Friday, September 21, 2018

239 Selkirk Avenue - Former Queen's Theatre

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Selkirk Avenue, Winnipeg 
Place: Former Queen's Theatre / Hebrew Sick Benefit Association Hall 
Address: 239 Selkirk Avenue
Constructed: 1889
Architect: John W. Grieves

This building was constructed in 1889 as the second home of the North Presbyterian Church which renamed itself St. Giles Church in 1895. It replaced a smaller wooden church on Main Street at Aberdeen.

The land was purchased for $600 and architect John Grieves, a member of the congregation, was hired to design the building. The $2,899 construction contract was let to Bears and Read on July 2, 1889 and the first service was held here by Rev. John Hogg on December 1, 1889.

After just a few years the congregation had again grown too big for its church. A balcony was added but a larger space is what they needed.

In 1907, construction began on that new building at Burrows Avenue and Charles Street and the final church service was held here on March 8, 1908.'s%20theatre%22%20%22Selkirk%20Avenue%22&f=false
Source: Winnipeg 1912 by Jim Blanchard

The Hebrew Sick Benefit Association (HSBA) purchased the building and converted it into a hall and meeting rooms.

The HSBA was founded in 1906 and was one of several “mutual benefit societies” that provided social services to its members. Such societies were common, particularly in ethnic communities, in the days before a government social safety net that provided things like unemployment insurance, disability payments and funeral costs. The HSBA also maintained a cemetery on McPhillips Street.

Their plans for the building also included the creation of a theatre space, to be named the Queen's, for the the Yiddish Dramatic Club which offered home-grown, live theatre for the Jewish community ranging from simple skits to high dramatic works. 

Drawings for the theatre conversion were submitted to the city in September 1908 and by early October events were taking place at the hall. The earliest ones noted in mainstream newspapers were a series of Liberal candidate rallies for the October 1908 provincial election. Other early events at the hall include union meetings and even wrestling bouts.
Top: Interior in 1930 (Jewish Museum of Canada)
Bottom: June 1, 1922, Winnipeg Tribune

When exactly the theatre opened is unclear. The first listings for events happening specifically at the Queen's start in 1909, but in newspaper mentions the terms HSBA Hall and Queen's Theatre were often used interchangeably.

Aside from local events ranging from plays and teas to religious services and wedding receptions, the Queen's also hosted travelling Jewish theatre companies. International stars of the Jewish theatre such as New York-based actor / director Jacob Ben-Ami, actress Keni Liptzin and Austria's Rudolph Schildkraut, all tread the boards here.

December 8, 1934, Winnipeg Free Press

It appears that during the Depression the Queen's Theatre closed, though the hall and meeting spaces were still in use.

In December 1934, a two-alarm fire broke out on the mezzanine level which did significant damage to the roof. Both the Free Press and Tribune stories about the fire referred to the building as the "former Queen's theatre" noting that it had been empty for "some years". Earlier that year it had been rented to the Polish National Church.

At the time of the fire the building was vacant and the HSBA were studying options for its reuse which could have included converting all or part of it into housing. Its near-loss, however, seemed to reinvigorate interest in using it as a cultural space.

In January 1905, a building permit for $5,000 was issued to the HSBA to repair the building. In February A. Akman of Spruce Street began work which not only included rebuilding the damaged roof but the remodelling of the meeting spaces and auditorium, which presumably was the theatre interior.

It is believed that the renovation included the addition of the current art deco facade.

May 20, 1935, Winnipeg Tribune

On May 19, 1935, the hall was officially re-opened with a ceremony that included remarks from mayor John Queen and provincial attorney general W. J. Mayor.

Aside from the HSBA's space, the building became home to the Universal Athletic Club, General Monash branch of the Royal Canadian Legion - which was particularly active through WWII - and a  confectionery shop. The hall was again the scene of countless dances, banquets and special religious services.

January 21, 1941, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1941, another two-alarm fire started on the balcony level and destroyed the roof. It was likely due to an improperly disposed of cigarette in one of the upstairs meeting rooms earlier in the night.

