Saturday, June 18, 2022

1539 Waverley Street - City of Winnipeg Public Works Yard

© 2022, Christian Cassidy


Place: Kane Equipment Ltd. / City of Winnipeg Public Works Yard
Address: 1539 Waverley Street (Map)
Constructed: 1969
Architect: Unknown


March 18, 1944, Regina Leader Post

The first urban address for this piece of land came in 1966 as headquarters for Walter J. Kane's Kane Equipment Ltd..

Born at Conshohocken, Pennsylvania in 1892, Kane took an early interest in horses and worked on several ranches in the U.S. and Canada before joining the rodeo circuit. From 1916 to 1917, he was the world champion bucking horse rider. He then served in a cavalry division of the U.S. Army in World War I.

Kane and his wife Enid settled on a 600-acre farm near Winnipeg soon after the war.


June 11, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1924, Kane began a contracting business that built roads and highways in rural Manitoba. The company was renamed Kane Tractor and Equipment Ltd. after it relocated to 701 Henry Street in Winnipeg in 1938. It also changed its focus to be a heavy equipment dealership that supplied municipalities and the construction, logging, and mining industries.

Kane's company boomed along with the post-war expansion of suburban municipalities and the province's road network.


1938 Vox Fluminis, Riverbend School (Balmoral Hall) yearbook

Horses were Kane's passion. Along with the construction company he operated the Cambridge Riding Club on Cambridge Street where he also raised and trained his championship horses.

The Cambridge Riding Club turned out many riding and jumping champions. This included Bouncing Buster featured in this 1951 Canadian Cattlemen article that concluded, "It is probably safe to say that Buster won more first prizes than any jumping horse in Canada".

Kane was in demand throughout the prairies as a judge for horse shows and rodeo competitions. He was made a life member of the Horsemen's Club.

In 1958, Kane sold his construction company and continued to concentrate on his horses, though by this time Cambridge Street appears to have been replaced with suburban development. He branched out into breeding cattle and at the 1963 Brandon Winter Fair won most of the Hereford awards, including supreme champion futurity bull.

Walter Kane died 1972 and is buried at Conshohocken, Pennsylvania

The man who bought out Kane was Hugh T. Macdonald. He had worked in the heavy equipment industry since the 1920s and by the 1950s was Kane Equipment's vice president.

Like Kane, Macdonald also had a keen interest in horses and raised many champions, including the grand champion hackney mare at the 1963 Toronto Winter Fair. When Manitoba created its first Manitoba Horseracing Commission in 1965, he was one of three commissioners.

Kane Equipment continued to grow and by the end of the 1950s took up the entire block of 667 to 701 Henry Avenue.

In January 1960, it expanded into general contractors' supply business and opened a retail outlet on Erin Street called Kane Equipment Commercial Division with branches in Brandon, Dauphin, Minnedosa, The Pas and eventually some communities in Saskatchewan.


June 17, 1969, Winnipeg Free Press

By the 1960s, Kane Equipment needed a larger site and in April 1966 announced that it had bought a 12-acre plot at Waverley Street and Chevrier Boulevard. It began advertising its new location in October.

The main building on the site opened in early 1969. It is unclear who the architect was. (You can see the building in the background of the photo in the above advertisement.)

The original building was 45,000 square feet in size and featured 26-foot-tall ceilings and 11 large bay doors.  A brief mention of the building in the Free Press described it as having "spacious and bright areas, tastefully furnished offices, a conference room, central kitchen, and air conditioning."


February 2, 1981, Winnipeg Free Press

Peter Macdonald took over the company from his father in 1972 and faced a very different construction market than his predecessors.

The heady days of post-war development were over. The 1970s brought austerity, high interest rates, and a troubled economy. The industries Kane Equipment served were hit hard by the economy and municipalities cut back their infrastructure work.

Macdonald tried to find additional financing and event tried to sell off the company in the late 1970s, but with few signs that the economy was about to rebound the writing was on the wall. In February 1981 he announced that the company would wind down operations and told the Free Press, "the economy is getting worse and worse and the company can no longer stay in business."

The closure meant the layoff of 40 employees in Manitoba and another 40 in Saskatchewan.


In 1987, Winnipeg Building Index, U of M Digital Collections

The demise of Kane equipment came at around the same time the city was in the market for a works yard.

Its District 6 Operations Department yard on Markham Road suffered a major fire in December 1981 that destroyed five vehicle bays full of equipment. A replacement had to be found by the following winter.

