Place: Fortune Block
Address: 232 Main Street
Architect: Willmot and Stewart
Contractor: Grant And Geeley
February 7, 1883, Manitoba Free Press
Real estate developer Mark Fortune built the Fortune Block in 1882. By the time it opened, however, he had already sold it to Alexander MacDonald, owner of a wholesale grocery business. MacDonald immediately had a twin building added to the south from which he ran his business and left the original block intact, even keeping the Fortune name.
Assorted Fortune Block early tenants
The Fortune Block was mixed-use with retail on the main floor and offices and residences above. It appears that the number of residences increased as the decades went by, though they were all gone by the 1970s.
A regular commercial feature of the early years was a meat shop. First run by the Holman Brothers until they were bought out by a local chain called Gibson Gage in 1904.
Offices were small and varied. Financial agents, personnel agencies, real estate offices (including Mark Fortune himself for a few years).
October 23, 1882, Manitoba Free Press
A notable early tenant was Dr. Lillian Yeomans, considered the first woman to practice medicine in Winnipeg. She graduated from Michigan State University medical school in 1882 midwifery and children's diseases. When she returned to Winnipeg, she set up an office in the Fortune Block. Her mother Amelia graduated from the same med school in 1883 and joined her daughter. In 1884 the two moved to a new location further south on Main.
In October 22, 1888 the "Manitoba Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb", forerunner to the Manitoba School for the Deaf, opened in the Fortune building. It was founded by American deaf education advocate James Watson and was soon joined by Duncan McDermid. The following year the school moved to temporary space in the Land Titles building then to its first permanent home at Sherbrook and Portage in 1890.
Commercial Hotel, Fortune Block ca 1926 (Source - p 51)
MacDonald relocated to larger premises in 1902 and sold the buildings to hotelier Samuel Spence who renovated the MacDonald portion into the Commercial Hotel but also left the Fortune Block portion as it was.
The retail stores came and went. Most didn't last more than a couple of years.
A new addition that came in the early 1920s was a café. Murphy's Café (1920's), Winnipeg Electric Lunch (1930s); Tourist Café (1940s - 52). Then it hit an industrial patch as a car parts shop and a floor covering contractor.
The building is best known today for another café.
Times Changed Café first appears in the newspaper on May 27, 1988. Marion Warhaft gave chef Richard Barrett and Bev Banks top marks for the specialty of the house: seafood. Barrett had owned a restaurant on Vancouver Island before coming to Winnipeg.
In her review, Warhaft noted that the café had live entertainment on weekends after 10 p.m.. That live entertainment would soon give the cafe a second personality as a top jazz and blues club.
A customer, then bartender, then manager of the club was John Scoles. He eventually bought the cafe and it reopened in January 2001 as the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club and broadened its musical mandate.
In June 2012 it was announced that the owner of the Fortune Block sold the building which has led to speculation that it may soon be torn down for a new development. The adjoining MacDonald Block is owned separately by Wayne Towns who also owns the neighboring Winnipeg Hotel.
Another downtown icon falls ? Free PressThe Year Past 2006 Historic Buildings Committee (pp 16 - 19)