Sunday, January 3, 2021

640 Ellice Avenue - Huxley's Cartage

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Huxley's Garage / West Central Women's Resource Centre
Address: 640 Ellice Avenue
Constructed: 1927
Architect: Unknown

December 1, 1922, Winnipeg Free Press

Today, this building is home to the West Central Women’s Resource Centre, but for much of its existence it had more to do with motors than mentors.

The building first appears in street directories in 1927 as the office and garage for Huxley’s Cartage, a company that started business in 1922 at 351 Bannatyne Avenue by William F. Huxley. As the name suggests, it was a moving company but also delivered coal, soil and manure and did small excavation jobs such as digging driveways and levelling land for landscaping projects.

Huxley was born in Barford, England in 1884 and came to Winnipeg in 1902. Edith Dalton was born in Norfolk, England in 1882 and came to Winnipeg in 1905. the two were married in December 1905 by Rev. Samuel Fea at St. Peter's Anglican Church on Selkirk Avenue. , author of Irish Ned, in December 1905.

The couple initially settled at 318 Ellen Street where he was a teamster and she ran a boarding house for lodgers in the upstairs bedrooms. Eventually, they would have three children: daughter Irene and sons William Jr. (Bill), Frank, and John.

Fleet on Ellice Avenue ca. 1932. Far right, Huxley Sr, to his left is son Bill.

(Western Canada Pictorial Index, Herman Holla Collection No. 26391)

In 1922, the family were living at 351 Bannatyne Avenue when William started Huxley Cartage, a moving business that also delivered coal and wood, from the same address. As the company grew, new premises were needed and in 1927 a building permit was issued to construct a new garage and office at 640 Ellice Avenue. The architect and contractor are unknown.

Huxley had to be innovative to keep the company afloat during the Depression. It took on bigger excavation jobs such as the foundations of commercial buildings. (Its biggest contract was the excavation of the Winnipeg Auditorium foundation which required 700 men at a time to dig by hand, but Huxley asked to be released from the contract shortly before work began.)

The company also bid on many government delivery contracts, one of which caused great controversy.

December 6, 1931, Winnipeg Tribune

Huxley’s Cartage won the city contract to deliver firewood to the 269 families on Winnipeg’s Depression relief rolls in late 1931. The company promised quick and efficient service with its fleet of trucks.

Through the 1920s the motorized vehicle was becoming the king of the road, though many industries, including bakeries, dairies, breweries, wood  coal yards, still relied on the old faithful horse and wagon to deliver their products. The contract to deliver wood by truck touched off what the Winnipeg Tribune called “warfare between horse and truck”.

The teamsters who drove the rigs packed council meetings to protest and on several occasions took to the streets to block traffic with as many as 100 rigs. The city negotiated a compromise by making Huxley promise that any of the work his trucks couldn’t handle would be offered to teamsters rather than him buying more trucks. Huxley agreed, but it made no difference in the end. His fleet easily handled the deliveries and no work was available for teamsters who showed up at the city's St. Boniface wood lot each morning.

February 1, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1936, Huxley’s Cartage heralded the end of another horse-drawn era when they won the Dominion Post Office’s contract to collect the mail from the city’s 300 or so mail boxes. The service officially changed over on February 1, 1936.

Winnipeg was said to be the first major city in Canada to end horse and cart pick-up in favour of motorized vehicles.  Though there was an outpouring of nostalgia for the old service there does not appear to have been the same anger and controversy as seen with the wood delivery contract.

Huxley Sr. would be joined in business by sons Bill, who died in 1947 at the age of 40, and Frank. Frank was president of the company when it closed in 1973. Its trucks and other equipment were auctioned off in August.

Undated. Source: C. Gurman on Flickr

The next long-term business to call 640 Ellice Avenue home was Wheelsport in 1977. It sold and repaired motorcycles and was a Kawasaki dealership. It stayed until about 1987.

By 1989, the building was home John and Maria Salgueiro's JS Furniture and More. The company started in 1974 and besides furniture sold appliances and gift wear.  In 2009, it moved further east on Ellice Avenue.

In 2010, the building became home to the West Central Women’s Resource Centre. The organization was created in 1999 to empower women to help themselves, their families and their community to safer, healthier lifestyles.

Friday, December 11, 2020

144 Scotia Street - Former Scotia Grocery

 © 2020, Christian Cassidy

Image: @steveosnyder on Twitter

Place: Former Scotia Grocery
Address: 144 Scotia Street
Constructed: ca. 1911

1911 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada

The building permit for the house at 144 Scotia was issued in 1911. The first owners can be found living there a year later.

