Friday, October 23, 2020

290 Burnell Street - Winnipeg Builders' Exchange

© 2012, 2020, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Winnipeg Builders Exchange building
Address: 290 Burnell Street
Constructed: 1956
Architect: Waisman, Ross

The Winnipeg Builders Exchange was created in 1904 as a trade association representing construction-related tradesmen, suppliers, contractors and builders in the Winnipeg area. Its main purpose was to act as a central access point for construction tenders from across the province and beyond.

The exchange had long rented offices in the Confederation Life Building on Main Street, but the post-war construction boom sent them in search of a larger premises.

June 9, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press

The Builders' Exchange purchased the lot at 290 Burnell Street, likely part of the parking area of the Valour Road Legion Curling Club next door. Prior to that, it would have been part of the Canada Bread Field baseball diamond.

The ground breaking took place on June 5, 1956. A. Turner Bone, president of the Canadian Construction Association, and J. J. Bernard, president of the Winnipeg Builders' Exchange, presided over the ceremony.

Architectural firm Waisman, Ross was hired to design the building, which an official of the exchange said "incorporates many new ideas in planning, design and methods of construction." 

Three years earlier, Allan Waisman co-designed the Northern Sales Building on Lombard Avenue which this building shares much of its DNA.

Like Northern Sales, it is a single-storey structure with a recessed entrance. It is finished in blonde brick, black trim and floor to ceiling window openings. The Winnipeg Architecture Foundations says of 290 Burnell that "... the structure demonstrates a remarkable formal clarity and showcasing the essence of the structure and materials employed."

The building also features a glassed in, open air courtyard at the centre of the building.

Source: Winnipeg Building Index

The most unique feature of the building is an 11 foot by 13 foot mosaic by Takao Tanabe.

Born near Prince George B.C. in 1926, the Tenake family spent four years in a British Columbia internment camp during World War II.  Tenake then came to Winnipeg and studied at the Winnipeg School of Art at the University of Manitoba. He graduated in 1949 and for a couple of years based himself here as his art was exhibited across the continent and Europe.

The mosaic depicts, from left to right, the evolution of the building industry over the decade, from Egyptian pyramids and Roman aqueducts a modern apartment building and grain elevator.

The $60,000 building was formally opened on December 5, 1956. Premier Douglas Campbell, J. J. Bernard, president of the Builders Exchange, W. H. Carter, the first president of the exchange from 1911, and W. G. Malcolm, past president of the Canadian Construction Association all spoke.

At th event, Bernard and Dr. Ferdinand Eckhart of the Winnipeg Art Gallery  unveiled the mural.

Google Street View, 2017

Though it was constructed so that another storey could be added, it was instead expanded to the rear to nearly double its size to over 8,000 square feet. The recessed entrance was enclosed. Also, the courtyard has been covered over to create additional office space, (the mural is still there behind a bank of file cabinets.)

The Winnipeg Builders Exchange changed its name to the Winnipeg Construction Association in 1978 and still operates today. The organization relocated to Waverley Street in early 2011. that March, it sold
the building to Commissionaires - Manitoba Division.

As of September 2020
the building is for sale as Commissionaires is relocating to larger premises on Portage Avenue at Home Street.


290 Burnell Street
Winnipeg Building Index (includes construction photos)
290 Burnell Street
Winnipeg Architecture Foundation
Winnipeg Builders Exchange Fonds
Archives of Manitoba

Thursday, October 1, 2020

776 Victor Street - Private residence

 © 2020, Christian Cassidy

Google Street View

Place: Private Residence
Address: 776 Victor Street
Architect: Unknown
ca. 1905

1906 Henderson Directory

The first resident of this house appears in the 1905 street directory making it one of the earliest homes on this block of Victor Street.

Alexander G Aikin was born in the Eastern Townships in Quebec and came to Winnipeg in its founding year of 1874. He was an organizer of the city's first volunteer fire department and went on to become a general contractor and builder. In the 1880s, he was vice president of the Winnipeg Master Carpenters Association.

Akin moved here with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children in 1905 and stayed until 1912.

Lögberg, June 22, 1944

The next long-term owner of the house was Dr. Brandur J. Brandson and family from 1915 to 1936.

Brandson was born in Iceland in 1874 and came to Minnesota with his family at the age of four. After graduating college with an arts degree, he came to Winnipeg to attend medical college in 1896. After graduation, he practised back in Minnesota for a time until 1902 when he went to Europe with Winnipeg colleague Dr. Olafur Bjornsson for post-graduate work that included stints at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin and Vienna.

In 1910, Brandson was appointed associate lecturer at the Manitoba Medical College and became a professor three years later. In 1927, he became the college's head lecturer in surgery and the head surgeon of the Winnipeg General Hospital. He retired in 1934, was made professor emeritus in surgery,  and began a small private practice with his colleague, now neighbour, Dr. Bjornsson.

A colleague, Dr. Neil J. McLean, recounted in Stories of Icelanders in North America by Thorstina Walters: "Dr. Brandson was a great man physically and mentally. I can see him now, an imposing figure in the corridors and wards of the Winnipeg general Hospital with his genial bow and gracious smile."

Árdís, Jan 1, 1954

 Adalbjorg Benson was born in Iceland in 1878 and came to Winnipeg with her family in 1882. In her youth she was an accomplished musician, a love she is said to have inherited from her parents. She married Dr. Brandson in 1905 and they moved to 776 Victor Street in 1915 where they raised their four children.

Mrs. Brandson was dedicated to causes such as the Ladies Aid at First Lutheran Church, the Jon Sigurdson chapter of the I.O.D.E., and Betel Home, a home for the elderly in Gimli.

In a tribute written in a 1954 edition of Ardis, Margaret Stephensen wrote ".. she gave loyalty and support to any cause she considered worthy.... She was a gracious woman whose quiet dignity was felt by all who came in contact with her."

It was said that the Brandson residence was a household "where hospitality reigned" and that the couple worked together on many of their endeavours. For instance, Dr. Brandson was the founding chair of the board of the Betel Home in 1914 and served until his death in 1944. Adalbjorg took over the role and served until shortly before her death in 1954.

That year, 1944, was one of great loss for Mrs. Brandson. Her husband died on June 20, 1944, just weeks after learning that her son, Thomas Brandson, had been killed in the wartime sinking of the HMCS Athabascan on April 29, 1944.

Adalbjorg Brandson died in February 1954.

July 19, 1947, Winnipeg Tribune

The next family to call 776 Victor Street home were also noted for their great contribution to Manitoba's Icelandic community.

In August 1938, Rev. Valdimar Eylands and wife, Lilja, arrived from Seattle after he had been hired as pastor of First Lutheran Church.  He would be just its third pastor in 38 years of existence.

Reverend Eylands was born and raised in Iceland and came to North America in 1922 at the age of 21 to continue his studies in theology. He attended the Lutheran seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and was ordained at Selkirk, Manitoba in 1925. His first postings as a teacher and preacher were in North Dakota where he married Thorunn Lilja Johnson in 1925.

silver teas for the Ladies Aid, even wedding and funeral receptions sometimes held at the house.

In 1947 the family did a year-long pastoral exchange with Rev. Erikur Brynjolfsson in Reykjavik, (their eldest daughter stayed behind to continue her studies at the U of M.) Eylands had not been to his homeland in nearly 25 years and marvelled at how it had changed with modern roads, the modern fishing fleet, the new international airport and hotel. The family was back in time for First Lutheran's 70th anniversary service in November 1948.

During the Eylands' residency, the house continued to be a social hub for the Icelandic community.

Nothing is written about the interior of the house, but it must have had a large reception hall as it was host to numerous fundraising teas and even some wedding and funeral ceremonies and receptions.

Eylands ca. 1930s (Source)

Reverend Eylands held other roles in the Icelandic community. He was a long-time executive member of the Icelandic Festival, served as president of Icelandic National League, wrote a book in 1945 called Lutherans in Canada, which is still quoted in research papers today. In 1953, he received a Doctor Of Divinity Honouris Causa from United College. 

It is said that during his 30 year tenure at First Lutheran, Eylands presided over 1,410 baptisms, 1,066 funerals and 844 weddings.

The Eylands retired to North Dakota in in 1968. Lilia died in Grafton in 1977, he died in 1983

The home then belonged to the Toews family in the 1970s and 80s. It was sold in 2012 for $250,000 and appears to currently be a multi-family residence.

Monday, September 7, 2020

229 Pritchard Avenue - Former Salvation Army Citadel

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

Former Salvation Army Citadel / Hebrew Friends Temple
Address: 229 Pritchard Avenue (Map)
Opened: March 1911
Architect: Gideon Miller (Salvation Army)

In April 1910, a group of Salvation Army executives met in Winnipeg to plan the organization's expansion plans for the prairies and Northwestern Ontario. They included Commissioner Thomas Bales Coombs of Toronto, Colonel Henry Mapp, the chief secretary for Canada, and its in-house architect, Major Gideon Miller.

Local projects discussed included an expansion to the main citadel on Rupert Avenue, improvements to the Grace Hospital on Arlington Street, a new men's hostel, and the addition of new citadels.

The North Winnipeg Citadel, established in early 1910 under the leadership of Captain Grace Veears, was just the second citadel in Winnipeg after the headquarters on Rupert Avenue. It operated from rented premises on Main Street until their new home at 229 Pritchard Avenue was completed.

Construction got underway in the late summer of 1910 on three citadels: Pritchard Avenue (No. 2), Elgin Avenue (No. 3) and Queen Street in St. James (No. 4). The December 3, 1910 edition of the War Cry notes that citadels No. 2 and No. 3 were nearing completion. (In the end, Pritchard Avenue was the last of the three to open.)

December 3, 1910, The War Cry

The North Winnipeg Citadel was most likely designed by the Salvation Army's Major Gideon Miller.

Miller was the son of a Paris, Ontario businessmen and joined the Salvation Army in the  early 1880s as a teenager. He was soon on the organization's property committee and from 1906 to 1931 was its in-house architect. 

During his tenure, Miller was responsible for the design and expansion of dozens of buildings from coast to coast.  The Pritchard Avenue citadel was small in comparison to some of his projects, such as the organization's Vancouver headquarters (1907), Winnipeg's Kildonan Industrial Home, (1912), Toronto Training School (unknown), and Peterborough's Simcoe Street citadel (1924).

For more on Miller, see my West End Dumplings post.

March 11, 1912, Winnipeg Free Press

The North Winnipeg Citadel was just 25 feet wide but its main floor hall could hold between 200 and 250 people. The full basement was home to classrooms for Sunday school and a band room. The exterior was of red brick with Tyndall stone trim.

The building was officially opened on March 12, 1911 by Brigadier George Burditt. The Winnipeg Citadel Band wasn't available, it was touring in British Columbia, so the Salvation Army's Silver Band of Portage la Prairie entertained.

The goings on and personnel movement at the main citadel were covered in local newspapers and the Salvation Army's newspaper, The War Cry, but this wasn't so much the case at the neighbourhood citadels. Ads and brief mentions show that aside from Sunday services and Sunday school, the citadel regularly hosted charitable events and band practices.

As time went by, the population of the North End spread further north and in 1924 the citadel moved to new premises at 1375 Main Street and eventually to Atlantic Avenue.

November 3, 1949, The Jewish Post

The next group to call 229 Pritchard home was the Hebrew Friends. Until the late 1940s it was most often referred to as the Hebrew Friends Temple. Through the 1950s and 1960s, it was usually referred to as the Hebrew Friends Society Hall.

The Hebrew Friends Society was part of a large number of Jewish fraternal societies, such as the Hebrew Free Loan Society and Hebrew Sick Benefits Association. Unlike these organizations, however, there was no coverage of its annual meetings and other happenings in mainstream newspapers or the Jewish Post.

A number of weddings took place here in the 1930s and 40s, but for the most part it hosted teas, wedding and funeral receptions, and was a venue for speeches. It had a bowling club in the 1930s and 40s that used the hall for its meetings and year-end banquets. The 25th anniversary celebration of the Jewish Chess Club took place there in 1944.

The Hebrew Friends were at this address until at least 1965. Soon after, it faded away and vacated the hall.

By 1972, the building was owned by  E and P Wachtler.

Endre, (anglicized to Andrew), was a former foreman at Standard Glove Works on Flora Avenue. In August 1972, he applied to the city for a variance to convert the old hall into a glove factory. In 1977, another application was made for the addition of a storage area and garage.

The Andy Glove Company Ltd. was a small manufacturer, presumably doing contracts for larger firms. It did not sell its products retail, so it did not advertise. Its name does not appear in any newspaper articles, nor do the Wachtlers. Even classified ads looking for workers can't be found.

Andy Glove quietly went about its business until around 2010 when the building was put up for sale.

Paula Wachtler died
in 2013.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

108 - 112 Alexander - Dominion Express Company Stables

© 2020, Christian Cassidy
Place: Dominion Express Company Stables
Address: 108 - 112 Alexander Avenue, 109 - 111 Pacific Avenue
Opened: 1905 (expansions in 1909, 1913, 1946)
Architect: John Woodman (1904, 1909, 1913)

The building at 108 - 112 Alexander Avenue, which was expanded to include 109 - 111 Pacific Avenue in 1946, was originally constructed as the stables for the CPR-owned Dominion Express Company. When the company changed from horses to motorized vehicles in 1926, it was converted into the garage for its familiar red delivery trucks.

In the early 1970s, the space was subdivided into many different units over five addresses. Today, one of those spaces is home to Patent 5 Distillery.

The development of the block, 1903 - 1907

The first decade of 1900 was one of great change for this block of Alexander Avenue East as it transformed from residential to industrial use. The housing stock was very basic and likely meant for labourers who worked at the docks or other industrial sites along the river. (During the trial of a man who lived at one of the addresses, his house was described as a "shack".)

The 1905 Henderson Directory, which would have been compiled in late 1904, shows most of the residences gone. This signalled the arrival of the Dominion Express Company.

July 6, 1883, Manitoba Free Press

Dominion Express was established in Kingston, Ontario in the early 1870s. In 1882, it was bought out by the CPR to be its country-wide cartage company. The first CPR-era Dominion Express depot and head office opened in Winnipeg on Main Street in October of that year. (The head office moved to Montreal ca. 1884.)

All of the CPR's regional cartage companies were soon pulled together under the Dominion Express banner and it had thousands of employees in cities and towns from coast to coast and even overseas where the company's steamships docked.

Originally, the company's local offices were located at 482 Main Street and its depot and stables were behind the CPR station on Higgins Avenue. (The offices soon moved to 214 Bannatyne, then, in 1915, to 212 Notre Dame Avenue.)
Dominion Express Wagon ca. 1905, City of Vancouver Archives

By the turn of the century, Dominion Express required new stables for its horses and rigs. With land in the area at a premium, it chose this former residential block on Alexander Avenue East on which to build.

John Woodman of Winnipeg was hired to design the brick and stone building.

Woodman is an unsung hero of Winnipeg's architectural past. His name doesn't immediately come to mind when thinking of the era, but in his nearly 20 years as a railway industry architect and 30 years in private practice he had a profound impact on the skyline of many prairie cities. He was the go-to architect for the Hudson's Bay Company and designed many of their early department stores across the prairies.

Some of his Winnipeg buildings include the Winnipeg Eaton's store, the former B and B Building at The Forks (now the Manitoba Children's Museum), The T. Eaton Warehouse right across the street from this one on Alexander Avenue, and the Bredalbane (now Ambassador) Apartments on Hargrave Street Street. (For a detailed list of his works.)

Woodman's original building measured 60 feet by 72 feet. It was two storeys in height with a basement. The rigs were parked on the main floor and the horse stalls located above. No wood was used in its construction to prevent a stables fire, a pretty regular occurrence at the time.

Construction tenders were awarded on April 26, 1904 to a Minneapolis company and construction got underway in May. Additional land to the east was left for an eventual expansion.

As this was a just a stables building there was no grand opening reported in the media. A November 1904 Manitoba Free Press article recapping the year that was in the construction industry said about the facility: "With so much provided for the comfort of man, the horses have not been forgotten." It noted that the stables were electrified and everything from horse grooming to feed loading was done by machine.

Strangely, the Henderson Directory does not note the building as being here until its 1907 edition, (which would have been compiled in late 1906.) This may have been a two year oversight on the part of Henderson's or there may have been a construction or other issue that delayed the company from moving into the building right away.

Google Street View

As Dominion Express continued to grow, so did its stables.

In May 1909, it took out a $10,000 building permit to build an extension - likely a third floor to the existing building - that ended up costing around $12,000 after fixtures and fittings. In July 1913, work began on a more substantial, $39,000 extension that measured 73 feet by 82 feet. Both of these were designed by Woodman.

It is likely that the western section of the building, with the more ornate brick work and Tyndall Stone trim, is the original building and the plainer, eastern facade is the 1913 addition.

Dominion Express poster, ca. 1923

Due to the nature of its work Dominion Express employed many fit, young men. This made it very successful in commercial sports leagues and meant that it felt the impact of the war more than most businesses.

The company estimated that one quarter of its staff served in the First World War and about 60 were killed. As part of the Canadian Pacific family of companies, which included rail and steamship lines, it was also called upon to do extra wartime duties such as transporting troops, moving equipment, and even clandestinely transferring gold and securities to governments in Europe to fund their war effort.

The strain on workers led to labour disputes.

During the war there were two organizations, the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Employees and the Brotherhood of Dominion Express Employees, competing for their membership. 

The company actively tried to dissuade its employees from organizing by providing wartime wage bonuses. In 1916, the company gave a ten per cent raise. After a threat to strike in July 1918, the bonus was raised to thirty-five per cent retroactive to May 1.

One of the two employee factions threatened to strike again in September 1918 if a federal conciliator was not appointed to hear other concerns. The federal minister of labour, T W Crothers, refused, saying that that the company's organized employees were split about 50 / 50 between the two unions, making fair negotiations impossible.

May 19, 1919, Western Labour News

Labour unrest mounted across the country after the war. Dominion Express joined the picket lines in mass strikes at Victoria, Halifax and Montreal in April 1919 and at Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge in May 1919.

On the evening of May 14, 1919, the Winnipeg branch of the Brotherhood of Dominion Express Employees held a strike vote. According to the Western Labour News, the outcome was 110 to 6 in favour of joining other workers in the Winnipeg general strike. Within a couple of days all of the company's 205 Winnipeg-based employees were on the picket line.

The impact of Dominion Express' work stoppage was felt immediately. Many rural food producers relied on the CPR to bring their milk, butter and eggs to market in the city. In return, rural communities relied on the express company to deliver fruit and other perishable food products.

It was reported that Dominion Express did not try to hire replacement workers. There are no newspaper reports of violence or picketing at its facilities.

The union informed the company on Sunday, June 22, 1919 that its rural employees would go back to work the next day and city employees the day after that. "Neither they nor the company officials said much about their reasons for stopping work nor for returning", reported the Free Press.

All but 13 of the 205 employees went back to work according to general supervisor G. Ford. The Western Labour News reported that the company refused to take back some of its workers - presumably those 13.

June 26, 1926, Winnipeg Free Press

Two big changes for Dominion Express came in 1926.

It was the end of an era on Monday, on June 14, 1926, when the Winnipeg office of Dominion Express retired the its horses and wagons in favour of motorized trucks. The changeover had been going on for a number of years as the company already had about a  dozen trucks in its fleet. Another dozen were purchased and decked out in its famous red livery - just like its train engines - for the big day.

The Sunday before the changeover, the company paraded its fleet of trucks in their famous red livery - just like their CP Rail train engines - through the streets of the city.

Some companies, such as breweries, bakeries and delivery companies, kept a team or two of its best horses and rigs around even after notorization to do some some deliveries and for public relations events, such as parades. It seems there was no room for such sentimentality in the railway business.

Even during the horse era, when many companies showed their best horses in local and regional horse shows, Dominion Express didn't seem to participate very much. One exception was "John", a brown gelding, who won some awards in 1914 and 1915 at the local annual horse show. "George" was also mentioned in a couple of stories during the same period.

July 19, 1949, Winnipeg Tribune

The other big change that year was a new name.

The CPR wanted to bring its various divisions under one company name, especially those that now had a large overseas presences like telecommunications and express hauling. Effective September 1, 1926, Dominion Express became Canadian Pacific Express, or CP Express.

