Wednesday, August 5, 2015

732 McDermot Avenue - Former Winnipeg General Hospital Power House
Place: Former Winnipeg General Hospital Power House
Address: 732 McDermot Avenue (Map)
Architect: Unknown
Constructed: 1917
Contractor: Unknown

At the end of the First World War, the Winnipeg General Hospital (WGH) was to undergo a multi-year, $500,000 expansion and renovation. It included a new four-storey wing (1918), a a new 'Psychopathic Hospital' (1919) and the expansion of its kitchen and laundry facilities. Before embanking these projects, the hospital needed to replace its old power house.

January 26, 1917, Winnipeg Tribune

In January 1917 the board of the WGH, which was privately operated, approached the city to request the donation of a vacant piece of city-owned land at the corner of McDermot Avenue and Emily Street. At the time, this site was off of hospital grounds, which was thought to be a safer place for it. The board requested that the land be donated as the hospital had not come to the city seeking any financial aid since its last expansion in 1914. The land was granted later that month.

As it was a hospital power plant, the newspapers didn't pay much attention to its construction. The tender was awarded and construction began in 1917. I cannot find references to who the architect or builder was.

The Builders' Exchange would later complain at a city board of control meeting that: “At the time the contract for the power house was awarded last year, the general contractors of this exchange expressed protest to the board of control against the proposed action of the hospital board.

The Exchange members were reminded by the controllers that the the hospital was a private institution and outside city’s jurisdiction. (The Exchange shot back that the city provided a $1.50 per capita grant to the institution, so how they spent that money should be of interest to them.)

Some equipment from the old plant would be reused, but a new 200 kilowatt generator was needed and put to tender.

ca. 1917 (Winnipeg Building Index)

The old power plant struggled through the winter of 1917 -1918. By April 1918 the new plant was well on its way to being completed. Over the summer the equipment was installed, some of it reused from the old plant plus a new 200 kilowatt electric generator.

One construction incident noted in the newspapers. On October 10, 1917 construction worker William Russel, 36, fell a distance of 12 feet severely injuring his back.

The WGH's 1918 annual report notes that $95,801 was spent on the new power house, though it is unclear if that also includes equipment. To help fund the purchase of the new equipment, a $25,000 mortgage was taken out on the building.

On July 21, 1918 the boilers at the new power house were used for the first time. Satisfied that the new plant was in full working order, in November 1918 the old plant was torn down.

Top:  September 13, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: September 13, 1927, Winnipeg Free Press

The most serious incident that I can find related to the power house was the death of the second engineer on the night of September 12, 1927.

Working alone, John Harry Flinders, 39, of Chalmers Avenue, went to clean the belt of the refrigeration machine. The way they cleaned the 18 inch wide belt that travelled at 2000 feet per minute was to hold a rag up against it. Unfortunately, either the rag or a piece of his clothing got caught in the belt, and it pulled him into the machinery.

A passer by noticed his body laying on the floor through the plant's large main floor windows and notified police. Flinders was dead from massive trauma to his head. He was later buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

The Provincial Bureau of Labour investigated. Workers said that they cleaned the belt of the machine that way "hundreds of times" without incident. The hospital was criticized for unsafe practices and brackets were installed to keep the workers from accessing the belt in that manner.

The old power house was retired when the new Central Energy Plant was opened at the newly renamed Health Sciences Centre complex in 1973. The building now serves as shops and offices for the HSC's maintenance department.

More photos of the HSC Campus
Rehab Respiratory Hospital Winnipeg Downtown Places
Women's Hospital Winnipeg Downtown Places

Monday, July 27, 2015

236 Edmonton Street - Ming Court Restaurant

Place: Ming Court Restaurant
Address: 236 Edmonton Street (Map)
Constructed: ca. 1888 (house), 1938 (commercial addition)
Architect: Unknown
 Top: Aerial of downtown, south of Portage, east of Eaton's ca. 1913 (source)
Bottom: Edmonton Street ca. 1910 (source)

The Ming Court restaurant's building started out as a house in the very residential downtown Winnipeg of the late 1800s. In the above image, also here, you can get a sense of how complete a residential neighbourhood it was, with schools, parks and churches. 

