beach was called the Akur Farm, owned by Benedikt and Anna Jonasson who immigrated from Iceland in 1880’s. Maria Jonasson married Sigurjon Isfeld and raised their family of four in South Beach. Sigurjon was a farmer, fisherman, and trapper and in later years, a mink rancher. He also became a famous sled dog breeder and trainer.

Members of the Sigurjon Isfeld family, still reside in of the most southernly part of South Beach. In the early 1970’s the dike was raised to save the mink farmers.

Early Icelandic Settlers

  • Maria Jonasson (1885-1930)
  • Sigurjon (John) Isfeld (1874-1973)

Early Cottagers

Hammocks, croquet, crokinole and canasta….some of the early relaxers of the early 1900’s. Who remembers the farmer coming around with fresh cream and raspberries for sale? And the fresh pickerel being sold door to door on Sunday mornings? Picking high bush cranberries, saskatoons, black currants and raspberries in the field where J. Stephen Park is now? Who remembers in the 60’s when they raised Third Avenue as the first dike? Carrying water from the artesian well? Now the only one running 24/7 is on the Ethel beach. The tourist cabins near the footbridge? The old hermit’s cabin in the bush near what is now Moonlight Bay? Evans Store on Hansson at the end of Anna, where you could buy cream soda in a bottle from the water-filled Coca-Cola cooler and thick bacon cut by the slice? Scavenger hunts organized by retired teacher, Florence Harris, in Whippoorwill Cottage on S. Colonization Rd, for the neighbourhood kids? The ‘haunted house’ where Bayview Evangelical Church now stands? Picnics at Willow Island? Sweeping fish flies off the cottage? Mosquitoes buzzing around your head at night?

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Shortly after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1906, the Icelandic settlement of Gimli started to market itself as a destination for Winnipeggers wanting to escape the noise, odour and busyness of city life. In the 1920’s and 30’s cottage lots were sold to the north of town, in what became Loni Beach, and to the south, which became known as South Beach. Each became its own unique neighbourhood. Many of the cottages were built from lumber company kits (Brown & Rutherford, McDiarmid, Monarch) or ordered from the Eaton’s Catalog. One cottage (Couture on Third Ave) was a converted camp counselor’s cabin. Camp Sparling, a place for veterans to vacation, was located on the lake.

Bathing at South Beach, Gimli, in front of Sparling Camp (Methodist), Gimli, circa 1918. Photo by Kristin Johnson. Archives of Manitoba, Still Images Section. New Iceland Collection. Item Number 365. Negative 11357.

Bathing at South Beach, Gimli, in front of Sparling Camp (Methodist), Gimli, circa 1918. Photo by Kristin Johnson.
Archives of Manitoba, Still Images Section.
New Iceland Collection. Item Number 365. Negative 11357.

At least one building in South Beach is over a 100 years old, that being the ice house on Third Ave near the back lane between Howard and Ethel.

Percy D Harris

Percy D Harris and nieces

In the 30’s some of the first cottagers in South Beach were city professionals, including Percy D. Harris, principal of Lord Nelson High School in Winnipeg (ref, Gimli Saga) who built Whippoorwill Cottage on South Colonization Road (near former Gimli Lumber) and Percy W. Carter, shoe buyer for T. Eaton Co. who built on Benedict St in 1938.

Percy Carter

Percy Carter

Wives and children would pack up after the final school bell in June and move to the lake until Labour Day. The fathers would join them on the weekend, bringing what few provisions were not available in the well-equipped town of Gimli. They summered side by side with local Icelandic fishermen, mink farmers and retired Ukrainian farmers. This mixture of warm weather folk and full-timers remains a characteristic of South Beach today.

Cottages were equipped with wood stoves. Latterly oil furnaces were added to give warmth on cooler nights. Now you cannot build a cottage. You must build a house which meets permanent building code standards.

The ever changing lake has always been the Beauty and the Beast of life here. Lake levels have necessitated moving of buildings and construction of dikes. The lure of the waterfront cottage is both a blessing and a curse. 2011 saw the highest water levels ever and EMO raised the dike level at Moonlight Bay. Our lovely beach was pretty well nonexistent.

Stewarts on Benedict

In 2012 South Beach graduated into the modern era with a new sewer system. Biffys are of a by-gone era.

Some South Beachers have been here all their lives. Some are full-time permanent residents, some are full-time summer residents, some are weekenders. Some come to visit just once a year and some haven’t been back for some time. Some aren’t even from Manitoba! Some have moved but come back to visit. Large and small permanent homes and large and small historic family cottages is our mix.

Community Yard Sale 2008

The Yard Sale Team 2008

Most of all we are all here to enjoy our properties, value our investment and the environment.

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Centre Street, Gimli, ca 1960

This history is a work in progress….. we invite additions.