CP Express was as busy as ever during the Second World War. This meant another big expansion to its Alexander Avenue garage in 1946. The $48,000 construction project was to the rear of the building, taking it right through to Pacific Avenue and creating a new entrance at 109 Pacific.

As a truck garage, much like its times as a stables, the building and its employees didn't make the news.

October 17, 1963, Winnipeg Tribune

The 1960s was a decade of change at CP.

In 1960, it began dropping its passenger service trains, including four trains in Manitoba. It also brought its rail freight, long distance trucking, and express delivery operations under the banner "CP Merchandise Services".

Locally, this meant a $1.5 million dollar freight terminal at Keewatin Street and Selkirk Avenue that opened in October 1963. The new facility's docks were longer than a football field and could load / unload 33 semi trucks, 33 city delivery trucks and 24 rail cars at one time. (Most of its operations, including warehousing and transferring cargo from bay to bay, is done in a 35,000 square foot underground building.)

The new facility included a truck garage for its fleet, which meant the end for the antiquated truck garage on Alexander Avenue. The building continued to be listed as the "CP Express Garage" until at least 1965 and was sold off by the end of the decade.

The complex was subdivided into numerous spaces over six addresses that began appearing ion "for lease" ads starting in 1972 to 1975. Various warehouses, galleries and offices have called the various units home over the decade. (109 Pacific Avenue, for instance, was home to the Dugald Costume Museum from 2007 to 2010.)

Currently, Patent 5 Distillery operates from the 108 Alexander Avenue address - likely the original portion of the building. Its tap room features furnishings and finishes rescued from the St. Regis Hotel to give it a feel that it has been a lounge for many decades.

Dominion Express at War:

More Dominion Express History:

The story of the Dominion Express and its change of name UBC Library
Royal Commission into Winnipeg General Strike Peel's
More photos of the building

Friday, July 17, 2020

600 Sargent Avenue - Safeway

Address: 600 Sargent Avenue (Map)
Architect: Safeway Ltd.
Contractor: Unknown
Built: 1965

The intersection of Sargent Avenue and Sherbrook Street has been home to a Safeway store ever since the retailer first came to Winnipeg in 1929.

On June 9, 2020, Empire Company Limited announced that the Safeway at 600 Sargent Avenue will close in September 2020 and reopen in spring 2021 under its discount FreshCo banner.

Here is a look back at the history of Safeway at this corner.

577 Sargent Avenue

Safeway first came to Winnipeg in 1929 and opened numerous small neighbourhood stores throughout the West End. The original "Sargent and Sherbrook" store was located across the street at 577 Sargent Avenue and still stands today.

Every decade or so, Safeway introduced a new and larger concept store to replace those from the previous generation. In the West End, where vacant land was scarce and all of the buildings were relatively new, built at the earliest between 1905 to 1910, many of these original neighbourhood stores stuck around for a long time. This was the case with 577 Sargent Avenue.

It was announced in February 1960 that a new store with a large parking lot was to be built at 600 Sargent Avenue and take up the block between Maryland and Sherbrook streets. A number of buildings would have to be demolished before construction got underway.  

Eight houses on Sherbrook Street, numbered 560 - 584, and eight more on Maryland Street, numbered 555-577, were taken down. 

Several commercial buildings along Sargent Avenue, numbered 588 to 608, also had to make way. They included: a Royal Bank (later rebuilt), British Columbia Packers (fish canners), Sargent Barber Shop and Lavergne TV service (which shared the same address), Dr. Cecil McLeod (a dentist), and White’s Esso Service.

Safeway's "ranch style" stores

The new Sargent Avenue store and the one on River Avenue in Osborne Village would the first Winnipeg incarnations of Safeway's newest concept store known as the "ranch style".

The ranch style was rolled out in California the late 1950s. It was meant to mimic the architectural style of post-war suburban homes with its facade of glass, pitched roof and exposed timbers. Inside, the stores were bright, airy and very big. This was Safeway's biggest concept store yet at 18,000 square feet. (Compare that to the measly 2,500 square feet of its 1929 concept stores.)

One of the most important aspects of these new generation stores was not even part of the building - it was the parking lot.

Safeway's original stores had no parking at all and could be shoehorned into the middle of a block. Their 1940s and 1950s concept stores were usually built at the end of a block so that a small parking area could be provided

By the late 1950s, the car was becoming king as thousands of people drove from their new suburban homes to and from downtown to work each day. It was important for stores to have large, easily accessible parking lots outside their front doors and be situated on the side of the street that would capture people leaving downtown at the end of the work day.

September 27, 1960, Winnipeg Tribune

Construction on the River and Osborne store started in early May and construction at Sargent and Maryland began around June 1. Each store was expected to cost around $350,000.

On Wednesday, September 28, 1965 at 9:30 a.m., the store opened to the public. The management team that greeted them were all Safeway veterans. Al Wietzel was the store manager, Jim Brownrigg the produce manager and Walter Kostiuk the meat manager. 

The opening of the new store meant the closure of four neighbourhood stores at 781 Sargent Avenue, 577 Sargent Avenue, 615 Ellice Avenue and Beverley at Notre Dame.

Evidence of where the store was expanded ca. 1983

The store underwent an expansion in 1983. That July, it had to seek a zoning variance to "Permit the construction of an addition to an existing non-conforming building that included additional parking and a leading bay on the west side."

The application didn't shed any details on the expansion to the building itself, but looking at the rear and side of the store today shows evidence of a new front (north) portion and an expansion to the east.

In 2008, a $600,000 building permit was issued to upgrade the store's interior to its new "lifestyle store" format.

September 27, 1960, Winnipeg Tribune


Press release Empire Company Ltd.
Four new FreshCo stores coming to Winnipeg CTV
FreshCo conversions UFCW Local 832
Also see my very outdated Safeway in Winnipeg series from 2010.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

1315 Strathcona Street - Clifton Community Centre

© 2020, Christian Cassidy
Place: Clifton Community Centre
Address: 1315 Strathcona Street (Map)
Opened: By March 1956

The creation of a small community club just blocks from the city limits would normally receive little media attention. That is not the case with Clifton. It made front page news numerous times in the summer and fall of 1955 caught in a land swap "fiasco".

Clifton site ca. 1953 (City of Winnipeg Archives)

In 1953, Strathcona Street was extended one block north from Wellington Avenue to Richard Avenue. Around $17,500 was spent by the city to install a hydro line and network of water mains in preparation for future suburban development. The block ran adjacent to one of the city's old ash dumps that was in the process of being decommissioned and would be developed into Westview Park, better known as "Garbage Hill", in 1960.

The following year, on October 27, 1954, ratepayers voted in favour of a $300,000 recreation bylaw. Included in its laundry list of projects was $30,900 to create a community club on Strathcona Street at Wellington Avenue that would include facilities for field sports, hockey and a wading pool.

February 2, 1955, Winnipeg Tribune

The organizing meeting for this new community club took place at Clifton School on February 7, 1955. George Robson was elected president and alderman Lillian Hallonquist was named honourary president. The club's ladies auxiliary was formed in early April with Mrs. G. McMullin as president, Mrs. J Rettie as vice-president, Mrs S. Craig as secretary and Mrs. R Dudley the treasurer.

Why the board choose the name "Clifton" when the centre would be located blocks away from Clifton Street and Clifton School is a bit of a mystery as neither local paper reported on the founding meeting. There are a few possible reasons, though none explain it completely. (See "Why Clifton?" below.)

Lillian Hallonquist, a long-time alderman in Ward Two, was rewarded with the title "honourary president" as she had convinced her colleagues on the property committee to transfer this block of land to the parks board for the new club.

It wasn't until around April 1955 when the transfer made it to the council level for final approval that it was pointed out that the $17,500 in improvements were now worthless and had to be removed so that the centre could be built.

The "Strathcona fiasco", as it was dubbed in the papers, centred on which committee would reimburse the city for the cost of those improvements. Many aldermen, particularity those on the finance committee, were determined not to have it come out of the city's general budget.

The property committee said its department wouldn't pay as it had only done what the parks board requested of them. The parks board claimed it was led to believe that the only work it would have to do to the site was remove some fire hydrants and a retention basin at a cost of about $500. For her part, Hallonquist pleaded ignorance saying that the only reason why she pushed for the transfer of land was because she saw it sitting there with nothing on it and thought it would make a nice site for a community club.

In August, council decided that the parks board would have to reimburse the city out of its budget. The board claimed it did not have the money as its budget for the year was already allotted and that it was actually running a small deficit. A stalemate ensued.

Top: August 6,, 1955, Winnipeg Tribune.
Bottom: August 31, 1955, Winnipeg Free Press

While this was all taking place at the council level, the board of the community club was faced with another problem.

It has raised $450 to purchase a surplus barracks building from the airport and had it delivered to the site in July. A tender had even been issued to dig the foundation and make improvements to the structure. It sat partially disassembled at the site for months as the parks board did not yet own the land or have permission to build on it.

After more meetings at city hall, some which ended in yelling matches and aldermen storming out of meeting rooms, the matter still was not resolved. At its September 28, 1955 parks board meeting Alderman G. P. Macleod moved "that we go ahead with the Clifton Community Club project and let the chips fall where they may."

On October 8, 1955, the sod was turned for the construction of the foundation. In attendance were George Robson, president of the club, and Vernon Israels and Walter Soles of the membership committee. Newspaper articles made no mention of any city officials being there.

Construction was expected to have finished by November 20, but ran a couple of weeks behind schedule. Vandals broke all of its windows in the first week of December which pushed its opening back even further.
Clifton site ca. 1955 (City of Winnipeg Archives)

It is unclear when the community club opened as any formal ceremony that may have taken place was not covered by either newspaper. The first mention in the media of an event taking place at Clifton was a 'booster day" on March 17, 1956.

The "Strathcona fiasco" died out of the news in October 1955 after the parks board coughed up nearly $10,000 to have the water lines and hydrants removed so that the foundation and sports fields could be built. It couldn't cover the cost of removing the hydro line and the parks board tried in 1957 to have the city to pay for it out of general revenue, but it was cut from the budget. It is unclear when it was finally removed.

In July 1956, the city agreed to close off Strathcona Street at Wellington to provide the club with the extra space it needed to erect out buildings and a playground area. The wading pool was finally installed in the summer of 1957.

It seems any animosity about the site was forgotten by June 1958 as Clifton was the backdrop for the official opening of the city's summer playground program that saw a staff of 50 provide services at 48 playground sites across the city under the slogan "Off the Streets and Onto the Playgrounds". In attendance was Mayor Juba, Charles Barbour, director of recreation, and Margaret Wilson, senior recreation supervisor.

The club was a hit right off the bat. For its April 1957 annual meting the club had to put out a special appeal for more residents to come be part of the club due to the large number of attendees it was seeing. Over the winter it was estimated that around 250 kids used the club building each week.

In June 1988, work began on a major expansion of the centre that added a gym, meeting and crafts rooms, dressing rooms and a canteen. The $659,000 cost was made up of  $50,000 from club, $75,000 from the province and $534,000 from the city.

The newly expanded facility, like all community clubs was now called a community centre, re-opened on May 31, 1989.

In July 2004, the city's Public Use Facilities Study (PUFS) report was released. It made a number of recommendations regarding recreation facilities in the West End, including an expansion of the Sargent Park Recreation Centre, (now Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex), a possible new recreation centre around Portage and Sherbrook, (which did not happen), and the closure of the Orioles' wading pool, (which did happen). Most importantly for Clifton, it recommended that the three West End community centres be amalgamated under one entity.

Amalgamation talks began in early 2006 between Isaac Brock CC (catchment area 5,050), Clifton CC (catchment area 4,820), and Orioles CC (catchment area 13,855) in 2006. An agreement was finalized in December that would create the "Valour Community Centre" to be based out of the Isaac Brock site and run the other two as satellite centres.

In its 2009 annual report, the the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres noted "The Isaac Brock and Clifton sites both serve one neighbourhood each, Minto and Sargent Park respectively, and split the Polo Park area between them. Orioles serves St. Matthews, Spence, and a portion of the Daniel McIntyre neighbourhood."

Clifton Community Centre was rechristened Valour Community Center - Clifton Site.

Why "Clifton" Community Club?

So, why was the community club named "Clifton" when it is blocks from Clifton Street or at Clifton School. There are a few possible reasons, though none seem to explain it completely.

October 16, 1954, Winnipeg Tribune

One possibility is that in the recreation master plan it was expected that the club would go on Clifton Street, perhaps adjacent to the new Clifton School that opened in November 1950.

Where this explanation falls short is that even if "Clifton" was once the working name for the club, it is clear from articles and ads published prior to the October 1954 recreation referendum that the Strathcona site was already in play. As of February 1955, when the club's founding meeting took place, the new board likely had no idea of the coming storm that would put the site in jeopardy.

Clifton was chosen with full knowledge that it would not be on Clifton.

1906 Henderson Directory

Another possibility is a deep desire to name it after "Clifton", whoever or wherever that was. (I can find no record of what the original source of the name Clifton refers to.)

In West End terms, Clifton is an old street. It was created in 1893 when Munroe Avenue and Clifton Avenue, likely just dirt lanes leading to farms or dairy pastures, were merged into a single Clifton Street. Surveying streets into suburban lots didn't start in the West End until around 1904 and would have taken four or five years to come this far west.

The street doesn't even appear in street directories until the early 1900s. The 1906 Henderson Street Directory, for instance, shows just two dwellings on Clifton from Portage to Wellington. There is a cluster of five residents around Wellington, two were "dairymen" and three worked for the oil storage facility once located there.

It seems unlikely that someone would have remembered what Clifton was named after 60-plus years later and felt so strongly about it that the club had to be named after it / them. (In fact, Donald Smith / Lord Strathcona, one-time chief shareholder of the HBC, the Manitoba Free Press and other corporate entities, seems a likely choice to want to name a club for.)

June 22, 1911, Winnipeg Tribune

Another possibility is that the site was named Clifton for an existing sports entity.

When Charlie Barbour was hired away from Montreal to become Winnipeg's first recreation director in 1946, one of his first jobs was to create an evenly distributed network of city-funded community clubs. Prior to this, recreation services was a hodge-podge of athletic clubs and community centres run by service organizations, religious groups, and private boards. To do this quickly, and not to put noses out of joint, he started by approaching existing groups to ask if they would like to transition their centres into one of these new city clubs.

Many did, including the Isaac Brock Community Club, (established in 1919), Sir John Franklin Community Club, (established in 1922), and Orioles Community Club, (established in 1936 as the West End Orioles Athletic Club). All kept at least part of their names in the transition as a nod to their history.

There was a Clifton Amateur Athletic Club that existed in 1911, but it appears to have lasted just a year or so.

The "Clifton Playground", likely located at the old Clifton School, entered teams in what was known as the "City Playground Hockey League" in the 1930s and early 1940s. In 1942, for instance, the league was sponsored by the young men's section of the Winnipeg Board of Trade and the city's playground committee. There were 23 teams in the league, each named after the street that the outdoor city rink they played at was located on.

Some Manitoba Hockey Hall of Famers, such as Reg Abbott and Ken Reardon, mention having played hockey around this time at "Clifton Community Club", though the site was not actually called that at the time. (Clifton won the city championship in the early 1930s.)