The civic finance committee recommended to city council in August 1982 that it purchase the Kane Equipment site. The building and land was advertised at $2.37 million but it was believed the company would take $2 million for it. The additional office space was large enough to also house the district's parks and recreation offices.

The city acted on the recommendation and the building became home to the District 6 Operations Department.

In 1986, a tender was awarded to Moody Moore Partners to redesign the interior space and expand the service bay area. Michael Rattray and Helmut Peters were the lead architects on the project.

The building is still a city public works yard and houses the insect control branch, urban forestry branch, and a 4R recycling depot.


Friday, May 27, 2022

462 Arlington Street - Private Residence (R.I.P.)

© 2022, Christian Cassidy


House in 2014 (Google Street View)

Place: Private Residence
Address: 462 Arlington Street (Map)
Constructed: 1910 (razed by fire 2022)

The 1,385-square-foot house at 462 Arlington Street was constructed in 1910. This was a couple of years after a streetcar line was added to Arlington Street making it a desirable street to live on.

The first residents were John M. Whitehead, plumber, and his wife, Grace. They were 28 and 22 respectively with no children. John was born in Canada and Grace came from Scotland in 1906.

Mr. Whitehead was the president of the Plumbers and Steam Fitters of America - Local No. 254  in 1914 - 15. By 1917, he worked for the plumbing firm W. K. Beairsto on Donald Street.

The couple lived here until about 1919 before moving on to 690 Pine Street.


March 28, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

This became the home of what was left of the Dawson family in 1919.

Fred and Emma Dawson and their eight children lived at113 Kate Street during the war. All were adults except for 12-year-old Gladys. When war broke out all five of their sons enlisted.

Walter Dawson received gunshot wounds to the back and chest in September 1916 and after he recovered was sent back to the front. He was killed in action on June 4, 1918. (For more about Walter Dawson, see this post.)

Another son, William, was injured in a gas attack in 1915 but he and the remaining sons survived.

Added agony for Emma came in March 1919 when her husband died after what the Free Press described as "a lengthy illness".


1921 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada

To make a new start, Emma and three of her children relocated to 462 Arlington Street.

George was a clerk at varnish manufacturer Wilkinson-Kompass on Higgins Avenue, Gladys was a switchboard operator at Scott Hill Ltd., and Edith started as a clerk at department store Robinson and Co. though a  couple of years later is listed as a dressmaker.

The Dawons only stayed here a couple of years.  In 1923, they moved to 752 Home Street where Emma died on June 29, 1924 at age 66. George and Edith then moved on to Canterbury Place.


MacGregor Herald July 24, 1930

Next up were a couple of generations of the Ryley family. Alma and Alfred Z Ryley, farmers, and Alfred L., an employee at Harris Abbatoir.

Through the 1930s, this was home to the Bowie family.

After graduating from the University of Toronto Veterinary School, James Stanley Bowie came to MacGregor, Manitoba and practised there from 1916 to 1930. He then got a job as a federal government animal inspector and moved to this house in August 1930 with his wife Edith, son William (age 12), and daughter Beryl (age 5).

The Bowies were avid curlers, with Mrs. Bowie serving as the president of the Thistle Ladies Curling Club in 1938.

 
From: Prairie pride land, looking back

William and Constance Treble and their two sons lived here through the 1940s.

The Trebles were originally from Crystal City, Manitoba. While serving in World War I, William sustained gunshot wounds that shattered his left arm. After five months at various hospitals in England, he was invalided back to Canada in 1918.

William took over the family store and in 1926 married Constance Norris of Minnedosa and they had two sons. The family moved to Winnipeg in 1940.

William had numerous jobs while living here, including merchant, a clerk with the Manitoba Government, and by 1949 was a clerk at Deer Lodge Hospital. Around 1950, William got a job with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the couple moved to Strathmillan Road.


July 10, 2010 Winnipeg Free Press

The Burdon family were the next to live here.

Harry and Muriel Burdon were from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where Harry worked at the newspaper and Muriel was a nurse. They married in 1947 after Harry returned from naval duty during the war and they had three daughters.

In 1951, the family moved to this house where they had two more sons.

Mr. Burdon was chief electrician at Affiliated Inspection Bureau, a division of the Grain Insurance and Guarantee Company that insured many grain elevators across the prairies. He was involved in athletics, having been a sports star back in Moose Jaw, and is mentioned often in curling news and as a member of the executive of Orioles Community Club.

