Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 20, 2022
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A Prairie Home Companion

The River Gate Inn is an old English retreat in the heart of Winnipeg

The River Gate Inn sits on the banks of the Assiniboine River, close to the action of downtown Winnipeg but with a distinct feeling of a different time and place.

By no means remote, this bed and breakfast is in Armstrong Point, one of Winnipeg's oldest neighbourhoods, nicely tucked away downtown. Since 1898, the area has been home to mayors, grain merchants, industrialists, judges and senators. There is history both in the area and inside the inn itself, where artifacts and antiques bring visitors back to the world of turn-of-the-century England.

Built in 1920, the inn sits on the Assiniboine River, where a jogging trail winds its way around spectacular Armstrong Point. You could take a leisurely-paced lap around the area in about 20 minutes -- a perfectly timed run before tea is served.

The Tudor inn is nestled in the south bend on the banks of the river. The half-hectare grounds are like a park. Ancient, mammoth river elms cast their majestic aura and cottonwoods, oaks, evergreens and birdhouses all graciously frame the large heated outdoor pool. By the river, the landscaping is not altogether manicured, though owner Barry Antonius will have a dock and ferry boat set up by next spring to take guests on tours of the Assiniboine and Red rivers.

A wrinkle in time
Turn the key to the inn and enter the late 18th century. Barry and his wife have created something nice here, allowing that they spent as much on renovations as on the purchase of the 22-room mansion itself. There's over 5000 square feet of glistening hardwood. You're greeted by a grand entry, with curtains cascading over a massive mirror behind the reception desk. Like that of a classic English manor, the spacious Tudor parlour room features a lit hearth and is furnished with plenty of antiques, landscape canvases and a chess set.

The library room has a nautical theme. Barry is particularly proud of his replica of a sound bell from a ship set off by framed artwork of seascapes. And he has in his possession a rare collection and original edition of Sir Walter Scott's works. This cozy section of the house is inhabited by all kinds of books, from collectible medical texts to Robertson Davies and Samuel Beckett.

There are eight private tables to eat at in various rooms. The dining room is filled with lavishly carved, baroque-style furniture. The bright sunroom has wicker furnishing and lends a view of the fabulous property. The food is carefully prepared, fresh and homemade and tea and coffee are always available.

Once up the big staircase to the bedrooms, you'll find the Saskatchewan room which reigns supreme. The king-size bed is Victorian, raised high off the floor to provide room for hot rocks underneath on wintry nights, as once was the custom. The bed is framed in etched red oak with matching bureau, desk and an armoire/entertainment unit. Natural light fills the room from two sides.

If you have a bathroom fetish check into the Manitoba room. This massive, brightly lit bathroom has a sitting area, fuchsia cozy chair and, of course, a Jacuzzi. The decor of the bedroom is colonial, the walls the colour of a clear blue prairie sky.

The River Gate Inn is a regular choice of the Manitoba Hospital Organization as a quiet place to put up foreign doctors. Recently, relatives of the Kennedy family, looking for a quiet getaway spot, discovered this gem and booked the entire inn for a couple of weeks this past summer. Not bad for a little inn in Winnipeg.


This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.