When College Avenue Campus was really home sweet home – and not just for students

By Dale Johnson Posted: June 16, 2016 6:00 a.m.

This picture looking south shows the Legislature (upper right), Darke Hall (lower right), College Building (lower centre), and the Happy Landing Apartments (lower left, circled).
This picture looking south shows the Legislature (upper right), Darke Hall (lower right), College Building (lower centre), and the Happy Landing Apartments (lower left, circled). Photo: U of R Archives, courtesy Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, Canada Dept. of Agriculture (1954).

For several years after World War II, many Regina citizens called College Avenue Campus home – and they weren't just students living in residence.

A temporary building constructed during World War II was converted into apartments after the War, and this was home for 20 families until 1955. The building was later converted to classrooms at Regina College.

The story begins during World War II, when classes at Regina College were moved to downtown office buildings so the College Avenue Campus could be used as a Training School for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The Air Force constructed two buildings at the College Avenue Campus: a medical inspection building and a drill hall. These buildings – like many put up during the War – were intended as temporary buildings with expected lifespans of 15 to 20 years.

After the War, the RCAF gave these buildings to Regina College as compensation for the costs in bringing the College Avenue Campus back to standards for students, which had been modified by the RCAF. But before the students returned, the province stepped in and leased the medical inspection building from Regina College to help alleviate a severe housing shortage in Regina.

In February 1945 the province converted it into an apartment block as emergency housing for people who had served in the military and their families. The building was subdivided into 20 units for families and renamed the Happy Landing Apartments. There were two- three- and four-room units and rents ranged from $30 to $50 per month. The plan was to turn the building over to Regina College for student housing starting in September 1945.

“When the time came for the transfer, the government reneged on the agreement. The housing storage in Regina was still acute, and the lease was extended for five years,” writes James Pitsula in his book As One Who Serves: The Making of the University of Regina.

So the people living in this apartment block on the College Avenue Campus settled in for the next few years.

Meanwhile, the post-War boom meant more students were enrolling at Regina College. More space was needed for students, but the housing shortage remained. The provincial government didn't want to turn the building back to Regina College, so asked that the lease be extended for another five years. Regina College agreed to renew the lease on year-to-year basis – which went on for five years.

In an article in the Regina Leader-Post in 1954, one tenant, who lived in the Happy Landing Apartment said “We are very comfortable here. We do not want to shift. Before this we were living with relatives. Where else in Regina is there for us to go? ”

Finally, in 1955, the apartment block was returned to Regina College.

“A debate ensued as to whether the building was fit for use or should be torn down. The university decided, on the basis of an engineer’s report, to convert it into a combination biochemistry lab, bacteriology lab and ballet studio,” Pitsula says.

So this former medical inspection building and apartment block saw new life as classroom space for a few years, before it was demolished in 1959.

Meanwhile, the other building on campus that was put up by the RCAF during WWII, the drill hall, was converted to a garage and machine shop for government vehicles, and was used until 1965.

Although both buildings are long gone, they are examples of connections between the University of Regina – and its predecessors – and the community.

Related stories:

University announces proposed new partnership to renew College Avenue Campus

When College Avenue made way for air force recruits