Sunday, March 31, 2024

590 Victor Street - Acadia Court Apartments

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Acadia Court Apartments
Address: 590 Victor Street (Map)
Constructed: 1913 - 1914
Architect: Edmund Walter Crayston
Contractors: Peterson Bros.
Cost: $60,000

May 7, 1913, Winnipeg Tribune

The building permit for this 24-unit block was issued in May 1913 to Peterson Brothers, who were both the owners and contractors. It was designed by architect Edmund W. Crayston who designed at least a half-dozen apartments in the city.

This was the golden age of the construction of three-storey walk-up apartments. Thirty permits were issued for such buildings between January 1 and August 1, 1913 alone.

William and James Peterson came to Manitoba from Ontario in the 1880s and became iron workers by trade. In 1903, they established Peterson Bros. Iron Works at 132 Aberdeen Street. This appears to be the first permit issued to the company for the construction of a building. Newspaper reports indicate that another was granted in 1926 for Furby Street and one in 1929 for Assiniboine Avenue.

October 12, 1914, Winnipeg Tribune

The first round of "for rent" ads for Acadia Court appeared in local newspapers in October 1913.  “Three room suites” on upper floors rented for $37 per month. 

Unfortunately, the Petersons did not own the block for long. According to William's 1929 obituary, the company was "shut down at the start of the war" in 1914. It is unclear why. The brothers, it appears, sold the building to an investment company and it is around this time that "Court" was dropped from its name.

The 1915 street directory provides a list of the initial round of tenants. They included:

Suite 1: John Benson - elevator operator at government building 
Suite 2: Emily Oddleifson - clerk at Whites stores, and S. Oddleifson, caretaker
Suite 4: Mrs. F. Kitchen
Suite 14: Herman Larson - Rembrandt Photo Studio.
Suite 19: The Knirck family. (J. C. Knirck - farmer, Alfred Knirck - clerk at Gault’s, Max Knirck - reporter at R. G. Dunn and company, and Blondina Knirck - a clerk at T. Eaton Co.)
Suite 21: James Roper - Chief clerk at Jones Boxer and Co.
Suite 22: Mrs. Iva Fanning, Orr Fanning - clerk T. Eaton Co., and Frederick C Henley - travelling salesman for Willson Stationers.
Suite 23: H. Sheppard - revisor at the Mutual Film Co.
Suite 24: James Calla - inspector for the city sewer department.
Suite 25: McConachie family (Mrs. Margaret McConachie, Robert P.  McConachie - clerk at Oldfield Kirby and Gardner, Anne McConachie - stenographer at Wm. Grassie Co., and Maggie McConachie.)

Source: Canadian Virtual War Memorial

The timing of the Acadia's opening meant that several early residents were there because of the war.

Single men often gave up their apartments to move in with family or friends before they enlisted. As the pay for soldiers was very low, many couples and families had to downsize from houses to apartments or rooming houses for financial reasons when the “man of the house" enlisted.

One example of this was Joseph Andrew Bright McClure and his family. McClure, along with his wife Gertrude and their three young children, lived at 900 Aikins Street before the war. The family relocated to suite 20 Acadia Apartments just before he enlisted.

McClure, 40, went missing in action during the Battle of Vimy Ridge on August 21, 1917. His remains were never found and he was declared dead the following March.

Brothers William and Jack Purcer, who ran a contracting company together, lived on Wardlaw Street with their younger brother Garson. When the older brothers enlisted, Garson moved in with his married sister, Mrs. Margaret Butler of 5 Acadia Court. He was drafted a couple of years later.

William Purcer, the oldest brother and first to enlist, was on his way to work one day when he read a newspaper article about the mass rape and murder of Armenian women by the Turks in what is referred to today as the Armenian Genocide. He was so moved by the story that when he arrived at work he told his boss that he was going to war. He gathered up his tools and went straight to a recruitment office.

William was wounded twice during his service. He received shrapnel wounds to the head and in a later incident was shot in the chest. Both times he was repaired and sent back to the front. He then contracted trench fever and developed a severe case of rheumatism which led to him being invalided back to Canada in 1918. He listed the Acadia Apartments, his sister's place, as the address he would initially settle at.

After years of suffering from his various injuries and ailments, William died at Deer Lodge, Winnipeg's military convalescent hospital, on May 23, 1939 at the age of 55 and is buried in the Field of Honour at Brookside Cemetery.

