Wednesday, March 8, 2023

815 Main Street - R. Bell Block

 © 2023, Christian Cassidy

Place: R. Bell Block
Address: 813 - 815 Main Street
Built: ca. 1901 and 1905
Architect: Unknown

Another Point Douglas building has been destroyed by fire. This time, it is the R. Bell Block at 813 - 815 Main Street that contained eight residential suites. Here's a look back at its early history.

813 Main Street section:

1904 Henderson's Directory of Winnipeg

The 813 (south) portion of this building first appears in the 1902 Henderson's Street Directory of Winnipeg, the data for which was likely compiled in 1901. The first owner was Richard J. Bell who came to Winnipeg in 1877 from his native Ontario. He was a baker by trade and opened his first bakery soon after arriving.

Bell's new bakery opened on the main floor and his family, Mrs. Bell, daughters Clara and Viola, and sons Wilfred and Richard (Dick), lived upstairs.

The bakery was a small enterprise and did not advertise. Bell is only mentioned a couple of times in passing in newspapers. Once was in a 1911 ad by Knowles School for Boys thanking a list of retailers for donations to one of their events. The second was during a 1913 bakery strike that noted Bell had one employee who walked out.

Clara and Viola Bell, neither of whom married, both worked as clerks at the bakery. Clara began offering music lessons from the suite above the shop in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Bell continued to operate the bakery until he fell ill the year before his death in 1939. The bakery closed and the Bell daughters moved in with brother Dick in West Kildonan.

September 7, 1950, The Jewish Post

The store was used as a returning office for the 1940 federal election and in 1941 reopened as Mrs. Pauline Schwartz's grocery store. She lived above the store along with Michael Schwartz, an employee at a plumbing business and not part of her immediate family, and her daughters Carol and Esther. Also living with them was Mary Humberstone, a clerk at the store.

By 1947, the store was run by Max and Pauline Schwartz. Max was her husband and likely absent due to involvement in the Second World War.

Schwartz Grocery and Confectionery lasted until about 1953 and the retail unit appears to have sat empty for a couple of years.

Jacob Kalen's Expert Shoe Manufacturing Company moved in around 1956. It relocated to 805 Main Street in 1961. It was around this time that the suites upstairs were subdivided into smaller units.

It then became The Sport Shop offering a wide range of sporting goods from golf clubs to SCUBA gear. The shop was owned by W. Woytowich and R. Dumka.

By 1973, it was home to the Economy Furniture Store.

Newspaper mentions of the address disappear in the mid-1970s.

815 Main Street Section:

December 16, 1905, Winnipeg Tribune

Richard Bell received a building permit in 1905 to construct a matching building to the north of 813 Main Street.

It became home to the North End Music Store which was a branch of Turner's Music House at 253 Portage Avenue. Turner dealt in phonographs and was the local agent for many musical instrument companies. The suite above 815 was initially inhabited by William Cuthbert, music teacher.

Adolph Kaplan took over the retail unit around 1907. A watchmaker by trade, he changed it to a jewellery store though continued to sell gramophone machines and records. Kaplan, his wife Rose, and their (at least) six children lived above the store. 

Kaplan relocated across the street to 814 Main Street in 1919.

October 9, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

Mike Katzelovitz ran a second-hand store for about a year before Jacob Dollar's tailor shop called it home from 1926 to 1929.

The store appears to have sat empty through much of the Depression.

July 5, 1982, Winnipeg Free Press

Peter Kozlowski opened Pete's shoe-making and repair shop in 1937. 

Both Peter and his wife Tessie were born in Western Ukraine. They met in Winnipeg in 1932 and got married. Unlike some previous store owners, they lived off-site at 150 Selkirk Avenue where they raised their daughter Jean.

Peter ran his store from 1937 to 1981. He died in 1984 and Tessie died in 2004.

Entire Block:

The building was expanded in 1912, likely an addition to the rear.

This is not the only fire at the building. In April 1956, twelve people were driven out of their suites when a fire started in the basement. One man was removed from the second-floor window by ladder and brought to hospital with smoke inhalation. The fire was contained to the basement.

Over time, the two upstairs suites became six residential units. The owner applied to the city in 2012 to convert the two retail spaces into additional residential units bringing the total to eight.

The building was for sale when the fire occurred. It was completely destroyed and will be demolished.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

187 Garry Street - LaClaire Hall / Windsor Hotel

© 2023, Christian Cassidy

Place: LaClaire Hall / Windsor Hotel
Address: 187 Garry Street
Constructed: 1903-04
Architect: Unknown

This building opened in 1904 as LaClaire Hall, a middle-class boarding house, and soon transitioned into the LaClaire hotel. Its name was changed to the Windsor Hotel in 1928. In February 2023 it is in the process of being sold and the remaining residents have until April to leave.

That's round 25 people who will unfortunately have to find a new home in a segment of the market that has lost thousands of units in just the last few years.

Here's a look back at one of the few remaining downtown single room occupancy hotels.

Forrester ca. 1920

The man who funded the construction of LaClaire Hall was businessman Charles Henry Forrester. Born in Ontario, Forrester came to Winnipeg in 1899 with his wife Celia and at least two children. One was a daughter named Claire, which is how LaClaire got its name.

Forrester had various business interests and in 1900 added to them by buying a hotel in Whitemouth, Manitoba and the Tremont Hotel at 268 Fort Street in Winnipeg. He and a business partner by the last name of Carroll, (perhaps Edward Carroll who owned he Dominion Hotel), received a building permit for LaClaire Hall in 1903.

A Tribune reporter visited the building in its latter stages of construction in March 1904 and described it as four storeys with basement measuring 100-feet deep by about 50-feet wide. Both Mr. And Mrs. Forrester oversaw the interior decor. "The finest" carpets were ordered from the Hudson's Bay Company and attention was paid to every light fixture and piece of linen.

Each floor had a spacious balcony and Mr. Forrester had plans to install a large summer garden on the roof for guests. As with most hotels at that time, there were no en suite bathrooms but baths and toilets were provided on every floor.

The basement was reserved for mechanical, luggage storage and a large kitchen that would initially be run by Jules Gondial and Co. of the Fort Garry Cafe.

The reporter did not mention how many rooms were in the building, but it spoke of spacious "suites" on each floor with just a handful of rooms for shorter term guests.

April 19, 1904 Morning Telegram

LaClaire Hall began advertising for kitchen and dining room staff in April 1904 and the residence first appears in the 1905 Henderson's street directory, the data for which would have been compiled in 1904.

The directory lists at least a dozen residents, likely just the longer-term ones, many of whom were from occupations one would expect to find in a boarding house, such as travelling salesmen and railway employees. Ads can also be found for doctors and other professionals using the LaClaire as temporary lodgings until they found a permanent residence.

Here is a partial list of residents from 1904. Note that only the head of household is listed, so there could be spouses and even children in some of the suites:

Grace Fuller - milliner;
William Galbraith - clerk at Carruthers Johnson and Bradley dry goods store;
Hugh Wilson - furrier;
J. Gilbert - clerk at Great West Life;
Henry Holman - travelling salesman;
Morgan Williams - agent for New York Life Assurance Company;
Robtert Taylor - manager at the wholesale department of the HBC;
James Munro - HBC store employee;
John McPherson - paymaster at the CPR;
David W F Nichol - draughtsman for J.H.G. Russel architect;
John  P. O'Leary - building inspector for the CPR.

A sign that it was a quality house is that Forrester himself moved in with his family when it opened. They moved to a new house across the street at 216 Garry Street in December 1905.

May 10, 1906, Winnipeg Free Press

According to street directories, in 1905 LaClaire Hall consisted of two buildings - LaClaire boarding house at 187 Garry Street and the LaClaire Annex at 191 Garry Street. The annex was a separate  rooming / boarding house that existed at 191 Garry since at least 1902 that must have been purchased by Forrester or the next owner for additional capacity.

An ad that ran in 1905 after its conversion into a hotel notes that the LaClaire had 75 rooms which likely means that the annex had many of them, (even today, after being whittled down into single room occupancy hotel rooms, the main hotel building only has around 45 rooms.)

To get a sense of the size of the common spaces inside the main boarding house, in February 1905 the Forresters had an open house for up to 200 friends and colleagues. The Winnipeg Tribune society page noted that the entertainment largely took place in a couple of reception rooms and the "capacious dining hall." This "at home" reception was so popular that it became a regular event for the next year or two where management and guests welcomed their friends for an evening of music, cards and other entertainment.

October 5, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

By the time the LaClaire opened Charles Forrester was already expanding his business empire. He started the Forrester Piano Company which was the local sales and repair outlet of the Oshawa-based R. S. Williams and Sons Piano Co. and then began to dabble in real estate. In 1906, he opened a real estate office in the Canada Life building and was part of several lucrative downtown land deals.

Operating a boarding house was something he was no longer interested in doing and in June 1905 he sold the business to John "Jack" Eggo, a former chief clerk with the CPR who fronted a group of investors called the LaClaire Hotel Company.

The investors would go on to build the build the Wellington Hotel further north on Garry Street and took over the neighbouring Mount Royal Hotel (now known as the Garrick) when its owners went bankrupt in 1908. Eggo became well-known in local business circles.

Despite being in his early forties, Eggo enlisted on September 14, 1915 and was killed in action one year later at the age of 43.

November 21, 1905, Winnipeg Tribune

Eggo and partners wasted little time with their plan to convert the building from a boarding house into a hotel. At the time they purchased the business they already had a five-year lease agreement with Olaf N. A. Miller to run it.

Miller had worked for the hotel system of the Santa Fe Railroad Co. before coming to Canada to work for the CPR dining car and hotel department. He was the manager of the Banff National Park hot springs resort when it first opened.

LaClaire Hall was "renovated and refurbished" and reopened as the LaClaire Hotel in November 1905.
One write-up said that it contained 75 rooms and a large dining room. (The annex side must have been large as the current Windsor Hotel only has 44 rooms.)

One thing the new hotel didn't have was a public bar. This was due to the provincial government restricting the number of liquor licenses given out in the downtown at the time.

The name LaClaire Hall didn't disappear completely. Without a liquor licence to fill a bar, the annex was converted into a 'bachelors residence' that carried on under the LaClaire Hall name until around 1909 when a liquor permit was finally sorted.

November 20, 1912, Winnipeg Tribune

Gilbert Todd, a former manager of the Empire Hotel, and John Lee, a co-owner of the St. Regis Hotel, bought the LaClaire Hotel in 1912. The building underwent extensive interior renovations and redecorating. This included guest rooms receiving new furniture, hot and cold running water, and telephones.

The refurbished hotel re-opened in November 1912, just in time for one of the worst periods for hoteliers in the city's history. Western Canada fell into a recession in 1913 that saw grain prices and Winnipeg land values plummet. Then, World War I put a halt to most leisure travel across the country.

Charles Chaplin, ca. 1912 (University of Washington Library)

It was into this newly renovated hotel that the LaClaire received its most famous guest.

A young actor named Charles Chaplin was in town in August 1913 as part of a Karno's touring British vaudeville that performed at the Empress Theatre on Portage Avenue East. His stay at the LaClaire has been immortalized thanks to a ten-page latter he wrote to is brother on hotel letterhead that was preserved by the Chaplin family archives. (More about Chaplin's time in Winnipeg, including at the LaClaire Hotel, at this post on my West End Dumplings blog!)

The city's railway hotels fared better during this period of curtailed travel as they had a steady flow of passengers that could be funnelled into their rooms but independent hotels struggled. Some went bust, most notably the Olympia Hotel which reopened after the war as the Marlborough Hotel. Todd and Lee suffered the same fate as the LaClaire Hotel was seized by creditors and auctioned off in May 1915.

September 20, 1915, Winnipeg Tribune

The LaClaire was advertising again in September 1915 but under the "furnished rooms for rent" section of the paper, not the hotel section.

It boasted a "home-like hotel" with monthly room rates ranging from $10 to $16 and the option of buying a meal plan in its cafe. It is clear that the new owner(s) thought there was a better chance to make money with the LaClaire as a boarding house / apartment block than as a short-term stay hotel.

The LaClaire did not advertise in late 1915 or through 1916 but it was operating as a couple of soldiers who enlisted in 1916 used it as their home address.

May 23, 1922, Winnipeg Tribune

Another blow for local hoteliers was Prohibition which made the sale of alcohol illegal in Manitoba between 1916 and 1923.

Many smaller hotels, which relied more heavily on bar sales to pay the bills, ran into financial difficulty. Some closed or were taken over by creditors while others tried to make a go of it with a "dry bar" serving soft drinks. A few decided to take their chances and sell alcohol illegally.

The LaClaire seems to have played it safe during Prohibition. It only appears in newspapers once, in May 1922, for breaching the law when its bar manager was fined for selling "strong beer".

With its 75 rooms and a restaurant to bring in revenue, the LaClaire muddled through the Prohibition era but it took several owners and managers to make a go of it.

September 12, 1919, Winnipeg Tribune

Advertising resumed for the LaClaire in the hotel section of the newspapers in January 1917 under M. T. W. Lloyd. The one sentence classified ads notes that daily, weekly and monthly room rates were available.

Jim Jeffrey, formerly of the Mercantile Hotel in Portage la Prairie and a vice president of the Manitoba Hoteliers Association, took over the hotel in August 1918. The following August, while vacationing with his family at their cabin at Grand Beach, he died in his sleep at the age of 53.

Peter A. Moyer, who ran the nearby Winnipeg Hotel, bought the LaClaire from the Jeffrey family and in September 1919 began advertising it as a family hotel with a refurbished dining room. A sign that he tried to make the place more upscale was the jump in rates. In some of Lloyd's ads the daily rate for the hotel was "fifty cents and up" and under Moyer the daily rate was $2.50.

By November, Moyer was advertising a nightly Supper Dance in the hotel's "spacious and attractively decorated dining-room" promising an excellent floor, good music and the best of refreshments and drinks. The dances lasted just a few weeks.

Moyer's name disappears from the hotel's ads by 1921 and a 1926 ad shows that daily rates had dropped to "$1 and up" for a nightly stay. It is hard to tell if he sold the hotel or perhaps just leased it to someone else to operate which was a common practice for hoteliers with multiple properties.

September 14, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

The Windsor Hotel Company was established in May 1928 and applied for a liquor permit for the hotel in advance of purchasing it. The president of the company was Joshua B. Gray of the Tourist Hotel in St. Boniface and the hotel manger was John MacHale.

The company is said to have spent $100,000 to renovate the building inside and out before reopening in September. The renovations included knocking down the old annex and constructing an "all brick building to be used as a beer parlour."

What is interesting about Joshua B. Gray getting a hotel license is his track record as a hotelier. From 1921 to 1924 he was the owner of the Wolseley (now Mount Royal) Hotel, the Garrick Hotel, the Corona Hotel and part-owner of the Sherman Hotel. (Some of the hotel interests he inherited after the death of his father in 1922).

In 1923, Gray paid an eye-watering $3,500 in fines for serving alcohol during Prohibition at the Garrick Hotel. In 1924, another raid at the Garrick found 50 people openly drinking and the patrons, bar staff and Gray were all arrested. While Gray was out on appeal there were more infractions and he would eventually serve three months in jail.

Normally, hotel owners got around such fines and jail time by leasing out their bar to someone else to run even if they were still in charge of things. In the case of Gray, it seems that the drinking was so flagrant that officials felt he knew about it and approved of it.

Gray was later charged with running a betting house at the Tourist Hotel in 1927. It seems the betting carried over to the Windsor as well as Gray and his company sued Louis Silverman, ("Winnipeg's biggest bookmaker" according to a Tribune story), for $6,024 he/the hotel lent Silverman to cover loses he made on a series of horse racing bets.

Gray sold the hotel in 1938 and died on February 1, 1941.

June 4, 1962, Winnipeg Tribune

Syd Wainwright took over the operation of the hotel in December 1938. He was a long-time employee of Drewry's Brewery and knew the hotel business from a salesman's point of view.

Extensive renovations were made to make the dining room into a banquet area with the hopes of attracting sports clubs and fraternal organizations wanting to hold luncheons and dinners.

Fred Sneesby was the manger in 1942.

The Windsor ca. 1950 (Full version: Manitoba Historical Maps)

As the 1950s came, small downtown hotels like the Windsor began to lose out to new-style motels and motor inns located on the periphery of downtown and in the suburbs. These increasingly became the go-to places for wedding socials, sports banquets, and social club luncheons.

Reporting on the goings on at these old hotels, including changes in ownership and management, became less newsworthy and when they did make the news the manager or spokesperson for the business that owned the hotel was often anonymous.

Modern high-rise hotels found their way downtown in the early 1970s. The Winnipeg Inn (now Fairmont) opened in 1970, the Northstar Inn (now Radisson) in 1971, and the Holiday Inn (now Delta) in 1974. This pushed these old hotels to the periphery of the hotel market with their tiny, single room occupancy rooms, no parking, and dated beverage rooms and banquet facilities.

August 10, 1967, Swan Valley Star and Times

Gerry and Anne Ayotte of Swan River owned both the Cambridge Hotel and Windsor Hotel in the late 1960s. A couple of 1969 ads in the Free Press announced that the Windsor was under "New Ownership" but didn't state who that new owner was.

Rick Penner bought the hotel in the 1970s and the beverage room regularly featured live music as required by hotel beverage room liquor licenses at the time. Early in the decade exotic dancers were also part of the mix and by the end of the decade a weekly disco dance party was a fixture.

In 1987, live music again took centre stage at the beverage room and in the 1990s it had a distinctive blues flavour.

Ads show Zora Young and her Chicago Blues Posse played there in 1993, Blues artist JP Lepage had a CD release show there in 1997, Blues guitarist Little Sue Foley came in 1998, Louisiana Red in 1999. Local Blues legend Big Dave MacLean was a regular feature through the 1990s and early 2000s.

In a Free Press interview in the 2000s, Penner said that during his tenure the Windsor's stage had been "graced by almost every significant blues act in Canada and the U.S.."

Penner sold the hotel to business partner Isaac Leger around 2004. He requested that the building be considered for possible "historic building" status with the city but the status was declined. He sold it in 2008.

The Windsor was up for sale by late 2009. Rumours of its demolition sparked a rally outside the building in January 2010 to try to help save the beloved, low-cost music venue.

Wayne Towns purchased the hotel in March 2010. Given his track record with his former establishment, the Royal Albert Hotel on Albert Street, live music was again assured to take centre stage. A 'welcome back' concert was held in April featuring Big Dave MacLean and Blues band Rumblefish.

In more recent years, the stage became an important one for the local punk and metal scene but the hotel had become much more dangerous. After a shooting at the hotel in early January 2020, a show called "One last showdown at the Windsor" was held later that month to mark the closing of the music venue portion of the building.

It was announced in February 2023 that the Windsor Hotel was in the process of being sold as a redevelopment property and the twenty-five or so remaining tenants have until the end of April to leave.

This has concerned many housing advocates as residential opportunities available for those on the lower rungs of the housing ladder, be it SRO hotel rooms, rooming house beds, or public housing units, has been in sharp decline in recent years.

Friday, February 3, 2023

1545 Main Street - Salisbury House

© 2023, Christian Cassidy

Image courtesy of Bryan Scott

Place: Former Salisbury House Restaurant
Address: 1545 Main Street (Map)
Constructed: 1962
Contractor: Unknown  

The last of the 'old school' Salisbury House restaurants at 1545 Main Street at Matheson Avenue has been put up for sale. Though the building dates back to 1962, the presence of a coffee shop and restaurant at this intersection goes back much further.  

September 25, 1952, The Jewish Post

The first restaurant to open at this corner was Le Chateau lunch counter. A $2,000 building permit was issued for a single-storey, 16-foot x 30-foot building in October 1938.

Street directories show that the owner was John Reid of 398 Redwood Avenue with Stephie Dronyk of Magnus Avenue and Mary Bayer, a lodger at 398 Redwood, the waitresses.  

A number of changes took place at the restaurant in the early 1940s which could indicate that Reid was involved in the war effort.

In 1942, Isidore Gilman of 453 Pritchard is listed as the proprietor and the following year Mrs. John Reid (née Nancy Hanson) is the proprietor. Mrs. Reid gave birth to a baby girl in August 1944 and in August John Reid took out "for sale" ads in the Free Press for a "prosperous snack shop" at 1545 Main Street.

October 25, 1956, The Jewish Post

The restaurant was sold and the line of short-term proprietors continued.

Mrs. Helen Richards of 186 Rupertsland Avenue owned the business in 1945. Her employees included Harry E Richards of 599 Young Street an Harry L Richards of 186 Ruperstland.

By 1947, it was run by Ruben Cohen, then Peter and Esther Halayko of Scotia Street in 1952.

The last couple of proprietors were women. Mrs. Anne Kaptain from about 1955 to 1958 and Mrs. Lena
Rohatensky from 1959 to 1960.

The business then disappears from street directories. It is unclear what happened to the building.

April 19, 1966, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1962 a building permit was issued to Salisbury House for the construction of a new restaurant building on the site taht included parking and a full basement. It would be the company's 18th location in Winnipeg if you include drive-ins and the snack bar at the bus terminal.

There were no "grand opening" ads for the restaurant so it is unclear what date it opened. The first manager was Charles Turnley who was a 15-year veteran of the company.

Starting in April 1964, help wanted ads for the company listed this location as being home to its personnel office and training centre.

Despite the restaurant's small size, it boasted a small "banquet room" for community meetings. Some groups that used it in the 1960s include the Canadian Press Club's 1966 AGM and the Garden City Chapter of B'Nai Brith Women.

January 30, 1965, Winnipeg Tribune

Given its prime location and 24-hour service, the restaurant became a hangout for many notable North Enders.

Burton Cummings wrote in a Facebook post: "North End Sals…Matheson and Main...still the very same as it was when we had the Deverons going. Edd Smith and I went here after countless Deveron dances because he and I both lived only minutes away. Countless nights spent in and around this place. It was our teenage 'Diner', just like the movie. Indelible memories."

When Monty Hall returned to Winnipeg in April 2008 for a Variety Club 30th anniversary gala dinner, he did a 'meet and greet' at the Main and Matheson Salisbury House.

June 20, 2009, Winnipeg Free Press

Salisbury House was noted for its many staff members who worked for teh company for decades. Pat Diseigne worked at the Main and Matheson location from 1974 to 2009. You can hear her reminiscences about the job and serving regulars like Bobby Hull, Gary Doer, and Burton Cummings at this audio clip at PastForward.

The restaurant appears to have been a special place for company president Earl Barish as well. Through the 2000s, as many of what it called its "cafeteria style" restaurants closed in favour of family restaurants, Main and Matheson continued on.

When their oldest location at the time, the circa 1955 Pembina Highway and Stafford Street, was replaced by a new restaurant building in 2012, Barish noted that the site was one of the top three "nostalgia wise" for the chain. The others were Ellice Avenue and Roseberry Street (now closed) and Main Street at Matheson Avenue.

In 2013, eight of the company's smaller restaurants, including Main and Matheson, were converted to "Sals Xpress" locations with a more limited menu than the family restaurants and a focus on take-out service.

Even as late as 2016, with this location one of the last of a bygone era, Barish told a Free Press reporter, "The Main and Matheson location we'll never change, though. That would be a mistake. It's a neighbourhood kind of thing."

In late January 2023 the building was listed for sale.

The Realtor's write-up notes that the building is "non-complaint" due to its washrooms being in the basement and is "Priced for quick sale with no chance of rezoning condition" and the land suitable for a multi-family residential building.

Sadly, there is no future for this neighbourhood landmark.

Salisbury House History -

Friday, January 20, 2023

And then there were none: Downtown Winnipeg loses its last cinema

 © 2023, Christian Cassidy

Very sad news that the Towne Cinema 8, which closed in July 2022, will not reopen. It was the last cinema in downtown Winnipeg.

For more about the history of downtown cinemas, read And then there were none at West End Dumplings and my Winnipeg Places blog posts about the history of these downtown cinemas: Towne Cinema 8, Garrick Cinema, Northstar Hotel and Cinemas, Walker Theatre/Odeon Cinema, Metropolitan Theatre.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

90 Gertie Street - Frontenac / Rizal Apartments (R.I.P.)

© 2023, Christian Cassidy

90 Gertie in 2015 (Google Street View)

Place: Frontenac / Rizal Apartments
Address: 90 Gertie Street (Map)
Constructed: 1906
Architect: Herbert Bell Rugh

June 9, 1906 Morning Telegram

Architect Herbert R. Rugh was granted a $30,000 building permit for this twelve-unit apartment block at 90 Gertie Street near McDermot Avenue in June 1906. The Frontenac was a very early example of a "three-storey walk-up" residential block that by the end of the decade would pop up all around the city.

Rugh described the building as "thoroughly modern" with cut stone and brick as building materials. It featured ornamental stone trim around the front entrance and a decorative parapet. This was, in part, to help fight the negative connotation that many apartment blocks had.

To this point in the city's history, most apartments were considered to be "tenement blocks" that were were cheaply built and intended to house the city's poorest people in the smallest amount of space possible. Large families or groups of immigrant labourers might share just two or three rooms with one or two windows that offered little ventilation or natural light. (For a glimpse inside tenement blocks in a North American city, check out these photos from New York City.)

Entrance to Frontenac ca. 1976 (Winnipeg Building Index)

Rugh came to Winnipeg from the U.S. and practised here for about a decade from (1905 to 1914) before enlisting. When he war was over, he returned to the U.S.. In his short time here he was responsible for the design of dozens of building, including a number of early apartment blocks aimed at the middle class such as the Boniveens Block on Spence Street.

Some of Rugh's best-known works include the Fairchild Building on Princess Street (with John Atchison) and a significant remodelling of the Inglis Block on Garry Street that gave it its ornamental terra cotta facade. According to Peterson, he was the Winnipeg representative Montreal architects Ross and MacFarlane and was the supervising architect for the Fort Garry Hotel.

February 15, 1907, Winnipeg Free Press

The Frontenac Apartments opened in February 1907 featuring furnished and unfurnished apartments for rent. It was rebranded the Rizal Apartments around 1980.

In the early morning of January 17, 2023, the building suffered a major fire (also see) and had to be demolished. Nobody was living in the block at the time.

Frontenac Apartments Winnipeg Building Index
90 Gertie Street City of Winnipeg Historic Building Report

Monday, January 9, 2023

157 Scott Street - Grocery Store

© 2022, Christian Cassidy

It is nice to hear that the store at 157 Scott Street is going to be rebuilt. It has been a neighbourhood institution for more than a century!

The first entry for this property comes in the 1914 Henderson's Street Directory, which would have been compiled in 1913, as Keller and Whitfield Grocery. The following year, it was owned by Ross Abraham who lived in the residence behind. It had new owners in 1915 (Robert Hamilton of Wardlaw Avenue) and again in 1917 (George Rutherford of Stradbrook Street).

July 24, 1934, Winnipeg Free Press

Stability finally came with Norman MacLean and family in 1919.

Maclean came to Canada from his native Scotland around age 30 in 1917. Initially, he and wife Margaret lived in the residential portion of the building but in 1929 moved to 363 Wardlaw Avenue as their family grew to seven children. (This is the house that backs onto the store property.)

Under MacLean, the business was a full-service grocery store with the "MacLean Grocery" name appearing with dozens of other grocers under ads for specific brands of ham, butter, etc..

September 22, 1937, Winnipeg Free Press

Changes took place at the business in 1937 with items such as a stove and car being sold off in classified ads. Then, in September, "for rent" ads for a retail space with living quarters above “for any line except groceries” ran in the Free Press.

It appears that the grocery store closed for a couple of years and when it reopened it wasn't under McLean. Street directories show that MacLean continued to live on Wardlaw but no place of work is listed for him. He appears in the 1951 directory as retired.

This is speculation, but it could be that MacLean, who would have only been around 50-years-old in 1937, became ill. This caused him to temporarily close the store but the retail and residential spaces were both subdivided to continue to bring in income.

The family continued to live at the neighbouring house on Wardlaw for many decades, so it could be that for a time that they owned the building and leased it out.

June 20, 1945, Winnipeg Free Press

The MacLeans faced tragedy when their son, Flight Officer Norman John MacLean, was killed in June 1945. He graduated from flight school in early 1943 and served overseas before being assigned to CFB Moose Jaw. He was killed when the plane he was flying in broke up near the base.

Norman Sr. died at Victoria Hospital in February 1977 at the age of 90. His obituary mentions that "he had been in the grocery business for many years."

Mike Chizda. Source: Free Press Passages

The extra retail space at 157 Scott Street was initially a tailor shop, then a shoemaker's workshop. A grocery store reappeared around 1942 with Jack Lomow in charge who named the store Fairway Grocery. Both he and Frank Chudy of the shoe repair shop also lived there.

The next long-term owner of Fairway Grocery was Mike Chizda from around 1955 to at least 1970. Under Chizda there was no longer a second retail tenant.

Chizda's early life was shaped by war. He was born during the first World War while his father was away fighting and by the end of the Second World War he was he only surviving member of his immediate family.

In 1948, Chizda came to Winnipeg to start a new life. He worked as a tailor before buying the grocery store and marrying Dorina. The couple had four children and lived in the attached residence.

Chizda eventually bought a hotel and ran it before retiring to Nova Scotia where he died in 2017.

More recent owners are harder to piece together given that street directories trailed off in the 1980s and starting in the late 1970s, newspapers rarely reported a store's name or store owner's name in news coverage. (If you know of more recent owners, please let me know!

Tragedy struck the business, then called E-Mart, in August 2021 when a late night arson attack killed 60-year-old owner Jung Ja Shin. Her son, who also lived above the store, escaped.

Jung Ja Shin came to Canada from her native China in 1987. Neither news coverage nor her obituary mention when she took over the store, though a photo from June 2014 Google Street View shows an "under new management" sign on the front of the building. Her death prompted an outpouring of emotion for the much-liked business owner.

Hae-Kyung (Heather) Shin, Jung's sister-in-law, owns the building and applied in September 2022 to have the fees waived for the rebuilding of the store. Final approval was given in January 2023.

Friday, January 6, 2023

51 Roslyn Road - Saigon Apartments (R.I.P.)

© 2023, Christian Cassidy

Place: Saigon Apartments
Address: 51 Roslyn Road
Constructed: 1952
Demolished: 2023
Architect: Fred Lount

One of the city's first modern-era apartment blocks is set to be demolished. Saigon Apartments on Roslyn Road was a luxury block designed and built in 1951 - 52 by Frank R. Lount who also designed the Winnipeg Clinic on St. Mary Avenue.

Lount ca. 1946 Source: Canadian Home Builders Association)

A $110,000 building permit was issued for Saigon Apartments in October 1951 to William D. Lount. The architect was his father, Frank R. Lount (also see), who came to Winnipeg from Ontario in 1921 and became a housing contractor under company names Frank R. Lount and later F. R. Lount and Son. 

Though the Depression caused many Winnipeg families to lose their fortunes, F. R. Lount saw an opportunity. He designed and built over a dozen exclusive homes between 1929 and 1939 on streets like Wellington Crescent, Elm Park Crescent, Grenfell Boulevard, Girton Boulevard, Fulham Avenue, Park Boulevard and Handsart Boulevard. One of these homes, 1021 Wellington Crescent, Lount continued to own in to the 1940s and leased it out.

By the time new post-war neighbourhoods began to spring up in the suburbs around Winnipeg, Lount was a leading residential builder. In Silver Heights alone, the company designed and built the 136-suite Silver Heights Towers on Portage Avenue, one of the largest apartments ever constructed in the Winnipeg area, and around 300 houses.

The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation says Lount "had a profound influence on the look and growth of Winnipeg, creating some of the city’s most significant neighbourhoods and distinctive landmarks." His most famous building is likely the Winnipeg Clinic on St. Mary Avenue (1942).

 The Lount Corporation still bears his name today and specializes in apartment buildings.

November 20, 1951, Winnipeg Free Press

Saigon Apartments turned heads in the early stages of construction as it was the first building in Canada to use the "Youtz-Slick Lift Slab" method patented by two American architects in 1948.

In lift-slab construction, the base slab is poured and columns for the upper floors are erected. Each new floor and the roof deck is also poured at base level and when dried is lifted into place using hydraulic jacks. This saved a great deal of time, and therefore cost, over traditional building methods.

A crowd of engineers and architects showed up in the first week of December to see the second floor slab lifted into place.

April 28, 1962, Winnipeg Tribune

Saigon Apartments was comprised of 24 units and though they were on the small side, the building had luxury features such as fully-furnished suites, maid service, a swimming pool, free laundry facilities and a paved parking lot with plugs.

With its expansive windows in each unit and a glass wall illuminating the main staircase, Saigon Apartments was a far cry from the dark, amenity-free, World War I-era residential blocks that dominated Winnipeg's apartment market.

By May 1952, the building was in its final stages of construction and excavation work began on the next Lount building, the much larger Silver Heights Towers on Portage Avenue. it was also constructed using the lift-slab method.

There does not appear to have been a grand opening or large-scale "for rent" ads to signal the completion of Saigon Apartments. The 1953 street directory, which would have been compiled in 1952, shows every suite was full.

A number of residents provided no occupation which suggests they may have been retirees. Those who did provide occupations show that the Higher-end amenities coupled with the small suite size meant that it wasn't a building for the super rich:

Suite 3 - J. W. Jones, building manger, and wife Winifred.
Suite 4 - Laurie Dusang, manager of Kaufman Rubber Co.
Suite 5 - Nancy Henderson, stenographer at MacKevlies Ltd.
Suite 7 - George Boyes, assistant professor at U of M, with wife Mildred.
Suite 10 - Beverlee Gyles, bookkeeper at D. Currie and Co.
Suite 12 - Olga Fedak, clerk to the U.S. Consulate General.
Suite 12 - Neil H. Scott, branch manager of Prudential Assurance Co.
Suite 14 - Thomas Dumbleton, resident engineer at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
Suite 14 - Mrs. Mary Dumbleton, stenographer at Fraser Construction.
Suite 15 - D. W. Behan, passenger and freight agent for Burlington Route rail line.
Suite 17 - David Ehlrich, owner of Ehlrich David and Co. Furniture Mfg, and wife Grace.
Suite 20 - June Campbell, saleslady at Stewart Electric Co.

November 27, 1975, Winnipeg Tribune

The building appears to have had a quiet existence with the exception of a late November 1975 fire that burned two suites and sent four people to hospital, two of them in critical condition. Newspapers didn't follow up as to the cause of the fire or recovery of the victims.

Interestingly, the block advertised fully furnished suites for rent, not that common in Winnipeg, until 2008 when it stopped using classified ads.

April 14, 1962, Winnipeg Tribune

In March 2022, an application was made by owner Atlas Acceptance Corporation of Winnipeg to rezone the property to allow for its demolition and the construction of a new 80-unit residential block.  In the end, approval was granted for a six-storey, 66-unit multi-family residential dwelling with 51 parking stalls contained underground and within the building in a two-level parkade.

The building was boarded up in June 2022 and on January 5, 2023, the applicant, H5 Architecture Inc., was granted permission to demolish it despite there not being a building permit in place for the new block.