Tuesday, December 11, 2012

133 Sherbrook Street - Melbourne Apartments

Melbourne Apartments

Place: Melbourne Court  / Melbourne Apartments
Address: 133 Sherbrook Street
Architect: Daniel Smith
Opened: 1910


December 31, 1910, Manitoba Free Press

The Melbourne Court, as it was called until about 1920, was built in 1910. The first "for rent" ads appeared in December of that year.

The modest block with nine suites (A to I) was designed by architect Daniel Smith. A native of Quebec, Smith worked for the federal Department of Public Works in Ottawa when in 1882 he was appointed the Superintendent of Public Works for all of Western Canada stationed in Winnipeg.

After overseeing much of the construction involved with opening the West, he retired in 1900 and went into private practice, sometimes with partner William Bruce at 261 Fort Street. Remaining works of theirs include the Northern Hotel at Main and Jarvis, the Mount Royal (Garrick) Hotel on Garry, St. Edward's School on Arlington and the Crump Block on Main Street.

Smith also served as a Winnipeg city alderman, Factory Inspector for the Province of Manitoba and president of the industrial Exhibition.

Melbourne Court appears to have been Smith's last work. He died at his home at 114 Balmoral Street on July 13, 1913 at the age of 74.

Melbourne Apartments

With its small suites and easy access to the streetcar line, the block attracted working class families. The first batch of tenants included: W. D. Harding - florist; Harry Keating - telegraph operator for the CPR; Fred Lindsay - HBC clerk and James Hitchen - letter carrier.  There was also the Cook family, Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Cook and their daughter Anna, who were all teachers at the Deaf and Dumb Institute.

World War II was especially tough on residents of the Melbourne. Throughout the war it had a large number of married female-headed households, likely wives staying there while their husbands served overseas. Whether this was a coincidence or a sympathetic building owner, is unclear. Three of them made news during that time.

September 21, 1942, Winnipeg Tribune (Source)

One was Thomas Plinkington. He worked in the stocks department of Richardson and Sons in Winnipeg until temporarily transferred to help set up their Vancouver branch. He arrived back in Winnipeg for Chritsmas 1937 and married fiancee Alice Dowing on December 30.

When war broke, he joined the R.C.A.F. and was sent overseas in 1941. Alice lived at suite F of the Melbourne.

While there, he was promoted numerous times, eventually attaining the rank of Wing Commander and being posted back at Ottawa. Soon after the war he and Alice left for Vancouver again, this time for good. He became the assistant general manager for B.C. and Alberta and eventually a partner in Richardson Securities. Plinkington was also president of the Vancouver Stock Exchange in. 1959 - 60. He died in 1973.

The news wasn't so good for Mrs. Irene Brown. Her husband, Basil Francis Brown, grew up in the West End attending Daniel McIntyre Collegiate and graduated from the U of M in 1932. On August 6, 1941 he both enlisted in the army and married Irene.

On  June 9, 1943 he was transferred overseas and one year to the day was severely wounded when his 3rd Canadian Division fought on the beaches of Normandy. His wife, living in suite E, was notified that he died two days later from his wounds. Basil Brown was 33 years old.

July 13, 1944, Winnipeg Tribune (Source)

There was also John Charles Tanner. He signed up for the RCAF in 1940 and the following year went overseas. In 1943 he returned and was attached to Eastern Command in Nova Scotia. He died when his plane went down off the coast of Labrador on July 6, 1944.

His wife Edna and young daughter Pamela lived at Suite E. (For more on Tanner.)

December 31, 1952, Winnipeg Free Press

The block appears to have had just one fire. On the afternoon of December 30, 1952 residents escaped a two alarm blaze that broke out in suite H at 4:25 p.m.. Everyone made it out alive and the fire was contained to the suite but water and smoke damage was extensive. The building, valued at $45k, sustained nearly $20k in damage.

Melbourne Apartments
Circa 2007

Fast forward to the 2000s and the Melbourne Apartments were in a state of disrepair, eventually boarded up around 2005. As the West Broadway neighbourhood improved, the West End BIZ increased pressure on the city to do something in 2011. The following year, slowly but surely, renovations began happening, (it is unclear if it was the existing owner or a new owner responsible for the work.)

The building is still closed.

My Melbourne Apartments photo album


  1. Just noticed this building a week ago,walking around downtown.Very informative post!

  2. They're doing full renovations right now! Gutting the place and restoring the whole building :)