Tuesday, April 2, 2013

583 Ellice Avenue - The John Howard Society Building

John Howard Society Building
Place: John Howard Society Building
Address: 583 Ellice Avenue (Map)
Built: 1909
Architect: Unknown


The Security Storage and Warehouse Company was created in February 1909 by Irving M. Winslow. A native of Bloomington, Illinois, he ran the Winslow Furniture and Carpet Company of St. Paul, Minnesota for ten year before coming north. His local investors included Neil MacMillan, William H. Carter, Jabez B Hugg.

As the name suggests, the company was in the moving and storage business, specializing in large loads - everything from pianos and vehicles, to entire households and farm equipment.

The company first set up at Vaughan Street and Graham Avenue and immediately drew up plans for their own warehouse, choosing a site on Ellice Avenue and Sherbrook Street.

May 10, 1911 Winnipeg Tribune

By November 1909 the exterior of the $20,000 building was complete. The building opened on  January 15, 1910. 

It served as Secrutiy Storage's main warehouse and head office, though they retained their space at Vaughan and Graham as a secondary site and the following year took over W. R. Richardson's, a long-time moving and storage company. Through that merger they, inherited Richardson's warehouse at 83 Kate Street at McDermot which was used for the storage of vehicles.

Ad ca. 1909

On the night of January 10, 1914 dozens of law enforcement officials and a thousand bystanders gathered at the intersection of Ellice and Sherbrook. Notorious killer John "Bloody Jack" Krafchenko had broken out of jail and was on the loose. 

An informant told police that he was fled to an apartment near Ellice and Sherbrook and later that night would be packed into a storage container at Securty Storage and whisked out of town. Police converged on the intersection in full-force to search the apartment and Security Storage but there was no sign of Krawchenko.

Krawchenko was captured later that evening at a suite in the Burris Block at 686 Toronto Street near Ellice. A staff member of Security Storage was arrested for being part of the escape plot.

Ad ca. 1929

In 1914 the company bought a 320 foot lot along McGee Street between Sargent and Wellington on which they built a stables for their 60 horses. Like many company owners who required large numbers of horses for their business, Patrick Shea for example, Winslow began showing his best animals around the country and winning many awards.

Eventually, all but the best horses were pushed aside as the McGee Street location became a garage for their growing fleet of trucks.

In 1925 Winslow was in ill health and gave up the company. He died on November 29, 1925 while visiting his son in St. Paul, Minnesota. The new management consisted of: George McKeag, president; Robert McKeag, vice president and W. A. Johnston, secretary treasurer.

Security Storage continued to grow and in 1929 built an even larger building at Portage and Huntleigh, (now the Kromar Printing Building.)

It appears that 523 Ellice sat mostly vacant for the next decade as the demand for warehouse space flattened during the Depression.

Above: October 6, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune
Below: May 28, 1941, Winnipeg Free Press

The next long-term tenant came in 1939. It was leased by the federal government and converted into a recruitment and training centre for the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) under the command of Chief Petty Officer John Pegg

The main floor contained the recruitment offices. The second floor held a 67 x 82 drill hall that included the ship's mast. Above that was a mezzanine overlooking the hall that contained officer' quarters. The top floor had classrooms, a band room and the ship's stores. In the basement was the gunnery room, torpedo instruction room and a small rifle range.

It opened on September 30, 1939. At the official ceremony held on Thursday, October 5, 93 Sea Cadets and 95 new recruits watched Navy brass unfurl a British Navy battle ensign flown by the HMS Courageous during World War I. The flag had been in the possession of the Cadets since 1931 and never flown. Ironically, the Courageous was sunk by a German U-Boat just three weeks prior to the ceremony.

In November 1941 the building was commissioned as HMCS Chippawa, an inland ship.

Source: May 13, 1943, Winnipeg Tribune

Within months the building was packed and the need for new recruits continued to grow.  In May 1942 the federal government announced that the former Winter Club on Smith Street, (now Navy Way), had been purchased and wold be converted into the new HMCS Chippawa with a capacity to train 600 recruits, versus the 250 that could be handled on Ellice Avenue.

Starting in the fall of 1943 services began to relocate from “The Old Freighter” to Smith Street.

Source: November 22, 1943, Winnipeg Free Press

In November 1943 the Navy announced that the building would be the new home to the city's Sea Cadets. Over the course of the war, enrollment had grown to 870 members and they met at three city schools: Issac Brock; Kelvin and St. Johns. This new home would bring them together under one roof.

John Travers Cornwell (source)

On March 1, 1944, Mayor Garnet Coulter and R. C. Stevenson, coordinator of Sea Cadet activities based in Montreal, watched a march-past and officially opened the building. The barracks were named for John Travers Cornwell VC, a Boy - First Class of the Royal Navy killed in World War I at the age of 16.

John Howard Society Building

After the war, the building entered another type of military service. 

Residential construction had come to a near standstill during the war years. When soldiers returned home and reunited with their families, many of which had moved into small apartments or bunked with family members, they found a severe shortage of suitable housing. 

In September 1945 the city took over the building and it was converted into temporary lodging for 14 military families.

Above: October 1953. Below July 1970

In 1948 the space was divided for a number of tenants, the first large-scale occupants were Zeida Dress Uniforms / Paul Edwards Mfg. Ltd., which specialized in nurses uniforms, and Remis Sign Company which spent over 20 years at this address.

In the 1950s the main floor was home to Famous Bazaar store. In 1960s Fingold Advertising agency and ROZ-MAR Building Industries called it home.

In 1991 the John Howard Society of Manitoba moved in, initially taking up the main floor. They eventually bought it and the building was named the Justice Resource Centre. In 2012 it was renovated and renamed the John Howard Society Building.


Secure Storage Building 2

 An abbreviated version of this building history appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of Our West Central Times newspaper.

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