It was a close call for Charles Stewart, the live-in caretaker of the hall, his wife, Margaret, and their two-year-old child. They fled into the frigid night at 4:40 a.m. after calling the fire department. Their  upstairs apartment was destroyed.

The building was repaired at a cost of $9,000 and was open in time for its annual "Queen Esther" fundraising festival in April. In 1943, it hosted western conference of Canadian Jewish Congress.

October 9, 1954, Winnipeg Free Press

Through the 1950s, the HSBA Hall was increasingly rented out to non-Jewish groups for use. (As with many ethnic groups, their members were moving out of their traditional neighbourhoods to the suburbs.)

The hall was rented on multiple occasions by the Canadian Peace Congress, Canadian Soviet Friendship Society, St. John's Bridge Club, the Labour Progressive Party and the Hong Kong Veterans Association. A groups called Champion rented it on October 11, 1954 for a concert by Pete Seeger who was early in his career as s solo folk singer.

In the 1960s, the HSBA merged with other organizations to form Beth Israel Synagogue in Garden City and the building began hosting regular bingos to support Beth Israel. This did not mean the end of the HSBA's activities. They still operated their cemetery and in 1971 opened HSBA Gardens, a retirement home on Sinclair Street.

In August 2002, Beth Israel, Bnay Abraham, and Rosh Pina synagogues merged to form Congregation Etz Chayim and the new organization inherited the HSBA Hall. After years of dwindling bingo revenues and difficulty finding volunteers to run it they sold the building in 2010.

The building came full circle as it was bought for use as a church: the Church of the Rock's North End Campus.

Friday, September 14, 2018

959 Main Street - Former Winnipeg Little Theatre

© 2018, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Von's Theatre / Winnipeg Little Theatre
Address: 959 - 961 Main Street
Constructed: 1909
Architect: Unknown

Long-time Saskatchewan hotelier Ernst von Ferber opened his custom-built, $80,000 Von's Hotel in Regina in 1907. The following year, he purchased a hotel in Moose Jaw, the Royal George Hotel in Brandon and another Royal George in Emerson.

In 1909, Ferber, his wife and some of his grown children relocated to Winnipeg, (he was in his early 60s at the time).

In August, he took out a $14,000 building permit for this 350-seat theatre at 959 - 961 Main Street. His wife, Julia, opened a cafe in the neighbouring building, 963 Main Street, which became known as the Von Ferber Block.

Jan. 3, 1909, Winnipeg Free Press

"Von's Theatre" was originally a Vaudeville venue.

Starting in January 1910, it hosted a hosted a five-week run of Eddie Deloy’s comedy troupe. Deloy, an American, was a fixture in traveling shows, sometimes performing in blackface. The troupe was made up of about a dozen people including his sisters Tolla and Myrtle.

After the Deloys left in Mid-February, Von's advertised movies and then a return to musical comedy in March with the Yankee Girls Company.

After March, mentions of the theatre disappear from newspapers except for hosting a couple of political rallies in the July 1910 provincial election.

It appears that Von Ferber left the city by 1913, likely returning to Saskatchewan. In 1918, he was in Los Angeles for surgery and died from complications at the age of 72. His death notice noted that his widow and four children lived in Saskatchewan.

May 1, 1912, Winnipeg Free Press

In December 1911, H. H. Payne and H. A. Rice took out a permit to operate a cinema called the Royal Theatre. It closed briefly in 1913 and reopened in October under a new owner after "a thorough overhauling and all the latest equipment installed."

Yet another closure in 1919 saw the Royal rescued by Fred H Stewart, said to have had many years experience operating theatres in Los Angeles. Stewart invested about $7,000 in renovations to the place before reopening.

Throughout its time as the Royal, the theatre rarely advertised as it never showed big studio productions. It was smaller fare or independent films. It was also rented out for live events. A number of ethnic drama and dance groups used it for productions.

Time ran out for the Royal in 1922. From February to April it was leased to a church group to become a gospel hall before newspaper mentions of it disappear again.

Top: November 18, 1922, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: April 11, 1928, Winnipeg Tribune

In November 1922, the theatre's fortunes changed when the Community Players leased it to become their Winnipeg Little Theatre. Five years later, the company bought the building.

The Players were organized in 1921 to provide facilities for the production of plays written by Canadian authors and “dramatic works of the highest order” that could rarely be produced by professional companies due to commercial restraints.

After an extensive renovation of the theatre, which reduced it to a 300-seat live-venue, it opened on
December 7, 1922 with A. A. Milne’s Wurzel-Flummery and Edmond Rostand’s The Romancers. Other fare over the years included everything from Shakespeare to productions of popular Jewish and Icelandic plays translated into English.

October 16, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

By the end of 1931, the Community Players had staged over 40 plays, 22 of them Canadian and a dozen by Winnipeg playwrights. They also had a subscription base of 750 members and their productions had become more elaborate. The small theatre was no longer able meeting their needs.

In the mid-1930s their productions were moved to the Playhouse and the Main Street theatre was sold off. In 1958, the Winnipeg Little Theatre and Theatre 77 merged to form the Manitoba Theatre Centre.

August 28, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune

On August 29, 1936, the theatre reopened as the Times. Owner W. Triller renovated the theatre "from the ground up" making it a 400-seat cinema wired for sound.

The Times was now a second-run cinema showing fare such as opening night's Broadway Lullaby of 1936 with Jack Benny.

In November 1938 it was under new management. H. B. Shawn from an independent theatre company came from Toronto to take over the Times and make it an exclusively foreign-film venue. It was said to be a first in Canada and a prototype for what the company wanted to do in Toronto.

Shawn promised to bring in top French, Russian, Yiddish and Swedish films of the era. Most would be with English subtitles to appeal to a wider audience.

The foreign film venture lasted only a few months and it closed in early 1939.

August 28, 1941, Winnipeg Tribune

On August 31, 1940, the Times reopened with Jack Kurk as manager. This time, it was part of the Western Theatres Ltd. chain. Western operated 25 theatres in Manitoba, including large houses like the Orpheum and and Uptown.

The Times, though, was linked with its smaller neighbourhood theatres like the Roxy, Rose, Osborne and Furby, though the Times had maybe half the number of seats of its cousins. The group often shared promotions like "foto-night " contests and were relegated to second-run and short films.

In 1941, Western curiously added Vaudeville acts to the Times' lineup, intermixing up to five live performances - singers, tap dancers, comedians, yodelers - with short films. By this time, Vaudeveille had pretty much run its course. The Beacon was the only other city theatre to offer it. The live performances only lasted about a year.

The Times continued on as the smallest member of the Western Chain through the 1940s until the around April 1957 when it was closed. The Times' fifty-year run as a theatre of one sort or another ended.

April 27, 1960, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1958, the Winnipeg Bag Company bought the building for use as a warehouse space. The maker of bags and cloths was located less than a block away at 977 Main Street near Pritchard.

On the night of April 26, 1960, fire gutted the neighbouring former Von Ferber block and caused extensive damage to the former theatre building.

The building was renovated, including the removal of the sloped floors and seats, amd found a new life as a retail space.

Ads from 1950, 1964 and 1995

Floors Moderne opened in 1950 at 581 Main Street selling tiles and rugs. The president of the company was Sam Kreger. It soon moved to 980 Main and when Polo Park Shopping Centre opened in 1959, it relocated there.

In the early 1960s Paul Kastes became co-owner and in 1964 the store relocated again to 959 Main Street where it remained until at least 1996. 

In 2003, it became The Fish Gallery filled to the brim with aquariums and exotic fish.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

115 Maryland Street - Tivoli Theatre / FOODFARE

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Place: Tivoli Theatre / FOODFARE
Address: 115 Maryland Street (Map)
Opened: November 3, 1927
Architect: Max Zev Blankstein
Contractor: Fraser and Macdonald

Raymond Kerhsaw, ca. 1927

The Tivoli theatre was constructed in 1927 for Kerhsaw Theatres Limited, a local company run by Raymond Kershaw and his son, Frank.

