Saturday, September 6, 2014

45 Lily Street - Daniel McDonald House

Place: D. McDonald House
Address: 45 Lily Street (Map)
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Unknown

(Source: MHS)

This house was built in 1883 for Daniel McDonald, son of John Kay MacDonald, (yes, their last names were spelled differently), president of the Confederation Life Insurance Company. Daniel was a Scottish immigrant, a farmer and a teacher in Ontario before joining the company in 1879. In 1883 he came to establish and manage its Western Canadian office.

The architect and contractor of the house are unknown. It is one of only a half-dozen remaining Queen Anne-style homes with a side turret in Winnipeg, (another is 545 Broadway - Wilson House.)

At the time, of course, there was no Disraeli Freeway. Lily Street was part of quiet, residential Point Douglas, all but a couple of its houses are now demolished. (For more on early Lily Street see this post from The Common.)

Top: ca. (source: Peel's)
Bottom: May 17, 1911, Winnipeg Tribune

Confederation Life’s first offices were just a short walk away at the Biggs Block, at 467 Main Street. It was under McDonald's tenure that the Biggs Block was demolished and the Confederation Life Building built in its place.

The McDonald family consisted of wife Isabelle and seven children, six sons and a daughter. A number of them died early, Isabelle in 1893, for instance. The 1901 and 1906 censuses list only Donald, son Benjamin (1861) and daughter Elizabeth (1866), as living at the house. McDonald's obituary in 1916 lists those two children and another son, John of San Fransisco, as surviving him.
Source: MHS

One son who died early was Donald McDonald. In 1911 he stopped a runaway horse on a city street. He brought the animal to a halt but was struck by an oncoming wagon and seriously injured. McDonald, a 25 year veteran of the Winnipeg Fire Department where he worked as an engineer, moved into his father's home to recover, but never did. He was diagnosed with cancer, (a newspaper article at the time of his death blamed the accident for the disease.) He died there 11 months later, on August 8, 1912. 

Daniel McDonald retired in 1915 and died on June 24, 1918 and is buried at St. James Cemetery.

July 6, 1942, Winnipeg Free Press

Soon after his death, the house was sold off and run as a rooming from 1920 until the late 1940s with between 6 and 8 tenants at a time. There appear to have been a number of owners. 

In 1942 the house came up for sale and was purchased by Mike Zapora, a carpenter. During his time there, maybe three years, it was him and just one other tenant. (The McDonald's always had a live-in maid so the house could have been reverted back to its original configuration.)

July 25, 2004, Winnipeg Free Press

Around 1950 Ted and Janina Drapala purchased the house. Ted was a carpenter and construction worker. The couple raised six children there. It appears that the family still rented out at least a couple of rooms to elderly gentlemen. In the 1960s there was Howard Armstrong and Yee Mah, in the 1970s Cheung Wong.

In 2004 a man broke into the house demanding money. He assaulted Mr. Drapala, 80, a number of times before jumping through the front window to escape empty-handed. It appears that the Drapalas are still alive.

Aside from the 2004 incident, the Trib and Free Press archives indicate that the house had a quiet existence, with no mentions of fires or major crimes taking place there.

45 Lily Street

My photo album of 45 Lily Street
45 Lily Street Historical Buildings Committee
Lily Street 1911 The Common

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

545 Broadway - Wilson House / Klinic

Place: Wilson House
Address: 545 Broadway (Map)
Opened: 1904
Cost: $9,000
Architect: J H G Russell

Wilson house was constructed in 1904 for Robert R. Wilson and family.

An immigrant from Enniskillen, Ireland, Wilson came to Winnipeg in 1882 looking for adventure. In 1883 he took a  job as a clerk with a new grocery wholesale company called Campbell and Sutherland. He soon became its bookkeeper and, in 1900, a partner. The company then reorganized as Campbell Brothers and Wilson.

The company grew into one of the West's largest grocery businesses. In 1903 they built a warehouse at 90 Princess Street, expanding it to nearly double its size in 1912. The building is better known as the Penthouse Furniture Building.

In 1904 Wilson and his family, wife Sarah and their three children, had this house built on what is now the edge of West Broadway. The architect, J H G Russell, was the man who was responsible for designing the CB and W warehouse the year before. It is considered one of Winnipeg's finest examples of Queen Anne architecture.

In 1925 Wilson became president of the company and the family moved to a new, larger home, also designed by Russell, at 680 Wellington Crescent, (now demolished.)

