Friday, October 2, 2015

242 Princess Street - The Bathgate Block

242 princess Street over the decades

Built for businessman William Bathgate in 1882 - 83, the Bathgate Block at 242 Princess Street is one of the city's oldest commercial buildings. It is also one of the few remaining examples the work of prolific architects Barber and Barber, best known for their old "gingerbread" Winnipeg city hall.

I recently posted about it in at my blog West End Dumplings. Check out that post for more photos and background information and its current state.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

730 Wellington Avenue - Verdin's Grocery

Wellington Avenue, Winnipeg

Place: Former Verdin's Grocery / Tavistock Annex
Address: 730 Wellington Avenue (Map)
Built: 1909(?)
Architect: Unknown

There has been a grocery store at this corner of Wellington Avenue and Beverley Street since 1909-10, though its roots date back to a 1907 store called Verdin's Grocery at Wellington at Toronto, just a block away.

Albert George Verdin (1871 - ?) was born and raised in London, England. Wife Eliza Ida (nee Berthman, 1873 - 1961) was born and raised in Ontario. The family first appears in Winnipeg in the 1903 Henderson's Directory living on Beacon Street at Logan. Albert's occupation is listed as a shipper and butcher.

In 1906 the couple had a son, George, and were living at 857 Alexander with three other Verdins. There was George E., another butcher, and Fay, a bookkeeper, as well as Elizabeth, widow of Albert. Their son would have been a small child at this time so, presumably, this was Albert's brother, sister in-law and mother.

Top: Ad from April 1907. Bottom from June 1907

Verdin's Grocery first appears in the Henderson Directory of 1907 at 704 Toronto Street at Wellington. At the time the family, minus the in-laws and widow, lived at 680 Toronto Street. They also employed a driver, William Bragg of 699 Toronto Street.

Verdin proclaimed in his ads that his was the "oldest establishment in the West End", later updated to read "the oldest established meat and provision market in the West End". It is a claim hard to verify, but much of the West End was only subdivided for residential development in the couple of years prior to its opening. The first Wellington School, across the street, also opened in 1907.

Being a small store, Verdin's rarely advertized or made the news.

Wellington Avenue, Winnipeg

Around 1917 Albert and Eliza moved into suite B at the neighbouring apartment block, then called The Tavistock, at 724 Wellington Avenue. It was a place they called home into the 1960s.

In 1924-25 the store was either rebuilt or extensively renovated. This was just before Albert retired, then leased it out as a source of income.

August 19, 1932, Winnipeg Free Press

The first to lease it was John H. Bates and family who also lived at the Tavistock. In 1931-32 the store was run by H. Skinner, but the Depression seems to have taken its toll. The store closed and Verdin tried, unsuccessfully, to lease it out through 1932 and 1933.

Top: March 24, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: December 11, 1958, Helmskringla

In 1934 the store reopened as Westhome Grocery and Meats with Alex Malkin as the proprietor. He hired Eva Jones of 655 Beverley as a clerk. Malkin owned the store until around 1949, though Eva continued to work there through to the mid 1950s.

Following Malkin was Then came a string of short-term proprietors, including Thor and Kathleen Holm (1950) and Jack and Annette Flom (1952-53).
Top: Joe Riesenbach, ca unknown (source)
Bottom: outside store, ca Oct. 1963 (source - used with permission)

Joseph "Joe" Riesenbach and wife Ruth were the last proprietors of a grocery store at this location, from 1955 to 1963. 

Joseph's family were Polish Jews. During the Second World War, when he was ten years-old, they fled their home and spent two years in hiding in a root cellar. When the war was over, to escape continued anti-Jewish sentiment in Poland, Joseph came to Canada, arriving in Quebec in 1950.

Wellington Avenue, Winnipeg
November 16, 1963, Winnipeg Free Press

Joseph and Ruth took over Westhome Foods in late 1954 or early 1955 and in 1963 relocated across the street to 737 Wellington. The old store spent a couple of years up for lease until 1965 when it was converted into a duplex marketed as the Tavistock Annex. Each unit, numbered 705 and 709 beverley Street, contained four rooms plus a basement.

It is possible that Verdin could still have owned the building when the Riesenbachs moved and, when it didn't lease, sold it presumably the owner of the Tavistock who converted it into housing. (After five decades living at the Tavistock, he surely must have known the building's owner well !)

 724 Wellington Avenue, 

By 2012 the property, still part of the neighbouring Tavistock Apartments, was in disrepair. The owner had the former grocery store portion rezoned to multi-family residential in order to replace it with a new, seven unit, 3.5 storey apartment building.

In September 2015 the rezoning was extended for another two year period. An exact timeline for construction has not been set.