Born in Sri Lanka to British parents, Kershaw Sr. came to Canada in 1888 at the age of eighteen to work on a farm at Kenora, Ontario. In 1904, he settled in Winnipeg and five years later was the owner of the Strand Pool Hall and Bowling Alley on Garry Street.

Kershaw got into the theatre business in 1913 when he operated the Wonderland on Sargent Avenue. Five years later, he purchased the burned-out ruins of the Osborne Theatre and rebuilt it into an 800-seat movie house.

Soon after, he was appointed president of the Motion Picture Association of Manitoba, the theatre owners’ trade association.

July 20, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1927, while still the owner of the Osborne, Kerhsaw funded the construction of the 900-seat Tivoli movie house on Maryland Street at Westminster.

The site had been a large hole for thirteen years. In 1914, construction began on an apartment block and the foundation dug, but the project was abandoned when the war started.

Despite the state of the site, a number of area residents and the congregation of Westminster Church fought the theatre's construction. They claimed that it would create additional traffic and that the theatre's lit exterior would detract from the beauty of the church.

The Kershaws argued that Maryland was already a busy regional street on its way to becoming a mini-highway connecting Winnipeg and its southern municipalities. The traffic created by the theatre would be negligible.

In the end, the city had no reason to deny a permit for the construction of the theatre.

Blankstein, ca. 1931

The Tivoli's architect was Max Zev Blankstein. He was well known for his theatre designs, including the The Palace on Selkirk Avenue, The Roxy on Henderson, The Lido in Dauphin, and The Uptown on Academy Road.

The Tivoli was built to be as fireproof as possible in accordance with new city building codes for theatres. The structure and floor are reinforced steel and concrete. Even the projectionist’s booth with its hot equipment was enclosed in concrete and sealed with fireproof doors to separate it from the hall. 

Inside, the hall was back lit to give a cozy feeling. The 900 seats were arranged in a slight curve facing the screen so that everyone had a good view. There was extra space between the rows so patrons did not have to get up from their seat to let people pass.

The theatre's exterior is red brick with a Tyndall stone facade. The lobby, which featured a marble floor, ran the full width of the building.

The Tivoli also featured a pipe organ that was custom-built by the Cassavant Brothers of Quebec. It wasn't installed until some weeks after the theatre's opening.

November 2, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

The Tivoli was opened on November 3, 1927 by Mayor Ralph Webb.

The first film shown was the romantic comedy Swim Girl, Swim featuring Bebe Daniels. (It is sadly one of many thousand "lost films" of the silent movie era.) Music was provided by the five-piece Tivoli Orchestra.

Raymond Kerhsaw became the manager of Famous Player’s handful of suburban theatres in 1930. Six years later, he sold his Osborne and Tivoli to the company he worked for.

The ink was barely dry on the deal when Famous Players sold its suburban theatres, including Kershaw's, to Western Theatres Ltd.. The deal made Western the largest theatre chain in Western Canada with 25 locations in Manitoba alone.

Raymond worked briefly for Western before retiring to Victoria, B. C... Frank also relocated to B.C. and went on to have a career with Famous Players in Vancouver.

July 29, 1959, Winnipeg Tribune

The 1950s was a tough decade for neighbourhood theatres as television became the entertainment medium of choice for most people. Many of them closed and were either demolished or converted to other uses.

In early November 1959, it was announced that the Tivoli had been purchased by Canada Safeway. Its last film was the Danny Kaye comedy Me and the Colonel shown on November 29.

Safeway converted the building into a  grocery store to replace its ca. 1930 outlet located across the back lane on Sherbrook Street. A house was torn down to make way for a parking area.

The new Safeway opened in February 1960 as the 38th Winnipeg store in its chain. Its first manager was Andy Champagne, who was transferred from their 615 Ellice Avenue outlet.

