Friday, November 20, 2020

53 Maryland Street - Bella Vista Restaurant

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

Place: Bella Vista Restaurant
Address: 53 Maryland Street
Constructed: ca. 1907
Summary:  ca. 1907 to 1914 - Residence
                    ca. 1914 to 1933 - Grocery store
                    ca. 1933 to 1968 - Drug store
                    ca. 1968 to present - Restaurant

The residential portion of 53 Maryland Street existed before the commercial extension. it is unclear who took out the building permit.

The house first appears in street directories in 1907 owned by John Nicholson, a driver by trade. To help pay the mortgage he had roomers. A constant one from 1907 to 1910 was
Henry M. Bathurst, a partner in West, Porteous and Co. Real Estate. The company dissolved in June 1909 and the following year he and Nicholson were gone.

It became home to the Naylor family in 1910.
Harry P. Naylor was director of Harry P Naylor and Co. Real Estate. The 1911 census shows he and wife Jennie, both 41, lived there with their six children ages 6 to 17.

By 1914, the family of Murray M. Kellough resided there. Kellough was the first to operate a commercial establishment from the site: M. Kellough Grocery. The family lived in the residential portion at the rear of the store.

George T Mayes took over the grocery store in 1917. He also operated a store at 1588 Pacific in the Weston neighbourhood. Mayes ran it until 1920 when he sold up after buying another store on Portage Avenue.

1920s developments near Maryland and Wolseley

In 1920, the store became known as Campbell Grocery Ltd.. The proprietor was John A. Campbell who lived at 132 Evanson Street with his wife, Cora, and daughter, Ruth.

Campbell took over the store at the dawn of a very busy decade for the intersection.

The original Maryland Bridge, built in the 1890s, had long been crumbling. By 1920, vehicle traffic on the bridge had been limited so that cars not could travel within 250 feet of each other and at a speed no greater than 5 miles per hour. Street car traffic had also been banned. That changed in 1921 with the opening of a new, multi-lane bridge.

The 20-classroom Gordon Bell Junior High School was constructed in 1926 kitty corner from the store along Maryland Street.

Misericordia Hospital opened a new 75-bed wing on Wolseley Avenue in 1927.

Campbell's business did well with all this new development around it. Around 1932, still in the depths of the Depression, he relocated to larger premises just a block away at 55 Sherbrook Street, now Cousin's Deli.

In 1933, the store became home to a drug store called Campbell Drug Ltd. operated by Charles W. Campbell and J Frank Holland. (It is unclear if the two Campbells were related as it was a very common name in early Winnipeg.)

C. W. Campbell was already the proprietor of Campbell's Drug Store at Hargrave Street at St. Mary's Avenue. Holland, originally from Dugald, Manitoba, graduated from the School of Pharmacy at the U of M in 1928, and worked for him. In this new venture Holland managed the store while Campbell continued to run the downtown location.

1933 was a particularly good year for Campbell as he also married Helen Dougall that July. She was a teacher by trade and, according to a student roll published in a 1921 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune, both attended St. John's Technical High School together in different classes. It is unclear if that is when they first met.

They were certainly an item by 1931 as they attended a Canadian Pharmaceutical Association gala dinner at the Hotel Fort Garry together. 

After their marriage, Helen resigned her teaching job, as required at the time, and the two settled at 701 Wolseley where they raised at least one child, Trevor.

Armed robberies of drug stores were a fairly common occurrence at the time.

The downtown store had a high profile robbery in 1931 that resulted in a female customer being shot in the abdomen. She barely survived. and barely survived. Holland's store was held up at gunpoint at least twice. Once was in 1941 when a dimwitted bandit got off with just $3. A 1949 robbery was more serious as Holland, his wife, a delivery boy, and a customer were forced to lie on the floor at gunpoint while the robber stole $130 in cash.

Holland became sole owner of the store in 1958 and the name was changed to Holland's Pharmacy. By this time he and Helen lived at 76 Cornish Avenue.

