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HI Winnipeg Downtowner Hostel: A Personal Experience

December 21, 2011
Stephen

Maureen Thomas at HI Winnipeg Downtowner Hostel

For 20 years, Maureen Thomas has been gaining that respect working at 330 Kennedy Street. Originally from Traverse Bay, Manitoba, situated on the eastern shores of Lake Winnipeg, Maureen is the 3rd of 5 children.

Wandering the halls with Maureen on a typical day brings back memories of not so typical times. The past six years have brought with it two different tenants at 330 Kennedy Street. Its current resident, Hostelling International, has taken control of the aging machine, rustic in the worst of times, and well oiled at its best. Back when Maureen first started, 330 Kennedy was called the Gordon Downtowner – “It was Red River Ex week in Winnipeg. Actually, it was 10 days in hell! That’s what we housekeepers called those 10 days in June.”

Winnipeg Downtowner HostelWinnipeg Downtowner Hostel

14 years later in 2004, the Gordon Downtowner was sold. The two previous tenants left this Neo-Classical gem in a dilapidated state. Signs on the rear of the building today, still remain to remind us of the past. The ‘Hearth Restaurant’ and ‘Kennedy’s Bar’ fed hungry appetites, while the latter fed starving addictions.

Hearth Restaurant

“The two years or so before HI took over was a very trying time for me … if the hotel was not sold when it was. I know I would not still be working here. There is no vendor at the hostel, which makes for a huge difference in the foot traffic around the building. There were line-ups of not so nice people waiting for the vendor to open.”

These days, the night air is filled with laughter as the foot traffic has changed to include international travelers, hipsters and a vibrant core of youthful exuberance. The LO Pub has taken control of the bar and has become one of Winnipeg’s most desirable live music spots. The new LO Bistro will work to fill the empty stomachs of the community and working core surrounding the building.

Winnipeg Downtowner HostelWinnipeg Downtowner Hostel

Taking a look into Maureen’s eyes, you can see the world of downtown Winnipeg pass by. “In the past 20 years that I’ve been coming to work, things have changed (downtown). The building in front of the hostel used to be a parking lot, there was no (MTS) arena, no Hydro building, and a lot of shops on Portage Ave. moved into the big malls or closed down. There are still a lot of empty buildings…”

Winnipeg Downtowner Hostel

With what once was an empty soul now beats with the hearts of many. A new attitude, to go along with a new outlook for the future is fuelling the growth of the new 330 Kennedy. Where will this lead us? Stay tuned to find out.

Source: Barnhouse - The official blog of HI Manitoba

To visit this wonderful building, please visit our 
HI Winnipeg Downtowner Hostel page.

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