The second image shows a close-up of Edmonton Street around 1910. The bell tower is Alexandra School, which was on Edmonton Street between York and St. Mary Avenues. Number 326 Edmonton was a neighbour to one of downtown's terrace housing complexes, torn down in the 1960s to make way for the Medical Arts Building parkade.

The first Henderson Directory listing for the property comes in 1888 as the home of J. E. C. Williams and family.

The Williams' came to Winnipeg from their native England in 1886. John's first occupation was as a bricklayer, but by 1891 he was a grain inspector. By1896 he was an insurance agent, representing the Aetna Insurance company in Winnipeg. In 1910 he was a partner in Williams Rainey Co., insurance brokers.

Mrs. Williams was involved in the church, for a time she was on the Presbyterian Synod. She was also a life member of the Women's Christian Temperance Movement.

The family consisted of five daughters and two sons. One son, Jack, was killed in the war in 1915. In 1918 they, along with three of their daughters, moved to Long Beach California.

January 1918 classified ad, Winnipeg Tribune

The Williams' sold 236 Edmonton in 1913. It was then converted into a rooming house with as many as six people living in it at a time. By 1918 the number of suites was reduced to two plus a common area.

1938 ad, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1938 the house began its life as a commercial building for Campbell and Hyman Ltd, created in the late 1920s by  J. Campbell and Claude M. Hyman. They sold medical devices direct to the public, everything from trusses to hearing aids. They also sold pharmaceuticals and other specialty supplies to physicians. Originally located in the Donalda Block, by 1930 they relocated across the street at 262 Edmonton Street.

In 1938 they purchased 236 Edmonton and hired R. Sigurdson to add a  31 x 34 brick extension to the front of the main floor, bringing it to the sidewalk. The rear extension and another small extension to the south were added sometime after 1960.

1961 ad, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1959 Campbell and Hyman moved to larger premises and put this building up for sale. It was briefly a realty company, then became Bonnycastle Travel Agency, which stayed for over a decade.

Starting in 1973, 236 Edmonton began its long association with the restaurant trade. 

It was the Red Lion Steak House, then in November 1977 became Café de Paris, the second location of a St. Pierre, Manitoba restaurant, (Marian Warhaft gave it an excellent review in February 1978 !) Through the early 1980s it was home to a pair of Aboriginal restaurants, Bungees then The TeePee, before becoming an Angelo's Pizza.

1993 Winnipeg Free Press

Ming Court restaurant was created by Tom Yung and his wife in 1979 at the corner of Broadway and Donald. In a Free Press "advertorial" in 1997, Yung said: “When we started, we were the very first Northern Chinese restaurant in the city.… I knew it was a big gamble, but I was ready to work very, very hard.”  In 1987 they relocated to 236 Edmonton Street.

In July 2015 new owners took over from the Yungs. They are currently renovating the property and plant to reopen under the same name in August 2015. During the exterior renovation, for a brief time, the original brick work was exposed, including a painted sign for Bonnycastle Travel.

I also found connections to two Winnipeg non-profit organizations. On January 11, 1940, while Campbell and Hyman, it hosted the first AGM of the Winnipeg Association of Big Brothers. For a few weeks in September 1971, while Bonnycastle Travel, the Winnipeg Jaycees used it as their mailing address for a conference they were hosting. It's unclear if either of the organizations had an office in the building.