Holland was also involved in both the Manitoba and Canadian Pharmaceutical Associations, serving as president of the former from 1960 to 1962. He was also a founding member of the Broadway Optimist Community Club.

Holland retired from business in 1968 and died at his home on August 24, 1970 at the age of 65. Helen died in October 1983.

With Holland's retirement the building's more than half century as a retail store came to an end.

August 29, 1968, Winnipeg Tribune

It didn't take long before the space got a new owner. Help wanted classified ads began appearing in June 1968 looking for staff for a new Gondola Pizza restaurant. It opened in August as the ninth store in the local chain.

The last ads for it as a Gondola Pizza location come in February 1979.

December 1, 1980, Winnipeg Free Press

The building continued on as a restaurant in August 1979* with the opening of Bella Vista Restaurant a and Pizzaria by Armand Colosimo along with an uncle and brother.

(Note: a couple of modern newspaper articles say that 1976 is the year the restaurant opened, which can't be true. It was advertised regularly as a Gondola Pizza until early 1979. It likely wasn't Colisimo and co. who ran the Gondola restaurant as its owner and manger were both arrested in December 1977 and neither had that last name.)

October 4, 1979, Winnipeg Tribune

The first restaurant review for the Bella Vista can be found in an October 1979 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune. The reviewer described it as "A small, intimate room with about 32 seats, it has an extensive menu, attentive service and a developing clientele of Italian families." (See above.)

As the 1980s progressed, you were more likely to see a reference to the Bella Vista in the "Who's Playing" section than the
"Dining Out" section of the paper. By 1986, it had gained a reputation as an intimate live jazz spot on weekends. As time went on, the scope of performers expanded to include blues, folk and rock music.

In 2019, Colosimo, 66, sold the Bella Vista to former cafe owner Ross Jeffers, though he remained on staff. The property was put up for sale in 2020 and its purchase was announced in November 2020.

It is unclear what will become of the building. Under construction next door, and taking up the remainder of the block, is a ten-storey seniors residence that may want the property for loading or parking.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

847 Main Street - Doner Paint and Hardware

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

Former Doner Paint and Hardware
847 Main Street (Map)

1905 Henderson Directory

City records do not indicate a year of construction for this building. There are a number of times in the history of the site that it could have been built or was cobbled together from a couple of existing buildings.

The site appears to have contained a house with a business space on the ground floor prior to 1901. From 1899 - 1900 there were two residents who lived there and the office was that of the Socialistic Labour Party. The space was sometimes referred to as Socialist Hall.

It then became home to Sophia M. McLean's wholesale flour and feed shop.

The 1901 census shows Sophia M. McLean was a 29-year-old mother of two children aged one and three who lived at 802 Wardlaw Avenue. Her husband, Milton, was a builder. By 1903 the family had moved to Pritchard Avenue and Milton worked for his wife as a clerk. 

It was unusual for a woman to run a business at this time, especially under her own name, but that's what Sophia did until circa 1908. There were no newspaper articles or ads about the business and I could find no obituary to find out more background information about her. 

The shop became Laing Bros Flour and Feed in 1909. That same year, Milton is listed as a hay presser by trade and in subsequent street directories with no occupation which could mean he went back to being a self-employed builder. Sophie disappears from the street directories after the business changed hands. This suggests she became a homemaker as the directory normally only listed people who worked outside the home.

The building became home to Hyman Dillman Furniture and Hardware in 1911 and M. Doner and Co. hardware in 1913.

The roots of Doner Paint and Hardware run deep in the North End.

The 1896 Henderson Directory shows William F. Doner, carpenter, operating from his home at 100 Juno Street. By 1902, he had moved to 102 Scott Street. William was joined in business by his son William Jr. in 1908 and the firm became known as William F. Doner and Sons.

In 1906, W. Doner and Sons "real estate and contractors" had an office on in the Grundy Block on Main Street at Bannatyne, (now demolished), and advertised their services, including lots and finished homes for sale in the classifieds section.

