Monday, May 11, 2015

666 Arlington Street - Brown Bros. Block

Brown Bros. Block
Place: Brown Bros. Block
Address: 666 Arlington Street at Sargent (Map)
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Unknown

Top: Google Street View ca. July 2012
Bottom: Feb 26, 1907, Winnipeg Free Press

George and Hanna Brown came to Winnipeg from Barrie, Ontario in the late 1890s. The head of the family was Stephen R. Brown who worked for 20 years with the city's streets department, eventually becoming a supervisor.

There were five Brown children and in 1906 sons Robert J., Stephen Gordon and Samuel E. opened Brown Bros. Bakery at 532 Notre Dame Avenue at Spence, (demolished ca. 2013). The bakery was located on the main floor and the upper floor rented out as residential space.

A few months later, the city's health department, which was doing a crackdown on the conditions of bakeries and other food processing facilities, cited their shop for having improper lighting and ventilation. The brothers decided that they would build a custom space for themselves and in October 1907 took out a $2,600 building permit for the property at 666 - 668 Arlington Street.

ca. 1912, Winnipeg Tribune

When the building was completed the following year, the first two floors housed their bakery, offices, a retail shop. The top floor contained two residential suites, usually one of the brothers or a bakery employee lived there.there was a stables to the rear.

By 1916, with the bakery still in operation, the main floor retail space became a grocery store called Arlington Grocery. The first proprietor was Herbert Parratt, then Arthur Lock who also moved into the residential unit. The store lasted just a couple of years.

In 1920 brown bros. had about 15 employees, though Stephen G., appears to have been the only brother directly involved in running it. Most of his siblings had moved elsewhere in Canada. He and his now widowed mother lived in the suites upstairs.

It was around this time that, it seems, he sold the business, likely as a specialty division of  Speirs Parnell.

Top: Lögberg, October 6, 1921
Bottom: May 23, 1913, Winnipeg Free Press

The bakery was renamed Quality Cake Ltd. In 1925 Quality hired Langford and Burch to do a three week, $12,000 renovation of the building and installed some new equipment.

Stephen stayed on as quality manager and he and his mother continued to live upstairs until 1925. After that point, he relocated to Vancouver where he opened another Browns Bros. bakery. I cannot find a death notice for his mother in local papers, so she may have gone with him. (For a bit more on the Vancouver bio of Stephen, read here.)

The bakery continued on with  F. J. Foster as manager until 1930 when it closed, perhaps a victim of the Depression.

ca. 1933 (source)

The building sat vacant for a couple of years then, in 1933, it became a fur production facility called Western Fur Dressers and Dyers Ltd. They were one of a handful of Winnipeg companies that did such work for the province's $700,000 a year raw fur industry.

Western Fur kept a very low profile, as did its proprietor Jacob Gilman. In 1946 Western Fur closed when he became president of Sterling Furs Ltd on Logan Avenue.

The building again sat vacant for a couple of years, until a pair of tenants related to the garment industry moved in. In 1950 Mid West Quilting, a textile manufacturer set up on the second floor and the following year JayDee Products, an embroidery firm, took up the third floor.

April 10, 1962, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1951 the new main floor tenant was Stearn Automotive Products. Del Richardson and a couple of business partners from Saskatchewan purchased the name and equipment of a defunct Minnesota-based company. He came to Winnipeg to oversee its re-establishment in Winnipeg.

Stearn's manufactured car frost shields, bug shields and defrosters. The parent company, Richardson Manufacturing, had a tool and dye shop and did other automotive and agricultural related manufacturing.

In 1958 the tenants were gone as Richardson took over the entire building. That same year he added a 1,500 square foot warehouse area to the rear, replacing the old stables, and a 1,200 square foot garage and shipping area built adjacent to the building at 668 Arlington. By the end of the decade they were shipping frost shields around the world.

The company continued to add more lines and soon needed a bigger building. In April 1962 they relocated to  92 Gomez Street. The company is now called Richardson Great Northern Manufacturing on St. Matthews Avenue.

Old Sign

Later that year, the building became home to Motor Parts and Supplies Co., created by Bert Nicholls and Alan Frank. The company offered custom machine shop service and did everything from piston service and crankshaft grinding to hydraulic machinery repairs and electrical testing. They also had a retail shop.

Motor Parts ended up being the building's longest term owner, lasting from 1962 to 1992.

Since their departure, the 666 or 668 address does not appear in the Winnipeg Free Press.


In 2012 owners of the building since at lest 2006, Roseman Corp. 7 1060482 Alberta Ltd., had variances approved to consolidate three lots into a “CMU” Commercial Mixed Use District. The lots are 666, 668 and 672 Arlington.

As described in the city's administration report on the rezoning matter, the building will also be renovated:

The main floor of this building will be used by the purchaser for a commercial business (artisan studio). In addition, the second floor of the building will also be developed into commercial space. The third floor is slated to become a residence for the owner of the commercial business located on the main floor. There will be an unspecified but limited number of parking stalls provided internally off the lane at the rear of the building for the occupants of the building.

Brown Bros. Block

In 2014 Roseman sold the building to Assiniboine Interiors. It is unclear if their plans are the same as those Roseman had for the building.

Scaffolding went up on the building in April 2015 and renovations are underway.


Related: 
My photo album of 666 Arlington Street
666-672 Arlington Street rezoning report City of Winnipeg
Remember those car frost shields? West End Dumplings

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