Monday, January 10, 2011

320 Donald Street - The Saratoga / Surtees Building

Place: 318 (320) Donald Street - Saratoga / Surtees Building (Map)
Constructed: 1956 and 1978?
Size: 3 sotery, 35,247 sq ft (plus basement)

Piecing together the history of the 300 block of Donald street is difficult as much of it's early life is shared between what was is the Donalda Block at 310 Donald Street and buildings that were once at 314 - 320 Donald.

A constant at the location from 1906 to 1994 was was recreation. On October 4 1906 Saratoga Lanes opened at 314 Donald. In 1913 Stag Billiards, (that I believe once was on Main Street), opened a 45 table billiard hall. By 1949 it was known as the Gibson Recreation Building, (named for Charles Gibson, owner of Saratoga Lanes)

In the early 1950s this block of Donald was redeveloped. The Donalda Building opened in 1951 and the main floor became home to The Orchid Florists. The 'Gibson Recreation Building' or Saratoga Amusements Building was christened at 316 Donald Street. The new address appears to have been a combination of two existing buildings with retail to the south and the bowling lanes to the north.

April 16, 1966 (Source: Winnipeg Free Press)

The joined buildings were extensively rebuilt after an April 15, 1956 blaze gutted the lanes and destroyed an adjoining furrier and Fraser Artists' Supply.

Pay 'n Save to the left, ca. 1960 (source)

In 1956 new tenants moved into the rebuilt block. There was, of course, a new Saratoga Lanes and on the retail side a Pay 'n Save Drugs with a cafeteria and barber shop inside.

Saratoga Lanes had a prominent position during the Golden Era of ten pin bowling in Manitoba, 1955 - 1070s.

On December 12th 1978 much of the building was destroyed when fire started in a hydro panel at 6:30 a.m.. The bowling alley (which by then was a 24 hour, 30 lane facility), Pay 'n Save and the Safety Restaurant were all razed.

In 1980 Saratoga Lanes reopened in the basement level at '320 Donald'. Bernie Britton's Saratoga Lanes became Saratoga Amusements in the mid - late 80s as new owners took over. Saratoga continued in the space until 1993-94.

Above, on the retail and office end, appears to have sat empty until 1983 when a federal government department "Canada Core Area Employment and Counselling Centre" opened. Since that time the space has remained with the federal government as in 1989 it became a Canada Employment Centre and in the late 90s the Public Service Commission of Canada. It is the sole tenant of the building.

Surtees Building
In 1984 another fire caused about $80,000 in damage which, I believe, is when the facade of the building was refaced. I presume it is around that time the the building was "Dedicated in memory of my mother Maidie Surtees Ostrom" as per the plaque out front.

I could not find details on the Surtees' or of Maidie.

The building was recently up for sale noting that the empty bowling space still sits in the basement.


  1. I remember this housing "Donald Street Circus" a much loved predecessor to the Chuck E Cheese's of the world. Many of the games were on free play; I remember hours of playing "Ladybugs" a game similar to Pacman. I'll see if I can dig up some photos but if I had to hazard a guess, it would have been in business in about 1986.

    Years ago, I also remember Academy Lanes having some of the old wall decorations from Donald Street Circus up in their party rooms upstairs.

  2. So, I just spent some quality time digging through my box of old photos and sadly there seems to be no photographs of Donald Street Circus. For that matter, I have very few of photos from about 1987-1999 in general :( Sorry.

  3. This place has sad memories for me. My father had a fatal heart attack while bowling at Saratoga in December, 1974 and died in hospital a couple of weeks later. He was an avid five-pin bowler and tried (unsuccessfully) to indoctrinate me when I was a kid. He had been healthy all his life until he suffered two heart attacks 18 months apart. He spent the 18 months doing things he liked to do including bowling. I had to go here to pick up his snow boots and coat after his death.