Legislative Building Manitoba
Top: ca. 1935 (buflyer on Flickr)
Bottom: ca. 1922 (Manitoba Historical Society)

By this time, the neighbourhood had changed a great deal from its tree-lined, residential surroundings of 1904. Across the street was the Legislative Building (opened 1920) and Shea's Amphitheater, the MTS Centre of its day, (opened in 1909). To the east was All Saints Church (opened 1926) and the original University of Manitoba campus

The next owner was George Zyrd. He lived here but converted most of it into a rooming house for between 6 and 8 people, mostly working women; stenographers, clerks, teachers. The neighbourhood continued to get busier with the addition of Osborne Stadium (1930) and an expanded Shea's Brewery.

The house was sold again around 1930 and a series of owners ran it as a rooming house until 1948 when it was converted into office space.

June 28, 1977, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1977 Kilinic moved in. Created in 1970 as an offshoot of the General Hospital, they provided a storefront medical clinic aimed at young people hitchhiking across country and those experimenting with drugs. Over time, they began offering suicide prevention counseling and other outreach services. Their previous location was just a few doors down at Broadway and Balmoral.

Klinic's clientele and range of services continued to grow and in 1991 they relocated to a new facility on Portage Avenue near Arlington Street.

Above: ca. 1990 (Historic Buildings Report)
Below: July 15, 1990

The owner the building then applied for a demolition permit to build an L shaped strip mall that included a 24-hour convenience store. The city refused to issue it and the building sat empty for the rest of the decade. It became the target of vandals, squatters and once had a small fire set inside it.

May 18, 1999, Winnipeg Free Press

The house managed to survive and in 1999 Lion's Housing, which had already renovated a number of houses on Langside Street, bought it for $300,000. They held fundraisers for the redevelopment of the property, one hosted by home renovation television personality Debbie Travis.

A call was made for possible tenants and one of the applications was from Klinic! Things had become crowded at their new home and they were looking for more street-level space.

The home was completely gutted and a 45,000 sq foot addition added to the rear. Klinic reopened here in 2004 offering a range of services aimed at youth.

545 Broadway Historic Building Inventory
Wilson House Heritage Winnipeg
Our History Klinic

Friday, August 22, 2014

424 Portage Avenue - The Singer Building

Place: The Singer Building
Address: 424 Portage Avenue (Map)
Opened: April 2, 1930
Cost: $84,000
Architect: Northwood & Chivers
Contractor: Fraser & MacDonald

May 13, 1884, Manitoba Free Press

The Singer Sewing Machine Company has been a presence in Winnipeg since late 1880 when R. R. Gage, the newly appointed agent for Western Canada, arrived from Guelph, Ontario to set up shop. Their first location was at 287 Main Street with a staff of four. In their first year of operation here, Singer sold 550 machines and expected to double that in 1883 as the West began to fill with settlers and industries. The company was also a regular exhibitor at the Winnipeg Industrial Exhibitions throughout the 1880s.

By 1929 the company's main store was at 306 Main Street with satellite stores at 300 Notre Dame and on Kelvin Street (Henderson Highway) in Elmwood. Corporate offices appear to have been in the Boyd Building.

October 28, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

On September 30, 1929 Singer Sewing Machine Co. took out an $84,000 building permit for a three-storey, measuring 22 feet wide, at 524 Portage Avenue. The architect was Northwood & Shivers and general was Fraser & MacDonald Co. The structure was fireproof, built of reinforced concrete with brick and a Tyndall stone facade.

The main floor featured their largest retail showroom in the city, finished in walnut with marble trim. The second floor contained some smaller offices and a large room where sewing lessons and demonstrations could be held. The top floor were the regional offices for Western Canada, excluding B.C..

April 1, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

The store opened on  April 2, 1930, the early months of the Depression. Singer made their demonstration room available to charities such as the Friendship League, which collected food, toys and made clothing and other items for unemployed families.

March 24, 1981, Winnipeg Free Press

The company stayed at this address for fifty years. By 1979 Singer had franchise stores in Garden City and Polo Park shopping centres and "for sale" ads appeared for their Portage Avenue Building. The following spring, Singer the regional office was closed and the contents of the building sold off.

October 2, 1981, Winnipeg Free Press

The first post-Singer tenant came in 1981 when Thomas Cook Travel relocated their offices from the Dismorr Block further east on Portage Avenue. The U.K.-based Cook, one of the largest travel agencies in the world, was looking to expand beyond serving mainly corporate clients and get into the personal travel market by opening storefront locations in most of their Canadian markets.

