Sunday, March 15, 2015

543 Sargent Avenue - Hood Block / Craik Apartments

Name: Hood Block / Craik Apartments
Place: 543 Sargent Avenue (539 - 547 Sargent, 598 Langside)
Constructed: 1904
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Unknown

Note: this building will be demolished by the end of march. See it now, before it's gone.

Top: March 1906, Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom: July 1916, Winnipeg Free Press

The Hood Block was constructed in 1904 (source) which likely makes it the oldest building left standing on Sargent Avenue. This is after a check of about 20 other addresses, including: Balmoral Court (1905), Johnson Block / Miller Block (1905), Good Templars Lodge / Zoohky Memorial Hall (1906), Bright House (1907), Fire Hall No. 5 (1910), Connaught Block (1914) and Adanac Apartments (1914). I cannot say this with complete certainty as there could be the remnants of an earlier house hidden behind a more modern commercial facade.

It was built for W. J. Hood, a Notre Dame Avenue grocer who relocated his store from McDermot Avenue and teamed up with Christopher Cornell to form Hood and Cornell grocers, initially listed at the Langside address. The architect and contractor are unknown, though Hood may have had a hand in it himself as he did go on to be a contractor.

The corner retail unit was the feature of the main floor and there were three apartments upstairs. At times, both of store owners lived there. Soon after, Hood had a small house built attached to the rear of the building, described as shanty-like, which is now demolished.

1910 Miracle Pressed Brick Catalogue (source)

Hood chose a unique building product, something called the Miracle Pressed Stone. The company, based in Minneapolis, claimed that their hydraulic concrete was stronger and more fireproof than cement. The air gap and interlocking nature of their product helped insulate and ensure a waterproof, thus frost-proof in a winter climate, wall. They sold a variety of blocks, pipes and decorative items as well as the molds and machinery to make them. (Check out their 200 page 1910 catalogue !)

In 1904 the North-West Pressed Stone Company on McDermot Avenue became an agent of the company and they featured the product the 1904 Winnipeg Industrial Exhibition. It's hard to tell how popular the product was here. Of the few Manitoba mentions I can find about it in catalogues and newspaper stories, it appears to have been used in rural Manitoba. I've found mention of houses in Giroux and Emerson being built from it, as was the Emerson Baptist Church.

September 1924, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1911 Hood sold the block to Dr. Glasgow, a medical doctor, for $25,000, who retained the building's original name. It's likely that Hood went into the development / construction business, while Cornell took over the grocery store under his name until the late-1920s. 

In 1925 the building was sold again and the building was renamed Craik Apartments. The address of the building and store were soon changed to Sargent Avenue.

The largest main floor retail space housed a grocery store until at least the 1970s. After Cornell, it was owned by William S. Irish (early 30s), Turner's Grocery (late 1930s), Frank Vaux (1940s) and became Lloyd's Grocery from the early 1950s to the 1970s.

September 16, 1909, Lögberg

The numerous doorways on the main floor of the building indicate that there were at least two other retail units. In 1911, 545 Sargent was Duncan's Millinery and 547 was the Italian Shoe and Boot Repair Company. In 1932, 545 was home to the Dallian Hat Shop and 547 was James Steven's barbershop. in 1942, 545 housed Duncan's Millinery and 547 had both Joseph Grodecki Shoe Repair and Sargent Beauty Parlour.

September 19, 1922, Winnipeg Tribune

The smaller stores came and went with the exception of Duncan's Millinery. Sarah and Ruby Duncan were born in Ireland and came to Winnipeg in 1907. The following year they opened Duncan's Millinery, first at 555 Sargent, then relocated to 545 in 1909. With the exception of a few years around 1922, they remained in this location until Sarah died in 1945. Ruby likely died in 1956.

The building had a quiet existence. I could find no record of fires, crimes or war related deaths at this address until 2011.

Top: ca. 2000s (Source: Now Winnipeg)
Bottom: March 2013

By the year 2000, the building was sporting a mint green paint job and housed a pawn shop and convenience store. By the end of the decade, the retail was gone and in 2010 it was raided by police after discovering that it had become a cocaine warehouse.

Top: Gutted interior (source: The Year Past - 2012)
Bottom: Original redevelopment plans (source: 2011 variance application)

The owner of a neighbouring business, Sal Infantino of X-Cues' Billiards and Café, purchased the property and made application to the city for the variances needed to completely renovate it back into a mixed-use building with self-contained residential suites upstairs and offices on the main floor. He told The Uniter: "I want to make the area vibrant; if I can throw 25 students on the corner here it would be a great addition to the street."

Renovations included gutting the interior and replacing systems such as electrical, plumbing and HVAC, installation of a new roof and windows and repainting the exterior.

545 Sargent Avenue - Craik Apts
Collapsed section of sidewalk

Work was nearing completion in July 2014, with tenants lined up for September 1, when the sidewalk out front collapsed. It dropped over a meter, pulling the facade of the building down with it with it.

In November 2014 the city issued an unsafe building order against the owner. His appealed was denied on February 3, 2015 by the city's Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development.

The building will be demolished in March 2015.

For more about the last months of the building's existence, including an interview with the owner, check out my story in the Winnipeg Free Press of March 22, 2015.

Sidewalk sinking on Sargent Avenue Winnipeg Free Press (July 2014)
Local businessman joins joins student housing development market The Uniter (Sept 2011)
The Year Past - 2012 Historical Buildings Committee (p. 24)
Some Old Winnipeg Buildings Manitoba Historical Society (1972)

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