(Above image courtesy of Winnipeg Architecture Foundation)

Friday, July 10, 2015

258 Burnell Street - Former Canada Bread Bakery

Former Canada Bread Plant

Place: Former Canada Bread Bakery
Address: 258 Burnell Street (Map)
Constructed: November 1912
Contractor: George H. Archibald Company
Architect: Unknown

In 1911 Toronto bakery George Weston Ltd. merged with four other Ontario bakeries to create the Canada Bread Company. Within weeks, the new entity announced that it would expand to Winnipeg and Montreal on their way to creating Canada's first national bakery. 

Before its arrival, Canada Bread bought up a number of local independent bakeries such as Perfection, Western and Richardson's. They also bought a large stake in Spiers Parnell, one of the city's largest, with a plant on Elgin Avenue. The latter was allowed to operate under its own name and management with the caveat that they could not compete directly with Canada Bread's "signature" loaves and cakes.

They also purchased Germain Bakery, also on Elgin Avenue, and, it appears, began baking some of their products there to introduce them to the local market.

Top: June 8, 1912, Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom: November 9, 1912, Winnipeg Tribune

In October 1911 a $70,000 building permit was issued to George H. Archibald Company and it immediately began work on the three-storey, 72' x 200' bakery. (The smaller building to the north was completed soon after for the 75 horses and wagons used to deliver the bread.)

Construction appears to have gone smoothly and in early November Canada Bread was advertising its new address. The company claimed this was the largest bakery west of Minneapolis with fourteen ovens that could bake four-hundred loaves an hour.

The company hired A. A. Ryley as as the first manager of the Winnipeg operation. An Ontario pharmacist by background, he eventually became a salesman for an Ontario milling company which brought him into contact with Mark Bredin, the man who would become the first general manager of Canada Bread. Ryley was hired in Toronto and dispatched to Winnipeg in 1912.

Under Ryley the company flourished, doubling its sales in the first two years and soon establishing itself as the city's largest bakery. The plant underwent an expansion in 1915 that increased its capacity to 250,000 loaves per week. Baking began at 4:30 pm and went through the night.

The following year, the company estimated that it sold 10 million loaves of bread in the city, about one-third of what the city's population would have consumed.

Former Canada Bread Plant

Canada Bread, of course, had a large stable of delivery horses. In 1912 they had 75, in 1929 the number was about 130, in 1940 it was 40. The horses stuck around even as the automobile became the company's chief mode of transportation to make residential deliveries. It was mostly for public relations. Many bakeries, creameries and laundry companies did the same thing. 

Getting your bread by home delivery was a little more expensive. In 1938, for example, the price of a basic, unwrapped loaf of white bread cost 6 cents in stores or 7 cents by delivery. 

Companies that relied on horses usually specialized in one breed. Eaton's, Crescent Creamery and Canada Bread used Hackneys, while Shea's Brewery and Manitoba Cartage preferred Clydesdales. Many companies with large stables also showed their best horses and teams at competitions around the region, (the best example of this was Shea's Clydesdales which took national and international prizes some years.) The prized horses became celebrities in their own right. Canada Bread's included Deanston Helen, Deanstown Nell, Lord Byng and Billy Sunday, (source).
Top: Canada Bread truck on St. Matthews Ave ca. 1935 (source)
Bottom: November 30, 1949, Winnipeg Tribune

A blow to the residential delivery trade was the arrival of the large U.S. supermarket chains, such as Safeway and Piggly Wiggly, in 1929-30. In just a few years they each built dozens of new neighbourhood stores. 

Eventually, vehicles took over completely. For Canada Bread, there appears to have been a purge of horses in 1939. In 1949 they announced that they were going "all automotive" and sold off what was left of their horses and related equipment. 

Over time, the stables building was converted into a garage and loading zone.

July 5, 1919, Winnipeg Tribune

There was controversy at the Canada Bread bakery during the Winnipeg General Strike when Helen Armstrong and between 20 to 30 women showed up at the plant. Armstrong was president of the Women's Labour League and in charge of the organizing office of the Bakers, Confectioners and Candy Makers Union on Main Street. The group showed up at the bakery, which hired temporary workers, to disrupt operations.