Perhaps one or more of the movers and shakers behind the establishment of the Clifton Community Club were involved as a volunteers or coaches and wanted to maintain a nod to the Clifton Playground's hockey days?

If you have another theory, please let me know !

Also see:
A History of Orioles Community Centre

What is the city's oldest community centre? (Still to come)
A City at Leisure - Catherine Macdonald (PDF)

Monday, June 1, 2020

730 Osborne Street - Park Alleys

Place: Park Alleys (website)
Address: 730 Osborne Street
Opened: 1947
Size: 5,760 square feet
Architect: unknown

It was announced on May 29, 2020 that Park Alleys has a new owner with plans to revitalize the space. That's a great excuse to look back at its history !

May 10, 1947, Winnipeg Tribune

The early history of Park Alleys is a bit of a mystery. (If you can share information or photos, please feel free to contact me!)

On December 3, 1946, the Free Press reported that at that a council committee meeting: "Permission was granted for the operation of another bowling alley at 730 Osborne Street." It was one of at least three bowling alley permits applications heard that year. The property does not appear to have had a rezoning hearing, so information about the applicant was not noted.

There is no mention in either daily newspaper of a building permit issued, the construction, or even the grand opening of the business. The first mention of "Park Alleys" was in a series of classified ads that ran in early May inviting patrons to come have fun and the eight-lane, 5-pin venue.

According to the Henderson street directory the first proprietors were George and Rene Giguere, followed the next year by Orville McInnes.

December 28, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1949, Allott Wellington Bradshaw, who also went by Welly or Brad, purchased Park Alleys and put it on the map.

Bradshaw admitted he bought the business simply as a commercial venture but soon developed a passion for the game. Within a couple of years, Park Lanes was regularly mentioned in the the bowling section of the local papers and Welly had become a skilled amateur bowler.

By 1951, it entered teams in local tournaments under the name "Park House" and began winning titles.

Where Bradshaw truly made his mark was introducing young people to the game.

Park Alleys became a hot spot for child and youth bowling and Bradshaw a respected coach. In 1951, the alleys fielded competitive teams called the Kittens (ages 8-13), Kit Kats (ages 14-16) and All Stars (ages17-20) in tournaments around the city. He was also secretary of the U of M's new bowling league.

Melinda McCracken's wrote the 1975 book Memories are Made of This about growing up in the Riverview area in the 1950s and was a member of the Kit Kat League on Saturday mornings. In passages she described what the lanes were like at the time and refers to Bradshaw as a "warm fatherly man."

Bradshaw was singled out in a 1957 Free Press feature about the growth of the game in recent years: "Bradshaw has done a tremendous job working with teenagers and younger children teaching them the game and sponsoring them in various tournaments."

August 31, 1962, Winnipeg Tribune

Bradshaw also realized that the success of bowling in Winnipeg depended upon the success of the various 5-pin lanes around town.

In the early 1950s he helped establish, and was president of, the Metro Winnipeg Bowling Proprietors Association made up of owners of the dozen or so 5-pin bowling alleys in the city. Its goal was   "promoting bowling and helping one another". Owners met monthly to discuss business issues, plan tournaments and pool their resources to take out ads like the one above. The association went province-wide in 1962.

In 1964, the various provincial associations created the Youth Bowling Council of Canada. Their first national tournament, featuring 30 youth from Ontario and the western provinces, was held at Rossmere Lanes in Winnipeg in April 1965. Winnipeg youth won three of the six national championships up for grabs.

As high profile as Bradshaw was, I could find little about his background. Despite numerous brief mentions in the papers there were no biographical articles or pictures published and his obituary shared few details. He appears to have gone to high school in Winnipeg. He and wife Louise lived on Montgomery Avenue and had two sons, Dale and Douglas.

Bradshaw left in 1962 to work for Assiniboine Downs racetrack. A January 1966 newspaper article notes that he and another man had spent an extended period in Windsor, Ontario studying the harness racing program at Windsor Raceway. By the end of the decade he and his wife relocated to Burlington, Ontario.

Bradshaw died at Burlington in 1986 at the age of 80. Louise died there in 1993.

Sept 15, 1964, Winnipeg Free Press

The next proprietor of Park Alleys was Leonard "Len" Forbes in 1962. Born in Winnipeg in 1920, Forbes was a World War II vet and ran a heating oil company for a number of years before going into the bowling business. He ran it until 1975 when he retired.

The alleys were then taken over by his son, Rob Forbes, who operated them until 2011. Rob was the one who commissioned the distinctive mural painted by Paul Sullivan in September 2010 to replace the building's depressing exterior.

The business was then purchased by Sat Sharma who added a patio area to the front. It was put up for sale a couple of years later.

Interior in 2017, Park Alleys Facebook page

Park Alleys was purchased by Mike Devenney, who also woned St. James Lanes, in 2014. The building underwent interior renovations that summer before reopening.

Park Alleys had been for sale for a few years when, in May 2020, Tod Hughes announced that he purchased it with the intention of reinventing it as a restaurant, bar, live music venue and bowling alley. A reopening date has yet to be announced.

© 2020, Christian Cassidy