Wednesday, September 15, 2021

573 Mountain Avenue - Mixed Use Building

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Mixed-use building
573 Mountain Avenue (Map)
ca. 1911

It was recently in the news that 573 Mountain Avenue is going to be converted into housing units for Indigenous women and their children by Raising the Roof.

Here's a look back at its history.

1916 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada

The early history of this building is tied to Rudolph Alexander Puls and family.

Rudolph and Margaret Puls were Hungarian. They married and had their first child, Otto, in their homeland. In 1905, the family embarked for Canada with daughter Rita (Reda) born at sea. Their two youngest children, Rudy and John, were born in Manitoba. 

The first sign of the Puls in Winnipeg can be found in the 1911 census living at 567 Mountain Avenue. Rudolph's occupation is listed as a butcher.

The 1913 Henderson street directory, which would have been compiled in 1912, shows that the Puls had moved to 573 Mountain Avenue. Rudolph was working for the large meat packing firm Gallagher-Hollman-Lafrance Co.. There are two other Puls, Henry, a CPR conductor, and B.A., a carpenter, also living at this address. They may have been brothers of Rudolph. 

Rudolph opened his own butcher shop and grocery on the main floor of the home in 1913 which was simply called R. Puls, butcher.

573 Mountain April 28, 1917 Tribune

The family continued to live above the store and the children went to Strathcona School where Rita had a couple of her entries published in the Winnipeg Tribune’s young peoples’ page in the mid-19-teens.

As the children grew up and moved on, the family rented out a couple of suites in the home. In the mid-1940s it was to retired couple John and Mary Dyck, and a signwriter for Claude Neon named John Van Dyck.

Margaret Puls is listed as the manager of the butcher shop store starting in 1945. This may have been because Rudolph was sick. He died in January 1946 and is buried in Riverside Cemetery.

The store continued under Margaret until about 1948. It then disappears from the street directory with no other commercial business listed in that space.

Margaret continued to live at the home with daughter Rita, a clerk at the Fisher and Burpe prosthetics factory on Kennedy Street.

Margaret Puls died in 1959 at the age of 75. Rita continued to live in the house through the early 1960s.

Dr. Anne C. Percheson, U of T yearbook, 1961

The Puls era at 573 Mountain Avenue ended around 1965 when the building became home to the husband-wife doctor team of Anne C. and Paul T. Percheson.

Mr. Percheson specialized in proctology and also had an office at the Winnipeg Clinic. Anne got her B.Sc. from the University of Manitoba and graduated from medical school at the University of Toronto in 1961. They had at least one son, Brian.

The family lived upstairs and their medical practice was on the main floor until the late 1960s. They eventually relocated to Ontario.

The Student, (Ukrainian Canadian Students Union newspaper), December 1977

Dr. William Bohonos purchased the building around 1966 with the thought of it becoming home to the optometrist practice of his son, B. William Bohonos, when he graduated in a few years.

In the meantime he rented space to Dr. Michael Lasko, a 1967 U of M dentistry grad.

In 1972, the building was renovated to hold the practices of both Lasko and Bohonos.

In 1985, Bohonos opened a second office on Lakewood Boulevard and left 573 Mountain Avenue in February 1990.

Dr. Lasko, University of Manitoba yearbook, 1967

Dr. Lasko continued to operate his practice from the building until 2004 then joined a practice in the Garden City area.

Lasko served in many executive capacities with the Manitoba Dental Association, including as registrar. In 2004, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian Dental Association. In 2010, he was co-recipient of the University of Manitoba's Alumni of Distinction award for dentistry.

An online 'for sale' ad for the building in 2003 listed it as a 2,576 square foot property with a second floor residential suite, main floor office, and full basement.

From at least 2005 to 2008 it was the constituency office of M.P. Judy Wasylycia-Leis. It became 9 Leaf Nail and Spa Salon in 2014.

Raising the Roof purchased the building in 2021 and will convert it into three suites of affordable housing. This is the organization's first project outside Ontario.

Video tour of the renovations Raising the Roof

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

161 Langside Street - Preston Court

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Preston Court / Winnebago Apartments / Granton Apartments / Stevens Court / West Broadway Square
Address: 161 Langside Street (Map)
Constructed: 1910
Architect: P. C. (Peter Cornelius) Samwel
Developer: J. E. Wilson

1913 Henderson Directory

Preston Court opened in late 1910 at 161 Langside Street and the intersection of what was then Preston Avenue, (in 1967 it was changed to Sara Avenue.)  

The architect of this 35-unit building was P. C. (Peter Cornelius) Samwel. Born and trained in Holland, after practising for a few years in Amsterdam he came to Winnipeg in 1910 with his wife.

Here, he opened an office in the Builders' Exchange Building on Portage Avenue and they settled on Mulvey Avenue. After about eight years here they relocated to the U.S.A. where he continued to work in Florida and California.

May 18, 1910, Engineering and Contract Record

This appears to have been Samwel's second Winnipeg commission and one of a series of five designed in the spring of 1910 for developer J. C. Wilson. It put Samwel on the map as a designer of apartment blocks and he went on to design around twenty blocks, some for Wilson.

Tenders for the construction of the $100,000 building were advertised in May and the project was built by day labour under Wilson's supervision.

The Winnipeg street directory shows that in the fall of 1910 about 75 per cent of the suites were filled. There were no “grand opening” ads for the building. In fact, there are very few "for rent" ads in its first couple of years. This suggests that the building likely opened in phases and was well received in what was then the newly established and fashionable West Broadway / Wolseley area. range form 3 to 6 rooms.

A partial list of tenants from 1910 shows it was an upper middle-class building with suites ranging from three to six rooms in size. Some had a room for a domestic servant.

The first batch of residents included a lot of travelling salesmen, a doctor, and a diplomat. Even J. C. Wilson, the building's developer, moved into suite 6. (Note, street directories listed only the the head of the household. Most of them had a family as well. See links below for a transcribed residents' list of the 1911 census.)

- John Blair, secretary treasurer of Grand Trunk Pacific Grain Elevator Co, suite 17
- Iliver Clark, real estate agent, suite 10
- Elmer Emeny, bookkeeper at Trans Continental Townsite Company, suite 4
- Stuart Gibson, auditor at McClary Manufacturing Company, suite 25
- Gladys Gibson, stenographer at Union Trust Company, suite 25
- Joseph Gibson, travelling salesman, Laing Bros, suite 3
- Mr. Hansen, Manager of Empire Cream Separator Company, suite 8 
- William Innes, caretaker, suite 5
- William Kewley, post office clerk 9
- James McBride, consul general of the U.S.A., suite 19
- W. H. McKinnon, travelling salesman for the Maple Leaf Milling Co
- N. Mallock, civil engineer, suite 19
- Alexander Meindl, physician, suite 11
- Arthur Proctor, dentist, suite 14
- Louis Sholes, manager of Brodesser (grain) Elevator Company, suite 16
- May Stevens, stenographer for the general superintendent of the C.P.R., suite 26
- Russell Waugh, owner of two grocery store, suite 12
- J. F. W. Wright, clerk at city comptroller's office, suite 32

Famed journalist and activist E. Cora Hind received visitors at her new home in suite 34 on May 6, 1911. She stayed for just a couple of years.

There were also some early musical residents such as Henry Koerner, a well-known baritone on local stages and churches, who arrived in January 1913.

In 1916, the Hill Brothers moved in. They ran the grocery store across the street.

Music teacher Edith Knowles arrived in September 1918. She was a singing coach and advertised the "Care and training of children's voices and physical culture a specialty." Her students gave annual recitals and she was also coach of the Victoria Girls Baseball team. Knowles married a Vancouver man in October 1919 and it appears that she relocated there.

December 21, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune

There were several World War I soldiers associated with Preston Court. Newspaper stories list several wounded  returning to the city, including: Pte. Charles Raymond of suite 18 in 1916; W. Currie in December 1916; and S. Currie of suite 21 in May 1917. David Allman of suite 5 went missing in October 1917 but managed to survive the war.

The only death that that appears to have a connection to this building is that of Victor Robert Keeling. When the CNR trainman enlisted in April 1916 with the 221st Battalion he lived with his mother and sister at 122 Langside Street. Soon after he left for England in April 1917 they moved to suite 18 Preston Court.

According to papers in his military file, Keeling was with the Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade  when he was reported "wounded and missing after action" on March 24, 1918. He was never heard from again and nine months later was officially declared dead.

February 27, 1935, Winnipeg Tribune

The Weldon family moved to suite 7 around 1925 from the family home at 692 Langside. James Weldon, 74, Euphemia, 64, and to of their four children, Percy, 31, and Donna, 19. 

James was born in Elgin County, Ontario in 1851 and came to Winnipeg in 1874, the year it became a city. He made money in the 1880s real estate boom when the railways came to town and opened a grocery store with his brothers on Market Avenue near Princess Street that they ran for over 20 years.

After retiring from the grocery business, he opened a small vegetable stall on Market Square to keep himself busy. 

Euphemia was from St. Catherines, Ontario and came to Winnipeg in 1883. In 1891, she married James in 1891 and raised their four children. She died in in 1932 at the age of 73. 

October 22, 1931, Winnipeg Tribune

In the 1930s, James Weldon became a bit of celebrity as one of the dwindling numbers of city pioneers or “old timers” - those who arrived before or in the year the city was created. Newspapers wished him a happy birthday each year and the Winnipeg Tribune printed a couple of interviews with him talking about the early days and to get his take on current issues.

In October 1931, the Tribune found the 80-year-old “fit as a fiddle” working his stall. When asked about the Depression, Weldon said: "People listen too much to what the croakers have to say. We've had hard times before, worse depressions than this one, and we've always come though safely." 

James Weldon died at his home in February 1935 at the age of 83.

The building unusually underwent a number of name changes. Preston Court was problematic as there was a Preston Block on Hargrave Street. Newspapers sometimes confused the two names, so it is likely that the post office and delivery drivers did the same.

The first name change to Winnebago Apartments came around 1918. The name does not appear to have been taken to heart as many residents still used the old one in classified ads and social notices. Even the rental company reverted back to Preston after a couple of years.

In 1925, Winnebago was officially dropped in favour of Granton Apartments.

In 1939, Peter Anderson, an Icelandic developer and property manager, took over ownership of the building and invested $5,000 to renovate the main floor and some of the smaller suites. Soon after the renovations, the building was marketed as Stevens Court. This name appeared in rental ads into the 1980s.

By the 1960s, the number of suites has increased from 35 to around 50. This was likely done by subdividing some of the larger suites. According to a recent prospectus for the building, it contains 49 suites comprised of 14 bachelor, 26 one-bedroom, and 9 two-bedroom units.

The building is marketed today as West Broadway Square.

Transcribed 1911 census of 161 Langside: page 1, page 2, page 3.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

804 Ellice Avenue - Service Station / Ellice Buy and Sell

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Service Station / Ellice Buy and Sell
804 Ellice Avenue (Map)
1929, replaced 1944, replaced 1964.
McColl Brothers

June 18, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

Urban development began in this neighbourhood in the 1905 to 1910 range but the first building on this site was a gas station in 1929. Prior to that, the land may have been owned by the Salvation Army which constructed a residence and citadel on the east side of the block.

McColl-Frontenac Ltd. took out a permit to construct an $8,000 service station measuring 22 feet by 44 feet on this site in September 1928. M-F was a Canadian oil company with regional headquarters in Winnipeg and was better known by its "Red Indian" brand.

This was M-F's twelfth service station in the city and one of six that opened in 1929. By 1935, Winnipeg had 24 "Red Indian stations". (For more McColl-Frontenac history, see here and here.)

A McColl-Frontenac Station ca.1938, City of Edmonton Archives

The original station probably looked something like this one from Edmonton in 1938 with a filling station and adjacent service station.

Though M-F built the stations they leased them to franchisees to run. The first owner of 804 Ellice Avenue was Edward J. "Ted"  O'Dowd who ran it as Ted's Service Station.

O'Dowd was born in Ontario and came to Winnipeg in 1906. In the mid-1920s, he was working as a car man in the repair shops of the CNR. The family, wife Reta, and children Terry and Patricia, lived at 614 Banning Street.

In 1935 or 1936 Ted's Service Station closed. He became a carpenter and eventually went on to have a career with Bristol Aeroplane.

The service station disappears from street directories for a few years, though the filling station remained open.

June 28, 1934, Winnipeg Tribune

The next incarnation of the service station comes around 1939 with Harry Inkerman Ruddell and Ruddell's Service station.

Ruddell, who lived at 268 Simcoe Street with his wife Belle, had been a long-time employee of Winnipeg Marble before getting into the service station business. He ran the business with a couple of employees starting in 1929 with William Whitehead and Alex Ireland.

It was under Ruddell's ownership that big changes came to the service station. Since 1934, there had been an M-F service station located right at Portage and Main where the Richardson building is today. When the lease on the land expired, rather than tear the building down it was moved to Ellice Avenue and Arlington Street!

The move took place just after midnight on Monday, September 25, 1944. The building and roof were separated and the pieces slowly driven from Main Street onto Graham Avenue, then up Vaughan to Ellice Avenue. Both daily papers reported the move but neither ran any photos of it taking place.

Sadly, Ruddell didn't get much time to enjoy his spacious new service station. He died suddenly at his Simcoe Street home in July 1947 at the age of 51.

Texaco Canada 1977 annual report (McGill Archives)

Big changes took place at McColl-Frontenac in the 1940s.

The Canadian oil company struggled financially in the 1930s and the Texas Company, (better known by its brand name of Texaco), began buying up its shares in 1936 through its Canadian subsidiary the Texas Company of Canada.

By 1941, the Texas Company owned a majority interest in the company and the McColl-Frontenac and Red Indian names began to change over to Texaco and Sky Chief.

December 24, 1949, Winnipeg Tribune

The next incarnation of the service station was Cecil Poulton's Service Station. Poulton was an experienced garage owner and took over from Ruddell.

In 1956, 804 Ellice became Leach Auto Service operated by William Beawick and William Leach.

Leach was born in Saskatchewan and his family moved to Winnipeg when he was a child. In World War II, he was taken prisoner at the raid on Dieppe in August 1942 and spent the rest of the war in POW camps. After the war, he worked for Winnipeg Transit before leasing this service station.

Leach retired from the station around 1970 and briefly ran a small trucking company in the R.M. of Springfield before moving back to Winnipeg.

It was in 1964, during Leach's tenure, that the final service station was built on this site. It was a 1,300 square foot "Teague style" station with its sleek lines and white enamelled, steel panel exterior.

These were designed in-house for Texaco by Walter D. Teague in the mid-1930s. They were phased out in the U.S. in the 1950s for more modern designs, but that obviously did not happen in Canada.

The above concept drawing, one of four variations of Teague stations, shows a built-in canopy over the forecourt. This version was not used in northern climates as structure did not perform well under snow.

The Texaco station at 804 Ellice Avenue is mentioned infrequently in ads until February 22, 1980. When exactly it closed is unclear.

March 30, 1984, Winnipeg Free Press

Barbecues Galore held their grand opening sale at 804 Ellice Avenue in February 1984. The ads disappeared in June.

By 1985, the building was home to one of two Valu Car and Truck Rental outlets in the city. The other was at 72 Marion Street. (That company is still registered at 804 Ellice Avenue.)

By October 1988, classified ads first appear for Ellice Pawn Shop owned by Arnold Lazareck who was a partner in Valu Car and Truck Rental. The name of the business had changed by 1999 to Ellice Buy and Sell which was a used goods store, not a pawn shop.

Lazaruk spoke to the Free Press in 1988 in defence of pawn shops saying that the vast majority of owners comply with city rules regarding potential stolen property. He also provided input to the city's proposed changes to the used good section of the "Doing Business in Winnipeg" bylaw in 2011.

After 32 years in business, the building was put up for sale in early 2020 for $500,000.

Ellice Buy and Sell continued to operate from the premises through the summer of 2021. As of September, the for sale sign has disappeared from the property and the building is empty.

Art Moderne Texaco Stations ReadRiedRead
A Field Guide to Gas Stations in Texas Texas Department of Transportation

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

1188 Wellington Crescent - Collard Residence

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Private residence
1188 Wellington Crescent (Map)
3,700 square feet, 4 bedrooms
Richard Collard

August 31, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

This home was constructed in 1929 for the Collard family: Richard and Mildred and their daughter Patricia. It featured six rooms on the ground floor and five rooms on the second floor which included a a billiard room, laundry room, four bathrooms, and two maids quarters in the basement.

The $20,000 building permit was taken out in April 1929. By comparison, the average permit amount for residences at the time was in the $3,500 to $5,000 range. It is constructed of reinforced concrete with stucco finish.

The contractor was Carter-Halls-Aldiger, the construction company that Richard Collier was vice president of. One newspaper article mentions that the house is Collard's own design, (he was an engineer by trade.)

November 2, 1935, Winnipeg Tribune

Mildred Gordon Collard was born and raised in Ontario, graduating from the Ontario Ladies College and Alma College in St. Thomas. She married Richard Collard in 1912 and they had their only child, Patricia, in 1916. The family moved to Winnipeg in 1920.

Richard Collard was vice president of the Carter-Halls-Aldiger Co. which is one of the preeminent construction and engineering firms in the city's history. Created in 1907, it is responsible for hundreds of projects across the West, from Winnipeg's Minto Armouries and HBC department store, to Vancouver's City Hall and the Banff Springs Hotel.

One of the biggest society events of 1935 was a November ball at the house to celebrate their daughter Patricia and about 35 other debutantes. A Tribune article noted that "The whole of the main floor was arranged for dancing" which included an orchestra headed by Claude Turner. The night ended with a lavish midnight buffet.

In October 1939, Collard was taken on by the RCAF as director of airport construction which included the hundreds of Commonwealth Air Training Plan facilities that had to be built across the country. He eventually achieved the rank of Air Vice Marshall and was awarded a CBE, the highest ranking Order of the British Empire awards with the exception of a knighthood, for his service.

The Collard family had to relocate to Ottawa in November 1939 for the wartime post and returned to the city and 1188 Wellington Crescent in December 1944.

Carter-Halls-Aldiger was reorganized as Commonwealth Construction in the late 1940s with Collard as president and general manager until his retirement in 1957. He died in 1963.

Mildred Collard, who was heavily involved with St. Stephens Broadway United Church Women's Auxiliary and a lifetime member of the St. Agnes Guild and Winnipeg Humane Society, died in 1968.

August 4, 2002, Winnipeg Free Press

After the Collards, the history of the house is a bit of a mystery as starting in the 1970s newspapers stopped reporting the addresses of people in articles.

The house was listed as for sale or rent in 1997 and in 2002 was for sale for $494,900. It was put up for sale in again in 2021.

More about the work of Collard during World War II

Monday, September 6, 2021

94 Cathedral Avenue - Former Polson residence

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Google Street View, 2009

Place: Private residence
Address: 94 Cathedral Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1894
Architect and Contractor: Unknown

Top: 1901 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada
Bottom: ca. 1894, Archives of Manitoba via Virtual Heritage Winnipeg

This home was constructed in 1894 for Alexander and Jessie Polson and their seven children. Today, it sits on an unusually large lot measuring 75 feet wide by 126 feet deep. It is likely that much of the land around 94 Cathedral belonged to the house for use as gardens, stables and other out buildings.

The Polson name was well known in early Winnipeg. Alex's grandfather, Alexander, was an original Selkirk Settler. His father, Hugh, farmed the family river lot near where the house stands and is who Polson Street is named after.

Alex Polson was the city licensing inspector which was a varied job in the 1890s. Not only did he have to ensure that traders had the proper license to operate within city limits, he was also in charge of bylaw enforcement, animal licensing, and health regulations. He can be found in newspaper stories of the era issuing annual dog licenses, seizing unhealthy looking meat from markets, and issuing notices about the dangers of improperly stored household garbage.

July 16, 1904, Winnipeg Free Press

The Polsons were devout Presbyterians, (Alex’s brother was Reverend Samuel Polson).

When Reverend J. H. Cameron, head of the Winnipeg Presbytery, announced that a new mission known as St. John's would be established in the North End, the church services were held at 94 Cathedral from mid-July 1904 until St. John's Presbyterian Church church opened in late September.

Undated, Archives of Manitoba via Virtual Heritage Winnipeg

Alex Polson died in September 1905 at the age of 65 and the family continued to live at the home for decades to come. Fortunately for Jessie, by this time most of the children were adults ranging in age from 10 to 27.

Jessie Polson came to Winnipeg in 1880 from Scotland as Jessie McKay age around 24. It is not known if she came alone or with her family. (A search through some of the early McKays of Winnipeg turns up no daughter named Jessie). She was Polson's second wife and had five children with him. 

In her obituary, it is noted that "Her home was one of the most popular in the early settlement" and it certainly did see its fair share of attention. Aside from the early church services, Jessie Polson was also a driving force on the St. Johns' church women's auxiliary and held many of its meetings, particularly its annual meetings, at the home. There were also several Lord Selkirk Society meetings held there.

November 18, 1911, Winnipeg Free Press

What is believed to be the first amateur radio club in Canada was formed here in February 1911. Called the Central Canadian Wireless Club, its founding president was a seventeen-year-old Alex Polson Jr. and the group sometimes meet at the Cathedral Avenue home

This 1978 essay by George Reynolds explains that Polson, while a student at Central Collegiate Institute in 1909, created the club after seeing a wireless station in the U.S.. "Messages were sent from Polson’s home at 94 Cathedral Avenue to Melville Sayer who was living on Graham Avenue in the Alexandria Block."

Polson had a receiver / transmitter set up in the yard and the home studio was made up of  a variety of radio equipment, much of it he built himself. (He showed off some of his inventions and machinery in various editions of Popular Electricity Magazine.)

In 1914, federal regulations came were introduce that ended amateur broadcasting on radio airwaves.

Polson went on to become an engineer - one of the original members of the Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba in 1920. He eventually moved to the U.S.A. and at the time of his mother's death in 1938 resided in Allentown, New Jersey.

Ina Warwick Polson became a well-known piano soloist who played at recitals and other public events. She set up a teaching studio at the house in 1913 advertising that she had been a student of "Prof. Xaver Scharwneka of Berlin". She took time out in 1919 to go to New York and study under Percy Granger. Whilst there, she was hired by the Duo Art Piano Co. studio to do some recording work.

Polson advertised her home studio until the time of her marriage to John Eldon Fillmore in September 1921. The ceremony took place at the house. Initially, the couple settled on Cumberland Street, and what became of them after that is not exactly known.

A September 1927 CKY radio ad notes that it would be broadcasting a concert that included "Ina Polson Fillmore of New York" and other artists. By the time of her mother's death she was living in Leonia, New Jersey, where she died in 1947.

Jessie Polson died on December 5, 1938. Her funeral was held at the house.

At the time of her death, only three of her children still lived in Canada, all at 94 Cathedral Avenue. Hugh was a lawyer, Euphemia was a retired school teacher, and Laura with no occupation listed.

Laura Polson died in April 1940 and around 1956 Hugh and Euphemia moved to the Locarno Apartments at 1 Roslyn Road.

Euphemia died on Christmas day 1961 and Hugh died on March 8, 1969. Neither had children, so this branch of the Polson family in Winnipeg came to an end.

Source: @KatlynStreilein on Twitter

As for the house, in 1957 to at least the late 1960s it was home to Paul and Violet Schinkel. The couple married in 1942 and had eleven children.

The last owners of the house were the Procak family.

Born in Ukraine, Lukian Procak came to Winnipeg after the Second World War. He married Maria and they had to sons, Ihor and Borys. His 2006 obituary states, "He loved Old Winnipeg and its ethnic blend of people (he spoke five languages). With his beautiful blue eyes twinkling, he was generous with everyone to a fault, including his extended family in the Ukraine."

Maria continued to live at the house until her death, (no obituary can be found to confirm her year of death.)

The estate put the house up for sale and in 2021 a developer applied to the city to have the house torn down and the property split into three 25-foot lots so that three houses could be built. After consultation with the city, the application was amended to create two lots and "both proposed dwellings would be bi-level  bungalows with stucco as the primary cladding material on the front façade".

The zoning variance required for this change has been appealed and there will be a public hearing on the matter on September 9, 2021.

94 Cathedral Avenue City of Winnipeg Historic Buildings Report
94 Cathedral Avenue City of Winnipeg Appeal Hearing Notice
Winnipeggers fight to keep 127-year-old house from being torn down CTV Winnipeg

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

802 Main Street - Beveridge Block / Selkirk Hotel (R.I.P.)

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Beveridge Block
Address: 802 Main Street (Map)
Constructed: 1907 - 08
Architect: Daniel Smith

June 22, 1907, Winnipeg Tribune

The Beveridge Block was built for a Riverdale, California millionaire named Percy A. Crump who took a keen interest in Winnipeg's development during the first decade of the 20th century. He and his wife, Florence, visited the city regularly to purchase and sell land, usually in the North End, and make arrangements for the construction of buildings.   

Even when their new developments trailed off in the 19-teens and the family relocated to London, England, they returned from time to time to oversee their portfolio of properties.

Little information can be found about the Crumps. Daily newspapers noted when they came to town and their latest land deals but there does not appear to have been any interviews with, or biographical pieces about, them published. 

June 1, 1907, Winnipeg Tribune

It was Mrs. Crump who came to Winnipeg to finalize the development plans for the Beveridge Block on land she purchased in spring 1907 through the T. H. Crotty Realty Company.

Smith and Bruce Architects advertised for tenders for the building's construction in early June 1907. This firm was a short-lived partnership between William Bruce and Daniel Smith. (Smith was likely the lead designer as he had previously done design work for Crump.)

The $42,000 building opened in 1908 as the Beveridge Block, (the origins of the name are unclear), with a  restaurant on the main floor and around 31 suites upstairs.

The street directory shows that this was a working class block that catered to employees of the CPR and the city's street railway (street car) service. The absence of "apartments for lease" ads in 1908 papers indicate that Crump had little trouble filling the building.

Some of the occupants in 1909 included: A. Allen - conductor at the street railway; William Bent - building caretaker; James Blain - clerk with the land commissioner's office of the CPR; Harry Clark - conductor with the street railway; Joseph Gillis - bartender at the Manor Hotel; James Green - driver; George Lavalle - clerk at the CPR shops; Allan McCrae CPR Telegraph operator; T. Mack - conductor at the street railway; James Moore - conductor at the street railway; Frederick H Thomson - draftsman in engineering dept of CPR; George Wallace - cashier at the Imperial Guarantee and Accident Insurance Co. of Canada. The main floor was home to the Alexandra Café.

Ghost sign for the Selkirk Hotel

Barely a year after it opened, Crump and building manager E. B. Nash applied for a liquor permit for as part of a plan to turn the building it into a single room occupancy hotel. This would not have impacted residents, they would continue to live there long-term, but being a hotel would allow the owners to open a bar and capture more money from their railroading tenants.

A large delegation of residents and the area alderman turned up to oppose the permit. They argued that there were enough residential hotels with bars along the Main Street strip already. The permit was rejected.

The hotel idea did not die and in 1913 the Beveridge Block became the Selkirk Hotel, complete with a  bar. A big change for residents was the subdivision of the number of rooms from 31 to 54. The lack of advertising for the hotel suggests, again, that they had little trouble filling them.

July 24, 1914, Winnipeg Tribune

The Selkirk's bar was a bit of a disaster.

In his book, Winnipeg's Great War: A City Comes of Age, Jim Blanchard writes about the Selkirk Hotel, "Soldiers were getting drunk there and then passing out in the snow and freezing. One man lost both hands to frostbite. Women complained of being accosted by drunks in the street".

The Selkirk faced numerous liquor related offences during its time and things hit rock bottom in June 1914 when a barroom brawl that started inside spilled onto the street and ended in murder.

April 25, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

The hotel somehow managed to keep its liquor licence and operated under various managers. In 1923 it was re-branded the Radisson.

By 1931, it was back to being the Beveridge Block without a hotel desingation. (During this whole time it was still owned by Mrs. Crump. According to the city's historic building report, she owned it until 1948.)

To give an idea how bad the conditions were in parts of the block after its subdivision into 54 rooms,  Dr. Sharon Graham wrote in a research paper about Pearl Finkelstein, a Jewish social worker in the 1930s: "Finkelstein noted that the family’s housing was a problem. Located in the interior of  the Beveridge Block (802 Main Street), these rooms had no outside windows, and the lights had to be kept on in the suite at all times. Living in such a nightmarish situation probably contributed  to Mrs. ZB's self-diagnosis of postpartum depression."

Checking street directories up to 1964, it seems there were still around 50 rooms in the building. It is unclear how many there were in recent decades. (Though looking at the south side of the building where part of the advertising is missing could suggest that a window well may have been created at some point to add natural light and air circulation.)

From the 1950s through 1970s the Beverage Block seems to have catered to retired folks. Almost all mentions of residents in the media were about people aged 60 and up. Sometime in the 2000s the residential suites were closed.

Courtesy of R. Pollack

There were a couple of long-term main floor tenants.

Samuel Pollack moved to Toronto from his native Russia around 1903 at the age of 20 and created the York Belting Company which specialized in making belts and hoses for industrial and agricultural machinery.  The family relocated to Winnipeg in 1927 and Samuel and his son, Harvey, resumed business under the name The Premier Belting Company.

In 1929, Premier opened on the main floor of the Beveridge block and remained there until 1959 when it moved to larger premises on Portage Avenue.

June 25, 1989, Free Press Weekly

The most notable main floor tenant was Dominion Veterinary Laboratories from 1964 until around 2000.

Hy Earn, a pharmacist who owned Dufferin Drugs, created Dominion Veterinary Laboratories in 1950 and quickly found fame in his invention of an ointment to eliminate the cannibalistic tendencies of chickens. It was credited for saving an untold number of birds. A Free Press article in 1989 said, "During the 1950s, Hy Earn was to chickens in Canada what Norman Bethune was to the sick and needy in China...."

In 1964, Dominion Veterinary Laboratories relocated to the main floor of the Beveridge Block. It expanded to the lot next door in the late 1970s.

The company moved to larger premises on Sanford Street around 2000, though kept this building as a warehouse until 2020.

On August 17, 2021, a fire in a neighbouring business spread to the Beveridge Block and destroyed it. The building was vacant and boarded up at the time.


My photo album of the Beveridge Block
City of Winnipeg Historic Buildings Report