My photo album of 724 and 730 Wellington Avenue
For more about Joe Riesenbach 

Friday, August 28, 2015

277 1/2 River Avenue - Royal Oak Annex

Top: ca. 1960, 
Source: Archives of MB - Architectural Survey - River Ave

Place: Royal Oak Annex
Address: 277 1/2 River Avenue (Map)
Built: 1891? Demolished: August 2015
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Unknown

Fort Rouge Park ca. 1910 (Source)

The recently demolished property at 277 1/2  River was built as number 277 River around 1891 on what was a heavily wooded and very rural looking River Avenue. At the time, there were only eight properties between Clarke and Osborne streets.

The following year, the city’s first parks board bought the neighbouring 4.85 acres to create Assiniboine Park,  which was renamed Fort Rouge Park in 1905 when the current Assiniboine Park was developed. A couple of 1895 newspaper articles noted that it was an easy park to create, just a matter of clearing the underbrush and removing a few of the densely packed trees to create paths and a small lawn area in which gardens were planted.

In 1900 the lawn was enlarged and a bandstand built. For years to come, the park featured regular concerts, picnics and other events.

November 7, 1903, Winnipeg Tribune

As this home was tucked away in a leafy suburb of the city, its construction didn't get any attention in the daily papers, so it is unclear who built it and exactly when. It appears that 277 River initially was a single family home but likely had servants quarters at the rear that were sometimes rented out.

Though a streetcar service was in place as early as 1890 linking Main Street and Osborne, it would be another decade before residential development really took off as river lots were subdivided into hundreds of residential lots.

Margaret Brough, ca. 1930s 
August 18, 1892, Manitoba Free Press

Looking back through the Henderson Directories, the first resident of 277 River was Richard "Dick" Brough and family. He came to Winnipeg in the late 1880s as the assistant postal inspector for Manitoba. In 1886 he was promoted to assistant postmaster for the province, one of the highest paying civil service jobs in the region at $2,000 per year.

His wife, Margaret (nee Gentles), was originally from Moose Jaw and they raised at least two children. By 1895 they had moved to a home on Kennedy Street.

The next owner was lawyer William A. Taylor. In 1882 he was called to Manitoba Bar. The following year was elected secretary of the Law Society of Manitoba and was president of the Winnipeg Literary Club. In 1886 Taylor worked on the first editions of  the Manitoba Law Reports, the predecessor of the Manitoba Law Journal, and became librarian of the Law Society.

J. B. Allan, ca. 1920s

From 1903 to 1905 it was home to John B. Allan, his wife Margaret, their four children and presumably his mother, Mrs. M. Allan. Allan's father was a , whose father was a military man nd he followed in his footsteps, coming to Manitoba as part of the 1870 Wolseley Expedition. He then stayed as a member of the North West Mounted Police. 

Allan was a veteran of the U.S. Civil War, the Fenain Raids, the North West Rebellion and the Boer War, eventually attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He also served as an MLA in the 1880s.

January 4, 1908, Winnipeg Tribune

Around 1897, Allan inherited a large sum of money and went into the land business as president of the Canada West Land Company. In 1908 he sold his land holdings, which included tracts of Saskatchewan farm land, some houses on Osborne Street and "...another (residence) situated on River Avenue, valued at $16,000" to the First National Realty Company for more than $200,000. 

Soon after, he and his wife retired to British Columbia.
River Avenue, ca. 1910 (Source)

By this time, the neighbourhood was much more densely populated. The above image shows the view looking west from what would have been near the driveway entrance to 277 River. Moxam Court, foreground, was constructed in 1906- 1907 and the Congress Apartments, in the distance, opened in 1910.
Top: J B Henderson, ca. 1911 (source)
Bottom: December 30, 1908, Winnipeg Tribune

It seems that the president of First National Realty, James B. Henderson, couldn't help but scoop up the River Avenue property for himself. He allowed the current renter, Dr. Robert G Watson to remain until 1908, then he and his family moved in.

Henderson was a businessman from Carberry, Manitoba. In the 1890s he ran a general store there, established The Carberry News newspaper, was president of its first Board of Trade, served on its first municipal council and was elected as the town's second mayor. In 1902 he started a land company in Portage la Prairie and soon moved to Winnipeg, partnering to create the First National Realty Company.

He married Martha Riesberry in Harriston, Ontario before coming to Manitoba in the 1880s. Together, they had five daughters: Edna, Blanche, Ruby, Leila (Lillia?) and Stella, some were in their teenage years by the time they lived on River Avenue. (In one online genealogy site, it mentions a son, James Riesberry Henderson, but I can find no mention of him in newspapers or the Manitoba Vital Statistics database.)

One of J. B.'s big land deals involved  the subdivision of an estate in what is now Wolsleley and he named Ruby Avenue for his daughter.

December 8, 1908, Winnipeg Free Press

Mrs. Henderson entertained a great deal at the home for her daughters and church functions. In some newspaper notices it is referred to as "Eldersley Grove, River Avenue".

The Hendersons lived at 277 River until around 1922. During that time, there were often renters listed at the same address. This could have been their married daughters and their husbands getting their start, or staff, as one of the renters in 1920 is Charles Mitchell, chauffeur.

