Wednesday, October 16, 2013

422 Notre Dame - Winnipeg Modern Brush Company

© 2006, Christian Cassidy
Winnipeg Modern Brush Co.
Place: Manitoba College of Pharmacy / Winnipeg Modern Brush Company
Location: 422 Notre Dame Avenue (Map)
Architect: Frank Peters
Opened: October 2, 1899
Original Cost: $45,000
September 23, 1899, Manitoba Free Press

The Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association was created by an act of the Manitoba Legislature in 1878. Initially, lectures and instruction took place in rented facilities in the Medical College Building. 

In 1898, plans were finalized for the creation of a separate Manitoba College of of Pharmacy building with H. E. Bletcher as principal. Land was purchased on Notre Dame Avenue and in June 1899 tenders were let for architect Frank Peters' $45,000 school building. Construction was finished in time for thet start of lectures on October 2, 1899.

The main floor consisted of a lecture hall with a capacity of thirty-five people and a small laboratory. The basement was reserved for mechanical rooms, storage and washrooms.

In 1902, the Manitoba College of Pharmacy became the third college to affiliate with the U of M after the Medical College (1882) and Wesley College (1888). In 1914, it formally merged with U of M which then became the first university in the Commonwealth to offer a degree in pharmacy.

Ownership of college building was transferred to the University of Manitoba. Students attended the U of M's Broadway campus for lectures but continued to do their lab work in this building until 1932.

Above: Manitoba College of Pharmacy Building (source)
Below: October 21, 1940, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1934, the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League, a forerunner to the Royal Canadian Legion, left their old premises at 91 Albert Street and leased this building from the U of M. Contractor J. Rugby did $1,000 worth of renovations to convert it into their club rooms and it reopened on November 1, 1934.

The Legion left in 1939 and the following year the building was put up for sale. It sat empty for a couple of years until Nicholas Syzek bought it for his Winnipeg Brush Company.

I could find little biographical information about Nicholas and Mary Syzek, even in their obituaries, which may suggest Syzek was the anglicized version of their names.

Nicholas first appears in the 1925 Henderson's Directory as a machinist for the Home Brush Works Company  living on Austin Street. By 1930, he moved to another company called Brushmakers, a firm with about eight employees
located in the Jacob Crowley Block on Main Street. He became a foreman there the following year.

 1933 ad (source)

In 1931, Nicholas branched out on his own. He appears in the 1932 Henderson Directory as owner of the Winnipeg Brush Company. Edward, (a brother?) was an employee there.

The company's first location was at 35 Martha Street and Syzek lived across the street at number 42. (It is unclear when he and Mary were married.)

The company was located to the third floor of 269 James Street in 1936 until that space was damaged in a fire two years later. It was then on to the Woods Building at 171 Market Street before settling here at 422 Notre Dame in 1942.

1945 ad (source)

By 1945, the Syzeks had started a family, sons Andrew and Nicholas Jr., and began living at a suite located at the factory. They took out an ad seeking a "housekeeper for small suite with two children."

The company's name changed to the Winnipeg Modern Brush Company around 1948.

Nicholas Sr. died on April 21, 1957 at the age of 50 and Mary continued to run the company.

It is unclear when "official" manufacturing ceased at the company. The final help wanted ads ran in 1967 and other formal advertising ended by 1970. Small classified ads appeared sporadically in papers in 1980, 1987 and 1990, usually for "stucco brushes", a product the company produced in their heyday, or curling booms.

Former Winnipeg Modern Brush Co.

In the 1990s and 00s a familiar site on Notre Dame Avenue was Andrew N. Syzak. He was a fixture on the front lawn of the building selling an assortment of mops, brushes and buckets.

Mary died in 2001 at the age of 91. In her latter years she had been living in a nursing home. At the time this article was written in 2006, Andrew was 63 years old and living on Selkirk Avenue.

Andrew Nicholas Syzek died on September 24, 2019.

December 24, 1962, Winnipeg Free Press


Broom Man Pleased to Serve Winnipeg Free Press


  1. Andrew still lives on Selkirk Ave, between Powers and Salter and can be seen selling brooms in his front yard some days. Thanks for this post - I had missed the FreeP one years ago letting us know who he is :)

    1. Andrew is well known to the staff and a frequent visitor to the main post office on Graham avenue.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Andrew dropped off some flyers for his brooms at my office when I worked at urban NDN magazine above the Money Mart at Salter and Selkirk in ’09. He still had the occasional yard sale in front of his Selkirk Ave house back then but I haven't seen him selling in front of the old factory for quite a few years now.

  4. new owner
    Pedro costa
    Teamworks care inc 2016

  5. Does anyone know how I can contact the new owners? If so, please email me: