Place: Northland Knitting Building / ARTlington (website)
Address: 618 Arlington Street (map)
Built: 1912, (expansion ca. 1927)
Architect: David W. F. Nichols
Contractor: F. Hinds
The Northland Knitting Company was created by brothers S. J. R. (Sam) and Thomas J. Fernie who came to Winnipeg from Buckingham, Quebec with their parents and siblings in the late 1800s.
Sam eventually became a travelling salesman with the Hudson Bay Knitting Company, eventually setting up shop as an independent seller with an office in the Kilgour Block. Around 1907 he joined forces with borther Thomas and the two created Northland Knitting at 132 Portage Avenue East.
Things were going well for the fledgling company. Within five years they had sixty employees and took up two floors of the building, manufacturing sweaters, coats, mittens and gloves that were sold throughout the west.
Tragedy struck when Sam died suddenly in 1911 at the age of 36. It was left to Thomas to carry out their expansion plans.
September 5, 1912, Winnipeg Tribune
Northland purchased a piece of land on Arlington Street between Ellice and Sargent and hired architect David W. F. Nichols to design a simple, two-storey structure for them. Nichols was known to that point for his home designs, but after the Arlington project went on to apartment blocks and the Cornish Baths.
In September 1912 contractor F. Hinds took out the $20,000 building permit and the construction appears to have gone smoothly. There are no newspaper reports of an official grand opening, though by the end of the month were already using the Arlington Street address in their help wanted ads.
Soon after the new building opened, Fernie took on a right hand man named C. E. Harvey as secretary-treasurer. Born in England, Harvey came to Winnipeg with his parents while still young. His father was a businessman and he followed suit, owning a general store in Killarney, Manitoba for a while. He then became a travelling salesman with Hudson Bay Knitting, (the same firm Sam Fernie worked for prior to creating Northland.)
Harvey became Northlands' vice-president and, when Thomas Fernie retired to B.C. in 1927, took over as president.
November 16, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune
It was under Harvey that the company reached the peak of its success.
Shorly after taking over, he expanded the building by adding two floors and invested in new equipment. One was a giant circular jacquard knitting machine with 1,880 needles capable of making 241,920 stitches per minute. Another machine produced fancy gloves from caribou, pigskin, suede and chamois, and Harvey hired a production expert from New York State to come operate it.
This new invedtment increased their production and expanded their product lines of sweaters, sweater coats, gloves and toques to include knit tubing, golf and athletic hosiery. Northland went from a regional player to selling their goods across the country.
The expanded building was a hive of activity. The main floor was shipping and receiving and the second floor was the stock room. The third was the knitting area with dozens of knitting machines and the fourth floor was where the pieces were sewn together, then lowered down to the stock floor.
Soon after the expanded plant opened, Harvey hosted a tour for the Young Men's Section of the Winnipeg Board of Trade. With the group was Premier John Bracken and Alderman Alfred Pulford.
Northland was one of a handful of large knitwear companies that sold its wares nationally, there were also numerous smaller firms around the the city. For some of them, the end was near as the Depression dealt them a death blow.
February 11, 1932, Winnipeg Tribune
In the early years of the Depression, Northland faced an additional crisis as Charles Harvey died in 1932 at the age of 50. He was in the company's garage one afternoon and overcome with carbon monoxide fumes. An employee found him and he was rushed to hospital but never regained consciousness and died later that day. (Harvey was also mourned by the golfing community, for more on that see his page at the Manitoba Golf Hall of Fame.)
The company continued on until 1936 when it went into receivership and its stock and equipment sold off.
The surviving founder of the company, Thomas Fernie, died in New Westminster in January 1939.
July 12, 1941, Winnipeg Tribune
For the next couple of decades, it was back to clothing manufacturers. In the 1950s Echlin Manufacturing, then King Manufacturing called it home. From 1950 to 1960 Pick Overall Manufacturing, which eventually became Monarch Wear, used it. When Pick/Monarch moved, it ended 618 Arlington's fifty-year run in the clothing manufacturing business.
May 31, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press
Next up was National Upholstering in 1961. The company, or a previous incarnation of it, existed in the city since 1946 on Sutherland Street, though there may have been a pause in business during the 1950s. National did upholstery work but soon expanded into furniture manufacturing and sales. They remained here until 1980, then relocated to William Avenue.
The next long term tenant brought the building closer to its roots as a knitwear factory. Ram Wools operated a retail store and warehouse here from 1981 until the mid 1990s.
Since that time it has been a retail shop and a self-storage warehouse.
The building sat vacant for a couple of years until 2010 when real estate agent John Hunsberger purchased it. He had it rezoned so that it could be converted into 33 artist's studios ranging in size from 150 to 320 square feet. The project opened in phases starting in 2011 and is called ARTlington Gallery.
The first three floors are now studios with a wide range of artists and a theatre/ dance school. In 2015 the fourth floor is being converted into a larger dance studio space.
My photo album of 618 Arlington
Artlington Galleries Facebook Page
Artlington a secret studio The Metro (2012)
Warehouse has creative future Winnipeg Free Press
October 17, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune