Thursday, February 20, 2020

169 Provencher - Couture Motors

© 2020, Christian Cassidy
Place: Former Couture Motors
Address: 169 Provencher Boulevard
Opened: 1938
Contractor: Unknown

From about 1909 to 1924, 169 Provencher Boulevard was home to Mrs. Anna Paradis, widow of Eugene, who raised a number of children there. In 1925, the address disappears from the street directory which suggests it was torn down.

The address reappears in 1937 as home to Couture Motors.

Le Manitoba, May 21, 1919

Couture Motors traced its history back to 1918 when Emile Couture partnered with Fred Gray to open the St. Boniface Garage on the west side of St. Joseph Street at Dumoulin. In the early 1920s, the name changed to Universal Motors with Couture as general manager.

Couture Motors sold new and used vehicles, (the former Universal Motors property behind the building was its main car lot.) It advertised as a Chrysler dealer from the 1940s through 1960s and from 1969 to 1995 was a Toyota dealership. Ads in the 1980s claimed it was Manitoba's oldest Toyota dealership.

Emile, who was born in St. Boniface in 1894, died in December 1989. Despite being in his mid-nineties, he was still the owner and operating manager of the business, though sons Denis and Claude had long been working at the business in leadership roles.

Claude died in 1995 and Denis decided to wind down the business. The next generation of Coutures  consisted of three daughters who were not interested in taking over. The remaining new cars were sold off in 1995 and on September 24, 1997 they held an unreserved auction for the contents of the building.

The building then became home to City Centre Auto. Most recently, it was Provencher Autobody and Framework.

On February 19, 2020, the building suffered a major fire. (Also see.)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

193 McGregor Street - Independent Greek Church (R.I.P.)

©2020 Christian Cassidy
Place: Holy Transfiguration Independent Greek Church
Address: 193 McGregor Street (Map)
Constructed: 1907
Architect: Unknown

The Independent Greek Church (which, despite its name, was Ukrainian), was established in Winnipeg in 1903 with the assistance of the Presbyterian Church. It is considered the forerunner to the Ukrainian United Church in Canada.

The congregation worshiped in an old church, likely called Church of the Savior, at the corner of McGregor and Powers. The second and third annual convention of the Manitoba and Northwest Consistory of the Independent Greek Church was held at that building in 1905.

Oct. 28, 1933, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1907, a new, 300-seat church was built. The wood frame building cost $5,000 and was described  as "neatly built in the Greek style of architecture". Ukrainians from across the province came to  attend its formal opening on November 10. (The old church was used as a hall and was torn down ca. 2010).

The Czecho-Slovak Bethlehem Baptist Church bought the building from the United Church in 1933 and had their first service on November 2nd. They were the first congregation of the Czecho-Slovak Baptists to own their own building. It was often referred to simply as the Bethlehem Chapel.

In 1937, it was purchased for $6,000 by the Ukrainian Seventh-Day Adventist Church which operated it until around 1985. It then became the evangelical Bethel Chapel for Indian and Metis until the early 2000s. Most recently, it was Springs Church's inner city youth church until 2019.

The church was demolished in February 2020.

Top: The old and new churches in 2009, (Google Street View)
Bottom: Interior of Church ca. 2013, (The Year Past)


The Ukrainian United Church in Manitoba 1903 - 1961 G C Russlin
Monuments to Faith: Ukrainian Churches in Manitoba
Henderson Highway Seventh-day Adventist Church
The Year Past - 2013 City of Winnipeg Historic Buildings Committee
193 McGregor Street Manitoba Historical Society

Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Tribune archives

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

216 Princess Street - Scott Memorial Hall

© 2019, Christian Cassidy
Place: Thomas Scott Memorial Hall
Address: 216 Princess Street
Opened: 1903
Architect: Samuel Hooper

The Orange Order in Canada is as a Protestant fraternal organization that traces its origins back to the Orange Order created in Northern Ireland in 1795. Winnipeg had been home to a Loyal Orange Lodge since 1871.

By 1900, there were around 100 lodges across the province and the need for a new Grand Orange Lodge of Manitoba grew. In May 1900 it was announced that one would be built in Winnipeg.

Initial drawings, likely done by James McDiarmid, show an ornate, four storey building on a 50 ft x 90 foot lot on Princess Avenue at Rupert Street. Construction of the foundation got underway in the spring of 1900 and on July 12th there was a cornerstone laying ceremony.

Orangemen from across the province and beyond came to Winnipeg for the event. One newspaper estimated the number of visitors at 6,000. They marched from city hall down Main Street to Fort Garry Park at the Assiniboine River where speeches were made.

The location was symbolic as it was near the spot where Thomas Scott, an Orangeman from Co. Down, Northern Ireland, was executed by Louis Riel’s provisional government on March 4, 1870. Scott's death led to Riel’s own execution on 1885. The building would be named the Thomas Scott Memorial Hall in his honour.

After the speeches it was back to the site of the new hall where the Grand Master of the Orange Lodge of Manitoba, Hon. D H McFadden, laid the cornerstone.

The project then ran into financial difficulty as the initial $35,000 construction estimate ballooned and the site sat idle for a couple of years.

The issue of completing the lodge was revisited in March 1902.

It was decided that a less expensive building was needed and the design was pared down to what they could afford. Architect Samuel Hooper was hired to produced a new set of drawings which were presented to lodge members in June for approval.

The most noticeable change was the reduction from four floors to three. Other cost savings came when the Garson Quarry offered to donate the stonework for the facade and contractor Thomas Sharpe, a prominent Orangeman, agreed to have his company build it.

Construction got back underway later that summer and on the afternoon of March 4, 1903 the new Grand Lodge was formally opened with a large banquet to follow the next night. (The building was not quite complete, but March 4 was the 33rd anniversary of Thomas Scott's death and had previously set that as their target date.) 

As per the original plans for the building, the main floor and basement were rented commercially as a stream of income. The trade-off to get the new building constructed was that the second floor also had to be rented out. Initial tenants were: James Smart and Company, manufacturers of stoves and heaters, in the basement; a grocery wholesaler named Steele was on the main floor; and Stirling and Waller, wholesale clothiers, on the second floor.

The lodge occupied the top floor where there was a hall for at least 500 people, smaller meeting rooms, offices and a smoking lounge. To make additional revenue the hall could be rented out for outside events and played host to countless recitals, dances and receptions.

The hall also included a large mural of Thomas Scott.

January 11, 1943, Winnipeg Tribune

The building had a close call on January 10, 1943 when a three-alarm fire broke out overnight on the third floor causing about $30,000 in damage.

Earlier that evening there had been about 500 people in the hall at a dance. The fire started in the corner where the men's smoking room was located, so it was believed to have been caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette.

The lodge had insurance which covered the reconstruction of the hall. The building was rededicated on October 11, 1943.

During reconstruction the lodge may have been moved to the second floor of the building and the third floor was rebuilt as warehouse space. Recent photos by the city's Historic Buildings Committee show that the third floor is open space and that the Thomas Scott mural, which surely would have had to be repainted after the fire, is located on the second floor.

As with most fraternal and religious organizations, membership in the Grand Orange Lodge of Manitoba after the 1960s. The lodge was able to maintain such a large building thanks to revenue from its commercial spaces and that the hall was a well-used venue for numerous organizations.

Two later tenants of the building were the Winnipeg Irish Association in the 1980s and '90s and the Antique Exchange from at least 1990 until 2015.

The Grand Lodge of Manitoba sold the building sometime in the 1990s. The Grand Orange Lodge of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were amalgamated into the Grand Orange Lodge of Western Canada effective January 1, 2002.

Update: it was determined by city engineers that the building posed a risk to public safety and the building was demolished starting on February 20, 2020.

Also see:
216 Princess Street City of Winnipeg Historic Buildings Committee
Grand Lodge of Manitoba collection Provincial Archives of Manitoba
History of the Grand Orange Lodge of Manitoba (1926)
My Flickr album of 216 Princess Street

Thursday, December 26, 2019

578 Agnes Street - Vesta Apartments

© 2019, Christian Cassidy

Place: Vesta Apartments
Address: 578 Agnes Street (Map)
Opened: 1911
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Bjorn Petursson

The Vesta Apartments were constructed in 1911 by Icelandic builder Bjorn Petursson who also built the nearby Corinne Apartments at 602 Agnes the same year. The building, which consists of twenty one-bedroom suites was open by September 1911.

The architect of the block is not known. The Biographical Dictionary of Architects says that it may be T. L. Kerr, but that building is the wrong year and corner to be this building.

Among the heads of household of its first roster of tenants were: Ernest Barter, assistant agent with the Northern Navigation Co. in 14;  Oswald Boyle, electrician with the Street Railway Co., in 19; Albert and Alfred Brock, Manitoba Bridge and Iron Works, in 13; Charles Hawley, machinist with the CPR, in 15; Fred Lyddiatt, stores department at the CPR shops, in 8; William Lyddiatt, pharmacist, in 8; John Mahen, clerk at Imperial Oil, in 7; Allan Milward, plumber at Winnipeg General Hospital, in 1; T. Mote, warehouseman for Ashdown Hardware Co., in 8; George Noble, locksmith on Notre Dame Avenue and his son, George Jr.,a messenger at Manitoba Government Telephones in suite 12.

There were some residents who went to fight in the wars, but all appear to have returned. One example was Private William Conway, an employee at Eaton's prior to enlisting with the 107th Battalion, who returned home safely in December 1917. So did Captain R. F. Bicknell earlier that year.

Tragedy did strike in 1947 when six-year-old James Guy was running across Sargent Avenue at Victor Street and was hit by a trolley bus. He was rushed to hospital suffering from multiple injuries, including a skull fracture, and died soon after. The trolley driver was exonerated of blame as James and his friends ran out from behind parked cars without looking.

October 1926 rental ad

In 2011, after an extensive renovation, the building was reopened as a reasonably priced condominium block. It is unclear what became of the condominium idea as the building was put up for sale in 2019 for $1.6 million as an apartment block.

On the morning of December 26, 2019 the building suffered a major fire. It is unclear if the building can be salvaged.

UPDATE: The building suffered structural damage during the fire and was demolished the next day, December 27, 2019.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

765 - 775 Ellice Avenue - Westwood Apartments

© 2019, Christian Cassidy
Place: Westwood Apartments
Address: 765 - 775 Ellice Avenue
Opened: August 1956
Architect: Gerald A. Libling

August 18, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press

Ads pre-renting suites in the new Westwood Apartments began appearing in January 1956 with an estimated possession date of March 1. That date was likely pushed back as ads for immediate possession of suites did not appear until late August 1956.

The block boasted "ultra modern, large rooms" with individually controlled thermostats for each suite. Ads in 1959 included a "sun deck" (?) among its amenities. This would have been cutting edge in the West End which had dozens, if not hundreds, of 1910-era, three-storey walk-ups were its only source of multi-family housing.

Prior to the Westwood, this corner of Ellice and Simcoe was home to three houses. A May 1953 classified ad calls for the removal of a two-storey framed house at 765 Ellice by Arnovitch and Leipsic, who appear to have financed the building's development.

Architect Gerald A Libling, (also see), appeared on behalf of the owners at the rezoning hearing for the project in September 1955. The Westwood would have been on of his last independent projects as he and Mel Michener had just joined forces to create Libling Michener and Associates, known today as the L M Architectural Group. They would go on to design building such as St. Paul's High School and the Public Safety Building.

The first Henderson Directory listing for the building in 1957 notes that there are 33 suites, (numbers 1 through 34 without a number 13). Peter Jensen, who lived in suite 22, was the caretaker. His wife Nellie was a typist for the provincial Highway Safety Division and daughter Sheila was a stenographer at Western Purchasing Ltd.

Among the first round of tenants were: Lew Miles, manager of the Grand theatre and wife Isabelle, a stenographer at American Motors Ltd.; Mrs. J Thorgeirson, widow in suite 29; Harry Farquhar, an assistant foreman at CPR, and wife Cathleen in suite 30; Leta Hart, controller at Robinson Little and Co., in suite 12; Norman Little, a clerk at the Land Titles office, and wife Irene in suite 16; Carol Magnusson, a clerk at Eaton's; Kathleen Menzies, personnel manager at Zellers, in suite 28.

Another early resident of the block was city councilor Charles Spence and his mother, Florence. In 1961, police had the building under surveillance in order to catch Spence propositioning another man in what may have been a set-up to remove him from office.

The building appears to have had a quiet existence. No major fires or crimes associated with this address can be found in newspaper archives over the decades.


Westwood Apartments Sunrex Management Ltd.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

471 William Avenue - Victoria Court Apartments

© 2019, Christian Cassidy
Place: Victoria Court Apartments
Address: 417 William Avenue
Architect: Paul Melsted Clemens
Developer: Joseph Johnson

The 22-unit Victoria Court Apartments were constructed in 1910 for developer Joseph Johnson. Its architect was Paul Melsted Clemens.

Clemens and Johnson were part of a group of Icelanders that collaborated to design, finance and construct many dozen three-storey walk-up apartments in Winnipeg from the mid-1900s through the 19-teens.

Victoria Court's first "for rent" ads appear in local papers in October 1910. According to a 2003 city report the suites ranged from 500 square feet to 894 square feet and included fifteen one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom units.

The early years of Victoria Court appear to have been quiet ones. There are no major fires or crimes that made the local papers from this address.

Among the block's first residents was Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Prain in 1910. This would have been at the very start of his long and illustrious architectural career. The couple lost an infant son, three-month-old Fred Kennedy, during their time there. His funeral took place on Christmas Eve 1910.

In 1913, Victor Cumming of suite 34 lost his drivers licence, number 384, due to "drunkenness while driving a car". This was surely one of the province's first cases of a DUI.

Edward Ng lived in suite 20 with his parents in 1972. That year, the 17-year-old Gordon Bell High School student placed first out of 20,000 students in the ninth annual national mathematics test administered by the University of Waterloo.It was the first time a Manitoban took top honours.

November 27, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune

Another resident of the block was Albert Morley Atkinson, his wife Mary Mildred and their infant son of number 21. Atkinson, a clerk at Banfield's furniture store at 492 Main, was known for playing intermediate baseball and hockey with the Thistles Athletic Club.

Atkinson enlisted in 1915 and was shot in the arm in October 1917. He recovered in hospital though refused the surgery to remove the shrapnel from his arm. He went back into service with another unit, but, as predicted by his doctors, his arm got worse and he was medically discharged due to the limited use of his arm and transferred back to Winnipeg arriving around June 1918.

Like many soldiers he contracted "Spanish" Influenza and died November 10, 1918 at a special emergency room annex set up on Logan Avenue for flu cases. He was 30 years old.

October 7, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

The building became vacant and boarded up in 2003. Three years later, a zoning application was approved to a group who wished to renovate the building. That work was completed in 2007.

Victoria Court again spiraled downwards in the 20-teens. In 2018 it was closed down again.

On December 4, 2019, fire broke out in the abandoned building.

More photos of Victoria Court Apartments
Mass Destruction: Meth dealers taking over apartments CTV News (2018)
Boarded up block a drug den CBC News (2019)
Fire breaks out in vacant building CTV News (2019)

Friday, October 25, 2019

260 Toronto Street - Hekla Block

© 2019, Christian Cassidy
Place: Hekla Block
Address: 260 Toronto Street
Constructed: 1911 - 1912
Architect: James Pinder West

The 21-unit Hekla Block was constructed in 1911 – 12 based on a design by South African James Pender West. He resided in Winnipeg for just three or four years and designed a handful of buildings in the city, most notably Hydro Substation No. 1 on King Street.

Construction magazine, April 1912

The Hekla one of dozens of three-storey walk-ups built in the West End around this time that were financed and constructed by Icelandic builders. Its design was noted in the April 1912 edition of Construction Magazine for its use of bay windows and side court yards to bring the most natural light and fresh air as possible into its suites.

The initial roster of heads of households in its suites show that it was a good, middle class building. they included:

- Percy Hand, solicitior for Dominion Express Co.
- T J Harrison, lecturer at the Agricultural College
- Alice Hunt, stenographer at Hitchings Paper Box Co who lived with her daughter, a stenographer at Acme Glove Works
- Edwin Lebourveau, CNR employee 
- Edith MacLean, teacher at Somerset School. MacLean came to Winnipeg from Wentworth, Nova Scotia around 1908 to be a school teacher. After a 30 year career, she retired in 1938 and died in 1941. 
- Louis Leipsic, insurance agent with office in Bon Accord Building. He would later join forces with his brother-in-law A. H. Arnovitch to form Arnovitch and Leipsic, a well known insurance and real estate company that carried on for decades after their deaths.

Since 1990, the building has been owned and operated by the Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation.

Two years of extremely dry summers, 2017 and 2018, caused a portion of the foundation to fail. Further inspection showed additional foundation problems. The decision was made to demolish the building, which got underway in late 2019. it will be replaced by a new affordable housing block once funding has been secured.

More photos of the Hekla Block