When the Henderson's left, it was briefly home to lawyer Alex J H Dubuc and his wife Yvonne, newlyweds from Montreal. From 1925 to 1927, it was home to Dr. and Mrs. Jasper Halpenny. He was an combination of land developer, professor and surgeon, previously a secretary and a president of the Manitoba Medical Association. He retired his medical practice in 1926.

Top: September 22, 1928, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: October 27, 1931, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1927 - 28 the property was purchased and redeveloped by the Mutual Mortgage Company. The Royal Oak Court apartments were built to the south of 277 River, facing River Avenue. It boasted "its own park" extending 500 feet down to the Assiniboine River.

The house at 277 was renamed Royal Court Annex and in September 1928 a $5,000 building permit was issued for renovations. It appears that it was formally divided into at least two suites, one having six or seven rooms, the other three.

The Henderson Directories would often refer to it as "277 – rear", though the legal address would become 277 ½.

November 1932 election ad, Winnipeg Tribune

The president of Mutual Mortgage and vice president of the construction firm that built Royal Oak Court, John Gunn and Sons, was Cecil H.  Gunn. Though the house became a rental property, Cecil and wife  Jean (nee Dingwall) were long term residents of the smaller suite 2.

Son of pioneer builder John Gunn, Cecil was born and raised in Stonewall, graduating from the University of Manitoba as an  engineer. One of his first jobs was with the Greater Winnipeg Water District and he was prominent in the construction of the Point du Bois Generating Station. During World War I he was wounded twice, receiving the Military Medal.

November 1935 election ad, Winnipeg Free Press

Gunn sat on dozens of boards and committees relating to business, sports and community issues. He was a president of the Winnipeg Builders Exchange and the Canadian Construction Association. In the early 1930s he was a city councillor and ran unsuccessfully in the 1935 mayoralty race.

Gunn fell ill in 1940 and was spending the summer at his Kenora cottage to recuperate when he died in July 1941 at the age of 46. His widow continued to live at suite 2 until the early 1950s.

 William Evanson

There was another prominent resident of 277 River at the same time as Gunn lived there, who also died in 1941.

The retired William Evanson was the City of Winnipeg’s Comptroller, sort of a chief financial officer, from 1913 to 1929. He also took a shot at the mayor’s chair, but lost. An avid curler, Evanson was honorary president of Manitoba Curling Association at the time of his death, in suite 1,  in 1941.

Evanson Street in Wolseley is named for him.

March 8, 1941, Winnipeg Tribune

The city's historic building overview report for Royal Oak Court notes that the building was sold in 1947. Given its proximity and the fact that the Royal Oak would lose access to its park and the annex would be landlocked, I assume that both were sold together.

The new owners were Sol Kanee and Aaron Bricker. Bricker, who lived on Elm Street, was the owner of United Garments, which took up the fifth floor of the Whitla Block on Arthur Street, now the Artspace Building.

Kanee was a lawyer with Shinbane Dorfman Kanee, a forerunner to Thompson Dorfman Sweatman, one of the city's largest law firms. He was also president of Kanee Grain Company, which later became Soo Lines Flour Mill. For his business acumen and his charitable work, he was named to the Order of Canada and is in the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame.

In the late 1960s it became home to the Kamienski family.

Jan Kamienski was a high school student when the Nazis invaded Poland. Jan as a member of the Polish Underground, began working at a film studio in Dresden, Germany, which allowed him access to BBC broadcasts and to see footage of Nazi campaigns and plans. 

After the war, he left Europe with his wife, arriving in Winnipeg in April 1949 with 35 cents in his pocket. The following day he found employment in an art studio. Within a few years, he had established Winnipeg's first animation studio and was a successful commercial artist and painter. (Kamienski's autobiography, Hidden in the Enemy's Sight: Resisting the Third Reich from Within was published in 1958).
Source: Dundurn Press

In the late 1950s he was the art critic for the Winnipeg Tribune and in 1958 became its editorial cartoonist. He drew over 7,000 images for the Tribune before its closure in 1980. In 1963 he won the Canadian National Newspaper Award and first prize at The International Salon of Caricature and Cartoon for his work.

In 1957 his father, Lucjan (Lucian) Kamienski visited his son and ended up settling in Winnipeg for a time. He was a Polish academic, author and composer.

 February 7, 1959, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1959 Oakton Manor was built to the north of the house. It was by the same owner as the other two properties as the caretaker for both Oakton Manor and Royal Oak Court lived in the annex, likely an additional basement suite that was added in the 1950s.

In subsequent years, the Annex did not appear in the papers very much, aside from the odd brief obituary and classified ad.


In summer 2015 the site is undergoing an extensive renovation, including the interiors of both Oakton Manor and Royal Oak Court. The Annex was torn down in mid-August 2015.

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)