Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2311 McPhillips Street - Simpson Sears at Garden City Shopping Centre

© 2017, Christian Cassidy

Place: Sears at Garden City Shopping Centre
Address: 2311 McPhillips Street (Map)
Size: 100,000 square feet
Architect: unknown
Contractor: Baert Construction

In February 1969, Canadian retailer Simpsons-Sears announced an ambitious project: the construction of a $7 million dollar shopping mall on a 40-acre site on the northern edge of Greater Winnipeg in the city of West Kildonan.

The company wanted to to cash in on proposed residential development plans for the area that would add nearly ten thousand new households in the years to come.

Simpsons-Sears was a partnership between the Canadian and American retail chains created in 1952. It was formally dissolved in 1978, when HBC bought out Simpsons. (For more about the retailer.)

At the time of the Garden City announcement, the company billed itself as a "Canada's fastest growing retailer". They had 33 stores across the country, eight of them built in the previous three years.

http://digitalcollections.lib.umanitoba.ca/islandora/object/uofm%3A1898023

The western end of the property, the most prominent side facing McPhillips Street, was reserved for the city's second Simpsons-Sears Store. It would be 100,000 square feet in size and designed so that an additional storey could be added at a future date.

A Sears Auto Service Centre would stand nearby.

The store would be built by Baert Construction. Its most notable feature are the 20 foot wide concrete canopies that stand over each of its three entrances. Each weigh 30 tons and are faced with white quartz stone aggregate.

February 25, 1969, Winnipeg Free Press

The shopping centre was promising enough that Eaton's announced that it had purchased ten acres at the eastern edge of the development for a store and parking area of its own to be built during the second phase of development.

In between the two anchors sites would be a 35-store enclosed mall developed and managed by Columbia Commonwealth Corporation of Toronto. It would feature: a Dominion grocery store, the largest in Western Canada at 25,000 square feet; Western Canada's first Shoppers Drug Mart; and a 750-seat Famous Players theatre.

It would all be surrounded by a 1,400 car parking lot.

Top: August 1, 1969, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: August 11, 1970, Winnipeg Free Press

On July 31, 1969, the first concrete was poured. The mayors of Winnipeg and West Kildonan, as well as company officials were on hand for the ceremony.

It appears that construction went as planned and the shopping centre opened on August 12, 1970, very near the "mid 1970" target date set at the time of its announcement.

A lineup of its opening day tenants can be found in the map above.


The project was a success and between 1974 - 76 the second phase of construction took place. It was a a $7 million, 181,000 square foot expansion that doubled the size of the retail mall.

It coincided with a widening of Leila Avenue and other street redevelopment in the area.

New retailers included the much anticipated Eaton's store, a Beaver Lumber Centre and space for 20 other retailers and offices.

August 11, 1970, Winnipeg Free Press

Over the decades, hundreds of retailers and offices have called Garden City Shopping Centre home.

All of its prominent early merchants, though, have disappeared, including Beaver Lumber in 1995, Eaton's in 1998, and Famous Players in 2010. Sears and Shoppers Drug Mart are the only ones left.

The mall has undergone numerous upgrades and renovations over the years. the most recent, to be completed in 2018, was announced by owners RioCan  in 2016

July 14, 1970. Winnipeg Tribune

Through the 2000s the fortunes of Sears Canada declined amid the changing retail industry.

In June 2017, the retailer sought protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and announced that it would close 59 of its 127 stores and shed thousands of employees. This included the Garden City store, which is currently being liquidated.

To raise cash, Sears planned to sell the Garden City store to WCRE Investments for $5 million. After the deal was accepted, RioCan, owners of the mall, countered with a $6 million bid. The issue is currently before the courts.

The disappearance of the Sears name means not just the loss of a retailer, but its ties with the company that made the Garden City Shopping Centre a reality in the first place.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

257 Lulu Street - Haynes' Chicken Shack

© 2017, Christian Cassidy
Place: Former Haynes' Chicken Shack
Address: 257 Lulu Street (Map)
Constructed: ca. 1912

Percy Haynes in 1943, U of M Archives, Winnipeg Tribune Collection

The Haynes' came to Winnipeg from British Guyana in 1912 and purchased this cottage-style house. William, a carpenter by trade, added a workshop area. There, they raised four sons: Alan "Chick", Clifford, Percy and Abram.

Percy became a noted sportsman, musician and labour activist. In 1932, he met Zena Bradshaw and the two became a duo on the night club circuit.

The pair married in 1943 and in 1952 decided to turn the workshop into a restaurant. Zena's sister, Alva Mayes, already well known for her fried chicken, was hired to run the kitchen.

Top: November 7, 1952, Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom; January 10, 1976, Winnipeg Tribune

Haynes' Chicken Shack became famous for its chicken, ribs and late night music.

Percy and Zena often entertained and iconic performers such as Billy Daniels, Oscar Peterson and Harry Belafonte would come jamwhen in town.

Zena Haynes died in 1990 and Percy in 1992. He worked at the restaurant until a week before his death.

Two long-time employees bought the restaurant, which closed in 1998.

Since then, it has been a residence. In 2012 it was boarded up.

Related:
For more, read my West End Dumplings blog post and Winnipeg Free Press column about the Haynes' and the Haynes Chicken Shack.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

811 St. Matthews Avenue - Arlington Station (Substation No. 4)

Sept. 7, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

Place: Arlington Station (Substation No. 4)
Address: 811 St. Matthews Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1929
Cost: $225,000

Through the 1920s, Winnipeg Hydro saw a steady increase in its customer base and their thirst for power as new electrical  machinery came onto the marketplace. To keep up with demand, the utility spent over $2.5 million to expand its delivery infrastructure in 1929, double what it spent the year before.

One of those projects was Winnipeg Hydro Substation No. 4, as it was initially called, on St. Matthews Avenue at Arlington Street. The building permit indicated that the building was expected to cost $225,000, most of that reflected the cost of the equipment that it would house.

It's capacity was 20,000 horsepower.

September 3, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

One thing that Hydro did not have to pay for was the land.

From 1921 to 1928, the site had been home to the St. Matthews Tennis Club. Though anyone could join, the club was associated with nearby St. Matthews Church. Not much information can be found about the club property other than the fact that it had at least two grass courts and contained a small clubhouse.

It is likely that the land was leased to the church.

Sometime after the close of the 1928 tennis season, the city seized the property for unpaid property taxes. It then gave it over to Hydro for the substation project.


The single-storey building was built with reinforced concrete and brick with Tyndall Stone trim. The architect and contractor are not known.

In a release sent to both the Free Press and Tribune as the project neared completion, Hydro noted: "Careful attention has been paid to the architectural features of the building with a view to enhancing rather than depreciating property value in the adjacent neighbourhood."

Google Maps

Like many substations, its footprint is deceptive as some of the walls are just a facade to hide equipment in an open-air yard.

The initial building measured 50 feet by 100 feet and it appears that the site has been enlarged since it was first constructed.

Comparing the 1929 photo to today shows an extension to the north of three windows and the presence of slightly different building materials indicates there was an extension to the east to include a garage door. (Basically, the "L" shaped open-air portion seen in the overhead image above.)


A unique feature of this substation is that it was one of the city's first custom-built "automatic" stations, meaning that there was no staff working there. Its switches were controlled from the Rover Street terminal or Scotland Avenue substation. It was how substations going forward would be controlled.

The building appears to have had a a quiet existence with the exception of a small exposition in May 1966 when a high voltage circuit breaker blew It caused a small fire and $3,000 in damage.

In 2002, Winnipeg Hydro was sold to Manitoba Hydro. Substation No. 4 was renamed Arlington Station.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

724 Wellington Avenue - Tavistock Apartments

Place: Tavistock Apartments
Address: 724 Wellington Avenue (Map)
Built: 1912 - 13
Architect: Unknown

The Tavistock Apartments were built in 1912 -13. Amid the hustle and bustle of development elsewhere in the city, there was no mention made of its development in the newspapers.

An interesting feature of the building's early days was the suite numbering. There was suite 1 and 2, then letters from A to W.

It was a middle class block in a middle class area. Its 1914 roster of tenants, for instance, included: John Boyink an engraver at Bulman Brothers printing; Gordon Cannen, accountant; F Denno, chauffeur; Winifred Dunlop, a stenographer at Gaults Ltd.; Stephen McBean, stone cutter at R. Kelly and Sons; and Mrs. F Niblett, Eaton's clerk. There were also four teamsters, or drivers, for Crescent Creamery, Alex Allan, Herbert Way, Robert Stewart, and William Burns, who all shared suite 1. 

 A notable long-term tenant from were the Verdins, Albert and Eliza. They established Verdin's grocery, one of the West End's earliest stores, next door at 730 Wellington and lived at the Tavistock from about 1917 into the 1960s.

June 11, 1921, Winnipeg Tribune

One June afternoon in 1921, police constable G. H. Brown, who worked the night shift, was sleeping when he heard noises in the adjoining suite. He went to investigate and found a team of four robbers. He gave chase in his bare feet and that led to two men and two women being caught.

It turns out they had broken into a house on Victor Street earlier in the day. At the Tavistock, they assaulted the "lady of the house" and stole some brandy, a necklace and a watch.

The two men were convicted of assault and housebreaking.

January 2, 1926, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1926, there was nicer news when Kathleen, daughter of Mr and Mrs. Harold Hood, was born at 5:25 on January 1, 1926.

That made her the city's New Year's baby and earned her and her parents a basket of prizes donated by city retailers.

December 11, 1942, Winnipeg Tribune

Acting Lance Corporal Samuel Campbell was killed in action at Dieppe on August 19, 1942. 

Born in Northern Ireland in 1905, he worked for the Canadian Construction Company, which specialized in railway construction, at the time he enlisted. His wife, Martha, and son, Cecil, moved into the Tavistock after he went overseas.

Top: November 2013 Renter's Guide

In 1965, when the Verdins retired, they sold their store to the Tavistock's owner who subdivided it into four suites opening onto Beverley Street. It was known as the Tavistock Annex. (The name "Tavistock" disappears in 1978.)

In 2012, the owners got a rezoning application approved in order to build a new housing block on the site of the former grocery store. Demolition did not take place until 2016 and the land is still vacant.

In 2013, the building underwent a major interior and exterior renovation which saw its cornice removed, (above).

Related:
For more images of 724 - 730 Wellington Avenue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Main Street and Higgins Avenue: Main Street Underpass

© 2017, Christian Cassidy
https://www.flickr.com/photos/wintorbos/4324434310/
Place: Main Street Underpass
Location: Main Street at Higgins Avenue
Architect: Canadian Pacific Railway
Contractor: Deeks and Dueck
Cost: $125,000
Opened: November 1904

In 1900, the CPR announced a big expansion and restructuring of its national rail network.

For Winnipeg, this meant a $5 million investment that included new passenger depot, a hotel, (the Royal Alexandra, the largest in the country), the centralization of various maintenance buildings into the Weston shops, and a new cargo yard. It also meant that a lot more rail traffic would be passing through town.

At the time, the options for crossing the tracks in the city were limited to the narrow, ca. 1899 Salter Street Bridge and a grade crossing at Main Street. The latter was by far was the busiest and the only one that streetcars could operate on.

The CPR expansion meant that the number of tracks crossing Main Street would increase from four to eight, which caused despair among many citizens, business owners and civic officials.

About a dozen trains already crossed the intersection each day with an average crossing time of about 5 minutes each. It was a scheduling inconvenience in the summer and a potentially deadly wait for people and horses in the winter.

In 1900, the city and CPR agreed that new crossing was needed and that it should be a "subway" rather than an overpass. In 1903, negotiations began about the specifics of the structure.

March 7, 1904, Winnipeg Tribune

The CPR favoured a reinforced concrete structure as it was the cheapest option to build and maintain. In February 1904, a city committee approved the railway's request.

This set off a brief storm of protest before it could go before council as a whole to be ratified.

A number of letters to the editor were published and delegations appeared at city hall to demand that the CPR use a second option - steel.

The Winnipeg Tribune published "ten important objections" to a concrete subway written by the North End Ratepayers' Association.

They argued that a concrete underpass and its "forest of pillars" would give the sidewalks a "tunnel like appearance". With steel, which required fewer and narrower pillars: "a person walking upon one sidewalk could readily see any person passing on the opposite and there is a general airiness in the passage way.”

It was also noted that a steel train bridge required a shallower deck which meant that the depth of the subway itself could be around a couple of feet shallower. This was an important consideration in a city prone to flooding.

February 23, 1904, Winnipeg Tribune

In the end, council voted in favour of the reinforced concrete underpass at their February council meeting, though it was close. The mayor had to cast the deciding ballot in favour of it.

Afterwards, many of the members who voted against concrete walked out of the chamber in disgust, including Alderman Fry who called out to his colleagues sarcastically, congratulating them for voting in favour of the “Main Street Sewer”

http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/postcards/PC001762.html
Recently opened underpass with CPR Hotel still under construction (Source)

Construction began in late May and the structure, both the underpass and the train bridge, were open for service by November. 

The subway portion was lit with 50 incandescent lights of 16 candlepower each. The city's chief engineer quipped that it would be the best lit spot in the city.

October 11, 1915, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1913, the CPR told the city that it wanted to widen the bridge portion to the north by up to 85 feet to allow additional tracks to be laid. That work took place in the summer of 1914,.

The following year, the city made some improvements of their own. They raised the roadway of the subway about three feet to lessen the steepness of the grade to 2.5%.

The new, improved underpass opened in October 1915.


A few years after it opened, the underpass was already heavily congested. The opening of new crossings such as a grade crossing at King Street, the Arlington Bridge, a new Salter Street Bridge and the Disraeli Freeway helped alleviate some of the traffic issues.

In the 1970s, some at the city, including Mayor Juba, mused that the underpass should be replaced with a wider structure after the Royal Alexandra hotel was demolished. The  idea didn't get very far.


Over the years, few changes have been made to the structure. At some point the rounded openings were cut away to make them square, allowing for greater clearance.

The dark, unappealing interior of the underpass has been an issue since day one. From time to time new lighting schemes have been used to help brighten the space. The most recent was in the summer of 2017.

Related:
My photo album of the Main Street Underpass

Sunday, June 25, 2017

394 Academy Road - Uptown Theatre / Uptown Academy Lanes

© 2011 and 2017, Christian Cassidy
Academy Uptown Lanes

Place: Uptown Theatre / Uptown Academy Lanes
Address: 394 Academy Road (Map)
Opened: December 24, 1931
Architect: M. Z. Blankstein 
Cost: $175,000


Selkirk Avenue, Winnipeg
Roxy Lanes Former Rose Theatre
Uptown's sisters: the Palace on Selkirk Avenue; the Rose on Sargent Avenue and the Roxy on Henderson Highway.

Allied Amusements Ltd. was created in 1912 by Jack Miles to run a single theatre, The Palace on Selkirk Avenue. By the end of the 1920s it had become a chain of four with the addition of The Roxy (on Henderson), The Rose (on Sargent), and The Plaza (on Marion at Tache).

The company's fifth theatre on Academy Road would be their most unique and most controversial.

May 8, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

Allied had acquired three lots on Academy Road to build a new, $50,000 theatre for River Heights. Late in their planning stages, however, they managed to purchase a fourth lot on Ash Street.

The company went before city council in May 1930 to ask for a zoning change to allow them to incorporate the residential lot on Ash Street into their plans so that they could create the "largest and finest neighbourhood theatre" in Canada. They vowed the cost of the new building would triple their original permit.

The application was controversial and opposed by residents who feared noise and parking issues.

August 29, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

After a few months with no decision from the city, the company pushed the issue in August 1930 by clearing all four lots and doing the preparation work for a foundation. The safety committee warned them not to build anything that came above ground level until a decision was made.

On August 28, 1930, the zoning committee finally heard the application. A Tribune reporter anticipated that the hearing would be "something of a field day."

Both the company and residents presented their cases. Rather than imposing a ruling, however, the committee sent everyone away with the instruction to try to work things out themselves and come back at a later date.

By December, there was a breakthrough. The company agreed to a shallower footprint on the Ash Street lot and to provide a parking lot at the south-east corner or Academy Road and Waterloo Street. In return, a "reasonable majority" of residents signed a petition in favour of the new building.

In January 1931, Allied Amusements took out at additional $76,000 building permit for the larger structure, bringing the total permit value to $136,000. (The final cost, including furnishings, was estimated to be about $175,000.)


It was now up to architect M. Z. Blankstein, who had designed Allied's other neighbourhood theatres, to deliver something worthy of the company's boast, which he certainly did.

On the ceiling of the Roxy, Blankstein experimented with elements of a new architectural style for theatres that had become popular in the U.S. through the 1920s called the "atmospheric theatre". The aim was to make patrons feel as if they were watching the movie in the open air.

On the Uptown, he took it to the next level.

Uptown's interior, December 24, 1931, Winnipeg Free Press

Patrons were meant to feel as if they were seated outdoors, in the square of a Moorish village. The walls of the theatre's hall included facades of village buildings overlooking the 'square'.


The ceiling was painted blue with twinkling stars inserted into the plaster. Images of moving clouds were projected onto it to add to the outdoor feel.

Lighting came from 16 spotlights placed around the periphery of the hall rather than chandeliers so as not to ruin the outdoor effect.

(For a more detailed description of the building’s interior see the
City of Winnipeg Historic Building’s Report.)

Academy Uptown Lanes Academy Uptown Lanes

The exterior was designed to resemble a Mediterranean villa with wrought iron balconies, a colourful stucco finish and a red tile roof. The roof line, though, was that of an Islamic mosque.


Though meant to feel open air, patrons inside were certainly not roughing it.

The interior included a large, well furnished lobby area. Plush carpeting ran throughout the building.

The seats, 1,200 on the main floor and just over 400 on the balcony, were mohair–backed with leather bottoms stuffed with horsehair for a feeling of luxury. The front row of the balcony and the loges had 'chesterfield style' seating.


