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Elma Pool Hall and Residence

67159 Railway Avenue (Highway 15), Whitemouth, Manitoba, R0E, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2005/08/24

Primary elevation, from the southwest, of the Pool Hall section of the Elma Pool Hall and Residence, Elma, 2007; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism, 2007
Primary Elevation
Contextual view, from the southeast, of the Residence section of the Elma Pool Hall and Residence, Elma, 2007; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism, 2007
Contextual View
Detail view of the Pool Hall section of the Elma Pool Hall and Residence, Elma, 2007; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism, 2007

Other Name(s)

Salle de billard et maison d'Elma
Elma Pool Hall and Residence
Elma Pool Hall and House

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1900/01/01 to 1900/12/31

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/07/11

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Elma Pool Hall and Residence, wood and concrete structures built in the early 1900s, stand near the junction of Highways 11 and 15 across from the Canadian National Railway main line as it passes through Elma in southeastern Manitoba. The municipal designation applies to the one-storey pool hall, the 1 1/2-storey house, the tunnel remnants and the several lots they occupy.

Heritage Value

The Elma Pool Hall and Residence 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in Manitoba, are rare reminders of how some determined Manitobans sought to circumvent anti-drinking laws, which were repealed in 1921.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.

Source: Rural Municipality of Whitemouth By-law No. 440/05, August 24, 2005

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Elma Pool Hall and Residence site include:
- the prominent corner location at northwest Railway Avenue (Highway 15) and 1st Street, among other business and residential properties in Elma and opposite the Canadian National Railway line to the south
- the buildings' placement on the grounds, with the pool hall set flush to the Railway Avenue sidewalk, the house to the rear, facing east, and a replica outhouse to the rear northwest
- the on-site escape hatches, visible components of the network of stone and concrete tunnels extending from the basement of the residence to and beyond the property lines

Key elements that define the buildings' design and unique vernacular construction include:
- their simple box-like rectangular forms on thick concrete foundations
- their wooden frames sheathed with boards, sealed inside and out with tin (much of it flattened cans) and covered in generous layers of hand-mixed concrete

Key elements that define the pool hall's commercial heritage character include:
- the high, deep one-storey massing under a gable and partially hipped roof
- the flat-topped boomtown front embellished with corner pilasters and a bracketed canopy; also with a side entrance door, large display window, plain wood trim and yard-type light fixture
- the numerous openings, including six- and nine-pane windows on the side elevations, an east-side basement entrance with a canopy, etc.
- the high, expansive interior volumes, including the display area; the solid concrete stairway to the upper and lower levels; the open main floor with a detailed coffered ceiling, hardwood flooring and built-in wooden seats with sloped backs; the open basement with a built-in rounded lunch counter and stools; etc.

Key elements that define the residence's heritage character include:
- the understated 1 1/2-storey massing under a side gable roof with large shed-roofed front and rear dormers
- the various shapes and sizes of openings, including the central front door flanked by large windows, six-pane openings in the gable ends, a tall window at the rear and a secondary south entrance
- the interior centre-hall layout, with private and common rooms off the front entrance, a south staircase to the basement and rear (west) staircases to the basement and upper bedrooms and parlour
- the basement's gambling room and tiny concealed crawl space from the coal room to the tunnel network
- the decorative details and finishes, including sculpted concrete walls and ceilings, the coffered ceiling in the main-floor living room, the numerous built-in cupboards and cubbyholes, etc.




Recognition Authority

Local Governments (MB)

Recognition Statute

Manitoba Historic Resources Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Site

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Sports and Leisure

Function - Category and Type


Single Dwelling


Sports Facility or Site

Architect / Designer

Peter Kolega


Peter Kolega

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

RM of Whitemouth 47 Railway Avenue Box 248 Whitemouth MB R0E 2G0

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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