October 9, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune

The Acadia was a popular place for young couples. Dozens of newspaper wedding notices can be found that state the newlyweds would reside there once they returned form their honeymoons. It also housed many retired couples, particularly those from Iceland, given its location in the heart of the Icelandic business hub on Sargent Avenue and next to First Lutheran Church.

One example is William and Oddny Johnson, (above). They both came from Iceland with their families as teens and married in Winnipeg in October 1886. Mr. Johnson had a career as a builder and they raised seven children. They lived here until their deaths in 1945 and 1950, respectively.

1921 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada

The Oddleifson family has a long relationship with the Acadia. Husband Sigurdur, wife Gudlaug, and at least three children, August (b. 1898), Edward (b. 1907), and Axel (b. 1909), moved into suite 2 in 1914. Sigirdur, who also went by "Sam", was the building's first caretaker.

When the children moved out, the Oddleifsons relocated to suite 6 and Sigurdur remained the caretaker of the building until 1936. He died the following year. Gudlaug continued ast the Acadia for a while then moved to Fort Garry to live with Axel and his wife before her death in 1957.

August 27, 1931, Lögberg

Axel lived with his parents in suite 6 until shortly after his graduation as an engineer from the University of Manitoba in 1931. To put himself through school he advertised tutoring services in the Free Press and the city's two Icelandic newspapers

After graduation, Axel began working for the Winnipeg Electric Company and in 1936 went to Great Falls as an electrician. He wold eventually work at all three WECo generating stations. In 1938, he married Kristjana Anderson and went to work for the Manitoba Hydro Electric Board during the construction of the Pine Falls generating station. He was in charge of electrical installation and then appointed its operational engineer in 1953.

A couple of years later, Axel and Kristjana returned to Winnipeg and bought a house on Riverwood Avenue in Fort Garry. Axel's mom moved in with them and died at the house in 1957. Sadly, Axel died the following year at age 49.

These are just a handful of the many hundreds of people that have called the Acadia Apartments home over the past 111 years.

Acadia Apartments in 2017

The Acadia closed around 2015 to undergo an extensive renovation but it appears that the owner went bankrupt in its early stages.

It was put up for mortgage sale in June 2016 with a reserved bid of $2.8 million and two years of back taxes owing. The building was described as having 18 x one-bedroom units, 2 x one-bedroom loft units, and 4 x two-bedroom units with laundry facilities in the basement. (The "lofts" were not original to the building, it was an ambitious plan by the previous owner to convert two units into one via a staircase.)

The auction did not meet the reserve bid and the building remained boarded until 2020 when a new round of renovations began. They were short lived and the building never reopened.

It was announced in January 2022 that the West Central Women's Resource Centre had received funding from the federal government's Rapid Housing Initiative to buy the block and convert it into 16 affordable units for women, gender-diverse people, and their children leaving violent situations.

An update was provided by the WCWRC in March 2024 noting that tenants will soon start moving into the block.

- My 2017 Flickr album of the Acadia's Interior
- Interior photos 2024
- 590 Victor Street UW Community Renewal Corp
- The Purcer Brothers of 590 Victor Street West End Dumplings

Saturday, March 9, 2024

598 Main Street - Guest Fish Block (R.I.P.)

 © 2024, Christian Cassidy

Guest Block in middle (Google Street View)

Place: Guest Block
Address: 596 - 598 Main Street (Map)
Constructed: 1902 (north portion), 1909 (south portion)

This is a brief history of the Guest Block that burned down on March 8, 2024.

November 12, 1902, Winnipeg Free Press

June 3, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

The north portion of this building was constructed in 1902 for local fish wholesaler William J. Fish. The main floor and basement consisted of a retail / wholesale store with a warehouse in the basement. It was described as "a most attractive place to buy fish and poultry".

Guest had his own barge of Lake Winnipeg to bring him fish and imported others, including oysters, by train from both coasts.

In the summer of 1906-07, the company expanded its cold storage warehouse located at 80 - 90 Alexander Avenue and located their head office there.

1903 Tribune ads for the Guest Block

The upper floors of the building were for offices and a small residential rooms for rent. The offices included real estate agents, dressmakers, and doctors.