For safety, the Uptown had a state-of-the-art ventilation system and boasted a wood-free hall. They were also the ‘first in the Dominion’ to use an Orthokrome screen “…said to adhere all the red light rays reputed to be harmful to the eyes” (Winnipeg Free Press, December 24, 1931).

October 6, 1931. Winnipeg Free Press

To name the theatre, Allied held an essay contest that ran in both the Free Press and Tribune. The winner would receive a Northern Electric radio and had their essay published in the paper.

Some 30,000 entries were submitted, (this was the depression after all!) and the management chose their favourite: The Uptown. It turned out that there were 39 essays that suggested Uptown, so no one winning entry was singled out. (I'm not sure if this meant that 39 radios were provided, though the Free Press did print a series of the essays).

On October 5, 1931, the winning name was announced on the stage of the Roxy Theatre.



Top: December 25, 1931, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: J. Miles and D. Gauld

On Christmas Eve 1931, Mayor Webb presided over the opening ceremony that included Mr. J. Miles, president of the theatre chain and Donald Gauld, formerly the manager of the Roxy and the Uptown's first manager.

It does not appear that architect Blankstein was present. He died just one week after the opening.


The ceremony was followed by a newsreel, a movie short and the feature The Brat, starrting Sally O’Neill and Frank Albertson.

ca. 1945, Winnipeg Tribune

February 27, 1941, Winnipeg Tribune

The theatre was built as a movie house with a small stage area that was too shallow for most types of of live events. These were hard times, though, and the Uptown had to fill as many seats as possible. Small stage performances, including lectures, recitals, fundraising concerts became a regular part of the schedule.

The Uptown mainly showed the second run of top films, often as a double bill. An exception to this came in the early 1940s with a partnership with Famous Players known as 'Sneak Peak Thursdays'. Dozens of first run films premiered here before they opened downtown the following night.

Saturday afternoons remained a mix of Westerns and cartoons.


Top: Demolition of the Uptown Theatre's interior (source)
Bottom: May 14, 1960. Winnipeg Free Press

The rising popularity of television spelled the end of neighbourhood theatres.
A number of chains faltered and their theatres were sold off for demolition or to be converted to other uses.

The Roxy and Uptown were now part of the Western Theatre chain, co-owned by J. Miles. They hung on longer than some. In 1960, it was announced that both would be converted into into bowling alleys.

O
n Sunday, May 15, 1960 the Uptown held a farewell afternoon with a free feature and six cartoons.

September 29, 1960. Winnipeg Free Press

On September 29, 1960, Uptown Bowling Lanes opened as Winnipeg's largest with 30 Brunswick lanes on two levels.

On October 21, 1960, an official opening ceremony was held featuring 'Cactus' Jack Wells as emcee and a fashion show of the latest bowling attire.


March 14, 1983, Winnipeg Free Press

In the 1970s, Brian and Heather Britton came from Saskatoon to work as managers of the bowling Alley. In 1982, when Allied, which by then was known as Miles Enterprises, put the business up for sale, they bought it. Miles retained ownership of the building.

The following year, Miles Enterprises tried to redevelop the parking lot at Academy and Waterloo into a strip mall. Long-time residents pointed to the 1931 agreement that the parking lot be built as a condition for rezoning the land for the theatre.

David Miles, son of Jack, argued that the parking requirements for the 1,600-plus seat theatre and the bowling alley were not comparable. The debate was moot anyhow as the city noted that a 1944 zoning change to area property had negated the proviso that the parking lot be required. The strip mall was built.

December 12, 1985, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1985, just prior to the building receiving heritage status by the city, Miles Enterprises applied to demolish it, arguing that its heritage designation was the same as "expropriation without compensation." David Miles claimed that the building was economically marginal at best and that the only option was to demolish the existing building for a modern commercial strip mall.

The move met opposition from some residents and heritage advocates.

It was a back and forth fight that saw the city uphold, remove, then uphold again, the building's heritage status. Miles was permitted to add a small, two storey addition to the side of the building as a consolation.

In 1990, the Miles family sold the building to Globe Property Management of Winnipeg.


In June 2017, Todd Britton announced that a new lease agreement could not be reached with the building's owners and that it will close on July 18th, 2017. (That has since been extended to September 1.)

When contacted in late June, 2017, Globe management said that it would be too early to announce their plans for the future of the building.

Related:
394 Academy Road Historic Buildings Committee
Theatrical Debut Winnipeg Free Press feature (July 2017)



First movie ad: December 24, 1931, Winnipeg Free Press

Bowling ad: September 8, 1961, Winnipeg Tribune