Walter and Johanna Johnson, both 56, were immigrants from Iceland who came to Canada in 1881. The 1911 census indicates there were no children living with them, though by that age any children they had would have been grown. I couldn't find an obituary for either one.

Initially, Johnson operated a shoe repair shop from the house, but the following year decided that a grocery store might be more profitable. The couple worked in the store and lived above it.

December 2, 1914, Winnipeg Free Press

The Johnsons tried renting out the house portion in late 1914 / early 1915. This may have been to take advantage of the scramble for smaller housing units as families downsized when the "man of the house" went off to war. It was listed as a 5 room bungalow for $14 per month.

The rental idea may not have been successful as street directories show that they continued to live above the store until around 1921. That year, they rented the residence to Allan Stayler, a warehouseman at J. D. Perrin and Co., and moved next door to number 142 Scotia Street.

June 23, 1923 (top) and July 6, 1924, Winnipeg Free Press

In the summer of 1923, the Johnsons placed ads to sell or lease the grocery store after having been "called away" from the city. I couldn't find any details about what happened was. The ads ran on and off for over a year.

What appears to have been a short term rental was made in 1923 to A. W. Windish. He and a store clerk named John Haggarty lived in the residential section.

November 23, 1925, Winnipeg Tribune

The store finally got a new owner and a new name in 1925.

Harold Albert Lacey and wife Ethel came to Canada from their native England in 1907. Prior to this, they operated a grocery store at 1630 Portage Avenue at St. James Street. According to the 1926 census they lived in the residential portion of the building with 19-year-old daughter Dorothy who worked as a clerk at the store.

It was the Laceys that christened the store Scotia Grocery; a name that stayed around for decades to come.

The Laceys began renting out the residence in June 1926. Dorothy got married in 1928 and in 1930 Mr. and Mrs. Lacey leave the store and do not appear in subsequent street directories. This suggests that they may have left town. Classifieds ads in April of that year show they were also trying to rent a five-room unfurnished house in Transcona for May 1st.

For the next couple of decades there were a series of shorter term owners. This could mean that the store was rented out. The proprietors were: A Seifert (1931-32); W. Panting (1934); and Thomas J. Wilson (1935).

144 Scotia Street in 2009 (Google Street View)

In late 1935 or early 1936, Harry and Nelly Serkin took over and brought some stability to the business.

The Serkins had previously run a grocery store on Assiniboine Avenue. (In October 1934, an armed gunman entered the store, stuck a revolver in Mr. Sarkin's ribs, and made him empty the till.)

The Sarkins also invested in the building. In 1937, they hired builder N. Popeski who took out an $1,800 building permit to make alterations and an addition.

Benjamin and Ida Meyers took over in 1947.  They ran the store and lived above it until the early 1950s.

The string of short term owners continued. Checking street directories at five year intervals until the last one available online shows: 1950 - Benjamin and Ida Meyers; 1955 - Sid and Eva Winestock; 1960 - Ben and Jean Sosnowicz; 1965 - Jean Wozny.

May 8, 2001, Winnipeg Free Press

The store was purchased by the Wozny's in 1963.

Jean and Walter Wozny were from Garson, Manitoba where they farmed and then ran the local grocery store. They relocated to 130 Scotia Street in Winnipeg with their teenage sons, Lloyd and Leonard, in 1960. Walter got work as a machine operator with the city and Jean worked as a cashier at a Dominion grocery store.

The family moved into the residential portion of the building. Jean ran the store while Walter continued to work for the city.

May 17, 1976, Winnipeg Free Press

The last year that this address or Scotia Grocery is mentioned in newspapers comes in 1976.

The business and building were put up for sale in the spring. It is unclear if this was by the Wozny's as the listing was handled by a real estate agent.

The store was still operating in November 1976 as the lone female clerk was robbed late that month.

1911 Hathaway's Map of Winnipeg (source)

It was pointed out on Twitter that this is an odd location for a store as it sits in the middle of a residential block. At first, I thought maybe it WAS at the end of a block at one time. After all, Scotia is a bunch of riverside lanes that were stitched together as owners gave up their river lots.

Looking at the years the building permits were issued for this block, west side of Scotia Street from  Inkster to Lansdowne, does not support this theory. The neighbouring house at 142 was built in 1907, this house was built in 1911, and the rest were built just two years later. Here's the lineup: 152 – 1913; 150 – 1913; 144 – 1911; 142 -1907; 138 – 1913; 134 – 1913; 130 – 1913.

