Discovering Manitoba

Bob Cain's Bottle Houses

Visitors to the corner park at Railway Avenue and Alexander Street in Treherne will come away surprised and charmed by the small collection of unusual buildings located there. Multi-coloured and reflective, each one is a testament to the playful creativity of one of Treherne’s former residents, the late Bob Cain, and his ability to see permanence where others might only see a 10- cent return policy.

The Glass House
Bob Cain and his wife Dora, with help from friend Fred Harp, built their first glass structure, a squat one-room house, in 1982. Inspired by similar creations Bob had seen while visiting Red Lake, Ontario, it took over three years to collect the 4,000 bottles, which Dora cleaned and delabelled. The actual construction took only two months. Inside, the Cains stored their collection of antiques and – you guessed it – exotic glass bottles.

The Glass Church
The following year, in 1983, the trio decided to build a church. This ambitious undertaking took nearly three months and approximately 5,000 bottles to complete. As word of the project spread, Bob began receiving donations. There was an organ from the Anglican Church in McGregor and stained-glass windows from the Anglican Church in Cypress.

Bob salvaged some pews, which he promptly cut in half to fit, from an old house in Winnipeg. He also made a pulpit. Bob Cain’s little glass church has since hosted three weddings, along with numerous services.

The wishing well
Bob and Dora watched as tourists began to pour on to their modest farm. Over 7,000 visitors dropped in one summer. In 1987, they built a wishing well and a fully functioning outdoor washroom. Thankfully, neither project required the same amount of bottles as did the others – the washroom needed but 1,000 to complete, while a scant 500 built the well.

And as Bob and Dora’s son Joe was a plumber, he was able to install a flushing toilet and sink with running water into the bathroom, much to the relief of their guests. In 2007, the Cain collection of glass houses was relocated from their old farm to the north of town, to the park at Railway and Alexander.

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