The Main Street site remained a store for Guest Fish until 1909 when Guest sold the building for $45,000. The new owners built a twin building to the north which provided two retail spaces on the main floor and the address of 596 - 598 Main Street.

Despite the change in ownership, the building continued to be referred to as the Guest Block in street directories for decades later.

July 8, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

May 24, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune

Hundreds of businesses have called this building home over the century. One constant for many decades was a cafe. early names were the Blue Eagle Cafe and Diamond Cafe.

The Castran family who came from Greece, has a long association with the Guest Block.

Soon after the building was expanded, James and Gus Castran opened a fruit and confectionery store on the main floor. That is what became Winnipeg Candy Kitchen, (see ad above.) Around 1931, Angelius "Angelo" and Gus Castran reopened the space as Caastran's Cafe (sometimes called Castran's Grill). It offered full sit-down dinners and you could get your tea leaves read in the afternoon.

By the time the cafe opened, several family members lived upstairs and they eventually purchased the building.

Castan's Cafe operated until February 1956 when a fire broke out in the kitchen. It gutted the business and caused extensive damage to the building. Angelo, the only brother left in Winnipeg, did not reopen. He retired and lived in suite 15 of the building until his death in 1969 at the age of 71.

Guest Block in the 1970s (Winnipeg Building Index)

A cafe eventually reopened in the space.

In the late 1950s, it was the 60-seat Golden Wheel Cafe. Poy Wong of 335 Alexander Ave was the proprietor and Peter Wong, the manager, lived in the building. In 1963, Albert and Mary Wong of 335 Alexander are listed as the proprietors. 

The Golden Wheel restaurant was sold in 1974 and it soon became the Country Girl restaurant that operated until at least 1985.

Full House Grocery has been the sole main floor tenant since at least 1986.

Further Reading:
598 Main Street City of Winnipeg Historical Report

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

244 Jarvis Street - Weidman Bros. Block (R.I.P.)

Place: Weidman Bros. Block
Address: 244 Jarvis Street (Map)
Built: 1910

To see a detailed history of this building which burned down in February 2024, see my West End Dumplings post.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

149 Spence Street - Private Residence (R. I. P.)

Place: Private residence
Address: 149 Spence Street (Map)
Built: 1906

For a brief history of this house which burned down in February 2024, see my West End Dumplings post.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

291 Logan Avenue - Commercial Building (R.I.P.)

© 2024, Christian Cassidy

Place: Commercial Building (R.I.P.)
Address: 291 Logan Avenue

A very nondescript building burned down and had to be demolished last week. Here's a brief look back at its history.

291 Logan Avenue at Princess (the white building on the left) was likely built around 1925. It was initially home to a couple of cafes before becoming J. W. Auctions around 1930. Over the years, the company name would expand to J. Wach, Auctioneer, then John Wachniak Auctions. (For more on John Wachniak Jr.)

It is likely that the auction house spilled over into the neighbouring buildings as its showroom and a used furniture store.

In the late 1930s, Wachniak had moved to a new location and an accountancy / tax return company advertised at this address for a few years.

Dave’s Auto Parts called the building home by 1949 and also took up the neighbouring storefronts and did auto dismantling in the rear yard. It remained Dave’s until at least 1980 when company president David Glickman died. 

The metal cladding encasing all three buildings was added around 2010.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

766 Ingersoll Street - Private Residence

 © 2024, Christian Cassidy

Google Street View, 2021

Place: Private Residence
Address: 766 Ingersoll Street (Map)
Built: ca. 1894
Size: 1,294 square feet

I was asked to research the history of this house, which is currently for sale. Its date of construction predates the creation of Ingersoll Street which means there is some guesswork involved!

According to city records, the building permit was issued for this house in 1894. This is quite early for the West End as the city did not send in surveyors to lay out the grid pattern for roads, sidewalks, and boulevards until around 1904. By the time crews would have reached this far west it was likely closer to 1910. 

This house, therefore, would have been a rural farmhouse serving one of the pastureland sections of land north of Portage Avenue that may have contained a commercial horse stable or a dairy farm operation. The house would have been moved from its original location to align with what would become Ingersoll Street after the surveyors came through.

R. McPhillips' 1910 Map of Winnipeg (Source)

Ingersoll Street isn’t listed in Winnipeg's street directories through the 1890s. It first appears around 1904 but only as a cluster of houses and businesses at Notre Dame Avenue. Interestingly, even in 1910 it still wasn’t fully formed as can be seen in R. McPhillips’ 1910 map of Winnipeg above. 

Even after this house was moved to align with Ingersoll Street, it likely still had a lot of land associated with it. I have indicated this land with a red star on the map.

The land north of the house (towards Notre Dame) was sold to builders as houses on those lots were built in 1912 to 1914, which is common for streets in this area. The three lots south of this house to Ellice Avenue, however, were not built on until 1930 and the first few houses south of Ellice were not built on until 1929 or later.

It is likely that this land remained part of 766 Ingersoll and was sold off as individual lots over time. (The house still has an unusually large side yard to this day.)

July 5, 1945, Winnipeg Tribune

The 766 Ingersoll Street address first appears in the 1911 street directory. The first listed owner was Hayden Hawes, one of the sons in the Charles H. Hawes and Sons painting and decorating business located at 620 Langside Street.

The Hawes' had two children. Hugh died at the home in 1940 at the age of 26. Ruth signed on to be a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) worker during World War II. She served at hospitals in Winnipeg before being deployed to England in 1945.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

675 Talbot Avenue - Canadian Legion Gardens

 © 2023, Christian Cassidy

Google Street View, 2015

Place: Canadian Legion Gardens
Address: 675 Talbot Avenue (Map)
Opened: 1956
Architect: Nicola Zunic (Zunic and Sobkowich)
Contractor: Quality Construction Co. (Qualico)

Before the days of government subsidized seniors' housing, ageing First World War veterans and disabled Second World War veterans lived in bleak conditions. They most likely had to find a cheap suite in a turn-of-the-century apartment complex or rent a room in a boarding house and remained trapped in their quarters due to stairs with no services such as home care to visit them.

After the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Legion set out to rectify the issue for at least some of Canada's vets through low barrier, low income housing projects across the country. Winnipeg's turn came in 1954.

The Legion secured a commitment from CMHC to contribute $450,000 towards a veterans housing complex in Winnipeg. In April 1955, it was announced that the city donated a 250 foot x 225 foot lot on Talbot Avenue in Elmwood for the project. The Manitoba Chapter of the Canadian Legion Memorial Housing Foundation was created in August under chairman Ald. James Cowan to raise further funds and manage the project.

Initially, the plan was to construct four two-storey apartment blocks containing a total of 100 suites. Each building would have common rooms and laundry facilities. The plan for the blocks was drawn up by local architect and RCAF veteran N. M. Zunic.

The following year, Zunic revised the plan to become forty single-storey units in blocks of three or four. Each unit contained 2.5 rooms and had direct access to the outdoors.

It is unclear why the change was made except that it was on the advice of CMHC which had final say on the project. It could have been a preference for the easier access units or a funding issue as the change cut the price tag for the project by more than half.

The housing foundation was notified by a telegram From Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent on August 16, 1956, that their 40-year CMHC loan for $177,696 had been approved. The Legion contributed additional $21,000.

January 1, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

Quality Construction Co., (later known as Qualico), won the tender for construction and work began in early October 1956. The Legion started taking rental applications on October 10th.

The complex was meant for veterans and their spouses who were over 60 years of age with an income of $150 or less per month. The rental of the suites was $43 per month.
The first twenty units were ready by the end of December and were officially opened by mayor George Sharpe on December 29th. The remaining twenty units opened in January 1957.

The first tenants to be given their keys by Ald. Cowan was Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kerr, (pictured above). A year later, the Winnipeg Tribune caught up with Mr. Kerr who was the eldest resident at age 91. He said, "It seems ages since I finished work to retire but my wife and I have never lived in such a wonderful place. We spent sixteen years in one room and a kitchenette."

Mr. Patterson, who was blind, told the Tribune, "No one can be more grateful to the Legion for these quarters than we are. We had some rough times before coming here. Frankly, this is like heaven."

December 30, 1957, Winnipeg Tribune

The Canadian Legion Memorial Housing Foundation still owns the complex and raises funds annually for the upkeep of the property and to operate a shuttle bus service. The units come in one bedroom or "bachelor deluxe".

Legion Gardens provides housing for veterans, their families, and Legion members who are 60 years and older. Rents in 2021 were $425 for veterans and $589 for Legion members.