That being said, it is not that strange to have a store in the middle of a block. There are a few early 1900s examples in the West End. At the time, the city was not concerned with mixing commercial and residential uses and if that's the lot you could afford, you built on it.

This was built initially as a shoe repair shop, so a prime location was probably not as big a concern as it would have been if someone was scouting for a grocery store. Perhaps that's why it had many short term owners. A mid-block location at the side of a river resulted in a pretty limited customer catchment area.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

1400 Rothesay Street - Chief Peguis School

 © 2020, Christian Cassidy

Place: Chief Peguis Junior High (website)
Address: 1400 Rothesay Street (map)
Officially Opened: April 23, 1970
Architect: Ward and Macdonald and Partners
Builders: B. F. Klassen Construction Ltd.

The North Kildonan School Board began planning for two new schools in early 1966. One was an elementary school expansion at what is now John Pritchard School and the other a new junior high on Rothesay Street. This was to keep up with large suburban developments being planned for the formerly semi-rural municipality.

In February 1967, North Kildonan town council purchased the property of Victor and William Janzen for $4,500 an acre and a second, smaller property along Sutton Street to donate to the school board for the junior high. (The following year, it purchased another six acres north of the school site for a recreation centre.)

The school division turned to architects Ward and Macdonald to design the building. The firm dated back to 1912 and in the 1960s began specializing in schools. It had already done work in North Kildonan on River East Collegiate (1961) and Maple Leaf School (1961). Other works included Garden City Collegiate (1964) and W. C. Miller Collegiate in Altona (1964. They also designed the Winnipeg Centennial Library (1975).

B. F. Klassen Construction Ltd. was awarded the construction contract in November 1968 and the sod turning ceremony took place the following month.

The school division announced during the construction phase that the school would be named in honour of Chief Peguis. The Salteaux chief who lived from ca. 1774 to 1864 brought his people to Manitoba in the 1790s. The Selkirk Settlers were able to survive their initial years here thanks in large part to his friendship and cooperation. 

The $1.8 million school was to be ready in time for the start of the 1969 school year, but construction fell behind schedule. Some students began attending classes in September 1969 with staggered hours, mornings only, and some of amenities not yet ready.

The official opening ceremony for the school was held off until April 23, 1970.

There was a day-long open house with a cornerstone laying ceremony by James Smith, chair of the River East School Division, at 4:00 pm. This was followed by a traditional dance by the Peguis Pow Wow and Cultural Group from Peguis First Nation.

That evening at 7:30 was the formal program with an evening full of entertainment and speeches.

Premier Ed Schreyer had the honour of officially opening the school. Keys were then presented to the architect, builder, school board chair, superintendent of schools and principal Harry Schmidt. Also in attendance and receiving special presentations were Chief Albert Edward Thompson, Peguis’ great-great-grandson and chief of Peguis First Nation, and Amy Louise Clemons, his great-great-granddaughter and the executive director of the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre in Selkirk.

Several artefacts once belonging to Chief Peguis were also on display.

The school was built to accommodate 900 children ranging from grades 7 to 9. It featured 36 classrooms with movable walls so that they could be expanded, contracted, or combined. There were also industrial shops, a gymnasium, home ec area, and a central library or material resource centre. Its most impressive feature was the 320-seat theatre with full stage that a visitor described as one "like any downtown".

Attendance was reportedly near its 900 pupil capacity when the school opened. Over time, as the average size of families declined and other area schools expanded, that number dropped in 1990 to less than 700.

The school became a Middle School starting in the 2014 - 2015 school year. The current attendance is around 450 pupils from grades 6 to 8. It also offers German Bilingual or Ukrainian Bilingual studies.

The largest expansion to the school can't be seen from above ground.

Laurence Bertram and Bob Garnett created an organization in 1991 to explore the feasibility of turning the unused basement level of Chief Peguis School into a $500,000, 23,000 square foot fitness centre featuring a weight room, indoor track and aerobics studio.

After years of private fundraising and an infrastructure grant, ground was broken on the in the summer of 1996 and the Peguis Trail Health & Fitness Centre was officially opened October 1. In 1997, the city’s Parks and Recreation department took over the running of the centre.   

Famous Alumni of the school include Olympic gold medal curler Jill Officer  and former Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth (1977-79).

The school was to have celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020. Events planned for April had to be postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

My Flickr album of Chief Peguis School

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