Mrs. Burdon was also involved in numerous community organizations. After the children had grown, she went back into nursing at the Health Sciences Centre from 1966 to 1987.

Muriel Burdon died on September 13, 2011, at the age of 87. Harry Burdon died on April 22, 2012. It appears that they lived at 462 Arlington until their deaths.


House on April 16, 2022 (C. Cassidy)

The house was sold after the Burtons died. It appears to have been for sale again in 2020. This may have been after it suffered a fire in August 2020 that displaced a family of seven.

It was renovated and inhabited again through 2021 but vacant and boarded by April 2022.

On the night of May 22, 2022, the house suffered another, much larger, fire that sent one firefighter to hospital and will require its demolition.

UPDATE: The land at 462 Arlington went up for sale in June 2022 for $198,000

Sunday, April 17, 2022

1103 Corydon Avenue - Crescentwood Pharmacy

© 2022, Christian Cassidy


Google Street View, 2021

Place: Former Crescentwood Pharmacy
Address: 1103 Corydon Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1946 (expanded 1955)


From: 1948 - 49 Kelvin High School yearbook

The building permit for 1103 Corydon Avenue was issued in 1946.

According to The History of Pharmacy in Manitoba, it was first home to Crescent Pharmacy owned by J. W. Gawne. Within a year, he sold it to Benjamin Kitzes and Sidney Jack Miller who renamed it Crescentwood Pharmacy. Kitzes had been a clerk at Broadway Pharmacy on Broadway and Miller was a druggist at Manitoba Drug Store on Selkirk Avenue.

At the time, this would have been the outer reaches of urban development along Corydon Avenue. The streetcar line ended at Wilton Street and it wasn’t until 1949 that Corydon was widened and paved to Cambridge Street allowing bus and trolley car service to continue further west.


From: Brown and Gold (U of M) yearbook, 1938

Ben Kitzes moved to Winnipeg from Inwood, Manitoba, where his family ran a general store, in the 1930s and graduated from the University of Manitoba's College of Pharmacy in 1938. He enlisted with the RCAF during World War II and was likely stationed at No. 4 Service Flying Training School in Saskatoon for the duration.

After the war, Kitzes returned to Winnipeg and moved in with his family who now operated St. Matthews Grocery a store at 657 St. Matthews Avenue and lived in the house behind. He worked at Broadway Pharmacy until he purchased 1103 Corydon Avenue.


From: Fort Rouge Through the Years souvenir booklet, 1974

Crescentwood Pharmacy became a hub of the community. Not only was it a pharmacy, it had a store that sold beauty and hygiene supplies, pens and personal shavers, a soda fountain, and a postal outlet. (The latter is likely what the 1955 rear extension was for.)

Kitzes wife, Mary (or Marie), was a long-time clerk behind the counter.

Miller left in 1958 to work at Murphy's Drug Store on St. Mary's Road.


Image from 1976 by Jim Walker
Winnipeg Tribune Collection, University of Manitoba Digital Collections

Kitzes was an avid baseball player and soon became involved in the Crescentwood Community Club, established in 1944, as a baseball player and coach. He was also a long-time member of the General Monash Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

In 1976, Kitzes announced that he and Mary were retiring. He told a Winnipeg Tribune reporter: "I've always wanted to be involved in a community-type business where you get to know everybody. It's the type of life I wanted, the type of life I love."

A community celebration was held for them at the Crescenwood Community Club and in 1977 he was awarded the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association's "Bowl of Hygeia" Award for outstanding community service.

Ben Kitzes died on October 26, 1992, after what his obituary described as a lengthy illness, and is buried in the Hebrew Sick Benefit Cemetery. His obituary concludes: “The world is a better place because Ben Kitzes passed this way”.

The store's long run as a pharmacy ended with Kitzes.

By April 1977, it was home to a Black and Armstrong Real Estate office and in September was Cambridge Insulation. From about 1978 to at least 1990 it was the Good Wool Shop, a knitting supply and sweater store.

It was home to Barks 'n' Bubbles Pet Spa from 2006 to 2016 and now is The Pawsh Dog.

Ben Kitzes' obituary (two parts):

Saturday, April 16, 2022

385 Henderson Highway - Roxy Lanes

© 2022 Christian Cassidy

Place: The Roxy Theatre, Roxy Lanes
Address: 385 Henderson Highway (Map)
Architect: Max Zev Blankstein
Opened: December 24, 1929

The roots of the Roxy Theatre date back to Jack Miles and his Palace Theatre on Selkirk Avenue which opened in 1912. He soon went into partnership with Nathan Rothstein to create Allied Theatres and by end of the 1920s they added The Roxy (on Henderson), The Rose (on Sargent), and The Plaza (on Marion). In 1931, The Uptown (on Academy) made it a chain of five.

Miles' go-to architect for his theatres was Max Zev Blankstein who designed at well over a dozen venues in Manitoba and Saskatchewan throughout his career. (Including the Tivoli on Maryland and likely the Garry in Selkirk.)


December 21, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

The Roxy was built in 1929. Curiously, its construction was said to have been supervised by Mr. Battershill of the East Kildonan engineering department. This would have been too early for it to be a civic Depression Relief project, but perhaps it was an amenity that the Municipality of East Kildonan wanted so badly for its residents that they offered up Battershill's labour to sweeten the pot.

An advertorial that appeared in the Tribune on December 21st noted that the Roxy could hold 1,200 people, boasted a $22,000 sound system, and had the latest Simplex projectors.

The Roxy was billed as an "atmospheric theatre". This movement became popular in the U.S. in the late 1920s and meant that the theatre's interior was designed to give patrons the impression that they were sitting outside under the stars watching a  film. This was done by implanting "stars" in the ceiling plaster and projecting clouds onto it. Also, "the walls are exteriors of quaint Spanish houses with sloping tile roofs, windows daintily curtained and lightened."

Blankstein would take his experimentation at the Roxy to the next level when he designed the Uptown and its "Moorish courtyard" the following year.


January 4, 1930, Winnipeg Free Press

The theatre opened just in time for a Christmas Eve showing of "Why Leave Home" starring Sue Carol and Nick Stuart.

Starting the first week of January, the Roxy began advertising free parking with free use of the heater plugs in the lot adjoining the building. A uniformed attendant was on-hand to assist.


January 22, 1949, Winnipeg Tribune

Neighbourhood theatres had to be flexible to survive. many, even those built as movie houses, usually had a small stage at the front so that it could be a stage for hire.

The Roxy hosted countless recitals, public speeches and other live events throughout its life.

The 1950s were tough for neighbourhood theatres as television established itself as the entertainment media of choice and downtown theatres were retrofitted as full-time cinemas. Some chains folded and merged to try to weather the storm.

The Roxy became part of the Associated Theatres chain, still controlled by the Miles Family, and with its collection of sister neighbourhood theatres participated in weekly promotions like Foto-Nite and rented itself out as a bingo hall on Thursdays.


May 20, 1960, Winnipeg Tribune

The final film shown at the Roxy is likely indicated in the above ad which ran on Friday, May 20, 1960.

Disney's Sleeping Beauty and four cartoon reels were the following day's matinee with Wild Heritage starring Will Rogers as the evening fare.

Starting May 27, classified ads appeared in the Free Press that stated simply: "Wrecking Roxy Theatre, free firewood, EK"


December 2, 1960, Winnipeg Tribune

The Roxy Theatre reopened as the 5-pin, 20-lane Roxy Lanes on December 3, 1960. It was a golden era for bowlers as the Roxy, Uptown Lanes in the refurbished Uptown Theatre, and Windsor Lanes all opened in a matter of a few months.

In 2009, Robert and Melissa Gauthier purchased Roxy Lanes. Robert died on February 10, 2022, and on April 13, 2022, the company announced on its Facebook page that: "...we have made the decision to sell our property. April 30, 2022 will be the last day for bowling. I would like to thank the great community of Elmwood and surrounding areas for all the support throughout these years."

It is unclear what the future holds for the Roxy.

Related:
Roxy Lanes could face wrecking ball CBC Manitoba

Friday, April 15, 2022

114 Lark Street - Former Scott's Cleaners Ltd.

 © 2022, Christian Cassidy



Place
: Former Mathews and Scott Dry Cleaners
Address: 114 Lark Street (Map)
Constructed: ca. 1917
Demolished: ca. 1985

The first newspaper mentions of Lark Street, a block long lane connecting William and Bannatyne avenues near McPhillips Street, can be found in 1905. It was likely just a back lane entrance at the eastern edge of what was once a large lot facing McPhillips Street. Services such as sewer and sidewalks were not added until 1914.

The origin of the street's name is unclear. The only Lark living in Winnipeg from 1904 to 1906 according to street directories was Julia, a waitress renting a room in a house on Adelaide Street.


1918 Henderson's Street Directory of Winnipeg

The industrial building appeared at 114 Lark Street around 1917.  It was the new vehicle garage and warehouse for Clark Brothers and Hughes, funeral directors and ambulance service, located on Donald Street.

In 1922, bailiffs seized the garage and auctioned off the equipment inside and furnishings inside. (Clark Bros. and Hughes, however, continued to function as a funeral home. Perhaps it was their ambulance wing or a commercial service to the general public that went bankrupt.)

The building sat empty for a couple of years before starting its long association with with the dry cleaning industry.

October 1, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

The first cleaners to call it home was Swiss Dry Cleaners and Dyers who relocated their plant from Main Street around 1924. It lasted just a year before becoming Mathews and Scott Dry Cleaners Ltd. a firm that had its roots in a company simply called The Cleaners on Jessie Avenue.

The company principals were James Mathews and John Scott.

In 1934, the company was re-branded Scott's Cleaners and the company applied to built a small brick extension to the building.


March 30, 1950, The Jewish Post

Scott's had a number of storefront depots around the city, including 110 Sherbrook Street, now home to Stella's Bakery. (A sign for Scott's was discovered whilst doing the exterior renovations.) In out-of-town papers in the late 1960s it listed thirteen agents in places like Stonewall, Steinbach, and Fisher Branch.

As the decades went on, Scott's became a smaller and smaller player in the city's dry cleaning industry. By 1983, a home renovation business was also advertising from the 114 Lark address.


February 18, 1984, Winnipeg Free Press

The downfall of the company appears to have been a couple of fires in February 1984.

The first took place on February 17. Despite what it says under the photo above, it apparently caused $50,000 damage to the rear portion of the building. Scott's took out newspaper ads to say that business would continue as usual they renovated.

A second fire on February 28 caused more extensive damage by destroying the second floor. Scott's never advertised again and presumably closed down.

One man was arrested in Winnipeg in 1987 and another in Guelph in 1989. Both were charged with arson in relation to the fires.

This address is not mentioned again in the Free Press and it is unclear when the building was demolished.

114 Lark Street is currently listed in city assessment records as a "Storage Compound" and until recently was home to a vehicle customization shop.  The neighbouring 122 Lark, which was presumably part of the dry cleaning plant property, is a 1,000 square foot bungalow built in 1990.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

885 Portage Avenue - Former Royal Bank of Canada

© 2022, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Union Bank of Canada / Royal Bank of Canada / RBC
Address: 885 Portage Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1972 - 73
Closed: September 2021

The RBC branch at Portage Avenue at Arlington Street permanently closed in September 2021. The bank had a presence at this intersection for almost 109 years, ever since the Union Bank opened there in November 1912.

Here's a look back at its history.

Quebec-based Union Bank of Canada opened its first Winnipeg branch in 1882. The institution found so much success in Western Canada through brokering land deals and lending to farmers that over the next 20 years it opened a couple of hundred branches in rural communities.

During the 1902 - 1903 fiscal year, the Union Bank opened 22 new branches in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and began construction on a new Western Canadian headquarters on Main Street next to city hall. The steel-framed Union Bank Tower, now a National Historic Site, is considered to be Western Canada's first "skyscraper".


November 27, 1912, Winnipeg Free Press

The connection between the Union Bank and the West grew so strong that in 1912 it transferred its head office from Quebec City to Winnipeg. It also invested in three new local branches to complement its three existing ones. The new locations were Corydon at Pembina, Portage at Colony, and Portage at Arlington.

This first "Portage and Arlington branch" opened in late November 1912 and was located at 869 Portage Avenue between Home and Arlington streets next to the Arlington Theatre. The branch was managed by W. W. Barry.

The fortunes of the branch grew along with the West End and in 1920 a new building was constructed a few doors down at 885 Portage Avenue at Arlington. The $62,000 brick and concrete building contained a bank branch and a retail space. (It could be that the retail space is the building pictured to the left of the brick building in the above photo.)

Another location that got a near-identical building around this time was the Corydon Avenue branch. It still stands today at Lilac Street.

The Union Bank of Canada merged with the Royal Bank of Canada in 1925 to create Canada's largest bank with branches in over 800 communities. Established in Halifax in 1869, the Royal Bank grew into a national presence and relocated its headquarters to Montreal in 1907. It made inroads into the West through an amalgamation with Winnipeg's Royal Crown Bank in 1918. 

The Portage and Arlington branch survived the merger and was re-branded under the Royal name.


June 2, 1934, Winnipeg Tribune

Bank robberies were common back in the days before electronic banking and the Portage and Arlington branch had its share of them.

The most notable came in June 1935 when someone police described as "one of the most nervy stick-up men ever seen in Winnipeg" walked into the branch posing as a telegraph messenger just before closing time and made off with $3,223 in cash, (about $65,000 in today's dollars.) Police got more than they bargained for when they found that the bandit was an escaped murderer from a Florida chain gang. (For more about that robbery and its outcome, see this post.)

Another robbery took place in what would have been the final days of the old building.

On January 18, 1973, a 19-year-old presented a note to a teller and got away with $400 in cash. Employees followed him into the back lane and he turned a fired a C02 pistol at them. Nobody was hurt. He was later captured and sentenced to three years in jail.


February 2, 1973 Free Press

There was more excitement in store for the branch in the early 1973.

On February 1, 1973, Al Fraser took over as manager of the branch from Claude Winter who retired after more than 40 years of service with the bank. This would have been around the time that the old building was torn down to make way for a new building.

The new building was a prototype for "open concept" banking. It got staff out of individual offices and in some cases from behind the teller's counter. If the concept was successful it would be rolled out to other branches as they were being rebuilt.

Newspapers didn't report in detail about the new branch, so the start date of its construction, architect and contractor are unknown. It was reported that it was finished inside with "a colour scheme of red, orange and yellow."


The Royal Bank's "Mary"

The Royal brought in some star power to officially open the new branch on June 22, 1973.

"Mary" was actress and model Kathleen Flaherty of Montreal who appeared in a series of national radio, television and print ads for the bank from 1968 to 1976. Mary was a young, modern, urban woman who helped guide a new generation of bank clients into its branches and familiarized them with new services like the Chargex (now Visa) credit card and automated teller machines.

While in Winnipeg, Flaherty also appeared on the company float in the Manisphere parade and visited her grandparents who resided here.

Left: Dec.  27, 1989, Winnipeg Free Press. Right: Google Street View

The Royal Bank announced in 1989 that it was expanding two of its Winnipeg branches, Henderson at Kimberley and Portage at Arlington, to create regional outlets. It wanted to decentralize some of its services, particularly small business loans, from its Portage and Main headquarters.

The $700,000 addition was built to the the north of the existing building and nearly doubled the square footage of the branch. Much of the extension was built at the second storey level to minimize the number of parking spots that had to be eliminated.

The branch was temporarily closed during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in favour of keeping the Sargent and Sherbrook branch open. It closed permanently in September 2021.


April 22, 1982, Winnipeg Tribune

Friday, February 4, 2022

353 Langside Street - North West Investment Co. Building / Club Morocco

© 2022, Christian Cassidy


Google Street View, 2015

Place: North West Investment Co. Building / Club Morocco
Address:
353 Langside Street (Map)
Constructed:
1912 - 13 (Demolished February 2022)
Architect:
John D. Atcheson
Contractor:
Davidson Bros.


June 12, 1912, Winnipeg Tribune

Winnipeg-based Great North-West Investments Company took out a permit to construct this building in June 1912. Other newspaper notices that summer show that the company was primarily involved in selling large tracts of undeveloped land in areas such as near Lower Fort Garry, near Assiniboine Park and Wilkie, Saskatchewan.

The architect was John D. Atcheson who relocated to Winnipeg after starting his practice in Chicago. Though he was only active in Winnipeg for about 15 years, ca. 1905 to 1920, he had an enormous impact on the city's skyline. Some examples of his work that are still around include the Oldfiled, Kirby Gardner Building at Portage and Garry, Fairchild and Co. Building on Princess Avenue, the original Great West Life Building on Lombard Street at Rorie Avenue and the Boyd Building on Portage Avenue.

In fact, the Langside and Portage building, though quite decorative, was a small project for Atcheson at this stage in his career.

Though it is most noticeable from Portage Avenue, the legal address of the building is 353 Langside. The building does not appear to have ever had a name, which is unusual for one of this era.


