Tuesday, March 18, 2014

488 Burnell Street - Hignell Printing Building

Place: Crescent Creamery / Hignell Printing Building
Address: 488 Burnell Street
Architect: Jordan and Over (Chicago)
Contractor: Wallace and Aikins Ltd.
Opened: 1912

Crescent Creamery
Crescent on Lombard

Crescent Creamery was one of Winnipeg’s oldest and largest creameries in its day. Created in 1904 by James Carruthers and Robert Rogers and operating from a facility on Lombard Avenue at the Red River, their horse-drawn wagons were a common sight on city streets delivering milk, butter and ice to homes and businesses.

In 1911 Crescent needed to modernize and expand its facilities. Their existing site, now situated on the doorstep of the the city's bustling financial district, was worth a fortune. They sold up and bought a 400 by 200 foot site on Burnell Street at Ellice Avenue.

Top: September 20, 1911, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: Novemeber 9, 1912, Winnipeg Free Press

The plan was to relocate their entire operation to the site, starting with their stables and ice cream plant. The one-storey stables (on the left in the image above) held up to one hundred and fifty horses and dozens of delivery wagons. The basement was home to the repair shops and feed stores.

The ice cream plant (the middle building) was built like a fortress with a reinforced concrete frame and cement floors and walls. Exterior windows were wire-glassed and the fa├žade a glazed pressed brick. This was not only to ensure that the building was fireproof but also to show that it was “hygienic”. After numerous health scares around North America involving contaminated milk products, hygiene, or the appearance of it, was a top priority for any creamery.

ca. 1929 ad

Before Crescent Creamery began construction on the new creamery and head office building in 1914, they bought out a competitor called Carson’s Hygienic Dairy which already had a plant on Sherburn Street. Crescent’s management decided to save the cost of building another new building and relocated their dairy and offices to that site instead. The third building on Burnell Street never got built.

Crescent was bought out by a larger company in 1920 but continued to produce ice cream from that location until about 1940.

In 1942 the building became home to Hignell Printing.

Albert R. Hignell was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario. He worked for over 20 years at the Hamilton Spectator as a printer and sometimes sports reporter before heading West. In 1907 the Hignells came to Winnipeg and the following year bought the printing operations of The Canadian Investor at 736 Sherbrook Street, (now demolished). By the 1920s the company had relocated to the Nokomis Building on Cumberland Street.

The Hignells, Albert and Eliza and their three children, lived at 159 Chestnut Street for 25 years.

Albert died in 1936 at the age of 75. Out of respect, printers and pressman from around the city attended the funeral. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

ca. 1942 ad

Son Hugh Hignell took over as president of the company, (Albert's wife Margaret was Vice President until her death in 1948), and oversaw the move to the massive new headquarters on Burnell Street. 

At the new location, the Hignells decided to specialize in book and magazine publishing. In 1968 the company won three awards for its publication of the 1967 Royal Winnipeg Ballet program. By 1988 the company had forty-five employees.

Jack Hignell

In all,  four generations of Hignells were involved in running the company. Hugh Hignell died in 1945 at the age of 44 and was succeeded by his brother Victor Russell. V R's son Jack soon joined him and went on to be president.

Jack was also president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce in 1981-82. From 1984 to 1995 he was the honorary British Consul for Winnipeg and at the end of his eleven year stint was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth, presented by Prince Charles.

In the 1980s the company was owned by Raymond, Elsie and Jack Hignell. In 1989 a majority stake in the company was purchased by Gord LaRiviere. The company is known as Unigraphics Manitoba Ltd., though they retained the Hignell Printing name and continue to specialize in book publishing.


There were a number of thirty and forty-year employees of the company. Russell Amy and Art Kletke appear to be the longest-serving at forty-seven years each !

ca. 1925 ad

For more Hignell Building photos see my Flickr page.

Information about families has been taken from newspaper articles, including obituaries. If you have any additions or corrections, please let me know at cassidy@mts.net and I will be happy to include them.

* An abbreviated version of this story appeared in the March 2014 edition of Our West Central Times.

1 comment:

  1. I too worked for Crescent Creamery as summer relief for drivers and plant workers. Also my dad was a sales manager there till retirement and my uncle was in the office too. In all my time there i never heard anyone use the title Royal in association with Crescent Creamery. I have heard however of a Royal Dairies somewhere of that era. Perhaps your father was using it humorously or endearingly?