Monday, March 24, 2014

564 1/2 Main Street - Original Food Bar

Original Food Bar, Winnipeg

Place: Original Food Bar
Address: 564 1/2 Main Street (Map)
Constructed: 1979
Architect: Unknown


Top left, ca. 1919 (source)

562-564 1/2 Main Street at Rupert, next to the McLaren Hotel, has always been an important retail hub. It has been the home to three businesses that called it home for four decades or more: Public Drugs (560); The Hub clothiers (652 and 564) and Original Food Bar (564 1/2).

June 20, 1935, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1935 Andrew Petrakos moved to Winnipeg from his native Fort William, Ontario and opened the Coney Island Lunch at 564 1/2 Main Street. The following year his brother John also came to Winnipeg and joined Andrew in the business.

The name change to Original Food Bar came around 1940. It was one of dozens of lunch counters that dotted the downtown. The specialty of the house was spaghetti and meatballs.

December 7, 1954, Winnipeg Free Press

In December 1954 the first of two major fires hit the block. It began in The Hub and caused extensive damage to it, the neighbouring Public Drugs, and a hair salon. The Original Food Bar, located to the north of The Hub, sustained smoke damage and was open again in a week.

The Petrakos' kept low profiles, or at least out of newspaper stories and social columns. Aside from "help wanted" classified ads the restaurant rarely advertized in newspapers.

Both brothers died in the 1960s, John in 1963 and Andrew in 1969. It is unclear if the business was sold after Andrew's death or if any remaining family members, John's wife Mildred and daughter Daphne and / or Andrew's wife Margeret "Peggy" and son John A, continued to run it.

January 19, 1977, Winnipeg Free Press

The second fire in January 1977 destroyed the building and the neighbouring building at 566 Main Street. It was not until September 1979 that the Original Food Bar reopened at that same site.

Two of the cafe's longest serving employees did not live to see the reopening. Peter Macht  worked there for 33 years, retired in 1972 and died in September 1977. Catherine Mularchuk was a cook for 39 years and died in 1978.

December 1, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press

The next long term owner was Tom and Christina Panopoulos. The couple ran Manhattan's Restaurant on Portage Avenue until it was expropriated for the North Portage Development in 1982. They then bought Original Food Bar and its spaghetti recipe from the owner, (likely  "Sklaventis Enterprises" who were the owners in 1981). 

In 1997 the Panopoulos' were ready to retire back to their native Greece and put the business up for sale. There were no takers until August 1999 when Siloam Mission purchased the building. They had been expropriated from their home near Higgins and Main to make way for Thunderbird House.

Despite the space being a cafe that held 75 seats, Siloam managed to serve up to 400 meals a day from it. In 2004 they sold the building for $100,000 and the following year relocated to their present Princess Street address.

Since that time the building has sat empty despite a great deal of redevelopment along the west side of Main Street from City Hall to Higgins Avenue.

The Compendium Artist Market has leased the building and is renovating it into a graphic arts studio and gallery. It is expected to open in May or June 2014.

Compendium Artist Market Website
Compendium Artist Market Video
New creative hub for the new year The Manitoban

More Original Food Bar ads:

June 26, 1948, Winnipeg Tribune

December 8, 1954, Winnipeg Free Press

December 29, 1954, Winnipeg Free Press

 December 1, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

488 Burnell Street - Hignell Printing Building

Place: Crescent Creamery / Hignell Printing Building
Address: 488 Burnell Street
Architect: Jordan and Over (Chicago)
Contractor: Wallace and Aikins Ltd.
Opened: 1912

Crescent Creamery
Crescent on Lombard

Crescent Creamery was one of Winnipeg’s oldest and largest creameries in its day. Created in 1904 by James Carruthers and Robert Rogers and operating from a facility on Lombard Avenue at the Red River, their horse-drawn wagons were a common sight on city streets delivering milk, butter and ice to homes and businesses.

In 1911 Crescent needed to modernize and expand its facilities. Their existing site, now situated on the doorstep of the the city's bustling financial district, was worth a fortune. They sold up and bought a 400 by 200 foot site on Burnell Street at Ellice Avenue.

Top: September 20, 1911, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: Novemeber 9, 1912, Winnipeg Free Press

The plan was to relocate their entire operation to the site, starting with their stables and ice cream plant. The one-storey stables (on the left in the image above) held up to one hundred and fifty horses and dozens of delivery wagons. The basement was home to the repair shops and feed stores.

The ice cream plant (the middle building) was built like a fortress with a reinforced concrete frame and cement floors and walls. Exterior windows were wire-glassed and the fa├žade a glazed pressed brick. This was not only to ensure that the building was fireproof but also to show that it was “hygienic”. After numerous health scares around North America involving contaminated milk products, hygiene, or the appearance of it, was a top priority for any creamery.

ca. 1929 ad

Before Crescent Creamery began construction on the new creamery and head office building in 1914, they bought out a competitor called Carson’s Hygienic Dairy which already had a plant on Sherburn Street. Crescent’s management decided to save the cost of building another new building and relocated their dairy and offices to that site instead. The third building on Burnell Street never got built.

Crescent was bought out by a larger company in 1920 but continued to produce ice cream from that location until about 1940.

In 1942 the building became home to Hignell Printing.

Albert R. Hignell was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario. He worked for over 20 years at the Hamilton Spectator as a printer and sometimes sports reporter before heading West. In 1907 the Hignells came to Winnipeg and the following year bought the printing operations of The Canadian Investor at 736 Sherbrook Street, (now demolished). By the 1920s the company had relocated to the Nokomis Building on Cumberland Street.

The Hignells, Albert and Eliza and their three children, lived at 159 Chestnut Street for 25 years.

Albert died in 1936 at the age of 75. Out of respect, printers and pressman from around the city attended the funeral. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

ca. 1942 ad

Son Hugh Hignell took over as president of the company, (Albert's wife Margaret was Vice President until her death in 1948), and oversaw the move to the massive new headquarters on Burnell Street. 

At the new location, the Hignells decided to specialize in book and magazine publishing. In 1968 the company won three awards for its publication of the 1967 Royal Winnipeg Ballet program. By 1988 the company had forty-five employees.

Jack Hignell

In all,  four generations of Hignells were involved in running the company. Hugh Hignell died in 1945 at the age of 44 and was succeeded by his brother Victor Russell. V R's son Jack soon joined him and went on to be president.

Jack was also president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce in 1981-82. From 1984 to 1995 he was the honorary British Consul for Winnipeg and at the end of his eleven year stint was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth, presented by Prince Charles.

In the 1980s the company was owned by Raymond, Elsie and Jack Hignell. In 1989 a majority stake in the company was purchased by Gord LaRiviere. The company is known as Unigraphics Manitoba Ltd., though they retained the Hignell Printing name and continue to specialize in book publishing. 

There were a number of thirty and forty-year employees of the company. Russell Amy and Art Kletke appear to be the longest-serving at forty-seven years each !

ca. 1925 ad

For more Hignell Building photos see my Flickr page.

Information about families has been taken from newspaper articles, including obituaries. If you have any additions or corrections, please let me know at and I will be happy to include them.

* An abbreviated version of this story appeared in the March 2014 edition of Our West Central Times.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

333 St. Mary Ave - Eaton Place Mall / cityplace (Pt. 2)

City Place (formerly Eaton Place), Winnipeg
Above: 2007, Below 1968 (source)

Place: Eaton Place / cityplace (Part 2) For part 1
Address: 333 St. Mary Avenue (map)
Architect: Eng And Wright (1977 - 79 redevelopment), Number Ten Architectural Group (1994 - 95 renovations).
Opened: as Eaton Place October 11, 1979

Eaton's in Winnipeg (1962)
Eaton's Downtown campus ca. 1962 (source)

The shopping habits of Canadians began to change starting in the 1950s. People moved to the suburbs, car ownership became the norm and regional shopping malls brought much of the retail selection you once only found downtown within short drive from home.

By the 1970s the once mighty T. Eaton Company's mail order sales division was in trouble. After accruing around $20 million in debt, the company decided to pull the plug in 1976.

June 18, 1976, Winnipeg Free Press

The decision left the company with about 900,000 square feet of empty space in their back yard. Their solution was to redevelop it into a new retail venture, but they were not going to fund it themselves. In 1977 they sold the the Mail Order Building, Annex building, powerhouse and parkade to Eaton Place Holdings (EPH) of Vancouver for $10.8 million. Eaton's itself had no financial stake in that company.

The half owner of the holding company was Bredero Group, Holland's largest real estate company which had a track record of large rehabilitation projects in city cores.

June 18, 1976, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1976 Vancouver firm Eng and Wright were hired to redesign the space. Their $30 million plan called for 200,000 square feet of retail on the first two floors, parking for 500 cars on the next two, a 150,000 square foot merchandise mart on the next two levels and the top three floors would be to be 300,000 square feet of office space, including a health club with an atrium roof.

The retail space was to be housed in two buildings. A smaller one adjacent to the Eaton's store connected by a skywalk and existing subway to the larger one located in the Mail Order Building.

A second, $70 million phase that included a hotel and additional office space was slated for the large surface parking lot to the west of the building. (Seen as the black shaded "Customer parking Lot" beside the bus depot in the map above.)

This was just one of a number of large-scale projects set for the downtown at the time. Others included the Portage and Main redevelopment that was to add three new towers at the famous intersection, (only one was ever built), and the relocation of the city's main library to the corner of Graham Avenue and Donald Street.

Annex Building demo, Nov. 24, 1977, Winnipeg Free Press

The first phase of the redevelopment got underway in November 1977 when demolition began on the Annex building at the rear of the Graham Avenue store. It had been home to clearance sales, the paint and wallpaper department, the automotive section and had space for special merchandise displays and small trade shows. 

During World War II the Annex was converted into the United Service Club where those serving in the military or war-related volunteer organizations could stop in and enjoy the lounge, canteen and recreational activities such as snooker.

June 27, 1979, Winnipeg Free Press

By the time interior renovations on the Mail Order Building were underway, a number of changes had been made to the original plans.

The two floors of merchandise mart, a sort of show-and-tell area for manufacturers and distributors, was absorbed into the general office space. The top floor heath club with atrium roof did not materialize. Originally, the top five floors of the building were to be glassed in but, in the end, the original window layout was kept. 

Phase two, of course, never materialized and remains a surface parking lot.

October 6, 1979, Winnipeg Free Press

The mall was christened Eaton Place and opened on October 11, 1979 to much fanfare.

It contained over 80 stores and though many of the spaces were "boutique size", they attracted "A - list" national retailers like Jack Fraser, Florsheim Shoes, Mariposa, A and A Records and Le Chateau, (see below for a full list of original tenants). Two of the original tenants, Coles Books and Metro (now Rexall) Drugs, remain. Asia Gift Shop, already a downtown fixture, came shortly after the mall opened and is also still there.

The central feature of the mall was the fountain on the main floor. It created what advertisements referred to as an "old-fashioned town square feel". In 1981 Cineplex opened Eaton Place Cinema 7, which seated an average of 80 people per theatre. It closed in 1991 and the space was eventually absorbed into the food court.

The mall underwent a major renovation in 1994 - 95. Aside from updating the decor, the unit sizes were increased to reflect the retail trend towards larger stores. (To see some early interior images, see the Winnipeg Building Index).

In 1999 Eaton Place was dealt a major blow when anchor tenant Eaton's closed. It got worse in 2003 when the store was demolished, cutting it off from the Portage Avenue portion of the skywalk system.  

Though the office tower has almost always been full with tenants like MPI, CN Rail and Veterans Affairs Canada, the retail level, particularly the second floor, was the hardest hit by the closure.

In 2001 Osmington Inc., owners of the building since 1998, wanted to rebrand in advance of the opening of what is now known as the MTS Centre on the old Eaton’s site. They held a naming contest but initially did not like the entries, especially those with the word “place”. In time, however, they went back to the entries and chose “cityplace”, (two winning entrants got gift certificates).

The opening of the MTS Centre did not have the expected economic spinoffs for the mall, especially on that second floor retail level. Two later projects, the Millennium Library and Hydro Place, caught the interest of the national real estate investment firm Huntingdon REIT. In December 2005 they purchased the former Eaton’s parkade and two large surface parking lots located to the west and north of the building. In August 2006 they paid $65 million for the building itself.

City Place

In 2008 negotiations for the lease renewal between MPI, the office tower’s major tenant and a presence there since 1980, and Huntingdon reached an impasse. At the time Huntingdon was in financial difficulty and needed to raise cash to stay afloat. Instead of a long-term lease agreement, the two instead negotiated a sale. 

In February 2009 MPI announced that it paid $80.5 million for the building and two adjacent surface parking lots.
Source: cityplace

Since that time, a new sports bar and MPI offices have opened on the second floor. In late 2011 the corporation called for expressions of interest for development on the two empty lots.

Currently, the mall is undergoing a $3 million interior renovation.

Original Eaton Place tenants, October 1979 ad:

TV ads for Eaton Place:
1989 (source: Retro Winnipeg)

cityplace homepage
Eaton's Mail Order Building Winnipeg Building Index
Some suggestions for the cityplace renos West End Dumplings
Eaton Place, cityplace Observations, Reservations, Conversations
My photos of cityplace on Flickr

Thursday, January 9, 2014

333 St. Mary Ave - Eaton's Mail Order Buildings / CityPlace (Pt. 1)

Above: 2007, Below 1968 (source)

Place: Eaton's Mail Order Building / CityPlace (Part 1)
Address: 333 St. Mary Avenue (map)
Architect: Graham Burnham Co. (1916); Graham-Anderson (expansion - 1920)
Cost: $6.8m - 1916; $2.5m - 1920 
Contractor: E. C. Harvey (1916)
Opened: 1916 (as Eaton Place October 11, 1979)

February 23, 1916, Manitoba Free Press

The T. Eaton Mail Order Building was intended to be part of a much larger redevelopment of the company's Winnipeg lands as presented to Winnipeg city council in February 1916.

The intention was to build a 12-storey building that would take up the entire city block from Graham to St. Mary Avenues between Hargrave and Donald Streets. Once completed, the Portage Avenue store would be temporarily relocated there while the building was demolished and replaced with a new, 8-storey, stone-facade building, that would later be expanded by 4 more floors.

The ambitious project was to take between 8 and 12 years to complete and, once finished, would have created a single 12-storey building that ran from Portage to St. Mary Avenues with just a 2-storey section notched out at ground level to allow Graham Avenue to pass through it.

Another building, a 2 or 3 storey local warehouse, was slated for the Graham Avenue block to the west of the Mail Order Buildings, (today, CityPlace's surface parking lot).

Eaton's never released a final price tag for the project, which would have been hard to estimate given the length of time required for its completion, but estimates between $6 million and $8 million ($105 m - $140 m in 2013 dollars) were used in local newspaper stories.

Construction, 1916. Source: Imagining Winnipeg

The first phase of the project consisted of the 8-storey "Mail Order Building Number 1", which is the west tower along Hargrave Street. As this did not contravene development bylaws, Eaton's was allowed to start work on clearing the land and digging the foundation in mid-February while details of the building permit for the larger complex were hammered out.

On March 8 the construction contract for the $600,000 building was awarded to the firm Carter-Halls Adlinger, (J E Buerk, supervising engineer). Their first task was to sink 24 caissons to a depth of 52 feet.

February 22, 1916, Manitoba Free Press

July 17, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

The final proposal, while exciting to see on paper, posed a number of challenges for the city. 

After years of an unprecedented building boom that trailed off after 1912 -13, the city finally had a chance to catch its breath and spent a great deal of time and money drawing up modern building codes and urban development bylaws. The Eaton's proposal broke many of them.

The most obvious was maximum building height. The city restricted building heights to 115 feet in the core of the city with a 198 foot limit along Portage Avenue. The restrictions prevented office towers from springing up in adjacent warehouse and residential districts. 

It was felt that the narrow streets, now set in stone due to the recent building frenzy, could not handle the required traffic demands. Secondary concerns included blocking sunlight to other buildings and the creation of wind tunnels.

There were aspects of the proposal that weren't even addressed by development bylaws. The city, for instance, had no idea what impact so many people and services crammed into such a small area would have on the water system and electrical grid. Others had concerns about how fresh air, natural light and rescue crews would reach employees deep within the complex.

March 6, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

While the city grappled with the proposal, the community was also split.

The Manitoba Association of Architects took out large ads in both newspapers that went point-by-point through which bylaws and “best practices" would be breached and the potential consequences. They concluded that  "... the best interests of the public are in danger of being set aside for the benefit if a private institution."

Even within the property development community, some spoke out against the plan. It was noted that if Eaton's was allowed to proceed, other developers or property owners would be within their rights to squeeze as much onto one plot of land as they wanted and even construct new buildings over street level to connect two existing properties. It would create a free-for-all.

William Pearson of the provincial town planners' committee wrote a  Letter to Editor of the Free Press that appeared on March 2 stating that if Eaton’s were allowed to build such a large building at that location “ will be a listing monument to the selfishness of capital and the amazing indifference of the public to their own interests."

February 29, 1916, Manitoba Free Press

The proponents of the plan were mainly prominent business leaders who stood to gain from having such a massive, national mail order centre procuring and shipping goods from their back yard.

As for councillors themselves, most leaned in favour of the project. After all, in terms of "feather in the cap" projects for a city to boast of, the Eaton's project was right up there. It would be a mini-city unto itself providing thousands of direct jobs and spin-off employment in everything from box manufacturers to rail yards.

February 21, 1916, Manitoba Free Press

It was a large and complicated proposal so numerous council committee meetings were held in the last week of February and first week of March to allow members to hear from officials in pretty much every city department.

At a special meeting of council on February 23, 1916 an Eaton's corporate manager laid out the company's position. He argued that the Eaton's store built in Winnipeg in 1905 was a "test building" and never meant to be a permanent structure. Originally built as 5 storeys, it by 1910 it had been expanded by 3 storeys then an 8-storey addition was made to the south, (taking it two- thirds of the way to Graham Avenue). 

After years of growing with the city, the company now knew what it wanted for its permanent store - one that would rival the best found in the eastern U.S. and London. With the mail order building, they wanted to construct a facility that would service the rapidly expanding West for decades to come.

February 26, 1916, Manitoba Free Press

There was so much interest from delegations wanting to speak that another special meeting of the Fire, Water, Light and Power Committee, (which, it appears, had the final say on approving the plan), was held on February 28th and continued on March 3rd.

Many of the groups noted above spoke in opposition. Also, a group of Graham Avenue property owners appeared fearing that possible wind tunnels and lack of light would devalue their properties.Some individual businessmen appeared in favour.

In the latter part of the March 3rd meeting it was council's turn to quiz The T. Eaton Company's architect and legal team about the issues raised.

As for tunnelling Graham Avenue, architect William Bruce said that though they appeared to be part of a single building, these were actually multi-level walkways that would be built over Graham Avenue. The Eatons' lawyer conceded to an agreement with the city solicitor that once built, should they create unintended problems such as wind tunnels, council could order them removed.

The city also got some concessions about the use of better fireproofing material in parts of the building, especially stairwells. These were new products coming on the market in places like New York and Chicago not yet available in Winnipeg.

The committee broke at 3 pm for deliberations and when they came back voted in favour of the new height limit and the extension over Graham Avenue. Eatons' grand plan was approved.

Carter Halls Adlinger ad, 1917 Henderson Directory

A ceremonial sod-turning took place at 11:45 on March 14, 1916. Eaton's store manager A. A. Gilroy, company president Sir John C. Eaton and vice president Harry McGee all took part.

Construction on the building went quickly. By early July the steelwork to the fourth floor was up. By early August that work was finished and the brickwork was ready to start. Eaton's used a custom green / brown brick manufactured by the Don Valley Brick Co. of Toronto.

A holdup came on August 2nd when a temporary strike by two-hundred unskilled labourers, mainly foreigners, took place on the site. They were unhappy with their twenty-five cents per hour wage and struck for thirty-five cents. The contractor offered to raise it to twenty-seven and a half cents and they went back to work the next day. A follow-up strike made up of hundreds of workers at job sites across the city took place in September but, by then, most of the Eaton building had been completed.

September 6, 1916, Manitoba Free Press

For one foreign worker, tragedy struck just weeks before the project was complete. 

At 4:45 pm on the afternoon of September 5, 1916, Sam Anderchuk (or Andruchuk) was unloading lumber at the east side of the building when he was struck by a brick that fell form the 8th floor. Reports in both newspapers the following day said that he was at Victoria Hospital (at that time on River Avenue) in grave condition with a crushed skull and not expected to recover. There is, however, no follow up article about his death. 

Anderchuk, 35, had a wife and three children back in Austria.

December 8, 1924, Winnipeg Tribune

It does not appear as if Mail Order Building Number 1 had a grand opening. Starting the final week of September 1916, newspaper ads noted that some items, such as saddles, had been moved to the main floor of the new building.

December 8, 1924, Winnipeg Tribune

The next major phase of the grand plan went ahead but not until 1920. It consisted of Mail Order Building Number 2, a twin to Number 1, just one storey taller and built along Donald Avenue. (In 1925 an additional storey was added to Number 1 to make them the same height.)

For the next 50 years this was the home to the mighty Eaton's Mail Order Catalogue empire, shipping everything from soap to pre-fab houses across the West. Its main floor was also used to display new, industiral equipment such as farm machinery and vehicles. 

Eaton's downtown campus (source)

As impressive as the Eaton's site became with over 46 acres of floor space by the end of the 1920s, their grand plans never materialized. 

The above postcard shows what the site looked like in 1925. At the far left, the Eaton's store is uniformly 8 storeys tall and extends two-thirds of the way to Graham Avenue, (this took place in a series of 3 expansions of the original 1905 store). South of the store is the 4-storey Eaton's Annex (1909).  

Across Graham are the twin Mail Order Buildings, Number 1 (1916) and Number 2 (1921). South of that is a small garage and entrance that was rebuilt in 1926. Finally, the 4-storey Mail Order Building Number 3 which also contained stables and garage (1912).

In the foreground is the power plant (1910). To the right of that is where the local warehouse was to go, according to the original presentation to city council in 1916. That ended up being built on Alexander Avenue in 1926-27.

The final major expansion of the site took place in 1926. That year, not shown in the above postcard, Number 1 had another storey added to make the two towers the same height. There may also have been an expansion to the rear of Number 2.

In his book Eaton's, A Store Like No Other, Russ Gourluck notes that after John C. Eaton died of influenza in 1922 his replacement was the much more conservative Robert Eaton, which likely led to the plan being put on the slow track. Of course, the stock market crash of 1929 would have put the brakes on any more large retail re-development planned for the city.

The site changed very little over the next five decades with the exception of a multi-level parkade added next to the power plant in 1956-57. The shopping habits of Canadians, however, were changing. Beginning in the mid 1970s Eaton's impressive downtown campus began to devolve.

Part 2 coming soon !

October 20, 1949, Winnipeg Tribune

My photo gallery
Eaton's Catalogue Building  Winnipeg Building Index
Before e-Commerce Museum of Civilization
Canadian mail Order History Library and Archives Canada