|Uptown Lanes 1969, Academy Lanes to Close July 2017|
The need for some commercial development along Academy Road was seen as essential. Banks, bakeries, grocery stores and the like were very much needed when people still mostly got around by streetcar and public transit. The Ford assembly plant on Portage Avenue built in 1915 was producing Model Ts and by the1930s everyone was driving their Model As. However, each neighbourhood needed to be somewhat self sufficient since there was no such thing as a mall back then. Eaton's downtown department store was built between 1905 and 1910 and Hudson's Bay was built in 1926 but they were far enough away that they didn't make sense for daily shopping.
And so it was that Academy Road saw a commercial side from Ash Street to just beyond Niagara Street. Neighbourhead movie theatres abounded in those years. TV was not yet invented. Heck, radio only started in Winnipeg in 1923 and by 1927 only broadcast 40 hours a week and was silent some nights. The idea of a movie theatre in the neigbourhood was was a sound one considering the era.
Still, River Heights got upset back then but were pushed to come to a deal and that is what they did. The deal hinged on a parking lot on Waterloo and a more shallow footprint on Ash Street. The city was asked to come up with a name for the new theatre and the public chose Uptown. The 1600 seat Moorish style movie house was a posh affair and the fifth in the neighbourhood chain of the Miles family.
The theatre became famous for sneak peeks of big movies that were coming. There were a lot of westerns and cartoons for the growing of the population of River Heights. Mostly double features on second run movies was what Uptown showed and this was a successful formula for 30 years. All that then came to and end in the 1950s with the arrival of TV.
By 1960 many families in Winnipeg had turned to TV and old city theatres started to close by the score. And so it was at Uptown. In 1960 it saw a second life as Uptown Bowling Lanes run by the same family who had owned the movie house. Uptown was the largest Brunswick lanes 5 pin bowling alley in the city.
By the early 1970s, the Saturday youth bowling league was bursting to the seams. Almost every kid bowled but by 1982, it was a little harder to draw people in. Brian Britten leased the alley from the Miles family and began a 35 year run which introduced glow bowling and made people believe in birthday parties and fun group events. The re-named Academy Lanes was joined by Billy Mosienko Lanes and Academy Lanes West as a family enterprise.
Meanwhile, the building still owned by the Miles family sought to develop the surrounding land they owned. In 1985, there was a threat to knock down the building but an agreement was made to allow a two floor addition to the east side of the building for commercial use. The west side parking lot became home to Eyelet Dove, Laughing Giraffe and Paper Gallery which stood together for many, many years.
Academy Lanes announced its closing for July of 2017. The building owner has surely another announcement pending about what is to come of the building.