In their book When the State Trembled: How A. J. Andrews and the Citizens’ Committee Broke the Winnipeg General Strike, Kramer and Mitchell say that the women entered the plant to pull the workers out and were eventually persuaded tho leave the premises by Ryley, (page 79). They moved their protest to the street out front, preventing trucks and workers from entering the building. Tensions rose and “Later the mob forced its way into the shop again, put Riley (sic) up against the wall, and shut off the machinery.

Police were summoned and Armstrong, Ryley and another man were arrested for disorderly conduct, (the charges were stayed against all three in July.) The bakery remained closed for a couple of days and about 4,000 loaves of bread had to be discarded due to the disruption.

In mid-June most of the men signed up for the union, apparently with no repercussions from Canada Bread. Ryley, who denied a claim that he was a member of the anti-strike Citizens Committee of One Thousand, appears not to have made any public comments about the strike.

November 6, 1929, Winnipeg Free Press

With the war and the strike over, it was time to get back to business and the plant underwent a number of renovations and expansions. 

The largest came in 1924 - 25 when the original bakery building got an $80,000 "L" shaped addition. Designed by J N Semmens and built by Wallace and Aikin, it widened the building by 25 feet to the north and added a 200-foot long, three-storey section to the rear. 

In 1929 there was another expansion, this time to make room for an 80-foot long electric oven capable of baking 4,000 loaves per hour. Built in Brantford, Ontario, (likely by Baker Perkins). It was said to be the only one of its size in the Commonwealth. The fully automated machine meant that human hands did not touch the product, from the time the raw ingredients were poured to the handling of the wrapped loaves for delivery.

To mark the occasion, on the evening of November 5, 1929 the company held a banquet that featured numerous company and civic officials. After the dinner, it was off to the main floor of the bakery to see the new oven in action.

For the next two weeks members of the public were invited to evening open houses to check it out for themselves.

One of the dignitaries present for the dinner was A. A. Ryley. In 1927 he was appointed general manager of Canada Bread's national operation and returned to Toronto. He spent only about a year in the job before retiring and moving back to Winnipeg.

In November 1930 he was elected to the 1931 city council as an Independent in Ward 2. He kept a low profile the first year but the following year become chair of the Unemployment Relief Committee. 

Initially, it was thought that he might be less than sympathetic, considering his background in big business. By most accounts, though, he became a champion for the unemployed, chastising colleagues publicly for not doing enough to provide relief work projects. A Tribune story recounts a blind, unemployed man who appeared before the committee. Ryley was reported to have shed tears as the man plead his case for assistance.

On the night of August 27, 1932 Ryley was at the Winnipeg Water District Railway yard in St. Boniface supervising an incoming delivery of firewood for families on relief. He returned to his home at 623 Banning Street and died of a heart attack.

His body lay in state at city hall the morning before his funeral. He is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.

Given the nature of the work there were very few major incidents associated with the bakery.

As for wartime losses, I can find only one record of a soldier being injured. Herbert Hogben was an employee who lived at 358 Beverley Street when he enlisted with the 44th Reserve Battalion in World War I. He was wounded in action in April 1916, receiving the Military Medal for bravery two years after the incident. He returned to Canada aboard the steamship Lapland in 1919, though does not appear to have returned to Winnipeg.

The most serious incident involved the death of employee Israel Rubin, 42, of Flora Avenue in an industrial accident.

On June 29, 1943 Rubin climbed into one of the giant mixers to clean dough off of the paddles but did not pull the pin on the safety switch before entering. While he was in there, his assistant, a 21-year employee of the corporation, was given the signal to turn the mixer on. Rubin died of massive trauma and internal injuries. He left a wife and four children ranging from 10 to 19 years of age.

November 13, 1945, Winnipeg Tribune

Another employee who was killed on the job was Henry Weir of Morley Avenue. On November 12, 1945 he stopped his bread wagon on River Avenue to make a delivery and was standing in the back doorway when a truck fishtailed into the back of it. Weir was killed instantly.

The driver of the truck had been noticed a block earlier by a police officer, travelling too fast on the icy roads and following the truck ahead of him too closely. The police car pulled out to stop him but before he could catch up, the tragedy happened. 

The truck driver claimed he was travelling under the speed limit and that he didn't notice the bread wagon until the truck in front of him pulled out to pass it. He tried to swerve but the side of his truck slammed into the wagon. A corner's jury found him guilty of neglectful driving and he was charged with manslaughter, though the charges were eventually dropped.

From the 1920s to the 1940s the land adjacent to the bakery was known as Canada Bread Field. From 1926 to 1939 it was home to the Winnipeg Commercial Diamond Ball League which claimed to be the country's largest company baseball league with 17 teams. It was also home to a city lacrosse league.

From 1939 to 1946, it was a lacrosse field in summer and during the winter months a couple of hockey rinks were added and it was the site of the private West End Orioles Athletic Club's successful hockey program.

In 1947 the land was sold to the Valour Road legion for a curling club and legion hall. In 1948 construction began on the new building and Orioles moved to a site further north on Burnell and became a city funded community club.

June 11, 1998, Winnipeg Free Press

On October 2, 1998 the Canada Bread bakery on Burnell Street shipped its last loaves. The company claimed that the ageing bakery was only operating at 30% capacity and that many of its loaves and cakes were already being baked under contract by other local bakers, such as Weston's. After the closure more of their bread would be contracted and they would supply some goods from Edmonton.

Former Canada Bread Bakery

The building has sat vacant since the closure.

In November 2011 the city cited the complex under the derelict buildings bylaw. At an April 2012 appeal hearing the owner said that he was "in discussions" with someone who wanted to turn it into housing. An open house was held in December 2012 but plans did not advance beyond that point.

It has since received a couple of reprieves from threats of the city taking it over under the derelict buildings bylaw. 

My Flickr album of the former Canada Bread bakery A history of Burnell's Bakeries West End Dumplings
Open house re: Canada Bread's former Burnell bakery West End Dumplings

Former Canada Bread Plant
Top: June 8, 1912, Manitoba Free Press

Saturday, June 13, 2015

619 Broadway - Pal's Grocery

© Christian Cassidy, 2015

Old Safeway
Place: Pal's Grocery
Address: 619 Broadway (map)
Opened: March 29, 1940
Cost: $14,000
Architect: Lanktree Thompson
Contractor: Lanktree Thompson Building Co.

October 5, 1907, Winnipeg Tribune

The address 619 Broadway, now one of only three remaining grocery stores in the downtown area*, was first associated with a residence. The second home on the site, which appears to have been built around 1904, was a stately brick dwelling featuring 11 rooms and two entrances, one onto Broadway and another onto Young. (Unfortunately, I cannot find an image of it.)

It was home briefly to John Hume Agnew, a lawyer who at the time was the provincial Treasurer of Manitoba.

 March 7, 1928, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1907 it was sold to another lawyer, a newly appointed judge named Alexander Dawson.  Dawson was single, so he often had other family members or even lodgers living there as well. It was his home until his death in 1928.

His estate sold off the property to commercial interests. The years 1928 - 1929 marked the arrival of big, American grocery chains such as Mutual Stores, Piggly Wiggly and Safeway. In a period of just couple of years, they scooped up dozens of properties, especially corner lots on regional streets, to build stores.

From 1937 - 38 Winnipeg newspaper ads

In late June or early July 1929, 619 Broadway opened as one of Piggly Wiggly's first ten Winnipeg stores. By the end of October, there were twenty in operation.