March 21 1914, Winnipeg Tribune

The building featured up to eight commercial spaces on the main floor over two streets and a large hall upstairs. The 1914 street directory, which would have been complied in late 1913, shows the initial lineup of tenants:

573 1/2 Portage (upstairs) - vacant
575 Portage - vacant
577 Portage - New York Hat Shop
579 Portage - John McMillan, grocer
581 Portage - A. J. Wallen, druggist at 581
353 Langside - Aluminum & Crown Stopper Co.
355 Langside - John McEachern Electrical Apparatus and Supplies
357 Langside - James Mackie and Co.

Of note is the hat shop of Isabelle White of 776 Jessie Street. Though not unheard of, this would have been very early for a woman to be in business for herself.

The lineup of businesses was similar the following year with the addition of Home Billiards Parlour and Home Barber Shop upstairs and the drugstore changing hands from Wallen to William Kirkwood.


1916 Census of the Prairie Provinces

The Kirkwood family came to Winnipeg in 1912 from Northern Ireland.  It consisted of  Rachel, the matriarch, and her three adult children, Robert, William and Amy. They all settled at a new house at 629 Lipton Street.

William soon got a job as a druggist with Gordon Mitchell Drug Co., a chain of six downtown pharmacies.


July 20, 1921, Winnipeg Tribune

When Kirkwood Drug Store opened at in 1915, William would have been around 25 years of age. The business appears to have been a family affair with Amy and James also working there at times.

The store was in operation until 1946 and is likely the longest-lasting commercial business to call the building home.


December 3 1921, Winnipeg Tribune

Tracking the hundreds of main floor commercial tenants that came and went over the century is difficult, but the upstairs hall is a little easier to pin down.

After the pool hall, the next long-term tenant was the New Arcadia dance hall. It was more a facility for rent than an ongoing club. Some dance teachers had offices there and it hosted fundraising events for many organizations. The venue was known as Arcadia Gardens by the time it closed around 1930.

On March 10, 1928, the offices of the Manitoba Chapter of the Amputations Association of the Great War Inc., (now known as the War Amps), opened upstairs and for a couple of years the two venues shared the hall space. The association used it for fundraising whist tournaments, dances and concerts.

There's no indication that the building ever had an elevator which surely made it an unfortunate location for some amputees who wanted to attend events. Nonetheless, they rented the hall until around 1953.


February 9, 1956, The Jewish Post

The best-known tenant of the building was Harry Smith's Club Morocco.

Smith, a Polish Jew, came to Canada at the age of 16 in 1929. He eventually got into the restaurant business and bought the Roseland Dance Gardens at Kennedy and Portage in 1950. When its lease ran out in 1953, he began looking for a new location to open a supper club.

Club Morocco had a soft opening the week of December 10, 1956 with musical entertainment by Lloyd Semers featuring Del Wagner. The grand opening ads appeared the following February.

This was the era of the supper club where one could get dressed up to go out and eat dinner, see a show, and dance all in one location. Other clubs at the time included The Towers,  Copacabana, Pierre’s, Chan’s Moon Room Cabaret, The Paddock, the Constellation Room, The Cave, and Rancho Don Carlos.

Some of the clubs relied on American-based club circuits to bring in up-and-coming or big-name entertainers. Rancho Don Carlos hosted many star-studded evenings. The Towers featured Barbra Streisand just as she was about to make it big in the U.S..

The 400-seat Club Morocco had fewer big names, relying mainly on local and regional talent. In the 1960s, Duke Ellington is said to have dropped by to catch a performance by female Canadian jazz drummer Aura Ursi.

Through the 1960s and 70s the house band was usually the Al Sprintz Orchestra with supplemental performers Del Wagner on drums, accordionist Paul Zubot, bassist Bill Brant, and singer Jeannie Kolbe.


Circa 1960s, City of Winnipeg Archives

The supper club trend began to wane through the 1960s as liquor licence changes allowed hotels to open live music venues and night clubs of their own. Club Morocco, however, carried on through the 1980s.

Smith leased out the space in 1989 and it became a night club. The following year, he took it back and without the cabaret licence had to open it as an alcohol-free venue. It appears to have closed by the end of the year.

Harry Smith died in August 1997.

On February 2, 2022, a fire broke out in one of the main floor businesses. The building was destroyed by the blaze.

Also see:
353 Langside - Historic Building Committee Report