The store underwent extensive renovations in 1971 but it was clear that its time was limited. As Safeway continued to open newer, larger stores, the Maryland location soon became one of their smallest outlets.

October 26, 1988

Safeway finally closed the 115 Maryland store on January 3, 1981, but not before finding a new buyer. Merchants Consolidated announced that the store would become part of its chain of independently owned grocery stores operating under the FamilyFare banner. The new store opened on February 2.

In 1988, Merchants Consolidated went bankrupt and ten of the former FamilyFare owners joined together under the FOODFARE name.

In 1989, they added a additional outlet when Wajih “Moe” Zeid's Payfair on Lilac and Corydon joined the fold. Zeid came to Winnipeg from Palestine in 1967 and purchased the Payfair a  decade later.

Over the years as FOODFARE owners retired, Zeid purchased some of the stores, including the Maryland store sometime after 1995. In 2007, he also bought Harry's Foods on Portage Avenue.

There are currently five FOODFARE locations across the city.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

905 Portage Avenue - Former Safeway / FOODFARE

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Place: Former Safeway / FOODFARE
905 Portage Avenue (Map) 
Opened: July 26, 1951
Cost: $97,000

Safeway opened its first store on this block at 893 Portage Avenue on November 2, 1929, just months after entering the Canadian market.

In the fall of 1950, the company announced a multi-year, $1 million expansion for its Manitoba region. In Winnipeg, this meant four new stores would be added in 1951 alone. This brought the total number of Safeways in the city to 31.
Variation of 1950s model store, Saskatoon Public Library

Every few years, Safeway introduced a new, larger model store and phased out its oldest generation of buildings. These "cookie-cutter" stores were important as they ensured that the same range of goods could be displayed in the same locations at each outlet. A customer could walk into any Safeway in the province and it would be a familiar, convenient place to shop.

Most of the early 1950 stores were of this "big fin" design. Though designed at Safeway's U.S. head office, local architect Lloyd Finch was hired to fine tune the size and shape of each outlet to fit its site.

Costing about $100,000 each, these were simple, single-storey red brick buildings with a full basement served by a dumb waiter. Outside, there was an overhang that partially covered the sidewalk and the 40 x 18 foot, metal clad "fin" displaying the Safeway name.

One noticeable variation from store to store appears to have been the size of the front windows. Images of other stores of this style show small front windows whereas 905 Portage has large windows.

The only similarity between the old and new stores was the mezzanine over the meat area that served as the manager's office.
Top: 1951 Safeway interior, Utah DHA
Middle: Interior of new store, 1952, Waco Tribune
Bottom: 1951 Safeway interior, Saskatoon Public Library

The new store was about 8,000 square feet in size, more than double that of the old store. The size difference increases even more when you factor in its full basement.

The larger stores accommodated a wider range of goods and the modern way customers shopped. This was an era of increased self-service options, such as picking out your own pre-packaged meats and dairy products from coolers. Frozen foods were also becoming a popular grocery item and space was required for open-top freezers.

Other original features of this store included seven check outs, space for shopping cart storage and "electronic eye" doors.

July 25, 1951, Winnipeg Free Press

A store preview was held on the evening of Wednesday, July 25, 1951 with the Manitoba Pipers' Association Pipe Band playing in the parking lot. It opened for business at 9:00 a.m. the next morning.

That 32-car parking lot was another feature that the older stores did not need. The goal of the new outlets was not just to attract people within walking distance, but also to bring in commuters who were traveling home to new, residential suburbs.

This parking lot hosted a number of events in its early years, including a legion service in 1951, a "hoe down" by the Square Dance Club of central YMCA in August 1952 and a square dance by Hicks' KC Kids from Kansas City in 1954.

Managers of this store included Mike Phillips from at least 1960 until he was transferred to the Isabel at Notre Dame store in 1962. He was replaced by Reg Bedard, who managed it until at least 1969 when he, too, moved on to a bigger store.