Piggly Wiggly originated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1916 and considers itself the first chain to offer a "self service" grocery store. Instead of dealing with a clerk who fetched down items from shelves behind the counter, PW stores had their stock individually priced and on the shop floor so that customers could choose items themselves and bring them to a central cash register when they were done. 

They also introduced refrigerated display units to their stores so that a wider range of foods could be carried under one roof, saving customers having to go to a variety of shops to do their daily shopping.

Above: Dec 29, 1939 Winnipeg Tribune
Below: 1940s Safeway ad

Safeway entered the market the following year and also opened dozens of stores in its first months of operation. A key to Safeway's growth, though, was acquisitions. It took over a number of chains, including Piggly Wiggly's 179 Canadian stores in 1935, and operated them under the PW name for a couple of years.

Around 1938 Safeway rolled out its new concept store, simply called "The 1940 Store". It was double the size of their old ones, offering a wider range of stock and in many cases on-site parking. Where land was available, they demolished existing stores and built the new ones in their place. In other cases, they found new locations and sold off the old buildings.

The design and construction of the new stores was by Lanktree Thompson Building Co. It was a short- lived venture, at the time on a home building spree in River Heights, constructing hundreds of homes - thirty on Borebank Street alone.

Above: March 28, 1940, Winnipeg Free Press
Below: August 28, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press

On November 2, 1939 building permits were issued for four new-style Safeway stores, including at Broadway and Young. Construction appears to have gone smoothly and the $14,000 structure opened for business on March 29, 1940.

The store continued on under the Safeway banner, even after the chain moved on to 1950 and 1960 concept stores. In 1961, though, it was extensively remodelled.

It appears to be the only surviving "1940 Style" Safeway in Winnipeg.

November 1978 Penner Foods ad

The grocery business continued to march on and newer, larger stores were introduced in the 1970s. The Broadway and Young Safeway, now three generations of stores old, simply did not fit into the chain's business model anymore.

In the 1970s Jim Penner was looking to move into the Winnipeg market. Penner Foods was a Steinbach-based grocery business started in  in 1964 after he bought out the family's 600 sq foot grocery store. The company had supermarkets in Steinbach and Altona and by 1977 had two Winnipeg locations, 619 Broadway and a strip mall location on Rothesay Street in North Kildonan.

Above: November 4, 1990, Winnipeg Free Press
below: from 1994 Pal's Supermarket ad

Penner sold the store around 1984 and it became Broadway Grocery and Meats. In 1990 Cora Naar took it over and renamed it Crystal Mart.

In 1991 it became part of a new four-store grocery chain called Pal's Supermarkets. Brothers Hal and Shiv Pal were experienced in the grocery business and created the chain from existing grocery stores shed by larger chains. Pal's kept many of the features of a full-service grocery store, offering a large produce department and an in-house butcher. They were open 7 days a week and offered grocery delivery. (In 1995 they added a fifth store on Henderson Highway.)

Pal's on Broadway

Considering how long 619 Broadway has been home to a retail business, it has had a remarkably quiet existence. Store employees do not appear to have made the news and the number of fires or major crimes are few.

In November 1978, as Penner's, there was a roof fire that caused $20,000 worth of damage and it had to close for three weeks to repair water damage. 

In 1991, as Pal's, someone robbed the store with a shotgun. Nobody was injured. It was robbed again in December 2011 at knife point and the clerk was seriously injured, though recovered.

The Medicine Wheel mural was added to the east wall by Art City in 2012.

The store, which one of only two supermarkets in West Broadway and three in the downtown area*, has been for sale through 2014 - 2015, though currently appears to be off the market.

My four part history of Safeway in Winnipeg
My Flickr album of old Safeway locations
Penner Foods History
Piggly Wiggly History

* From the Downtown Winnipeg Community Food Assessment by Food Matters Manitoba, 2013. See appendix D, p. 43, for a list of food retailers in the downtown.)

Also see: 'Food deserts' complex, hard-to-solve problems Winnipeg Free Press