May 14, 1920, Winnipeg Tribune

M. Doner and Co. was formed in 1913 and operated from 847 1/2 Main Street. The partners included Moses Doner, a self-employed painter from Manitoba Avenue, William F. Doner, now living at 361 Boyd, and Samuel Copp of 42 Aikins Street.

Over time, some of the Doners went off to start other businesses, such as Doner Drug on Selkirk Avenue and the Doner Tawapit Lodge at Clear Lake. By 1925, the company was known as Doner and Copp Hardware.

Tragedy struck on August 8, 1934 when Samuel Copp was struck and killed by a street car on Main Street outside the store. He was likely returning from the Northern Hotel across the street which he also owned.

The Dufferin Avenue street car overran a switch and the motorman had to reverse back down the track. Copp, not expecting traffic from that direction, was crushed under the back wheels of the car and killed almost instantly. It took an hour to extricate his body from under the vehicle.

Copp was just 44-years-old and left a widow and three children ages 3 to 15.

The motorman of the street car was found not to be at fault at the coroner's inquest. The private street car company had recently switched from two-man crews down to one due to the drop in revenue thanks to the growing popularity of private motor cars and the Depression. The driver, the jury felt, had no way of seeing what was on the track behind him and had followed the rules set out for backing up on city streets.

The Tribune concluded in an editorial that the accident should mean the end of one-man cars in urban areas, calling them "an abomination and menace to the public life."

April 10, 1952, Jewish Post

Soon after Copp's death the company became known as Doner Paint and Hardware with William N. Doner as proprietor and manager.

The company's address went from 847 1/2 Main to simply 847 Main after it became Doner and Copp. In the late 1940s, it took over the neighbouring building at 845 Main Street and for a few years advertised as 845 - 847 Main Street. By the end of the 1950s it was again using just 847 Main.

It could have been during the late 1940s expansion that either a new building was constructed or the two existing buildings, 845 and 847, were combined and a common front added.

Circa 1940s (Source)

The company operated quietly. There were no big dramas reported in newspapers, just the odd break-in and safe cracking which was common for the times.

The Doner family also didn't make the news much. William and Betty raised their two daughters at their long-time home at 361 Boyd Avenue.

September 13, 1962, The Jewish Post

William N. Doner died September 26, 1961. I couldn't find an obituary in the daily or Jewish weekly papers to fill in more details about his life.

If you are interested in more about the history of the Doner, sometimes spelled Donner, family, Jerry Posner wrote a two-part interview with Eileen Sever, a descendant of the Doner family, in 2019. Part 1 is here and part 2, where the store is mentioned if you scroll to page 21, is here. (This history of Doner Hardware was not written using family records, but mainly newspaper stories and street directories.)

The company was  purchased the year after Doner's death by two employees, Morris Muttner, 38, and Hyman Geller, 43, and it was reorganized as Doner Paint & Hardware 1962 Ltd. The two still co-owned it as of 1979.

It is unclear what happened to Geller as in later years it is Muttner who became the face of the business.

Muttner was born in Estevan, Saskatchewan in 1923 and moved to Winnipeg in his twenties. Not long after arriving here he began working for Doner. His 2002 obituary described him as "a quiet man who was filled with love, kindness, courage, devotion and charm."

Doner Paint and Hardware was purchased in 1991 by Ted Sobieski who operated the store until at least 2004. By 2007 it was PD Dollar Store. In 2012, it became home to Top Pro Roofing.

December 24, 1948, Winnipeg Tribune

February  8, 1945 The Jewish Post

A couple of items of note about "William F. Doner" who may have been part of this Doner family:

- A William F. Doner was granted a Canadian patent in 1913 for improvements to a rotary engine: Patent No. 145575

- A William F. Doner was granted a temporary exemption from wartime service in 1917 and was eventually assigned to the non-permanent active militia. (This likely wasn't William Sr. as he died in  1932 at the age of 75 so would have been 60 at the time of the war.)

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