Impulse Records opened on the second floor from around 1984 to 1987.

In 1989 The building was up for lease again when Thomas Cook relocated to Eaton Place Mall. The following year, Cristall Opticians opened and remains at that location.

Additional Sources
Winnipeg, Manitoba, and her industries Steen & Boyce, 1882
Singer Sewing Timeline Singerco
Singer Sewing Machine History Today

Thursday, July 24, 2014

732 Ellice Avenue - Wesley Chapel

Hungarian United Church
Place: Wesley Chapel
Address: 732 Ellice Avenue
Opened: October 4, 1952
Architect: Unknown

October 4, 1952, Winnipeg Free Press

Wesley Chapel, a Methodist congregation, was located on this site since the late 1940s. In April 1951, under the leadership of Rev. Murdo Campbell, they began construction on this larger, $25,000 stucco church next to their original one. It was dedicated on October 4, 1952 and served as Wesley Chapel until 1968.

November 25, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1970 it became the Hungarian United Church. Originally formed in Winnipeg as the Hungarian Reformed Church in 1906, reorganized as United in 1927, it called a number of locations home over the decades.

Spurred by a huge growth in the city’s Hungarian population after that country's 1956 uprising, they purchased land at Brandon Avenue and Nassua Street and in 1961 opened what they thought would be a long-term home. That property was expropriated by the city in 1968 as part of the metro Transit bus garage and offices.

The congregation used space at the Rosedale United Church on Beresford Avenue until they purchased this building in 1970. It served as not only home of the church but the Hungarian Folklorama Pavilion until the early 1990s.

In summer 2014 the United Church sold the building to a congregation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. They began renovations in July 2014.

Interior prior to sale (Century 21)

July 2014 renos in progress

Hungarian United Church fonds
Hungarian United Church

Sunday, June 29, 2014

180 Market Street: Pantages Theatre

Pantages Playhouse Theatre, Winnipeg
Place: Pantages Theatre / Playhouse Theatre
Address: 180 Market Street East (Map)
Architect: B. Marcus Priteca, George Northwood
Contractor: James McDiarmid Co.
Cost: $180,000
Opened: February 9, 1914

Note: I am currently in the process of writing a four part history of Pantages Theatre. The full version of each post will appear at my West End Dumplings blog. Once completed, an abbreviated version of the post will appear here.

Part 3: the City Years, 1936 - present
Part 4: The Performers and other links

Sunday, June 22, 2014

541 Selkirk Avenue - The Merchants Hotel

Merchants Hotel, Selkirk Avenue
Place: Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel
Address: 541 - 543 Selkirk Avenue
Architect: Cecil Blankstein (1913 and 1933)

Above: July 3, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune
Below: December 14, 1914, Winnipeg Free Press

The Merchants Hotel was constructed in 1913, not a as a hotel but a retail / commercial block.

The roots of the building are in the Steiman family. Robert and wife Sarah came from Latvia in 1899 or 1901*. After doing odd jobs for a time, by 1905 Robert opened a hardware store at 511 - 513 Selkirk Avenue, the former liquidation location for Winnipeg Hardware Ltd.. He called it , simply, R. Steiman Company.

With the future looking bright, Steiman began sending for the rest of his family. In 1906 they built a house at 531 Selkirk that by 1910 was home to Robert's parents, father Mendel worked at the hardware store, as did his sister Rose. Brother Arthur was a pressman at Willson’s Stationery. Another brother, Max, would later become a Main Street retailer. There were other Steiman relatives living there as well, such as Marv, a cigar maker, and Hyman, a tailor who had a shop at 577 Selkirk. (All of these Selkirk Avenue addresses are now demolished.)

Robert and Sarah lived not far away at 431 Selkirk Avenue. By this time they had four children and Sarah's parents and sister were also living with them. (For a more detailed history of the whole Steiman family, see Mendel's Children: A Family Chronicle by Cherie Smith.)

ca. 1934 (Source: Mendel's Children)

Steiman's store did well and he hired architect Cecil Blankstein to design the three-storey Steiman Block at 541 - 543 Selkirk Avenue. The store, renamed R. Steiman Hardware and Furniture, opened there in 1914 with hardware on the main floor, furniture on the second and warehouse space on the third.

A retailer of phonographs since at least 1909, Steiman became one of six authorized Gramophone Company / His Masters Voice dealers in the city. The shop specializing in record players, radios and phonographs had an address of 547 Selkirk, a neighbouring building.

Above: December 14, 1932, Winnipeg Free Press
Below: June 15, 1932, Winnipeg Tribune

In the mid1920s Steiman converted most of the warehouse level into Steiman's Hall, which had a separate entrance off of Andrews Street. The hall was a community gathering place and over the decades was home to numerous socials, political speeches, club meetings, dance classes and dramatic productions.

The Steiman Hall portion of the building usually had a small retailer on the main floor, such as a deli or tailor, and offices on the second floor often housing Jewish doctors and dentists.

January 11, 1934, The Jewish Post

The Depression took its toll on the retailer. Unable to sustain such a large store, he wanted to convert most of it into a hotel. In June 1933 he applied for, and got, a beer licence, then approached the building's original architect Cecil Blankstein, now in partnership with Lawrence Green, to design the conversion. 

In November 1933 he took out a $5,000 building permit to do the work, which consisted of shrinking his store's space to make room for a lobby, dining room and beer parlour. The upper floors became home to 40 hotel rooms.

Workers on the building included: F. Gorner of 545 Redwood Avenue, carpenter; S. Kowalski of 119 Lorne Street,  plastering and brickwork; John Fabris and Son of 537 Sherburn Street, tile and marble; and Partridge-Halliday of 144 Lombard Street, plumbing and heating.

January 11, 1934, The Jewish Post

The Merchant's Hotel likely opened the week of January 11, 1934 with little fanfare or attention from the daily newspapers. It was, after all, a working class hotel in a working class neighbourhood.  (Note that there were numerous Merchants' Hotels around at the time, including in Selkirk and Portage la Prairie. They were not related.)

A scan of some 1940s Henderson Directories shows that most of the handful of long-term guests there at any given time were CPR employees, others were truck drivers, bakers and labourers.

Unlike many other hotels, the Merchants rarely advertized, maybe one classified ad per year in the daily papers and a couple more times per year in the Jewish Post. Perhaps a sign that he had a pretty steady stream of clientele.

November 17, 1934, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1935 R. Steiman Ltd., the hardware store, went bankrupt and a new retailer was found for the space. Steiman then turned his attention to the hotel. More advertisements appeared, especially in the Jewish Post, and in 1938 - 39 an extensive interior renovation took place.

The hotel, and the Steimans, had a quiet existence. No major incidents were reported in the newspapers, such as crimes, fires or personal crises during their tenure.

The Steimans were involved with many Jewish organizations, sitting on many boards. The Merchants was often used as a meeting space or fundraising venue for them. It was also a stopping point for many Jewish newcomers and visitors to the city.

August 8, 1953, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1947 the Steimans sold the hotel and retired to California, where they originally intended to settle when they came to North America almost 50 years earlier.

Robert died in Vancouver while visiting relatives on July 30, 1953. Sarah died in Lost Angeles in 1957. Both are buried there.

John Konosky was manager of the hotel in 1946. He wife Mary and son John lived on the premises. The following year he is listed as the proprietor. 

John was born in the Ukraine but raised in Silver, Manitoba where he married wife Mary. They got into the hotel business in places like Gladstone, Riverton and Transcona before moving to Winnipeg and taking over the Merchants.

Konosky retired in 1957 and dedicated more time to his passion: Ukrainian country music. Together with Joe Wozlowski and Stan Kostiuk, he made up the Primrose Trio that released a number of albums under the V Records label.

The next owner is "Selkirk Hotel Ltd." , a partnership that began in Estavan Saskatchewan in 1949. 

Ben Zelcovich was an Estevan businessman who purchased the town's Clarendon Hotel in 1949. One of his business partners was Menashe Mandel, who relocated to Winnipeg and purchased the Merchants Hotel from Konosky in 1957. I am assuming that it included business partner Zelcovich as he came form Saskatchewan to be the hotel's manager.

Another business partnership Mandel was involved with had purchased land at Balmoral and Notre Dame for a future hotel development. In 1966, after other partners sold off their interest, Mandel went built the Balmoral Hotel, likely with Zelcovich in a minor role.

March 26 1964, Jewish Post

In 1961 the hotel was owned by the Cipryk family. Father Adam was the president of the company, though it was son Robert who was the manager / proprietor from 1961 to 1972. They also co-owned the Aberdeen Hotel with a man named George Prost.

Robert, just 28 at the time they purchased the Merchants, was also president of the St. James Rams Football Club and by 1966 the president of the Manitoba Hotel Association.

March 6, 1972, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1972 the Cipryks sold to George Prost. He renovated the hotel, including the beverage room, and brought in live bands nightly. He ran it until 1980.

This was also around the time when Selkirk Avenue's reputation began taking a violent turn. Until this point, the Merchants was seldom in the news for anything other than the odd fight. The frequency of fights, robberies and other criminal doings in the vicinity of the hotel picked up though the 1970s and 1980s. By the late 1990s it was so notorious that some called for the city to purchase the hotel and close it down, something it had already done with the Leland Hotel and Portage Village Inn when they became too troublesome. 

Ross Kennedy, a co-owner of the Balmoral Hotel and Headingley Inn, bought the Merchants in 1980 for a reported $600,000. He said that he would sell it to the city but for $1.2 million, double the assessed value, because it included a money-making business. The city went no further.

Kennedy maintained that shutting down the hotel would not deal with the larger issues that led to violence in the neighbourhood, it would just make people walk further to get to another bar or vendor. To help combat the crime issue, he did agree to cut back the hours of the bar to 9 p.m. weekdays and midnight on weekends.

November 23, 2009, Winnipeg Free Press

The final owner of the Merchants Hotel was Bob Major, who took over on January 1, 2006.

By this time, calls to shut down the hotel were more frequent and, though there was opposition at his liquor permit hearing, the bar was granted a new lease on life.

Major pointed out that the vast majority of the crime that the Merchants was being blamed for - beatings, stabbings, armed robberies, drug dealing - took place on the streets around the hotel and that the business was being unfairly blamed as the "cause". While renovating, he invested in video security equipment inside and out and said he freely shared the video with police when they were investigating incidents.

The tipping point seem to come in April 2011 when Sheila Fontaine, 42, was murdered when she was swarmed by a group of teens outside the hotel when she stepped out for a cigarette.

Merchant's Hotel, Selkirk Avenue

In late 2011 the province asked the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation to produce a building condition report, business plan and to gauge interest among existing agencies and community groups about the redevelopment of the site. The building's location, on the western edge of Selkirk Avenue's "social service alley" made it a good fit.

The condition report was positive and a coalition of 20 of the street's social service agencies signed on to explore the redevelopment. The province paid $1.3 million for the hotel and four vacant lots to the north, used as hotel parking, and transferred ownership to the coalition in April 2012.
Source: the

The lead on the project, now dubbed Merchants Corner, is the North End Renewal Corporation. The vision is for the building to become a satellite university campus, retail hub, social service offices and a housing complex on the vacant lots.

Former Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel
ca. May 1928, Jewish Post

History Links

My photo album of the Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel
Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel Historic Buildings Committee
Mendel's Children: A Family Chronicle Cherie Smith
Memoirs of a Manitoba Maydl Cherie Smith (The Scribe)
Winnipeg's Selkirk Avenue in 1914 Abe Padolsky (MHS)
Jewish Post and News archives


New plan for old hotel 
The Times /Canstar (June 2014)

"Meet me at the Merch" 
North End Renewal Corporation (video)

Prince's charity interested in old Merchants Hotel 
Winnipeg Free Press (May 2014)

Merchants Hotel set for major redevelopment 
CBC Manitoba (April 2012)

Community group plans to buy the Merchants Hotel 
Winnipeg Free Press (Sept 2011)

Few tears shed for Merchants
 Winnipeg Real Estate News (undated)

Merchant Hotel opens in heart of North Winnipeg 
Jewish Post (January 1934) 


When piecing together the history of a 100+ year-old building mainly though newspaper archives, there will be some discrepancies. I noted ones I found below. If you have additional information or corrections, instead of making nasty comments or emails, why not share it with me at ! I would be more than happy to update this post to include it !

- One building history says that a third storey was added in the 1950s. As per the above photo and stories about the building in its early days, that third storey appears to have existed from day one.

- * Robert Steinam's obituary article in the Free Press says that he and Sarah came to Winnipeg in 1901, but the family memoir says it was 1899.

- The City of Winnipeg historic buildings report says that the Steiman family owned the building until ca. 1926, which is eight years before the Merchant's Hotel even opened. There are numerous accounts that say Robert Steiman was the owner of the hotel. Perhaps he created a separate company from his R. Steiman Ltd. hardware business with a different name before constructing the hotel.

- Hotel histories in particular are difficult to research as there was usually a primary owner as well as secondary owners or investors. Often I will find seperate articles about different people, each saying that they owned a hotel at the same time. The Zelcovitch - Mandel partnership, for instance, went on to include the Balmoral Hotel and Pembina Hotel.

(c) 2014 Christian Cassidy