By the mid-1970s, a number of generations of model stores had come and gone and 905 Portage was one of a dwindling number of early 1950s stores left in the chain.

Starting around 1975, Safeway ads featuring "bulk buys" and non-grocery items such as picnic chairs and steam cleaners came with an asterisk noting that these items were not available at 905 Portage due to lack of space.

The store lasted until the mid-1980s when Safeway decided to close it in favour of an expanded Polo Park location. The retailer gave Safeway employees the first option to purchase the building.

Top: Halbesma, ca. 1965
Below: Harry's Foods, ca. 1993

Harry Halbesma had been a manager at the Isabel at Notre Dame Safeway in the 1960s and at the Portage and Ferry Road store in the 1970s. He decided to take the plunge and along with a number of family members, including his wife, three sons, two sisters and some cousins, opened Harry's Foods on October 2, 1985.

Catering to a neighbourhood where car ownership rates were low, Harry's offered telephone shopping and a delivery service. It also prided itself in carrying many Manitoba-made products.

In the 1990s when Sunday shopping became legal in Winnipeg, Harry's opted not to open.

In 1996, Harry and his wife, Shirley, retired and son Stan and his wife, Debbie, took over the store.

September 30, 2000, Winnipeg Free Press

In the 1990s, the Halbesmas purchased a former automobile repair shop located behind the store's parking lot 444 Burnell Street. In 2000, it became the short-lived Harry's Urban Market offering an expanded range of fruits and vegetables and other products.

In April 2005, Halbesma approached the city to purchase the back lane between 905 Portage and 444 Burnell Street to allow for the expansion of the grocery store. It appears that the application was approved and the city was going to declare the lane surplus, (see bylaw 162/2006.) For whatever reason the sale never took place.

In December 2006, the Halbesmas announced that they had sold the store to FOODFARE, owned by the Zeid family. Stan Halbesma said in a newspaper story that he had a number of inquiries about the building but wanted to ensure that it remained an independent grocery store.

The reasons given for selling were to "slow down and enjoy life a little more" and to concentrate on the second Harry's Foods store, purchased in 1999, on Highway 9 in St. Andrews, Manitoba, near where the couple lived.

FOODFARE was created by Moe Zeid when he purchased a former Payfair Store, which also used to be a Safeway, on Lilac Street in 1977. This would be the fifth store in its independent chain.

Though the transfer to the Zeid family took place on January 1, 2007, the store was not rebranded until January 2, 2008.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

740 Dufferin Avenue - Winnipeg Casket Company Building

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Place: Former Winnipeg Casket Company Building
Address: 740 Dufferin Avenue
Constructed: 1907
Cost: $40,000
Architect: Herbert E. Matthews
Contractor: Sveinn Brynjolfsson

The original Winnipeg Casket Company was created in July 1903 and operated from a two-storey factory on Manitoba Avenue until it was destroyed by fire in 1904.

In early 1907, a new company by the same name was created under directors: president W. H. Antes of Des Moines, Iowa; , F. C. Bell of Spencer, Iowa and Charles H. Enderton, C. P. Bell, Charles W. Fillmore  and P. W. Fillmore from Winnipeg. It appears that C. P. Bell also acted as factory manager.

Weeks later, the company took out a $40,000 building permit for a new factory on Dufferin Avenue and Parr Street designed by Herbert E. Matthews.

Matthews had well over 100 projects to his name in his native London, Ontario before setting up practice in Winnipeg in 1905. Primarily a residential architect, this appears to have been one of his largest Winnipeg commissions. His other non-residential works, which came years later, include the original St. Matthews Church -  West End Cultural Centre (1909); Granite Curling Club (1912) and the Rothesay Apartments (1912).

The general contractor for the project was Sveinn Brynjolfsson. He came to Winnipeg from Iceland in the 1890s and like many of his countrymen set up shop as a mason.

Top: Architect's drawing, May 18, 1907, Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom: circa 2018

Construction was underway by May 1907 and completed in November.

The brick and stone 60 x 150 foot building stands four storeys tall with a full basement. Adjacent to it was an engine house and a 42 x 50 foot wood drying kiln, both long since demolished.

Perhaps because of the nature of its work, the exterior is devoid of ornamentation, something noted by a Free Press reporter writing about its completion: "...its appearance is that of a hundred other warehouses in Winnipeg and the outside calls for no special comment.”

An odd feature about the building is its address, or lack of it. For many decades it is listed in the Henderson Directory not by street number but rather as “Dufferin, corner of Parr” which is very unusual as the area was quite urbanized and the buildings around it had numbers. The odd time the business was mentioned in newspapers, the intersection is also used.

March 5, 1908, Winnipeg Free Press

Disaster nearly struck in March 1908 when a fire in the adjoining kiln got out of control and began to spread into the building's workshop. Crews from four fire halls were called in fight the blaze.

They managed to get the steel fire doors separating the kiln and building closed, containing the blaze. In the end, damage was limited to $5,000 mostly to the kiln and the destruction of five rail cars of lumber parked next to it.
Company Letterhead ca. 1928, toeppner .ca

In 1913, there was a shakeup in Canada's casket industry when five companies in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and the Winnipeg Casket Company merged to form a national entity called Dominion Manufacturers based in Toronto. It dealt in caskets and a full range of undertaking supplies.

One of the companies, Semmens and Evel of Hamilton, already had a plant branch in Winnipeg.

For more than a decade all three companies were listed at 740 Dufferin Avenue. It appears that Winnipeg Casket Co. operated under its own trade name in the local market until at least the 1960s.

The new Winnipeg Casket Company was called into service not long after the merger when it was contracted to provide caskets for the nearly 200 victims of the Hillcrest, Alberta mine disaster. The factory worked around the clock to process the order.

May 1, 1919, Winnipeg Tribune

The company also made the news in 1919 when its 60 casket makers walked off the job during the Winnipeg General Strike after the company refused to recognize its recently created union. They were demanding better wages than the industry average of  $9.94 per week.

Being such a small group there wasn't any follow-up media stories about how things went for them.

August 29, 1944, Winnipeg Tribune

There was at least one employee of Winnipeg Casket who lost his life on the battlefield.

Painter Robert Dey, 30, of Midwinter Avenue enlisted with the RCAF in 1942. The following year he went overseas leaving behind a wife.

In July 1944, his bomber was shot down near the village of Ferte-Saint-Cyr, France but his charred remains could not be immediately identified. He was originally listed as "missing on active service after air operations", then "missing and presumed dead."

Eventually, he was identified and he is buried in Orleans Main Cemetery at Loiret, France.

1915 catalogue ad, (source)

The company manufactured and warehoused caskets at this site until at least the mid-1960s. The fact that it didn't advertise to the general public makes it difficult to determine when it went out of business.

Through the late 1960s and 1970s the only mention of the company in newspapers was in obituaries for former workers. Some were long-term employees such as Alexander Smith, who changed his name from Schmidt in 1944, who began as a woodworker and worked his way up to factory manager, spending 52 years with the company.

January 7, 1983, Winnipeg Free Press

By 1983, the vacant, unheated building was still owned by Dominion Manufacturing and had been up for sale for "three or four years" according to a company spokesperson.

In January of that year, a pipe burst on the fourth floor which caused extensive water damage. It was one of a number of pipe breaks over the years.A spokesman for the company called the building "jinxed" and said that the latest burst would likely cause them to significantly reduce the sale price.

They just may have drooped the price as the building sold soon after the news story.

By July 1983, ads appear for Eldar Window Industries Ltd. It featured a showroom on the main floor and warehouse upstairs. The company only lasted until 1985 when it was replaced by Factory Outlet Furniture.

Through the late 1980s and 1990s the building was was increasingly subdivided into a myriad of office, workshop and warehouse spaces, which is how it remains today.

For more images of 740 Dufferin.