Early Winnipeg's Man of Parks

by George Siamandas

E. L. Drewry was a noted beer manufacturer. He was also important in the early development of the Winnipeg Parks system. Drewry was born on February 6, 1851 in London England. His father emigrated to St Paul Minnesota in 1857 establishing a brewery there. Young Edward Lancaster Drewry learned the brewing business and moved to Pembina in the North Dakota Territory in 1874 to run Pembina's brewery. Drewry finally arrived in Winnipeg in 1877 leasing the old Hermchemer and Batkin Brewery at Redwood. It had been in operation since 1874.

Drewry was a public spirited citizen. He won a seat on City Council in 1883-1884. Drewry also sat in the legislature during 1886-1888. In 1899 he served as President of the Board of Trade. By then he went by "E L" and everyone knew who you meant. Drewry was a well regarded civic booster. A great supporter of Winnipeg industry he chose to purchase everything locally so long as it was not more than 10% higher than other choices. A writer for Western World magazine wrote in 1894 that Drewry was a "man not selfish in the good things as may come his way, but willingly sharing them with others; a man kind hearted, considerate and generous, indeed in the truest sense of the word a man."


EL Drewry as first chairman of Parks Board in 1893, serving till 1897. He initiated the tradition of citizen rather than council members as head of the parks board. Drewry established small urban parks, ornamental squares, or breathing places throughout the city. He recognized the importance of acquiring land for parks before it all became privately owned. He tried to develop a network of many small parks. Small parks were seen as a practical response of how Winnipeg was able to build parks during difficult economic times of the 1890s. Under Drewry's leadership three parks were immediately developed: Fort Rouge Park, St. John's Park adjoining the Redwood site and Central Park.


Commercial beer making began in 1862 at Middlechurch by a man named Celestin Thomas. As early as 1845 non commercial beer-making went on in the Red River settlement. And people were making their own from the earliest days of the Selkirk settlers. The Redwood brewery started in 1874, and did not come into its own till after 1877 when Drewry became involved. It had its own well at 86 feet; the deepest in the province in 1878. At first Drewry rented but bought it all in 1881. The brewery grew with Winnipeg's booms. By 1914 7 different breweries operated in Winnipeg. Drewry lived on the site and it was famous for its manicured gardens on the Main St side. Drewry sold the Brewery in 1925. Drewry died on Nov 2 1940 in Winnipeg.


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